RS: As we continue to talk about prayer, I want to talk about praying for God’s guiding presence in our lives. Ultimately, what it boils down to is how do you find Gods Will for your life? I don’t know where I got this, and I don’t even know who this man is. His name is Russ Johnston. He says, “A certain church I know has elective Sunday School class for their adults, and every three months, they choose a new topic to study. The pastor tells me that if they can have someone teaching on knowing God’s Will, they can run that class over and over and still people sign up for it in the droves. I’ve spoken at many conferences where parts of the afternoons are set aside for workshops on various topics. If you make one of the workshops, ‘Knowing the Will of God’, half the people will sign up for it even if there are 20 other choices.” In thinking through this, why do you think this is? That this is such an important topic to people?
Unidentified audience member: It’s the most important thing in our life.
Unidentified audience member: People are searching.
Unidentified audience member: So many people feel like they don’t have the answer.
RS: One of the things I think, in thinking through this, is, [we say to ourselves] maybe I’ve missed this. [We think] Maybe my life is not really in sync with God’s Will. I’m not sure how much we really think about this, but, how often do we say the Lord’s Prayer, and we say; what does it say? “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done.” Are we really serious about that? Do we really, do we really want God’s Will for our lives? Because, the alternative is to have your will. Let me just say this, oftentimes, hopefully, our will is in sync with God’s Will, and when that is the case, it’s not a problem. Where the problem comes in is when my will is in opposition to His Will. I don’t want to get too far down this road because I want to come back and talk about what does it really mean, the Will of God? You know, “will” used in that phrase, is a noun. And when you ever see this in the New Testament, there are two different Greek words that are used that mean “the Will of God”, and they are related because both of them end with the four-letter word lema, and I’m not sure what that word means because I didn’t look it up. But, thelema is the first word, and it means gracious design. The gracious design. And the second word is boulema, and it means a deliberate design, or that which is purposed. Therefore, guys, when we speak about God’s Will, we are talking about seeking to live life the way God planned it to be lived. The way He planned us to live as human beings, and it is for our well-being. The gracious design, It’s a deliberate design, and it’s that which was purposed. But it is very important to recognize this about the Will of God, because it can be kind of confusing. Listen to what I’m going to read to you; I think it’s kind of helpful. This comes from Dallas Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart. He says, “When our children were young, they often were completely in my will.” He’s talking about as a father. “When our children were young, they often were completely in my will as they played happily in the backyard. Though I had no preference that they be doing the particular things that they were doing there, or even that they be in the backyard instead of in their rooms or having a snack in the kitchen. Generally speaking,” and this is really important, guys, “Generally speaking, we are in God’s Will whenever we are leading the kind of life He wants for us, which leaves a lot of room for initiative and freedom on our part. There’s a lot of freedom inside the Will of God.”
So, what I want to do today is to distinguish what I would call three different components of the Will of God. The first is what I call God’s General Will, the second is what I call God’s Specific Will, and the third is what I call God’s Sovereign Will. God’s General Will, God’s Specific Will, and God’s Sovereign Will. Now that little piece that I just read you from Willard, that quote that I just read, where he says referring to God’s General Will, that’s what he refers to when he says, we’re in God’s General Will, whenever we’re leading the kind of life He wants for us. This is the question.
(Brief off-topic side conversation)
RS: Anyway, so we are in God’s Will whenever we are leading the kind of life that He wants for us to live. But, this is the question. How do we know the kind of life He wants for us? Where do we find His General Will spelled out for our lives? This is an easy question. It’s a layup.
Robert: The Bible.
RS: The Bible! Go it, Robert; you get an A. The Bible, the Scripture. For instance, it’s God’s Will that you be honest. It’s God’s Will that you be unselfish. It’s God’s Will that you be humble, that you be faithful to your wife, that you be generous and kind, that you not be judgmental. This is a biggie. You know, it’s His Will that we live without fear. You know, the number one imperative in scripture is to fear not, to live without fear. “Let not your heart be troubled.” And this is crucial to grasp. You and I are designed in the Image of God. Think about it. We are designed in the Image of God, and one of the things that means is that we were designed to live as He lives. That’s why we talk about Christ likeness, following His example. But you know what else? This is crucial. When we think about what we experience in life, our life experience. God wants us to experience what He experiences. In John 15, Jesus says, “I have told you these things that you might have My joy, and that your joy would be made full.” In John 14, He talks about wanting to give us His peace. God is interested in what we experience in life. He’s saying, I want you to experience a good life. You know, a good way to look at it is the fruits of the Spirit. He wants us to experience love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and faithfulness and goodness and gentleness and self-control. This is what He wants our lives to be about. There’s a great verse I want to look at real quick. Turn to I Peter, chapter 1. While we’re doing that, anybody have any comments or questions? I Peter 1. Everybody there? Reed Bates, would you read verse 14, 15, and 16, or chapter 1?
Reed: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
RS: We are to be holy, because He is holy. Now, let me ask you something. When you hear that term, being holy, how does that grab you? I mean, think about it, that’s not something that most people really want. And, the reason is that most people don’t know what it means. It means to be Christ like. We talked about this. A holy person has great character. A holy person has great wisdom. A holy person has a great ability to love. We think of holiness as somebody who is real serious all the time, or demure, or doesn’t ever laugh or smile, and that’s not true. The godliest, holiest man I know is hilarious. Or he thinks he is. You know a guy who tells bad jokes? Well, he does. And he tells them all the time. Anyway, holiness literally means to be whole. It means to be complete. And the problem is, we are designed in God’s image, but our rebellious nature has marred that nature so that man’s character is often corrupt, he doesn’t understand how life was designed to work, so he has no wisdom, his relationships malfunction. This is true. Most modern people today, what they experience is one of emptiness and unhappiness and they don’t know why. Jay Lloyd will tell me people come into his office and their lives are miserable and they can’t figure it out, and that’s why they’re coming to see him.
Tim Keller, in his brand new book, which I highly recommend, its called Making Sense of God, has a whole chapter on human discontentment. You know what struck me as I was preparing this? Think about, and you’ll probably read this in a couple of months as we approach Christmas, but, in Matthew 1:21, Joseph finds out, I think it’s about verse 18, he finds out that Mary is pregnant, and it says, because he was an honorable man, he decided to send her away. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but he was going to send her away, and – not the Holy Spirit – an angel comes to him, and says, Joseph, Mary didn’t get pregnant by some other man. That’s not exactly what it said, but that’s what he implied. She’s been impregnated by the Holy Spirit, so stick with her, and she is going to bear a son, and you’re going to call him Jesus, and He is going to save His people from their sins. You know what really struck me, is that basically; God’s salvation is in two parts. The first is He wants to save us from Hell, but secondly, He wants to save us from ourselves. He wants to save us from self-destructing. That’s why He has given us His General Will.
Unfortunately, human beings are so capable of truly self-destructing. I was listening to the news yesterday, and one of my blogs, and I got this out of an article, I think it was out of The Washington Post, that suicide is now the number one cause of accidental death in the country, surpassing car crashes. Suicide is not really accidental, but, it’s not a disease or sickness. But then yesterday on the news, they were talking about the problem of heroin addiction in New Hampshire, and they were talking about how drug overdose has now surpassed car crashes – they didn’t say anything about suicide – as a leading cause of death in our country. As far as non-sickness. Suicide and drug overdose; that’s self-destruction. We’re imploding, and that’s what seems to be happening. You think about it, outside of natural disasters, almost all human suffering is the result of men and women living outside of the Will of God. Now, this was pointed out to me. I need to say this, because you may suffer innocently because somebody has gone outside of the Will of God. In other words, a husband and wife, the husband might cheat on the wife, and she suffers all kind of anguish and pain, because he was outside of the Will of God. And she wasn’t necessarily. So, I need to kind of qualify that. But, I think that’s true. Think about where the world would be if we all lived in the General Will of God. But, let me say this, and this is important, and this is very typical, and we’re going to see this this morning as we look at somebody’s life. We can step outside of the Will of God, we can mess our lives up, and we can do all types of evil, and yet God can take it, and he can redeem it, and He can use it for good in our lives. He is a redeeming God. And I can tell that often God’s greatest blessings come from our greatest failures.
(16:11: Seems to be a break in the Audio and Video)
Now, when you keep reading, you see it’s a good story, and then, in chapter 50, Jacob, the father, finally dies. He’s reunited with his son, you know, great story, but he dies, and then the brothers think Dad is gone, we’re really in trouble. He’s now going to get us. And, go to chapter 50. Go down to verse 19, verse 18. Basically, Jacob has died, verse 18 says, “His brothers came and fell down before him and said, behold we are your servants.” They felt like now he is really going to get us. I love what Joseph said to them. Verse 19. “Don’t be afraid. For am I not in God’s place?” In other words, he’s saying, am I not right where God wants me to be? “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive today. So, therefore, do not be afraid. I will provide for you and your little ones.” So, he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. Guys, do you see how human free will, which resulted in a number of evil acts, was used by God to bring about His Sovereign Will.
Let me close with some final words from Jesus. It’s in John 16:33. Jesus, in only hours of being apprehended, tried, and then crucified. And these are the final words that He says to His disciples, and you have to go back and read John 14, 15, and 16. He’s been teaching them how to function spiritually when He’s gone. He talks about the vine/branch relationship, all of that. Great teaching. And then He says, “All of these things I’ve told you. All of these things I’ve spoken to you, so that in Me, you will have peace.” He says, in the world, you’re going to have hard times, you’re going to have tribulation, but take courage, He says, I have overcome the world. In other words, He is saying, I am sovereign over what goes on in this life, take courage. You know, guys, as you look at all the violence that goes on in the world today, as you look at all the chaos, as you think about this crazy upcoming election we have, know this, that whatever happens, God is telling us, I have overcome the world. I am sovereign over it, and you can rest assured that I am causing all things to work together for good. And He said, in essence, you can rest in that. You can rest in that. Any final comments or questions?
Unidentified audience member: Who’s our Joseph out there?
RS: That’s a good question. We need one. We really do. Anybody else?
Unidentified audience member: We know who it’s not.
RS: All right, now, listen. We are apolitical in here, we don’t talk politics.
RS: Next week, we will look at, we take two weeks, what is God’s specific will for me, as we go through life making decisions, how do we seek His guidance and His Will? How do we find His specific Will for our lives?