Tag Archives: god’s will

God does not have an individual plan for your life

29 Aug

Image result for does god have a plan for me

Last week I introduced yesterday’s sermon about knowing and doing the will of God, by bringing up the idea of soulmates.  Does God have that one perfect person for you to be with for the rest of your life?

There are plenty of other areas that we could talk about when it comes to discerning God’s will.  Careers, houses, relationships, purchases.  Lots of big decisions.  And plenty of small ones too, right?  If we are serious about knowing and doing God’s will, we should want to follow it in the big and small choices of life, shouldn’t we?  So that could include which outfit you picked out to wear today.  It could be your choice of what you had for lunch.  We make loads of choices every day!  So how do we know what God wants us to choose?

Many people hold to the bull’s eye view.  The whole target represents our lives, and the bull’s eye is God’s perfect will. God’s best plan for your life is like hitting the bull’s eye.  I often hear that God has a specific unique plan for each person.  This plan is called “God’s will,” or sometimes called “God’s best.”  The implication of this bull’s eye view is two-fold:

  1. God communicates his perfect will to us. Some examples of how he does this is through a still small voice, an inner peace, an impression of the Holy Spirit, other people, his word and so on.
  1. We can miss his perfect will. God communicates his will so that you can know how to hit the bull’s eye, but if you’re not listening to him or if you sin or if you don’t study God’s word, you can miss the bull’s eye, and you’re life will end up in God’s second best or third best. For example, how do you know that the person you married is God’s best for you? Maybe it’s his hundredth best.  Maybe that’s why there’s so much divorce, because people have missed God’s best in their lives?

As we evaluate the bull’s eye theory, there is an important question we need to ask: is the bull’s eye theory of God’s will what God has taught us in the Bible?  There are many passages that refer to knowing and doing God’s will, and I urge you to study Garry Friesen’s book Decision-Making and the Will of God, as he surveys loads of them.  In fact, what I am writing here is based on Friesen’s observations.  It is an excellent study of the topic of God’s will.

One passage that Friesen looks at is Romans 12:1-2 where Paul talks about God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will.”  When you read the word “perfect” it sure seems like God’s best, doesn’t it?  It seems that Paul must be talking about the bull’s eye.  And people do try to use this passage to support the idea that the bull’s eye method of God’s will is true.

But there are some problems with using this passage and any others to support the bull’s eye theory.

  1. It’s not actually there! – Nowhere in Scripture does God tell us to expect to hear from him what his individual will for our lives should be! But what about all those passages? As Friesen shows us, they are actually talking about a different will of God, his moral will.  What is God’s moral will?  The knowledge of Right/Wrong or what is Sin/Not Sin.  God wants us to be very clear about what is right and wrong, but he never extends this to every decision in life.  I’ll talk about this more below.
  1. The bull’s eye doesn’t draw the line on choices – Do I have to ask God’s will and direction on what socks I should where? What about which pair of underwear I should put on?  What about which color car I should drive?  We all make tons of choices about non-commanded things all the time?  Are we sinful for not obtaining God’s best first before making all those choices?
  1. Impressions are too subjective – Advocates for the bull’s eye method suggest that one of the most prolific ways that God communicates in through inner impressions.  I regularly hear the phrase “Well, I just don’t have a peace about that.”  Usually that is the answer to a question about serving God in a way that is risky or requires sacrifice.  How do we know what is an inner impression or what is simply the result of eating too many hot wings at dinner the night before?  Michelle and I had wings this week, and I can tell you that I didn’t have peace the next morning.  It had nothing to do with God.

But you might be thinking at this point, what about when God so clearly spoke to many people in the Bible?  Obviously he can, and he did a lot.  I’ve been reading through Genesis, and almost every chapter God is talking in a voice to someone.  But is it the norm?  No.  God can and may still speak, but there is no command in the Bible that tells us to expect God’s supernatural guidance in our lives.

So what can we conclude?  The traditional bull’s eye view of God having one best plan for your life is faulty because it is not taught in the Bible and leads us to constant doubt.  We’re always wondering if perhaps we missed God’s best. That’s what someone told Michelle and me when we came home after a year as church-planting missionaries in Jamaica.  We thought we were going to be there for a lifetime.  So as we’re packing up our house, heading home feeling broken, like we failed, not sure what was next, we heard that maybe this happened because we missed God’s will for our lives.  If we had listened to God harder, if we had discerned his bull’s eye plan for us, we would have, supposedly, saved ourselves a lot of heartache.  I can tell you there was a lot of guilt heaped on us.

But thankfully, we chose not to let it pile up.  We hold to a different view of God’s will.  A view in which there is freedom!

Friesen calls it The Way of Wisdom.  Basically he looks at what the Bible teaches about discerning God’s will and says this: God does not have a best plan for your life.  Yes he has a will, and it is simply this: obey his commands.  So when we think of letting go of the bull’s eye view, there are two things to remember:

  1. We’ve got to come to God with the right attitude (Romans 12:1,2).
  2. We cannot expect God to guide us into his will by communicating it to us supernaturally.

So how then do we know God’s will?  Before we answer that, we need to understand what the Bible says about what God’s will actually looks like.  He actually has more than one!

  1. God has a sovereign will – this is an overarching plan that cannot be overturned.  Some people have called it the metanarrative of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation.  What do we know is true?  God will win in the end.  There is no doubt!  But in this post, I am not talking about God’s sovereign will.  People too often equate God’s sovereign will with a specific individual will (God’s best) for people.  So we have to move on.
  1. God has a moral will – this is a plan for what is right and wrong. This is what we read about in the Bible.  Good and Bad.  Sin and not sin.  For example: you don’t need to ask God if it is his will for you to try to undermine your boss’s authority and turn all your coworkers against him.  You already know that is against his will based on biblical principles.  This is why it is vital for us to be students of God’s Word, for there we can learn so much about his revealed moral will.  We learn who he is and what he desires, and we see that what he desires is in our best interest!

But what about gray areas or non-moral areas?  There are so many.

  1. Gray Areas – abortion, just war, and many, many other areas need to be addressed utilizing the principles of Christian Ethics. We’ll look into many of these later in the sermon series.
  2. Non-Moral Areas – This is what we’re dealing with in this post! Choices that are neither right or wrong.  Who do I marry?  Should I marry?  What career should I pursue?  Is God calling me to serve him somehow?  If so, how?

The principle we see in Scripture is this: In areas that are non-commanded, non-moral choices, God gives us freedom to use wisdom to decide.  Whether it is which clothing to put on in the morning or which person to marry, God gives us the wonderful gift of free will wisdom to decide.  And then he goes further by supporting whatever we decide.  If you are thinking that you would like to date one of three or four different people that you have met, and you can’t decide because they all have their pros and cons, you would much rather have God break out of the clouds one day and just tell you which one is his choice for you.  But he probably won’t do that.  He could.  Some people have said he did in their lives.  But we need to see that as the exception rather than the rule.  The rule for making choices is that if it is not a choice between sinning and not-sinning, then you can freely make whichever choice you want, using the wisdom God has given you, and God is supportive of whichever choice you make!

But is this way of wisdom from the Bible?  Yes!  Take a look through Acts 15 and you’ll see this is how the early church leaders decided to choose!

So while we should not expect God to communicate with us supernaturally, he still might.  But the normal expected way that God wants us to discern his will and make decisions it that God wants us to use our wisdom (found in his word and in godly people’s perspectives).

So how do we decide?  Take for example the question “What does God want me to do in the future?”

Remember, if we shouldn’t expect him to tell us what he wants us to do, we should pursue making a wise choice.  We first of all make sure the options are not sinful.  God would not want me to be in a profession or position where I would have to deal with the possibility of breaking his commands.

There are tons of non-sinful choices.  So then we look at our interests.  Do we have any that stick out to us? Subjects in school we really like?  Hobbies?  Extracurricular activities?

If there are many things that we like to do, or we’re just not sure if we could do these things for the rest of our lives, than I recommend getting experience doing many different kinds of things.

What we are trying to answer is, do I have a passion for something?  Does it seem that I have a talent or ability in an area that I really enjoy?  Pursue it.  Experience it.

Next, it is okay to change gears.  Most adults will tell you that they’ve changed directions or gotten into different responsibilities over the years.  If you’re in college, you can change your major.  It’s okay if it adds a year to your studies.  If you’re in 7th-12th grade you might feel the pressure to decide what you’ll do for the rest of your life.  Please don’t feel that.  The beauty of the USA, unlike much of the rest of the world, is that you have options.  Even if you have been in your career for years, it is okay to change gears. Are you feeling frustrated?  Are you feeling like you can’t imagine doing what you’re doing for the rest of your life?

When I was at the auto auction, I remember walking up and down the aisles of parked cars, counting them, checking my list to make sure they were listed correctly, in the right order for the sale.  Hundreds of cars.  It was legitimate, good work.  Another person might have felt fulfilled in that.  It might fit their personality and gifts.  But not me.  I was frustrated.  I could not imagine doing that work for much longer.  I was extremely thankful for the job, and I was also grateful when I was able to move on to something else.

So how do you make wise decisions?

  1. Pray for wisdom and discernment.
  2. Listen for God to speak. As I said, God can and does speak, but he does not tell us in Scripture that he always will. And he doesn’t tell us that we have to wait to make decisions until we hear from him.
  3. Ask your parents what they notice. Get input from them, from grandparents, from friends.  See if a trend emerges.
  4. Shoot for the best you can achieve. Avoid mediocrity.
  5. We need Christians in all fields. So you can look at any career as something where God would have purpose for you:  to impact his Kingdom in that area.

What this means is if you are making a non-moral choice, you can’t go wrong!  If it is not a choice between to sin or not to sin, you are making a choice that God approves!

Are you struggling with God’s will for your life?  Are you wrestling with how to apply wisdom to the choice you need to make?  I urge you to get Garry Friesen’s book.  And if you’d like, comment below, and perhaps we can talk further.

Soulmates? Really? (Is it possible to know God’s will for your life?)

26 Aug

Image result for soulmates

Have you ever felt like you wish God would just speak to you in an audible voice and tell you exactly what to do?  There are so many situations.  See if you have ever heard yourself thinking one of these:

  • What does God want me to do with my life?
  • Which boy or girl does God want to fall in love with?
  • Should I go to CTC or stay at high school and focus on academics?
  • What career path is right for me? Ministry? What kind? Writing? Novels? Journalism?  Where do I look for answers in the Bible?  How will God let me know?
  • Could God ever call you to be in the military?How do you know if you’re ready to pursue ministry or missions?
  • Where would God have me serve in the church?
  • Should I invest in more properties or give my extra money away?
  • Should I buy a new vehicle or keep fixing a new one?

This weekend we start a new sermon series that will last until Advent, studying Life in the United States.  We will talk about what everyone is talking about.  Some hot topics in the church.  Some hot topics in the culture.  War & Peace, gender, parenting, many different subjects.  These topics are gray areas, areas where Christians disagree about what to do.  Because of that my goal is not to give you the ONE CORRECT perspective.  Instead, the goal will be to look into the principles God has given us that we can apply to these various topics.

We start with God’s will.

What have you heard about God’s will for your life?  Does God have a plan for your life?  Does he have a unique plan for your life? (As in, God’s “best.”)  If so, how do you find it?

Think about this Case Study – Does God have ONE person that he wants you to marry?  We call that person the soulmate.   We hear it a lot in our society.  You need to find your soulmate, and if you do, life with your soulmate will be one, long unending explosion of romance.  Further, as the picture above suggests, soulmates will be together forever.  Really?  Here’s the problem.  There is no doubt that the idea of a soulmate is out there in our culture.  But the idea of a soulmate is not in the Bible.

So if there is no such thing as soulmates, how do we know who God wants us to marry?

As we answer that question, we’ll learn principles for discerning God’s will that we can apply to many situations.  We invite you to join us at Faith Church this week to learn more.  We’re excited because this weekend is Worship in the Park, 10am, at Community Park on Hobson Road.  Hope to see you there!

What to do when you don’t want to do what God is asking you to do

10 May

Jesus did not want to do what God wanted him to do. 

Does that surprise you?

After 33 years of life and ministry, Jesus is just on the cusp of the crowning achievement of his mission.  He was going to be named “King”, but the crown wasn’t going to be so glorious.  In fact, the actual crown in his crowning achievement was an apt metaphor, as it was a crown of thorns.  Pain.  Suffering.  The weight of the world on him.  Added to the physical pain, he was also going to endure betrayal and denial from his closest friends.  Loneliness.  Agony of all kinds.  And finally, he would die.

Imagine how he must felt as he was just hours away from experiencing all that.

He felt like just about all of us would feel, that he didn’t want to go through with it.  Would you want to give yourself over to unimaginable suffering?  I wouldn’t.

So Jesus prays a prayer that makes a lot of sense to me: “Father, if it is possible, take this from me.”

Many of us can identify with that because we pray that exact same prayer ourselves, and we pray it often, maybe every time we are going through some kind of hard time.  Jesus is in a pickle. God is asking him to complete the mission for which he was born.  But the completion will require sacrificing himself, and all the pain associated with being beaten and killed.  Jesus wants to obey God, but he doesn’t want to have to experience all that.

I’ll admit that at this juncture, I’m wondering in agreement with Jesus, “Lord, is there no other way?”  Did Jesus have to go through that?  Did he have to die?  People have been asking that question for centuries.  It seems like a strange way to save the world.  So if that question is leaving you scratching your head, I urge you to read Hebrews 8-10, as much more is said there, and said much more eloquently, than I will endeavor here.

Instead I want to focus on what Jesus chose to do while faced with a task that God had given him, a task that he didn’t want to do.  You and I are faced with many such tasks, though much less consequential ones, but we can feel the strain, the weight, the stress of wanting to obey God, but also of not wanting to obey him at the same time.  If obedience to God means that we will likely have to endure pain, change, give up something, or do something that we are uncomfortable with, we usually don’t want to do it.  And we pray “Lord, is there no other way?”  Or we simply procrastinate, or avoid.  We delay.

At what point does the delay become disobedience?

So Jesus didn’t delay.  While he did tell the Lord his true feelings, that he didn’t want to go through with this, take a look at his approach.  He says, “Is there any other way?”  He doesn’t say “No, I’m not doing this.”  He doesn’t procrastinate, to make it look like he will obey, but then not do anything.  What he does is remain up front with God by asking if there is another way.  We can learn from this.  We can be honest with God and ask if there are other ways.  God may choose to say “Ok, yeah, there are other options.”

When God said that he was going destroy Israel and start over with Moses, Moses prayed “Is there any other way?” and God said “Yeah, Moses, good point…I’ll give Israel a second chance.”  When God said that Hezekiah was going to die, Hezekiah prayed, and God said “Okay, Hezekiah, I hear you, and I’ll give you 15 more years.”

It is okay, when you don’t want to do what God wants you to do, to ask God for another way.

But there is something more.  Jesus also prays “Yet not my will, but yours be done.”  That is an intense prayer.  A dangerous prayer.  It is not just tacking an empty or perfunctory “Lord-willing” at the end of the prayer.  It is a description of a heart, mind, and will that is submitted to the Lord.  Jesus, though he didn’t want to go through with the completion of his mission, was still willing to do so!

Though he knew that it would be severe and painful, he was still willing to go through with it because God wanted him to.  Jesus placed his life in God’s hands and is basically saying “Lord, you know best.  Though this thing you are asking me to do sounds crazy, and though it will hurt like crazy, I trust that you not only have my best interest in mind, but you also have the best interest in the world in mind, and you love us.  So…since you will it, I will do it.”

When God wants us to do something we don’t want to do, we can pray for another way, but we must also pray that we are willing to do what God wants us to do. 

So what is God asking you to do that you don’t want to do?

In what ways is God asking you to change that you don’t want to?

Are you sensing that he wants you to start something?  Stop something?

Colored sand 01On Silent Sunday this past week we gave people an opportunity to physically express their desire to the Lord, saying to him that though it might be hard, they still want do his will.  We placed a large vase on a table in the front of sanctuary, and around the vase, we placed small cups of colored sand.  We broke the silence by praying the Lord’s Prayer together, which talks about God’s will being done, and then we sang Oceans, during which people could walk forward and prayerfully pick up a cup of sand and pour it into the vase, an act of saying to God “I give _________ to you, so that not my will, but yours will be done.”

Again, what is God asking you to do that you don’t want to do?  Will you pray like Jesus prayed?  And then will you do what Jesus did, which was to do what God wanted?

Feel free to read a PDF of the whole service here.

Does God Still Speak?

11 Sep

Have you ever been in the middle of a difficult time, and you were agonizing over what to do, how to think, and you prayed “God, I wish you would just break out of the heavens and tell me what to do!”

If you’ve ever thought something like that, you are not alone. Most of us have thought that in a moment of frustration. Or we wish we could talk with God all the time.

In Psalm 4, the writer of the psalm, Israel’s famous King David boldly says “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God!” I read that and I think, “Yikes, David, you better watch your mouth.” Maybe he is not demanding. Maybe he is desperate. And we can identify with that.  Often we are desperate to hear from God.

You fill in the blank. What life situation would love God to talk with you about? Raising kids? What to do about the future? A friendship? A job? An expenditure?

There are so many times when we wish we knew what God’s will for us is.  And we can, with David, cry out “Just tell me what you want me to do, God!  Answer me!”  Will he?  Does God still speak?  If so, how?

Sometimes we hear from him when we least expect it.

As we continue our series in Luke, we come to Luke 9:28-36, and through an unexpected and freaky situation, some disciples of Jesus are about to have an experience of a lifetime. One they would never forget. One they would write about years later, as if it happened the day before. They’re going to hear the voice of God. But what will he say to them?

Join us at Faith Church on Sunday at 9:30am to find out!