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God's Will
Brett Anderson ©2004

So far in this journey, we've been reminded of our need for God...we've been faced with the challenge of choosing to follow God whole-heartedly...we've been given the picture of a relationship as the means of really growing in our relationship with God and being Faithful In Serving Him...

...and this week I am going to be looking at the Will of God (you know, like if God dies, who gets His stuff?)

No, not that kind of will, because God is never going to die (the folks at Stellenbosch Vineyard didn't find it that funny either...) but I have often heard people asking that question - How do I know God's will for my life? Is this God's will for me?

Romans 12:1-21 "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is Mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Wow! Quite a meaty passage. I am mainly going to be using only the first two verses for this thort, but there are two reasons I included the whole thing. Firstly, to establish a context - too many verses get quoted out of context and you often miss a lot of the meaning, so even though I won't specifically go through the whole passage, take time to see what God is saying in the whole piece. Secondly, as I type this passage out I realise that if you manage to obey the whole of the rest of the passage, after verse 1 and 2 which I will be looking at, you will be very far along the road of living out and accomplishing God's will already. Too often we try look too deeply for the answers, when the difficult, sometimes uncomfortable yet simple ones are staring us in the face.

So in dealing with the question so many people have of 'How do I know what God's will is?' the place I think we should begin is by asking,

# Is this a valid question?

And the answer is simply yes it is. In Matthew 6 Jesus showed the disciples how to pray and right near the beginning is the line, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Therefore Jesus even encouraged us to pray for the will of God to be done. It is something that is a priority for Him and so it should be for us.

# So, how do I know God's will?

Verse 2 ends by saying "THEN you will be able to test and approve what God's will is..." and so it's like a bunch of stuff, THEN you will be able to know what God's will looks like.'

And so we're kinda starting at the end of the passage I'm dealing with (verse 1 and 2) and working our way backwards. The word THEN says we should look before the THEN to find out how to get to it, so let's take another step backwards through the verse...

"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

So that is how to get to the THEN of knowing God's will. But how do we do that? Another step backwards, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world."

Okay, so let's look at that bit briefly and I think there are two key points in there.

# The term 'any longer' means that we have been doing it uptil now. So I think it begins with an acknowledging that that is how we all start out - conforming to the pattern of this world... and realising that there needs to be a shift. That's part of confession, which is a vital and often overlooked part of our relationship with God - acknowledging sin, saying sorry AND turning away from it...

# The second part is the 'pattern of the world' - if we are being told to move away from the pattern of this world, then which pattern are we meant to be conforming to? And the answer is pretty simple in that it is God's pattern, but I think we need to go a little deeper to understand the switch a bit more, by asking,

What is the pattern of this world?

The way I thort of explaining this is a cute analogy that I got out of Exodus which I call the big 'I am' mix-up. We are all probably familiar with the story in Exodus 3 where God meets Moses in the burning bush and tells him to go tell Pharaoh to set his people free. Moses asks God what to say if Pharaoh asks who sent him... so in other words, what do I call you?

And God answers Moses by saying this: 'God said to Moses, "I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you." God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, "The Lord, the God of your fathers - the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob - has sent me to you." This is My name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.'

So there's kinda two parts to that - he gets the name - "I AM" and he also gets kind of a description of God as the Lord and God of your fathers - which kind of shows the relationship between God and man and gives an idea of who He is. So there's the name and description...

Now the way I thort about this whole thing is that the problem comes in when I forget the second part... and so a situation in life or a person comes to me and says, "Who is your God?' and I respond '"I AM!"

[take a moment for that to sink in, perhaps!]

So ja, that's a very roundabout way of looking at it, but at the same time I think it illustrates the problem and the pattern of the world. We are brought up believing that it is all about ME! I must be comfortable, I must believe what I want and do what I want and have what I need and want in life and then life is good. It's all about me! [God calls this one pride! or selfishness! or just plain sin most of the time!]

That is the pattern of this world... BUT we have been told NOT to conform to that!

# So then what? If not the pattern of this world?

The Lord's prayer urges us towards "Your will be done" The pattern of this world says "Our will be done."

Now take a good long hard look at those two sentences... from an English language or spelling point of view I guess, there is only one little small tiny difference between the two sentences 'Your will be done' and 'Our will be done' - What is the difference?

Y!

I'll tell you why...says God...BECAUSE MY WILL IS BETTER!!! Take a look at the end of verse 2 again - it talks about God's will being 'good, pleasing and perfect.' That sounds like quite a good thing to be conforming to hey?

Now if you take a look at the world generally, you get to see what things look like when 'Our will is done' and it shouldn't take too much convincing to realise that there is something wrong with this picture. Obviously 'Our will be done' is not having all that much success in the world... and yet every now and then (like in the life of Jesus as a huge example but otherwise demonstrated in the life of someone who has denied themself, picked up their cross and is following Jesus) we catch a glimpse of what the world looks like when God's will is done [in Jesus' day it took the form of sick people being healed, blind people seeing, woman and children being given value and shown attention, forgiveness being offered, Jesus dying in our place on the cross] and you go 'Yeah - THAT's it!' That's what things are supposed to look like.

# How practically do we do this?

Verse 1 tells us to 'Offer your bodies as living sacrifices' as your 'spiritual act of worship.'

Now 'sacrifice' to me gives the imagery of something that is killed. So a 'living sacrifice' would seem to signify 'Live AS IF you are dead' - put yourself last.

I learnt the acronym JOY as a child and it stands for Jesus first, then Others, then Yourself... and if you keep those in the right order, then it spells out JOY because that is what you will experience when you keep Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last.

The Youth With A Mission organisation has this as their slogan - "To know God... and to make Him known."

Jesus put it, "Love God... Love your neighbour."

Because AS the first part of those slogans happens in reality, so the second one happens naturally which is the key to God's will. AS you know God, so you will naturally want to make Him known and go and do it. AS you Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind so you will naturally love your neighbour...

I recently heard this worship definition from a guy called Simon van Niekerk:

"To worship is to give mental, physical and emotional expression to an inner yearning conceived by God Himself, for intimate communion with Him, to know Him and be known by Him in both a private and public way."

And isn't the lifestyle of worship (as expressed awesomely in that quote) just another way of saying 'Living out God's will?'

Lastly, a thing I learnt years ago in one of the best talks on God's will I've ever heard, just made it all seem so simple to me. He started by saying that there are some things you never have to ask God His will on:

For example, I never have to go before God and say, 'God, is it your will for me to commit adultery?' Never ever EVER!

Why not? Because He has already told me. The answer is in the Bible and the answer is No! I never have to go check in with God incase He's changed His mind or has a different way for me.

The bottom line with God's will, as far as I am concerned, is that there are so many things that God has already put in place for us to already know His will, that we probably don't have to ask Him what it is as often as we think:

[1] The Bible - as we get to know God's word better we get to know God better and His will is made very clear on a lot of stuff. Not so clear in some areas but largely God's will has been revealed to us through His written word.

[2] People - things such as our weekly church fellowship or maybe mentoring relationships or Christian friends. when we want to know God's will on something we should check it out in the Bible and then get the opinion of people who know God and maybe know us as well. Other people are an awesome source to help us discover God's will for our life.

[3] The Holy Spirit living in us - the Bible clearly says that the Holy Spirit comes and lives in us and acts as Counsellor (giving us good counsel/advice/direction) and often God reveals His will to us through thoughts/feelings/our conscience/prophecy and stuff like that. Again it is important to check it out with the Bible and with people.

So, in conclusion, I believe that SO MUCH of God's will has already been revealed. Often the question we should be facing is not so much 'What is God's will?' but 'Am I going to be obedient to what I know to be God's will?'

Having said all that, I would like to add in that it is important that we remember that God is a God of relationship and He loves to be in communication with His people. So I don't think we ever have to be too scared to approach God with a question of 'Is this Your will?' even if we should know the answer from somewhere else. God loves us to talk to Him and so whether it's necessary or not, don't ever be put off going to ask God for anything. He loves you so much and is passionate about spending time with you. But, just be aware, that He has already laid out His will in so many ways for us to be taking notice of and incorporating in our lives... so that His will be done.

Or to put this all another way: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will."

God bless you and have an awesome week living out a lifestyle of worship - after all the one calling every single one of us has on their lives that is the same is that we are all called to be worshippers of Him.