January 9, 2011

The Will of God (Discerning His Will)

Staying in the Will of God

Okay God, which way now?
It is not always easy to determine God’s will. We all would prefer a dramatic sign. We want God to appear to us and speak out a burning bush as He did to Moses.  If I thought, “God, just tell me what you want me to do”, and a voice spoke to me out of a burning rose bush in the back yard, I really don’t think I would argue with it. After awakening from fainting, I would be off to do whatever God said.

But that’s not the way it usually works. We don’t have a stranger walk up to us and announce God’s will for us. Often God speaks through the circumstances of everyday life. When my boss asked me into his office, closed the door and said, “Steve, here is two weeks severance pay.  Go clean out your desk”, it didn’t seem like God talking to me.  As it turned out, God was working His will with me in the only way he could get my attention. With you, God may work His will in another way that will get your attention.  A job opens up in the exact field where your passions lie. You close the computer and begin to get dressed for the office party. At the party, you strike up a conversation with the spouse of your co-worker.  As you are telling about the novel you are writing, he mentions he is a publisher and is looking for promising new writers.  A recession hits and you are one of the casualties of the economic downturn. You find another
lower paying job with good benefits and in a field where you feel comfortable. There are signs in life if you look for and expect them.

There are several characteristics of the way God works with me on the major directions of life.  The changing event is often painful as I am forced to move out of my familiar situation. Flunking out of college, losing your job, divorce are all painful but often necessary to get us to change our direction.  But change we must. The good news is the life on the other side of the pain.  How long it takes to get to the other side of pain can often be discouraging.  God seems to work at His own pace, not ours.  I want to say something like, “Okay God, your have slapped me hard to get me to change, now get on with the good stuff.” Admittedly, patience is not one of my virtues. But remembering the bible verse “.....I have come that they (the sheep, us) may have life and have it to the full." (the King James Version says ...have it more abundantly.) (John 10:10 NIV), helps me.  If God wants me to have life abundantly, I need to wait for it.

I have learned to pray, “God keep me in your will”.  And he does.  The path and the method of getting there may not be the one you would chose but it is the best path for you.

Finding the Will of God

And how do we find out what God’s will is for us?  We have been forced off one path and now we still have to find another direction for our lives, preferably one that conforms to God’s will for us.  I suspect there are no more burning bushes out there and I don’t want any more of God’s slaps to get me in line.  So how do we discern God’s will for our lives? How do we discern both the major direction for our lives as well as the day to day decisions we make? Below are several methods.
1. Read your scriptures. Let me suggest several passages.
    Matthew 6:25-34 (Do not be anxious)
    Matthew 7:12 (Do unto others)
    Luke 12:13-21 (Do not store good on earth)
   Matthew 25:31-49 (Sheep and goats at Judgment day)
    Luke 10:25-37 (Good Samaritan)
    Philippians 4: 12-13 (learn to be content)

2. God can speak to you through your service.  Look for someone to help. See page 1st John 3:18 for some ideas.

3. Do not discount your feelings.  If your heart is right with God, your feeling will follow.

4. Pray, especially for guidance. “Father, make your will known to me.”

5. Understand you must make the decisions that direct your path. But be confident that if you make the wrong decision, God will not abandon you.  He can and will continue to work His will in your life as long as you will allow Him to do so.

Whose will, Your will or the Will of God?

Whose going to win the tug of war?
Remember this truth, “Only you or God can be in control, not both”. Most of our troubles come because we insist on having control over every aspect of our lives. For those of us called “control freaks”, insisting on our control can be the single most difficult obstacle to having a meaningful relation with God and living an abundant and full life.

From the minor request, “God help me find a parking space up front” to the more serious, “God cure my brother from cancer”, we want to tell God what to do.  We want to be in control. We know what will help us. We know what we need. We know what will solve our problem. Or do we?

To ponder this point further, read the Gospel  accounts of Jesus praying in the Garden. (Mark 14:32-36; Matt 26:36-44)  Jesus knows what is coming; he knows the pain to be suffered. He does not want to do the task ahead, he cry’s out to His father. “I don’t want to do this. There is a better way.  Now is not the time. I can do more for you if you let me teach and work miracles for a while longer. Take this responsibility from me. Someone else can do it. You can do anything; find another way to accomplish this goal”. He prays and argues and bargains with God.  He is so intense He sweats blood. In the end, Jesus says, “Not my will but Your will be done.”

And we dare to tell God what to do in our own lives, Shame on us!

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