It is our pleasure to include Tom Wontrop's new series of "Dear Christian" devotionals on our website. Free copies of these messages can be obtained in tract form from Hungry Heart Ministries, 4109 Madonna Road, Jarrettsville, MD 21084. We recommend his website, which can be found at: www.hungryheartministries.net
If you're not sure, maybe the problem is not you, but what you've believed about knowing God's will.
There are exceptions, but nearly all true believers want to obey God and follow His will, but many of God's children are struggling in their attempt to discern God's will. The main problem seems to be knowing just what God's will is. There is an approach to knowing the will of God that has become common among Christians. Simply stated, this approach encourages Christians to embark on a quest to find God's will. "Do you want to know God's will for your life?"it asks. "Are ;you faced with some important decision in life and you want to know God's will in the matter? Than here's what you do: First, (they say) Pray! Ask God to guide you."
Second, "Surrender to God, because God will not reveal His will to you unless you are willing to obey it."Third, "Study the Bible to see if God has anything to say in it concerning your particular situation."Fourth, "Look for circumstances to fall into place."(This point usually comes with a warning, because some say the devil can use circumstances to deceive you.) Fifth, "Look for the peace that passes all understanding."It is said that if something is God's will, you will have peace about your decision. Dear Christian, does any of this sound familiar? Isn't this the common approach to finding God's will proclaimed in our day?
Now depending on your background, or the group with which you fellowship, there are two more ideas usually brought into this discussion. One is referred to as "The still small voice."Some say that God directs His people with an inner voice. It is nothing you can hear with your ears, but rather, it is heard from within. Also, some bring in what they call, "Laying out a fleece before God."This is taken from the Old Testament story of Gideon. Gideon wanted to know if it was God's will for his army to attack the enemy. He took the skin of a lamb, put it on the ground, and in so many words, said to the Lord, "If You want me to attack the enemy, overnight make the ground dry and the fleece wet with dew."The next night, he reversed it and said, "Lord, make the ground wet with dew and let the fleece remain dry."God honored Gideon's requests, and each morning it was as Gideon asked. Basically, the fleece is a sign. Those who lay out a fleece are looking for a sign from God. For example: "Lord, if you want me to marry this person, have her bring it up tonight over dinner, then I'll know You want me to marry her."That's a fleece before God.
Give or take a few ideas, this is basically the modern day approach to finding God's will, and perhaps, you've used some of these ideas, perhaps you've used them all! But a constant concern many believers have with these ideas is that, in the end, even though they believe God may have led them, they were still not certain. Even though they may have stepped out in confidence in certain situations, still deep down in their hearts they were not totally sure about God's will. For many, these methods seem to be just too indefinite and vague. They read Gideon's entire story and learn that even after God gave him those signs, he was still unsure concerning God's will. The fleece really didn't help him.
And when it comes to the 'still small voice”, many ask questions like: "How do I know the difference between the Holy Spirit's voice, the devil's voice, and my own voice? How can I really be sure?"They question what it means to sense the peace that passes all understanding, and how this peace is different from just regular good feelings. They question how to know when favorable circumstances are coming from the Lord to guide them, or from the devil to trip them up. Dear Christian, have you ever asked these questions? Do you sense the uncertainty and doubt that is often caused by following this common approach to finding God's will?
Is there anything clear in God's Word concerning how to know God's will for your life? There is in Romans 8:28 & 29: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also, predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. "In these amazing verses, the Lord is saying that He is using all things that come into our lives to make us more Christ-like. That's the goal toward which all things are working in our lives; to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.
This is God's will for every Christian. God wants each of His children changed; transformed into the image of His Son. In Romans 8:26 & 27 we read: " And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words; and He who searches the heart knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. "
Now, although it's true, that because we don't fully know the mind of God, we don't know how to pray as we should about anything , but there is one specific thing in this verse that God has in mind. There is something, He says, in which we really miss when it comes to prayer, and that is the will of God. When it comes to the will of God, God says, "Christians do not know how to pray as they should."So, we read, in this verse, that the Holy Spirit is praying for us, on our behalf, and He is praying that the will of God be done in our lives.
Put it all together, and this is what the passage is teaching: In Romans 8:26 & 27, we see that the Holy Spirit is praying for us, and the content of His prayer is that the will of God may be done in our lives. In Romans 8:28 & 29, we find the Father's answer to the Holy Spirit's prayer. And the Father's answer is a resounding, "Yes!"He says, " All things will work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. "which is to be conformed to the image of His Son. In my own words, here is our Father's answer: Holy Spirit, you have prayed for them to have My will done in their lives, and I promise you that My will, will be done in their lives. My will is to make them like Jesus, and I will see to it that everything in their lives work together to accomplish My will for them.
What a tremendous truth this is! It is a truth that can revolutionize your Christian life! The truth is this: As God's children, we never have to hunt for the will of God. If you are in love with Jesus, and in your heart you want what God wants for your life, God's will is guaranteed in your life! And as a result, all things are working together in you life that the will of God will be done, that you will be conformed to the image of Jesus!
Therefore, Christians never have to seek the will of God as a goal. Never! Not as long as God is working all things together to make them more like Jesus. This is the truth of the Bible: that if we have the Guide, we will surely have His guidance. Nowhere in the Bible do we ever see the encouragement to find God's will as if it is hidden from us. God does not play a little game of hide and seek with His children concerning His will. He does not wish to keep it from us. The fact is, the Lord wants us to live in His will more than we want to live in His will! But no Christian ever ends up in God's will by hunting for it. We end up in God's will by centering our heart on the Lord, and as we do, He guides us in His will. The secret of knowing God's will is knowing God! This is the Bible's emphasis.
In Proverbs 3:5 & 6, we read, " Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. "In Psalm 32:8, God said, " I will guide you with My eye upon you. "The Lord does not say to have Him guide us, we must first pray, and then fast, and then listen for a still small voice, and then look for special peace in our hearts, and then ask Him for a sign. No! God's guidance is unconditional in a Christian's life. It is part of the blessing of being His child. It is a portion of the wonderful salvation we have in Christ.
What joy and rest comes to the believer when he or she takes their eyes off the will of God and puts them on the God whose will it is! There is a sweet release of the soul when we stop seeking after guidance and simply begin to trust in the Guide who has promised to lead us. As Christians, we really don't need more guidance from God, but we need our eyes opened to the truth that God will never leave us nor forsake us, and that He is guiding us always even though we may not see it.
Some might say this is all well and good, but is it practical? When I am faced with an important decision that is going to affect my life for years to come, what do I do? How can I make those decisions in the will of God? Well, God has never said that we could not use our own understanding. He has just said not to lean upon our own understanding. We can use our union with Jesus; It is His will that we make intelligent decisions and study the pros and cons in things and then make sensible choices. And as we do, we can know for certain that behind the scenes, God is at work guiding us, and using all of life to conform us to the image of His Son.
In Psalm 37:4 the Holy Spirit addressed this issue, He said, " Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. "That doesn't mean if you delight in the Lord He will give you whatever you want. It means as you seek the Lord and delight in Him, you can be assured that the desires you have in your heart have been placed there by God Himself. Not sinful desires; they don't come from the Lord, but if, for example, in your relationship to Jesus you desire to move to a different state, once you've worked out all the details; once you've done all the research, if that is still your desire, then move! And move trusting in the fact that God is guiding you, like He said He would. God guides us through our heart's desires. As believers, we can make decisions in life based on our desires, knowing that our desires come from the Lord.
Christians always seem to place much emphasis on location and vocation. They often ask, "Where does God want me to live, and what does God want me to do for a living?" Understand dear friend, that those things do not affect the will of God for your life, which is to make you like Jesus. Whether we decide to become bankers, or bakers, or teachers; whether we decide to live in Chicago, or Madrid, or London, as long as we are doing honest work, as long as we are progressing in the heart knowledge of God through the study of His Word, God's will (to make us like Jesus) will not be affected.
The Lord can conform us to His image whether we are bankers, or bakers, or teachers; whether we live in Chicago, Madrid or London. We need not hassle ourselves over these decisions. All we need to do is use our brains, and make the best decisions we can, and do what we want to do and live where we want to live, and Love God in all things, knowing that He is leading us because He has promised He would. Many times as we are in the process of making decisions, it will seem like we are all alone, and the decisions we make have been all up to us, but we know better! We know God is behind the scenes of our lives, guiding, overruling, rearranging our likes and dislikes.
In reality, God only has one will for our lives, not two or three or four, only one: to conform us to His image. And when our heart is set on Him, we never need fear missing His will. If you were God and one of your children said, "Lord, with all my heart I want to do what You want me to do." Would you let your child fall into a hole? Never! Let's say one day a little boy came up to his father and said, "Daddy, I want to do your will", and then went into his bedroom and cleaned it up. The father might then say, "Thats great son! That's what I wanted you to do. I'm happy when you keep your room clean. That's my will!" But what if this same child walked into the room where his father was, opened a window and started to crawl out. The father would not allow his son to fall out the window, be hurt and then say, "No, my son, that wasn't my will." Any responsible father would run to the son and stop him from falling. Well, God loves you, dear Christian. He will not let you get hurt in your attempt to please Him in all you do.
In the Bible, we have many general principles given to us concerning God's will, and as believers we ought to learn and follow those principles by the enabling grace of God. We know, for example, that the unequal yoke does not please God. We know about a Christian's responsibility to support his or her family. From God's Word, we know not to be lazy, and not to steal. We know not to ask God if it is His will to cheat on our incom tax. God's Word teaches us it is never His will to cheat on our income tax. It also teaches us to avoid every appearance of evil. In the Bible, we have general things as to the will of God for our lives. God, for example, is not going to let us rob a bank. That is sin, and God will never lead us to sin. And if we are living in a vital progressive union with Jesus, we are not going to want to disobey a clear teaching from His Word.
But when it comes to those thing that the Bible doesn't say anything about, when it comes to those things that are not in themselves sinful, like: Which car to buy, or what house to own, or what college to attend, or what job to take; as we seek the Lord, He will guide us. And in most cases, we will never see His guidance as He guides us through our likes and dislikes, and through the engineering of our circumstances. But we can know for sure, that if we are Christians desiring to please the Lord, He is guiding us. He is working to conform us to the image of His Son. (His ultimate will for our lives.) He will use all the decisions in our lives to accomplish this, even (Praise God) our wrong and stupid decisions. Now of course, we would be fools to seek wrong decisions, but our God is faithful, and He can be trusted. But dear Christian, please don't be like those who can't or won't believe God is guiding them unless they see it or sense it. God has called us to life by faith, not sight.
In conclusion, a Chritian who is seeking the face of Christ, to know Him more through His Word, is never in any danger of missing God's will. Not because Christians are so wonderful, but because God is so faithful! So may I encourage you, dear Christian; Don't seek the will of God, or pray for God's will to be done in your life as if it isn't being done. Simply seek a greater heart knowledge of Christ through His Word. The Bible is clear: guidance is promised to all of God's children simply because they are His children. May the Lord give us eyes to see this wonderful truth, and come to know Him as our Faithful Guide.
Do the commandments of God seem out of reach to you? Do you find yourself striving to please God with little success? Do you desire a life of genuine obedience to God, but do not know the way to such a life?
In the gospel of Matthew, the Lord Jesus said, " Come unto Me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. "Our Lord has intended that the Christian life be a life of rest. Yet for many of God's dear children, it has become a life full of strain and struggle as they attempt to live in obedience to God's Word.
Year after year, many make more promises to God, hoping with each new act of dedication, they may finally be able to live a life pleasing to Him. But sadly, even with sincere effort, time and time again, they fail. Sin seems to make a fool of them, as all the vows they've made to God, lie broken at His feet. Some become just too discouraged and walk away. Others seem to find new hope to carry on in the struggle, even though in their hearts they are frustrated. Still others become more involved in Christian service hoping that increased activity will one day free them from sin's grip, and allow them to please the Lord with a life of obedience.
Dear Christian, is this what God has planned for His people? A life of broken promises? A life that genuinely desires obedience to God, but never has it in reality? A life of constant struggle and failure with the world, the flesh, and the devil? Surely, this cannot be the life of rest Jesus promised to all who come to Him.
THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD
Would it be a surprise for you to learn that God has not given us His commandments in order that we might obey them? Rather, He has given us His commandments in order that we might see our inability to obey them, and trust in Him for the enablement to obey.
To state it another way, God has never intended that His people muster up some level of ability or commitment in order to live a holy life. He knows we are helpless to do so. Rather, He desires to enable us to live as He commands. Do you see the difference?
The Christian life is not summed up in the word, try ; it is summed up in the word, trust . For just as you and I could not lift a finger to help God out in our salvation, we cannot lift a finger to help God out in living the Christian life. Just as no amount of effort on our part could save us from hell, no amount of effort on our part can help us live in obedience to Christ.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
In the New Testament Book of Philippians we read, " For it is God who is at work within you both the willing and the doing of His will. "God has promised that If we trust Him, not only will He work in us the enablement to do His will, He will also work in us the desire to do His will. Oh, what a blessed promise! All that God commands of us in His Word, He is willing to work in us!
Jesus said, " I will give you rest."Let's say one day I came to your home and found you digging a deep hole in your back yard on a hot summer day. If I said to you, "Let me give you rest."What would expect me to do? Would you expect me to get you a glass of lemonade? Would you expect me to get you a lighter shovel? Would you expect me to say a prayer for you or to get an umbrella to shield you from the sun? I don't think so! If I said, "Let me give you rest,"you'd expect me to climb into the hole, take the shovel from your hand and start digging.
Many Christians have come to Jesus from the heavy burden of sin, but since their conversion, they have picked up the heavy burden of self-effort. They struggle in their attempt to obey the Lord Jesus, while He stands ready to bring them into rest.
May I encourage you, dear Christian, if you are in that hole digging, look now to Jesus to lift you out, and end that Christ-less struggle once and for all! As the Lord stood ready to lift you out of the awful pit of hell, He now stands ready to lift you from the pit of self trust. In the Book of Psalms, the Lord states His invitation this way; "Cease striving and know that I am God!"
THE POWER TO OBEY
Many times in the gospels, the Lord Jesus commanded people to do impossible things. On one occasion He said to a man who could not walk, " Arise, take up your bed and go home ."Now, if you or I would say that very thing to a man who could not walk, many would accuse us of being cruel. They might say, "How insensitive! What a mean thing to say to a man who cannot walk!"But, when Jesus said it, it was not cruel. Why not? Because when Jesus told the man to rise and walk, He also gave him the enablement to rise and walk. In order for that man to obey the command, Jesus had to work a mighty miracle in him.
Today, the Lord Jesus comes to us and commands us to do that which is humanly impossible. He commands us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to forgive our brothers and sisters seventy times seven times. He tells husbands to love their wives as He loved the church and gave Himself for her. He commands us to be thankful in and for all things. He tells us to love our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and body.
Anyone who has seriously tried to obey these commandments has quickly come to see that no one has the strength to keep them on their own. We have about as much hope of obeying anything God commands on our own, as that man who could not walk had of obeying the Lord on his own. Our only hope for obedience to God lies in the fact that Jesus is willing to work a miracle in us and enable us to obey Him. Yes, the responsibility to obey God is ours, but the power to obey Him is not ours. God must be the power in us to obey Him, or the Christian life will be just a hopeless dream.
Learn early, dear Christian, that the path of obedience is the path of trusting, not trying. All that God commands, He will provide. Every command in His Word is actually a promise of what He will work in us as we trust in Him. There is a great rest of heart that comes to the Christian who learns that only Jesus can live the Christian life and He wants to live it through them.
While many continually fail in a Christ-less struggle to obey God, I pray you will resist the temptation to look to the flesh by trying harder, and will come to trust in Christ alone! He is an all-sufficient Savior able to meet the deepest needs of our hearts, able to do in us and for us all we cannot do on our own.
Once t'was painful trying,
Now, "tis perfect trust:
Once a half salvation,
Now the uttermost.
Once it was my working,
His it now shall be:
Once I tried to use Him.
Now He uses me!