Summary: Learning to know God's will. What is its nature, how can I discern it?
Question to be asked: I hear a lot of people say that God told them to do something. I also have a friend who says that she and God have an understanding when it comes to some of her choices. I’m wondering – how can I tell when God is directing me to do something?
Intro: “How can I know God’s will?”
I want to make a note up front that this is a GREAT question. If you’re asking it, you’re in effect saying, “I’m interested in doing what God wants. How can I make sure of that?” So, for anyone who’s honestly asking that question, good for you! Just like other issues, the fact that you’re here today may be some indicator that you care about this, and probably have given it some thought - maybe a lot of thought.
I want to help us approach this question, and to leave with some very doable, biblical answers to it. But, this isn’t Jenny Craig - “You just eat the food and lose the weight.” There’s not a secret formula where you just do it, and boom-chucka-lucka, you’ve got it!
In fact, one of the sources I ran across on this subject was an article by Philip Yancey called “Finding the Will of God: No Magic Formulas.” But, instead, what I find is something much more wonderful and engaging.
How can I know God’s will?
First, we need to look at how God’s word describes what is even meant by that phrase “God’s will.” After all, if God is all-powerful, isn’t there a sense in which everything that happens is permitted by God? Doesn’t that mean everything that happens is God’s will?
But we’ll still need to narrow this down because when I ask the question, “What is God’s will?” I’m especially asking what I should do, aren’t I?
Where should I live? What should I do for a vocation? Whom should I marry? What Church should I be a part of? What skills should I develop? Where should I invest my money, my time?
I need to credit Jack Cottrell, and others, with a way of looking at God’s will that I hope will help us. That is, when the Bible speaks of “God’s will,” it’s generally speaking of one of 3 things: God’s Purposes, God’s Desires, or God’s Permission. Sam Stone calls it what God Performs, Prefers, and Permits. Get a handle on these things, and we can begin to answer this big question. I’m going to focus us on the first 2 this morning.
1. God’s Purposes (Sovereign will; Purposive will; Decretive will; Predetermined will)
Begin at the beginning where God purposed to create a perfect world. No one told Him to do it. No one advised Him to do it. No one loaned him the power or resources to do it. In His absolute power, God determined He would do something. Listen to how He describes it in…
Psalm 33:8-9 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
That was God’s will, and the will of God only, at work.
God is perfect. He can’t lie. He can’t fail. He can’t deny Himself. That’s what the word says! The perfect God makes a perfect creation. For God to do otherwise would contradict His being.
So, He looks at His creation and declares it good. That doesn’t surprise me. God doesn’t make junk.
And to that perfect arrangement, again by His own choosing, God added other creatures, with a free will - angels, some of whom He knew would turn against Him and His creation; a man and woman, whose fall would shape the course of time/space history. From our very human perspective, it seems like those created beings messed up what God wanted. Some people think of God somehow making a mistake. Everything would have been OK if He hadn’t put humans here. But all along, there has been this overriding power of God that can’t be sidetracked - God’s purposive will, God’s eternal plan for His creation that He has openly explained to us. Paul describes the way God…
…works all things according to the counsel of his will,
He says through Isaiah…
…I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,”
That purpose, He tells us, includes a path of redemption - a complicated path that will fix the brokenness of creation. It involves the forming of a nation called Israel. All along, they are a group of people who have a tendency to wander off from what God tells them. He even lets them be completely overrun and exiled, but God has a purpose at work, despite their tendency to disobey. That, by the way, is the context of Jeremiah 29:11, where God is talking about His purposes for Israel