AN APPEAL FOR SUPPORT
We invite you to support this ministry. Contributions in support of this Ministry can now be easily sent through PAYPAL. Please click on the PAYPAL LOGO, which will take you to PAYPAL website. Send your contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please buy your books using the AMAZON link given in every page. Even the smallest contribution will help in running this journal.
BOOKS FOR YOU TO READ
SEND YOUR ARTICLES FOR PUBLICATION IN Christian Literature and Living.
- E-mail your articles and book-length reports to email@example.com.
- Your articles and booklength reports should be written, preferably, following the MLA Stylesheet.
- The Editorial Board has the right to accept, reject, or suggest modifications to the articles submitted for publication, and to make suitable stylistic adjustments. High quality, academic integrity, ethics, and morals are expected from the authors and discussants.
Copyright for the journal © 2005
M. S. Thirumalai
You can easily access all the back issues, articles, and books published in CHRISTIAN LITERATURE AND LIVING by clicking on the BACK ISSUES link given on every page.
What does the Bible say about it? How can I experience it?
George R. Foster
WILL OF GOD
Almost always, when Christians gather, someone refers to the will of God. Was that true in New Testament times? Was it as frequent a topic then as it is now? Did Jesus and the apostles talk about it? What importance should we give to this phrase today?
Let's look at a few biblical references, first with words from Jesus, and then from the apostles, to see how frequently the subject arose and in reference to what.
WORDS OF JESUS
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
Jesus taught us to pray for the fulfillment of God's will. When we do His will His kingdom grows.
Your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost (Matthew 18:14).
Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).
God desires that all people everywhere experience His salvation, but only those who do the will of God will be saved.
My food, said Jesus, is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work (John 4:34).
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done (Luke 22:42).
Jesus took pleasure in doing the will of God. Even as He faced the cross, His concern was to do the Father's will and not His own. Certainly, His determination to do the will of His Father serves as an example to us.
WORDS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL
After the death and resurrection of our Lord, the apostle Paul became the chief spokesman for the Church. His writings are full of references to the will of God.
And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ (Ephesians 1:9).
God takes pleasure in revealing His will and purpose to all who are in Christ.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11).
Chosen or called? Jesus said, "Many are called, but few are chosen." God chooses those who respond to His calling, and who purpose to do His will.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God (Colossians 1:1).
Paul knew that God had called him to be an apostle and had intervened in his life to make him one.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Colossians 1:9).
The will of God is discerned by a process of spiritual wisdom and understanding. We should pray frequently that we and fellow Christians will be filled with the knowledge of God's will.
It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3).
God wants us to be separated from sin and purified from immorality.
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:18).
All circumstances should be cause for thanksgiving, whether we thank God for what is happening or despite what is happening.
WORDS OF THE OTHER APOSTLES
There are many more references to God's will in Paul's writings. We'll come back to them, but, first, let's see what other New Testament writers say about God's will:
May the God of peace… equip you with everything good for doing his will… (Hebrews 13:20-21).
You ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that (James 4:15).
For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men (1 Peter 2:15).
So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good (1 Pet 4:19).
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked for (1 John 5:14-15).
GOD WANTS TO REVEAL HIS WILL TO US
Many New Testament passages speak of God's will. Without listing all of them, we can see by the number and nature of the references that God's will is important enough to study and to seek. We don't need to struggle or suffer anguish about it; God wants to reveal His will to us. But neither should we remain indifferent, for failure to seek and experience God's will brings us incalculable loss. And God reveals himself to those who diligently seek Him.
A widely-distributed booklet, The Four Spiritual Laws, has been published in dozens of languages and hundreds of editions. For many years it began: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." Recent editions have stated it a little differently: "God loves you and created you to know Him personally."
SCRIPTURAL BASIS FOR GOD'S PLAN FOR US
We all know that Scripture teaches God's love for us. But is there a scriptural basis for stating that He has a plan for our lives?
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:3).
We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
All things were created by him and for him (Colossians 1:16).
These verses teach us that:
1. We are created by God and for God.
a. God has goals for us:
b. God has prepared works for us to walk in.
c. God has made us in such a way that we can reach His goals and do His works.
GOD WORKS IN US TO PERFECT US
As God's created ones we are equal to each other in value, but unique in character and giftings. God's personal plans for us are consistent with the way He has made us. He works in us to perfect us and make us more and more suitable for his purposes so that He can effectively work through us. He has created us for good works and He has created good works for us.
Israel's King David saw himself as much more than the product of an evolutionary process or a sexual union. He appreciated the way God made him.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed boy. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:13-17).
LET US SEE OURSELVES AS UNIQUE CREATURES OF GOD'S DESIGN
Like David, we should learn to see ourselves as unique creatures of God's design - His workmanship - and understand that because God has a plan for our lives, He has given us all the gifts and talents necessary to fulfill His plan, -if we trust in Him. We don't need to imitate others or compete for a place in His Kingdom. We don't need to worry about having enough ability. Rather we can be natural, and develop the abilities He has given us. Our gifts need not be compared to the gifts of others, for we don't have to fulfill God's plan for their lives. We can concentrate on fulfilling His wonderful plan for our own life.
2. We are redeemed by Christ.
a. Christ is working in us to fulfill God's plan for our lives.
b. God will not give up on his plan.
c. God uses every means necessary to fulfill His plan.
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).
We know that in al things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:28-29).
The most important item on God's agenda for us is to make us Christlike. To accomplish that, it appears that God uses all of the circumstances we face in life - pleasant or unpleasant - as tools for our good in His quest to make us like Jesus. That must be why God allows (not causes) bad things to happen to good people: He uses adversities to form His character in us as we face them, and learn to triumph over them.
For that reason we are told to
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
3. We can experience God's will!
Although we may never fully comprehend God's will, a well-known passage provides plain teaching about how to experience it:
I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing, and perfect will. (Rom. 12:1-2)
WHAT DO WE NEED TO DO?
In this text I see three requirements and a sure result:
1. Surrender completely to God. The first prerequisite for knowing the will of God is the willingness to do it - not because we have it figured out, but because we have been touched by His mercy and we trust that He knows and wants the best for us.
We don't have the luxury of finding out the details of His will to decide later whether or not we want to obey them. Though Jesus does not force His will upon us, He expects us to obey His commands and act on His Spirit's leading. We may still have preferences, but when our will conflicts with His, we pray as Jesus did, "Not My will, but Yours be done…"
2. Refuse to conform to the values and ways of this world. It used to be said that it took thirty years to change a culture. A few years ago, I read that it took seven years. Now, with the power of the media, the speed of communication, and the fascination our generation has for cinema and television, sweeping cultural changes take three years.
Robert Bork, in a television interview once stated, "Our culture has affected the church more than the church has affected the culture." Jesus spoke of salt losing its savor, light becoming darkness. Paul is saying here, Don't let that happen to you - if you truly want to experience the will of God.
We are not to withdraw from the world, we are to go into the world to reclaim it from darkness, by spreading light in Jesus' name. We are to be salt where there is no savor and light where darkness reigns. To understand the will of our God, we refuse to be drawn into unbiblical values, views and practices.
3. Renew your mind according to God's ways. Though we desperately need a biblical perspective on God, His world, His ways, His character, and His will, the Bible often takes a back seat in our mind to resources so risky as to send us on wild-goose chases or so politically correct as to suggest nothing.
I don't need a prophecy to tell me what country to serve in so much as I need a Holy Spirit nudge that confirms a place where I can glorify God with my life and serve Him effectively with my talents according to biblical patterns. I don't need a book that tells me to be tolerant with my "significant other" so much as I need one that tells me to love my God, my neighbor, and - in a very special way - my wife.
REVELATION IN GOD'S WORD
The greatest revelation of God's will is in the Bible, but the most reliable way to get that revelation is probably not by looking for familiar texts with words that can be applied in literal ways to special circumstances. It is more secure to be guided by biblical principles, priorities, and precedents upon which we can base our decisions. Systematic study is more reliable than sporadic searches for special tasks.
That doesn't mean that we should despise prophecies or special words of Scripture, it means that we should evaluate them in the light of the greater body of truth in the Word of God and according to the way God has been leading us up to the moment when such special words are given.
The Bible has its best chance at our mind when we allow our mind to become permeated with biblical truth that the Holy Spirit can use to illuminate us in appropriate moments, often when we least expect it. The Bible contains orders to obey, promises to claim, examples to follow, principles to apply, warnings to heed, invitations to accept, challenges to face, structures to put in place, and, above everything, the all-knowing, all-powerful, all loving God to seek. The Bible can help us see and confess our sins and put our spirit in tune with God's Spirit, thus enabling us to be led by Him.
4. Result: Experience the good, pleasing, perfect will of God. The will of God is not like a last will and testament. It is the will of a loving, living God who wants what is best for us, knows what is best for us, and has the power to do what is best for us - now and always.
We don't need to worry about what the will of God could have been for us or what it might someday be. Our character is being forged by the way we live today. We may not know what to do tomorrow, but we can do the thing that seems most important and most consistent with God's ways to do right now. Or we can go back to a moment when we did know His will and see if there is anything we have left undone. As we deal with that and get up to date in our obedience, we can be assured that the will of God will be done in our life - now and always.
CLICK HERE FOR PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION
THREE HUNDRED YEARS OF EVANGELIZATION IN INDIA - THE FIRST PROTESTANT MISSIONARY TO INDIA | TAKE THE ELEVATOR | IF I HAD BEEN AT CALVARY | GOD'S WILL - What does the Bible say about it? How can I experience it? | THE CONTENT OF FAITH | ACCEPTANCE OF IDOL OR IMAGE WORSHIP WITHIN THE CHURCH - NICENE AND POST-NICENE FATHERS | SHAPED BY GOD | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
George R. Foster
6820 Auto Club Road, Suite A
Bloomington, MN 55438, USA
C/o. CHRISTIAN LITERATURE AND LIVING
Send your articles
as an attachment
to your e-mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org. You must give your e-mail address in the body of your article, and also a declaration that the article is not published earlier. We do not accept the previously published articles for publication in CHRISTIAN LITERATURE AND LIVING, except under special circumstances and contexts.