Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Doing God's Will When You Don't Have All the Answers

Part 3 of the series The Will of God

You can listen to this sermon here.

And [Paul and his companions] went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:6-10). 

Strange Methods for Discovering God's Will 

People try all sorts of strange methods in their attempts to discover God’s will for their lives.

  • There is the “Random Bible Verse Method.” Close your eyes, open your Bible, and point to a random verse. This verse will contain a clue about God’s will for your life. 
  • There is the “Ask-God-for-a-Sign Method.” You might pray, “God, if you really want me to become a doctor, please let there be an empty parking spot right in front of the coffee shop this morning.” 
  • There is the “Guidance Through a Seemingly Accidental Experience Method.” You’re walking down a city sidewalk and you slip on a banana peel. Lying on your back, you look up and see above you an Italian restaurant sign. You think, “Maybe God wants me to be a missionary in Italy…or maybe I’m supposed to open a restaurant…or perhaps I should just go buy a slice of pizza.” 
  • There is the “King Saul Method.” Saul visited a medium when God wouldn’t answer his prayers for direction (1 Sam. 28:3-25). 

I don’t recommend any of these methods for discovering God’s will (especially the last one).

Walking by Faith

The Bible gives us clear direction for moral decisions, but the Bible is silent on the morally neutral decisions we face (e.g., what kind of car you should buy). When there is no clear direction from God, what should we do?

  • Pray for wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). 
  • Spend time reading and studying the revealed will of God (found in the Bible). 
  • Offer your life to God as a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). 
  • Use the brain God gave you. For example, if you are wondering how you can best serve God, ask yourself, “What natural talents and spiritual gifts has God given me to use for his glory?” 
  • Ask for advice from people you trust and respect. 
  • Don’t expect to be 100% sure of the right decision.

God will never reveal to you every step you should take. 

God is not going to give us all of the answers we’d like to have. We have to believe that he will guide and help us as we take each step.

  • “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). 
  • “A man’s steps are from the LORD” (Prov. 20:24).
  • “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” (Job 23:8-10). 

Closed Doors, Open Doors 

Paul and his companions were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” (Acts 16: 6). Then “they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them” (v. 7). (The following two points about closed doors are taken from Charles Swindoll's book The Mystery of God's Will, p. 196).

1. The closing of a good opportunity occurs in order to lead you to a better one. 

Can you think of a closed door in your life that you are now thankful for?

2. Not until you walk through the open door will you realize the necessity of the previously closed one. 

Life is sort of like a funhouse maze. You may bounce off a lot of closed doors, but that is God’s way of forcing you into his open one. Just keep moving. When Paul encountered a closed door, he didn’t stop and give up. Throughout the book of Acts, Paul is constantly moving from place to place (see Acts 16:11-34). 

Removing the Mystery

Before we become concerned with the morally neutral decisions of life, we must first follow God’s moral will.

If you are following God’s revealed will for your life, do whatever you want! 

Of course, if you're seeking to obey God's revealed will, "whatever you want" will be things you believe will glorify God. John MacArthur writes, “The will of God is not, first of all, for you to go there or work here. The will of God concerns you as a person. If you are the right you, you can follow your desires and you will fulfill His will”(Found: God's Will, p. 75).

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