Hi Mike! So I know you have touched on this a while back but I would like to see if you would elaborate???
I am struggling with how to truly know what is God's will for me and my direction in life. I am strong enough to trust in his plan for my life but I still struggle to know what it is. Any advice on how to listen to what God is telling us??
Post by Mike Miller on Sept 4, 2007 10:56:50 GMT -5
Let me divide your question up into two questions and answer them that way.
First, it seems you are asking how we know when God is speaking to us. Well, as with any other relationship, we have to learn to recognize His voice. Jesus said in John 10 that His sheep would hear His voice. Earlier, in John 8, He said to some of the unbelieving Jews that the reason they did not hear is because they were not of God. So, we learn to hear His voice by knowing Him.
As an example, when Terri calls me on the phone, all she has to say is "Hi," and I know it's her. How? Well, because I've been hearing her voice every single day for over 20 years (my favorite sound in the world, by the way). I know her, so I recognize her voice. However, even though I know you, if you were to call me, you would have to tell me who you are. I know you, but I've not yet become so accustomed to your voice that I immediately recognize it. The bottom line is that the longer we walk with Him, the easier it becomes to recognize His voice.
Now, wouldn't it be nice if He just called us on the phone and said whatever we needed to hear? But He doesn't, so we have to learn how He speaks. A few weeks ago, I discussed this in Sunday School by drawing on Henry Blackaby's excellent explanation of the 4 ways God speaks to us.
1. He speaks through the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is the very breath of God. Every time you read Scripture, you are reading God's Word. The Bible is the primary way God speaks to us and the standard by which we determine anything else He says. It is important to state here that He will never add any new revelation to the Bible.
2. He speaks through prayer. Romans 8:26-27 says that the Holy Spirit intercedes in our prayers because we don't know what to pray. 1 John 3 & 4 indicate that the Spirit is working in us to give us assurance. It is through prayer that the Holy Spirit can speak--not audibly, but through the conviction of our hearts--to convict us of sin and give us direction. However, the primary role of the Spirit is to help us understand God's Word (See John 14:25-26; 1 Corinthians 2:6-15). Therefore, the Holy Spirit will never say anything to you that contradicts God's Word. He will only help you to understand it and apply it to your life.
3. He speaks through circumstances. God will bring things about in your life to communicate things to you. Again, these things will never contradict the Bible. But perhaps you are contemplating changing jobs, and you aren't sure if it is God's will. He might bring a new Christian boss to your current job and give you a raise, while the potential job will suddenly have requirements that you work on Sundays or something else that presents a problem. This could be God "speaking" providentially through the events in your life. When Luke says that the Holy Spirit kept them from preaching in Asia and traveling to Bithynia, we don't really know what this means. It could have been a strong impression, or a set of circumstances.
4. Finally, God speaks through other believers. God will use other Christians to rebuke, encourage, and guide you in life. This can come from friends or teachers/preachers, but always remember that human words cannot be from God unless they are in perfect harmony with the Bible. For example, I consider that the many, many people who said to me, "Have you ever considered becoming a preacher?" were being used by God to persuade me to be open to His call.
Obviously, you can see that I cannot overstate the importance of the Bible. God speaks very clearly through Scripture, and He will only use the other means as they are in complete agreement with Scripture. As we walk with Him, His voice becomes much easier to recognize.
I'll address the other part of your question in another post.
Post by Mike Miller on Sept 4, 2007 11:29:16 GMT -5
The way I see it (and tell me if I'm wrong), the other thing you are asking is how we can know God's will. Again I will draw on another's wisdom and give you a brief synopsis of John MacArthur's little book, Found: God's Will. Drawing on God's Word, He notes that the following 5 things are indisputably God's will for each of us:
1. That we be saved. Paul said in Acts 17:30 that God "commands all people everywhere to repent." The most important thing anyone can do is to turn by faith to Jesus Christ, renouncing sin and embracing Him, trusting only in His atoning work on the cross. That is God's will. See also 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9.
2. That we be Spirit-filled. The Holy Spirit resides within all believers, but in Ephesians 5:17-18, Paul says to believers that "the will of the Lord" is that we be "filled with the Spirit." This means that you are walking in such fellowship with Jesus that His Spirit is controlling your every move.
3. That we be sanctified. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 says that God's will is for us to be sanctified. That means that we are constantly growing in holiness, becoming more and more like Jesus. Sanctification will not be completed in this lifetime, but it should be always progressing in our lives.
4. That we be submissive. 1 Peter 2:13-15 says that God's will is for us to submit to every human authority. That means we are to submit to the government, our employers, church leaders, and children to parents. Of course, we don't submit to commands to disobey God, but other than that, we are to submit to any leadership God has placed over us.
5. That we be suffering. Uh-oh. We don't like that one. But Philippians 1:29 says that God has granted to us (meaning given, as a gift) not only that we should believe in Jesus, but that we "suffer for his sake," and 2 Timothy 3:12 states plainly that anyone with the desire to live a godly life "will be persecuted." Therefore, any of us who are truly saved and striving to be godly will suffer in some way for the cause of Christ. The reality that most Christians today (American Christians, that is) are not suffering is because most Christians (American) are not truly living godly lives for the sake of Christ. Make no mistake, living for Jesus will bring trouble (see Matthew 10:34-39).
Now, I encourage you to look at your life. If you can go through those 5 things and honestly say that, though you are far from perfect, you see those 5 things--if you are saved, Spirit-filled, being sanctified, submissive, and suffering for the Gospel--then here's the kicker: Do whatever you want!
Huh? Yep. God is not some kind of "cosmic killjoy." He's not hiding His will from us just trying to see if we can figure it out. No, He's spelled it out in Scripture and then said, "Do what you want." He also commands us repeatedly to be joyful. Take a look at Psalm 37:4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Do you see that? If God is truly your delight, then whatever His will is will be your desire. You can't delight in God and want what is contradictory to His will.
So, do you take that job, buy that house, marry that person? Well, I would say that if you are truly walking in God's will on the first 5 things, then go ahead and do what you want. Bear in mind that a saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, suffering Christian will not desire sinful things. Does that mean we can't be tempted? Of course we can, but it also means that we will have the wisdom to know it's sin and the desire to resist (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). For example, a saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, suffering man might face a temptation, but he will not cheat on his wife. He will only do that when His relationship with Jesus is not good.
Hope I've helped. I might have raised more questions than I provided answers, but feel free to ask away.
I'm reminded of a passage I read in Seizing Your Divine Moment by Irwin McManus (which deals with this subject and reinforces your "Do anything you want" statement). Here's what McManus writes:
"Several years ago one of our staff members was in a meeting relating to mission mobilization. A room full of women were processing what God's specific mission was for their lives. One of them listed a series of opportunities that she and her husband had considered. She described five or six different international opportunities and then explained that with each one God said no. Struck more by her famework for thinking than all the opportunites that were rejected, the staff member asked her one question: "Is there anything that God has said yes to you about?" And her startled response was, "I guess not." It can be incredibly frustrating when all you seem to be getting from God are the rejection slips. I look back now and realize it wasn't God who kept saying no."
I think this is a problem common to believers. We assume God's answer is no. This mindset is paralyzing because were afraid to do anything outside of God's will. So many believers wind up not doing anything at all. But if we are earnestly seeking God (living those 5 steps), then we can assume God's answer is yes and move forward in faith trusting that He will direct our path. McManus goes on to write than we want a road map of God's plan for our lives, but we are given a compass.
In addition to the above, 1 John 5:14-15 says we can expect God to hear and grant our requests if we pray acording to His will. If you are faced with a specific question or choice, consider asking God for it. Expect Him to respond. His timing will not always be your timing, but His is perfect. This sentiment is echoed in James 4:2, Mt 7:7, and other places in scripture. As reply 2 states, it is appropriate to study God's word to see if your request or desire is consitent with God's will. If it is, expect (have faith) to receive it.