God's Will for My Life
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 9, 2006

 

Main Passage: John 10:1-15 (NLT)

 

We all face decisions every day. What will I wear? What will I have for lunch? What CD do I want to listen to? We all face decisions every day that affect the course of our lives. Sometimes the decisions are small, like the examples I just gave. And sometimes they’re great…. Should I get married? Should I change careers? Should I move? Should I have kids?

Those are some of the big questions we face in life that we simply have to answer… questions that require a decision. So let me ask you, if you could know God’s will in those situations, would it make it easier for you to make those decisions? If you knew God’s will for your life, would you do it? I expect most of you would… or, at least you’d say you would. I expect most of you would look at these big decisions, and would say, “God, if I only knew what You wanted me to do, I would do it.”

Well then, I have good news for you this morning. Because you can know God’s will for your life. Or at least have a pretty good idea of what it is. So that’s what I want to talk with you about this morning. We’re going to talk about God’s Will… What it is and how you can know it for your life.

And I want to start by describing to you three different categories of God’s will. We’ll zip through the first two, and then spend a bit of time of the third. And you can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along and fill in the blanks. Okay? So here are the three categories of God’s will. First of all, there’s His Sovereign Will.

 

Three Categories of God’s Will:

1. Sovereign Will – Happens whether you want it to or not

This is the stuff that happens whether you want it to or not. This is God’s will for the universe, for nature, and for mankind as a whole.

God does have a plan for everything that happens in the universe. And He’s working it out behind the scenes of history. And you and I cannot disrupt or change it. Most of the time, we can’t even grasp it with our limited human understanding. It is beyond us. But the beautiful thing is, everything fits together in God's Sovereign Will.

Here an example from the Bible…

Hebrews 9:27 (NLT)
“… it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment…”

No big revelation there, but you’re going to die. We may not look forward to it, we may try to delay it as long as we can, but we’re all going to die. That’s God’s Sovereign Will. It wasn’t part of His original plan, but it’s part of His Sovereign Will now.

Here’s another example. In the book of Genesis chapters 6-9 we find the account of Noah, the ark that he built, and the great flood that covered the whole earth. Why did the flood happen? Because the people that God had created had rebelled. The earth was full of violent and corrupt people, with the exception of Noah. The Bible says he was the only blameless person alive at the time, and he followed God’s will and enjoyed a close relationship with Him.

So God decided to do something about it. He decided to start over. He instructed Noah to build a boat big enough to house two of every kind of animal along with his family. And when the boat was finished, God shut them in it and the flooding began. For forty days it rained and the flood waters rose until the whole earth was covered. And by the time the waters subsided and the ground dried enough for them to get out of the boat, a whole year had passed. Catch what God promised Noah in Genesis 9:11;

Genesis 9:11 (NLT)
“I solemnly promise never to send another flood to kill all living creatures and destroy the earth.”

You see, it was God’s sovereign will that orchestrated the flood in the first place, and then it was His Sovereign Will that there would never be another like it. That’s God’s Sovereign Will… it happens whether we want it to or not.

Or how about what Jesus talks about in Matthew 24? In that chapter, He describes a lot if the things that are going to happen in the End Times before He comes again. All of that will work out according to His Sovereign Will. We can’t change it.

The truth is, God’s Sovereign Will is always at work, in ways that we don’t even see. He’s been orchestrating everything since the very beginning.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)
God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end.

Even if you think about gravity, entropy, friction, magnetics, the speed of light… We call them laws of nature, and they are constants that cannot be changed. But really, they are laws of God. He put them in place. They are part of His Sovereign Will. And so, in a way, science is the study of God’s Sovereign Will. We’re studying the laws that He has set in place. And miracles are the exceptions He makes to those laws. But it’s all up to Him.


Now, contrast that with God’s General Will, where we get to choose whether it will happen or not.

 

2. General Will – Moral and ethical issues which are common to all

Now just so you don’t get confused… we’re talking about God’s General Will. This is General Washington. This is General MacArthur. This is General Electric. This is General Martok. This is General Lee. We’re not talking about any of those. We’re talking about General Will. God’s General Will.

God’s General Will deals mostly with moral and ethical issues that are common for all people. God has revealed His general will to us through the Bible, and we get to choose whether or not we will follow this will, and then we either receive the benefits or face the consequences. Either way, there are repercussions.

God’s General Will would include things like loving each other, showing kindness, not cheating on our spouses, telling the truth, not being abusive, treating each other with respect. These are all things that the Bible makes clear are God’s will for us. We follow God’s will and He will bless us in one way or another. We choose not to, and we suffer the consequences… broken marriages, lost trust, bitterness and anger, health problems, unwanted pregnancies, heartache.

These are things that you don’t even have to pray about. “God, should I cheat on my wife or not? What’s Your will?” What do you think it is, you dweeb? You don’t need to ask God what His general will is… He’s already told us. He’s already revealed His Will in those areas. That’s God’s General Will.

The biggest issue that would fit God’s General Will is that every person individually come into a restored relationship with God… that we apologize for the things we’ve done that have hurt Him, that we accept His forgiveness, and that we invite Him into our lives. God wants that for every single person (and every married person, too). You don’t have to pray to find out if that’s God’s Will for you. He’s already said it is.

2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)
He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.

That’s His General Will, but He leaves the choice up to us. He makes it clear that He loves each one of us individually and that He wants us to know Him personally. But He doesn’t force it on us. He doesn’t override our Free Will. And so ultimately, you and I decide if God’s General Will is going to be realized in our lives.


So that’s God’s Sovereign Will and His General Will. And there’s really not a whole lot of confusion about those. But where there is some confusion is when it comes to what we’re calling God’s Specific Will.

 

3. Specific Will – God’s plan for you and you alone

Does God have a Specific Will for you? Does He have a plan that is for you and you alone? Does your life have meaning and purpose? Well, that’s not exactly a new question. It was asked thousands of years ago. In fact, Jeremiah back in the Old Testament in the Bible asked…

Jeremiah 20:18 (TEV)
“Why was I born? Was it only to have trouble and sorrow, to end my life in disgrace?”

That’s how Jeremiah felt. And there have probably times in your life when you felt that way, too. Was I born just to have a bunch of problems? Was I put on this planet just to have heartache, grief and stress?

Psalm 89:47 (NCV)
“Why did you create us? For nothing?”

In other words, “Does God have a plan for my life? Does He have a Specific Will for me?” And the answer is, “Yes… He does have a Specific Will for you, and you can know it!” Read these verses with me…

Psalm 139:16 (NLT)
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Proverbs 16:4 (NLT)
The LORD has made everything for his own purposes…

Ephesians 1:11 (Msg)
It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for... part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

 

God does have a Specific Will for you and you can know it. Problem is, a lot of people struggle with discovering what that means. So I want to spend the rest of our time this morning discussing how we can discover God’s Specific Will for our lives. After all, God’s Sovereign Will is going to happen whether we want it to or not; we really have no control over it. His General will is already revealed to us. If we’re wondering what that is, we can simply pick up the Bible and start reading. It’s His Specific Will for us individually that we have trouble understanding. What is God’s will for me as an individual that may not be His will for someone else?

You see, I think we often get the idea that knowing God’s will is impossible for us… that it’s hidden from us and we must constantly search for it while never finding it. Sometimes that’s how we feel, but that’s not the reality. You can know God’s Specific Will for you. That’s why the Bible says…

Ephesians 5:17 (NIV)
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.

Romans 12:2 (NLT)
Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

Underline the words, “you will know.” We can know God’s Specific Will for our lives. But how? Good question. So to answer it, let me just give you seven principles which, if you apply them, will go a long way in helping you understand God’s Will for your life.

 

Tips for Discovering God’s Will for You:

A. Commit yourself completely to the transforming work of God

We just read Romans 12:2. Did you notice what it says is the pre-requisite to knowing God’s will? Let’s take another look…

Romans 12:2 (NLT)
… let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do…

Circle the word “then”. So what’s the pre-requisite to knowing God’s Will? Being transformed by the power of God. And you know what? God wants to transform your life. He wants to purify you, cleanse you from all sin and traces of evil, and remake you in the image of His Son. But will you let Him? Again, He’s not going to force Himself on you. You have to make the decision to allow Him to do His work in your life. So commit yourself to that work.

 

B. Obey God’s General Will

You see, you can’t know God’s Specific Will unless you obey His General Will. Jesus said to His disciples…

John 13:17 (NLT)
“You know these things--now do them! That is the path of blessing.”

Now, He was talking specifically about the example He had set for them, but I think that would apply to all of Scripture. You know these things… now do them! In fact, James wrote…

James 4:17 (NLT)
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

And let me add this… God’s Specific Will for you will never contradict His General Will. If you find a conflict between what the Bible says for you to do and what you believe God is saying to you specifically, then you’re not hearing Him correctly. What He tells you personally will never contradict what He has already told us in His Word.

 

C. Get close to God

Colossians 1:16 (Msg)
For everything, absolutely everything… everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.

Consider this: What are the differences between a casual relationship and an intimate relationship? Between an acquaintance and a friendship? Well, in a casual relationship, you really don’t get to know each other very well. You never really get below the surface and the relationship has no real impact on your life. But in an intimate relationship… you look forward to spending time together, in fact, you plan for time together, your conversations go way beyond the weather.

And I think one of the biggest differences is that you begin to develop an intuition about that person’s likes and dislikes, what they want and what they don’t want. You can finish their sentences… You can even start to know what they’re thinking without them telling you. You can understand their body language. You start to intuitively know them.

Shera and I have been married for almost eight years now. And you know, when we got married, I thought I knew her pretty well. But I can assure you that, after eight years, I know her a lot better now. I know her preferences. I can tell how she’s feeling. We communicate. I know her heart. I even know the look that says, “Leave me alone, or there will be suffering!” or “Greg, you’re embarrassing me again.” And when I don’t recognize it, that sharp pain in my shin helps me to see it. As we get closer, I’m getting to know her better all the time.

And if you want to know God’s specific will for your life, you need to get close to Him. Spend time reading about Him in the Bible. Spend time praying to Him. Spend time in silence before Him allowing Him to speak with you. Learn His likes and dislikes. Become intimate with Him.

In the passage that we read earlier in the service, we saw how Jesus described Himself as a Shepherd and his followers as His sheep. He said:

John 10:14 (NLT)
“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me…”

Underline the phrase, “they know me.” Jesus also described how a shepherd interacts with his sheep…

John 10:4 (NLT)
“After [the shepherd] has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they recognize his voice.”

Underline “recognize his voice.” So you’ve got to get close to God and learn to recognize His voice. And then you can recognize where and how He’s leading you. You need to get to know Him if you want to get to know His will.

 

D. Examine how He has made you

If God has a specific task for you, then He has also given you the gifts and abilities to accomplish it. We already read Romans 12:2 where it tells us that it is possible to know God’s will. Well, it goes on to talk about the special abilities that God has given you…

Romans 12:5-6 (NLT)
We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do…
God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.

That’s what Paul had to say about how your giftedness is connected to God’s will for you. Peter also addressed this when he wrote…

1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)
God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you.

So examine how He has made you. Check to see what gifts and abilities you have, and what passions you have. Because they can give you great insight into what God’s will is for your life.

 

E. Listen for His direction

Tim Hansel is an author who wrote a book called, “When I Relax I Feel Guilty”. And in that book he writes…
 

“An American Indian was in downtown New York, walking with his friend who lived in New York City. Suddenly he said, “I hear a cricket.”
“Oh, you’re crazy,” his friend replied.
“No, I hear a cricket. I do! I’m sure of it.”
“It’s the noon hour. There are people bustling around, cars honking, taxis squealing, noises from the city. I’m sure you can’t hear it.”
“I’m sure I do.” He listened attentively and then walked to the corner, across the street, and looked all around. Finally on the corner he found a shrub in a large cement planter. He dug beneath the leaves and found a cricket. His friend was astounded. But the Cherokee said, “No. My ears are no different than yours. It simply depends on what you are listening to. Here, let me show you.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change—a few quarters, some nickels, and pennies. And he dropped it on the concrete. Every head within a block turned. “You see what I mean?” he said as he began picking up his coins. “It all depends on what you are listening for.”
 

What are you listening for? Are you listening for God’s voice? Are your ears tuned in to God’s will?

Consider Samuel in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel chapter 3, you can read about how while Samuel was still a young boy, God spoke to him and called him. Samuel didn’t actually recognize His voice at first and didn’t know where the voice was coming from, but when He realized that it was God speaking to Him he simply said, “Okay God, talk to me. I’m listening.”

Or how about Elijah, in 1 Kings 19? He was standing on a mountain waiting to hear from God. The mountain was hit by a windstorm, but God wasn’t in the wind. Then the mountain was caught in an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the quake. And that was followed by a raging fire, but God wasn’t in the fire. But then he heard it. The still, small voice of God speaking to him. And as Elijah listened, God explained to him what He wanted him to do.

Here’s what it says in the book of Psalms… read it with me…

Psalm 95:6-7 (NLT)
Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the sheep under his care. Oh, that you would listen to his voice today!

 

F. Start obeying His will even if you don’t know it all

There’s an old saying that tells us, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Or as you parents might say, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the kids hollering, ‘Are we there yet?’”

But you know, often, when you step out in obedience to God, you really have no idea where you’re going to end up. You simply obey Him and follow Him, and you trust Him to reveal more to you as you need it.

Abraham did that. If you read about him in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament, you’ll discover that God called Abraham to leave his homeland and his family and follow Him. But God didn’t tell Abraham where they were going. He basically told Abraham, “Trust Me and follow me, and you’ll be glad you did.” Here… let me show you…

Genesis 12:1-2 (NLT)
The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.
"I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you…”

Didn’t know where he’d end up, but he trusted God and followed Him anyway. Or think about it like this… Picture yourself driving down the highway on a dark rainy night. You’ve got your headlights on, and your eyes are focused on the road ahead… but you can only see so far. So what do you do? Do you pull over and stop until you can see farther down the road? No, you just begin to move as far as you can see. And then an amazing thing happens… the light moves, too. And suddenly you can see the next section of the road… and then the next… all the way to your destination.

Psalm 119:105 (NLT)
Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.

So start obeying His will even if you don’t know it all. And letter “G”…

 

G. Start obeying His will even if you don’t understand it all

What if you know God’s will but you don’t understand it? I mean, we tend to want 100% understanding and certainty of what God’s will is, especially if we’re facing a life-changing decision. But the truth is that God rarely works like that.

  • Did Joshua know how the walls of Jericho were going to crumble? No, but he marched around the city anyway. (Joshua 6)

  • Did Gideon fully grasp how with only 300 men he could overcome the entire Midianite army? No, he had his doubts. But he still obeyed and God came through. (Judges 6-7)

  • Did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego know how God would deliver them from the blazing furnace that King Nebuchadnezzar was going to have them thrown into? No, but they were obedient and God saved them. (Daniel 3)
     

The Bible is full of stories of people who knew only a little piece of God’s will and understood even less, but were still obedient. And every time, God was faithful and came through. So don’t wait until you know God’s entire will and have complete understanding before you obey, because that time will never come. In Isaiah 55, God says…

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
“My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.

 

So basically this morning, I’m saying that there’s good news. You can know God’s will for your life. He’s not going to require you to follow His will and then hide it from you. He wants you to know it… even more than you want to know it. But at the same, you won’t find out what it is without seeking it. So eagerly desire to know God’s will for your life… seek it out… and you will find it.

 

 

 

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