Have It Your Way

I have had the topic of God’s will on my mind lately. As I think about this topic, I can’t help but to think of two common ideas that Christians use often:

  1. God has a wonderful plan for your life.
  2. What is God’s will for my life?

Before I get my thoughts out, let me preface that these two statements may have some truth to them or the people who use it may intended to mean something that is very much true and Biblical, but I want to stop to discuss the dangers of these types of phrases.

Life Is Not Always Wonderful

It is very much true that the Lord has something wonderful for our life here on Earth and later in heaven. However, when we hear the word “wonderful,” our minds tend to drift toward never getting sick, no problems in our family, having a steady job, etc. However, Paul often speaks to the early church about suffering for God’s kingdom and enduring that suffering because it will produce in us something worth more than gold (Rom. 5:3; Eph. 3:13; 2 Tim. 1:5,8; 2:3; 4:5; 1 Pet. 2:19). The danger in telling others or yourself that God has a wonderful plan for your life is that it leads people to expect life following Christ to be an easy life. Having new life with Christ is wonderful! Freedom from sin and hope in Christ is wonderful! But life in Christ is by no means easy.  I fail to see people who truly follow the Lord Jesus Christ who do not experience some kind of difficulty or suffering in their life.  Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).

I think the best perspective to have is one like Paul’s in Philippians 4:11-13:

“…for I have learned in what ever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty or hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Causes Misunderstanding and Self-Foscused Attitude

The other day my wife was listening to a Podcast called Stand to Reason with an apologist Greg Koukl, and he was talking with a listener about God’s Will. The question, “What is God’s will for my life?” came up in the conversation. I think that Greg Koukl said it well: it should not be “What is God’s will for my life?” rather we should say, “My life for God’s will.” I believe Greg Koukl’s statement makes most sense in light of what I know about God and the Bible. God is working out His plan, and we are to participate with Him. We have the privilege of being part of what God is doing in our world. When we ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” I believe it becomes easy to be self-focused and lose sight of what we are really called to do. Again, asking that question may not be completely bad because the Lord is at work in the individual life, too. However, let us not forgot God has already spoken through the Word, Jesus Christ, and we have the word, the Bible, that has laid out much of what God has for us while on Earth.

Short-Sighted

Lastly, I believe the statements above can also cause us to be short-sighted. We can see only what is right in front of us, causing us to strive after the here and now. Jesus said, “…lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Our perspective should always be bent toward eternity. That is why we, as Christians, live so differently. Imagine if we actually looked at all we did through the lens of eternity! Wow! I think our lives would be noticeably different. This would cause us to view suffering, possessions, relationships, and everything else in our lives much differently, and position our hearts not to get angry at God when things go awry.

I ask everyone who reads this to try using the above phrases less so as to not confuse others, especially those new to following Christ.  Instead, why not try using the phrase “My life for God’s will” more often and see where it takes you. I would like to conclude with a quote from CS Lewis’s book The Silver Chair because I think it puts God’s will into perspective for us. To help explain the quote, the children are trying to decide whether or not to release a boy they had just met from the chair to which he had tied himself. The boy had warned them not to let him out or he would end up hurting them. On the other hand, Aslan told the children that if anyone commands them to do something “In the name of Aslan” then they must do it. And of course, the boy tied to the chair changes his countenance, and suddenly commands them, “In the name of Aslan let me out of this chair!” At this point in the story, the children begin to debate what they should do, but Puddleglum says this:

“…Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the signs.”

God’s Will Or Just A Lazy Excuse

If It’s God’s Will…

First let me get out of the way that I believe in the sovereignty of God on all that occurs in this entire vast universe He has created. However, I have noticed in the lives of many Christians (including myself) we can toss around the phrase “If it’s God’s will…” In all truth that phrase is completely true. God is in control, and if He wants something to happen on this earth then it will happen in spite of us. However, let us not begin to use the phrase to excuse laziness. I noticed that many people say this exact thing in situations that will never occur unless they get up and do something or God literally drops it into their lap. God’s will becomes something we cannot know anything about at all or just a big waiting game. Please don’t think I am bashing on you if you’ve done this because I am guilty myself of doing this exact thing.

Let me give you an example. I was walking by an extremely dirty homeless man eating old pieces of corn next to the trash. Across from him was a cart selling the exact thing he was eating but fresh. A thought crossed my mind that I should buy him some fresh corn to eat rather than eat out of the trash. However, I have to admit, with shame, that I let my thoughts get the best of me. In the end, I was hoping something obvious would happen so I would know what to do but sadly enough I just walked right by heading onto my business at hand. I am pretty sure I would never be embarrassed to stand before God and know that I have fed the poor and homeless, but I know for a fact I would regret facing God having skipped an opportunity to love another human being for the sake of Christ.

What Is God’s Will?

“The way to find God’s will is to do God’s will for the next 15 minutes.”

-Adrian Rogers

Can we know God’s will? Yes, we can. I think often when people speak of God’s will it is more in a very vague, mystical way. It is something that is hard to figure out and takes a lot of work. Some people say that it is when we have a peace in our heart, hear a voice, etc. I believe God is capable of communicating His will in any manner He desires. However, I think we often ignore the most obvious way of knowing His will…the Bible. It is summed up well by David Platt who said, “If you are asking for God’s will, but not obeying God’s Word then we got it all wrong.” Please don’t get me wrong, I do not believe God is incapable of speaking to us in many ways, but I think we should start with the most obvious. There is much to learn from the Bible on how to live, act, and speak. Also, sometimes it is easy with the wrong view of God’s will to do nothing when faced with a decision.

Let’s Get Intentional

In the end, the danger I see in misunderstand what it means to seek God’s will is that we often don’t do anything. We wait for God to bring His will our way. The beautiful part is that we have a loving God that does bring His will our way at times. However, I feel I have missed out on many wonderful, life-chafing things because I didn’t intentional pursue God’s will. It is much easier for me to sit around hoping God will bring opportunities or people to myself. Some of the most awesome interactions with people, relationships built, or opportunities to be Christ to another have come when I stepped out into a situation I know from the truths of the Bible. I guess what I hope for all who followers of Christ (and for myself) is that we would see the adventure we could have by pursuing intentionally and passionately what we do know is God’s will.

Dreams, Prison, and Wicked Brothers OH MY!

joseph-with-brothers-in-egypt

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

Genesis 45:4-8

One of my goals is to read through the Bible each year. I just began reading through it again. The beautiful part is that I always gain more insight, grow, and learn more than I knew before. One part that has shocked me the most is to read through many of the stories in the Old Testament that I learned in Sunday School years ago, but now I have fresh eyes to see them through while also seeing the BIG picture of the whole Bible.  Recently I read about Joseph’s life in the book of Genesis. Many of us who have attended church for many years have heard about Joseph many times, and we mostly remember the dreams, his colorful coat, and tricking his brothers when they came to Egypt. However, this time through I saw some important lessons to be learned through Joseph’s life.

First, I noticed that Joseph was obedient to God throughout his life even in the face of difficulty and trials. Joseph worked hard as a slave and faithfully served in Potiphar’s house in Egypt. He fled sexual temptation when Potiphar’s wife pursued him constantly, and then falsely accused him. Even in jail he was such a trustworthy, hardworking individual he was promoted to the highest position while in jail. Lastly, he served as second in command under Pharaoh even though this was not his home country. In the end, Joseph was even willing to forgive his brothers who sold him into slavery. Not once did Joseph give up and blame God like many people do today. How often do people face difficult trials and circumstances in life, and then react by blaming God and giving up? I would say more than not.

Second, I noticed that Joseph understood that God was sovereign. Joseph told his brother’s that even though they had meant to do evil, God had intended this for Joseph’s good. Not only did Joseph benefit from being obedient to God in light of his circumstances, but Joseph was an example to all those around him as he served God.

These two insights are weighty for me at this time in my life for two reasons: (1) Being overseas and doing missions brings it’s own trials and difficulties, which oftenit is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and (2) many Thai people, in light of their worldview, see suffering as bad. This type of thinking makes becoming a Christian very difficult because it is assumed that God will take away all the suffering and give you more wealth than you had before. However, we know that to not be the case. Rather when we decide to follow Jesus we are guaranteed suffering, persecution, and our treasures are not in this life.

Please keep in your prayers that we would gain insight into the minds and hearts of Thai people, so we can know how to best share the Good News of Jesus Christ.