Determining the Will of God

Scripture: 1 John 2:17, Luke 11:2
Date: 05/10/2008 
How do we determine the will of God in our lives? Some things are clear, such as our salvation. Though casting lots was sometimes used in Scriptures but not to ignore to use our minds and good criteria. The first step is to be completely surrendered to God
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning. So what are you going to be when you grow up? Do you know? Are you doing now what you are supposed to be doing? Are you in your life where you are supposed to be? Somebody said one time, the safest place in the world to be is in the middle of God’s will. It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by typhoons and tornados or volcanoes and earthquakes, if you’re in the middle of God’s will you have nothing to worry about. I’ve often thought about developing a list because one of the most common questions that I get in ministry is, “Pastor, how do I know what God wants me to do? How do I determine the will of God for me?” It’s a very good question. So this morning’s message is going to be specifically focused on what I believe is one of the most important things we can consider. What is the will of God for my life specifically and am I doing that will? You know there’s really no more important thing that we can ask. 1 John 2:17, I’ve got a lot of scriptures for you this morning, “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

How do we determine the will of God? How important is it? Those that do the will of God, how long do they last? Forever. How many want to live forever. Those that do the will of God will last forever. In the Lord’s Prayer, Luke 11:2 “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done…” How do we determine what the will of God is for our lives? I think it was David Livingstone that said, “I’d rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God than on the throne of England out of His will.” If being in the will of God means that you’re struggling in some lonely, distant, uncomfortable, mission field, you’ll have more comfort there. You’ve probably heard of Adoniram Judson the missionary to Burma. He was offered a very comfortable pulpit in Boston near his family and everyone said, “Oh this is such a wonderful opportunity.” He said, “Well, except I know God has called me to go to the mission field.” “Oh, but wouldn’t this be much better? Isn’t this the wiser decision?” He said, “No, I’m much better off being in God’s will in the mission field than being in a comfortable, successful, popular pulpit with good pay in Boston.” Are you where you’re supposed to be? We need to know the answer to that question.

We face a lot of big decisions in our life. What school am I going to go to (for some of our younger set)? What will I study once I get there beyond the basics? And then once you study in your field then you have different job offers, how do I know where to take that job? What state? What specialty? What’s God’s will for me? Who am I going to marry? Do I say yes to the first person that comes along and asks me? Am I to marry at all? There’s something to pray about. Maybe, like me, you’ll be a bachelor your whole life. Mrs. Batchelor got married, became a Batchelor. So how to you determine the answer to these big questions? First of all there’s some basics we know. God wants you to be saved. That’s His will. 2 Peter 3:9, The Lord is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” And it’s a mistake for you to think that everything you see happening in the world must be God’s will. You know some of our friends and neighbors of the Islamic persuasion when something happens they say, “It’s the will of Allah. It’s the will of Allah.”

Whatever happens it’s the will of Allah. That’s not true. Not everything that happens is the will of God. God is not willing that any should perish. Are some going to perish? That’s not His will. There’s a lot of things you and I decide to do and we’re out of God’s will. There are things that happen, you can’t always say, “Well, it’s an act of God.” This typhoon there in what used to be known as Burma, Myanmar, and all these thousands of people that died, “Oh, this must have been God’s will.” Not necessarily! Did the devil bring a storm in the story of Job? I think we’ll be surprised when we get to the other side and God pulls back the veil. There’s a battle between good and evil and if God’s will was always being done then why would He tell us to pray that His will be done? Why would you pray for something that you’re already going to have? It’s because His will is not always done. It’s something that is to be prayed for; it’s something that is to be pursued. So how do we determine the will of God?

Now let me begin by, before I get to my list of ways that I think you can apply biblical principles to determine the will of God. I’d first like to talk about some of the dubious methods that people use and let’s get that out of the way. When some people are making major decisions, even Christians, they resort to things as basic as flipping a coin. I’m not saying that God cannot speak through the flip of a coin. This is how… I almost said the World Series football games. They don’t do that. What is that? Superbowl, yeah, there you go. You can tell how much I know about sports. Karen laughs at me. They flip a coin, right? To see who is going to kick off, and I don’t know, they may do it in baseball. That might work for those things, but if you’re making life decisions I’d want more evidence than flipping a coin. Some people do this. Or maybe you’ve wondered about casting lots. In the Bible, just so you have an idea of what that means, sometimes if they were trying to determine between one or two choices or maybe multiple choices, they would take a clay jar that had a narrow opening and they would put a number of black stones and one white stone or a number of white stones and one black stones and they’d go around the circle and they’d drop out.

The stone mouth was just big enough to drop out one stone at a time and if the lot fell on you it meant that you were chosen. So they had a variety of ways for doing that. You remember they cast lots for Jesus’ clothing. Now casting lots when you’re making decisions for your life is probably not advisable. One reason I say that is because God wants you to use your brain. He says, “Come now, let us reason together.” You should not go through your day and through your life, “Who shall I marry? Well, I’ll cast lots.” First of all, don’t tell your perspective parents-in-law that’s how you’re making your choice. That won’t impress them. You want to be using a number of criteria in making these important decisions. God gave you a brain because He likes to see you use it. Matter of fact, when they were picking the goats on the Day of Atonement, they’d select two perfect goats and then one would be the Lord’s goat and one would be the scapegoat and the Bible did say they were to cast lots and one of them would be chosen as the scapegoat.

Well, you’re picking between two goats; in something like that, well, that’s okay. But making big decisions for life, be careful. By the way, do you know where the word “lottery” comes from? Casting lots. Now some of you are going to say, I’ve got biblical proof for playing the lottery now. It’s in the Bible. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just saying, it’s talking about pure chance. Not to play the lottery. You’re heard me say before you probably have a better chance of being bitten by a shark in Phoenix, Arizona than winning the lottery so don’t waste your money doing that. The practice of casting lots is mentioned about seventy-seven times in the Bible, but I think it’s interesting in 2nd Selected Messages, 328, the author there writes, “I have no faith in casting lots.” She was speaking about some churches were casting lots to pick their leaders because they said, “Well, after all, didn’t the disciples pick a new apostle by casting lots?” Well, that was a whole different story. First they went through a selection process of the best candidates and they said, “We’re going to pick between the two of the best.” They were not casting lots arbitrarily to pick church leadership. God wants you to use criteria and wisdom and we’ll get to those things in a minute.

Again you’ll find in Letter 37 from 1900 it says “To cast lots for the officers of the church is not God’s order. Let men of responsibility be called upon to select the officers of the church.” They were to use their brains and use a number of criteria. You’ve probably heard the story before of this old Scottish woman used to travel the countryside and she sold thread and yarn and one day she came to a fork in the road and she picked up a stick. She threw the stick up in the air and it fell back down to the ground. She picked it up and she threw it up in the air and it fell back down to the ground. Someone came along while she was doing this and they said, “What are you doing?” She said, “Well, as I go on my sales route I want the Lord to guide me in which way to go and so I take this stick and I throw the stick and I go which way the stick points.”

He said, “Well, why do you keep throwing the stick?” She said, “Well, it keeps pointing to the right, but that road is pretty rough. I want to go to the left so I just keep throwing the stick.” Some people, I’ve seen them do that. “Let’s flip coins.” They flip, they don’t get the answer they want, they say, “Two out of three.” And they just keep on flipping the coin. I actually know someone one time that was really praying about a big decision, this is true, and they weren’t sure whether or not they were to flip a coin if that’s how they were supposed to pick. They flipped the coin and the coin rolled over against the wall and stood upon its end. It’s like God was saying, “Don’t do that. You’re just giving Me two options. I might have an option you know nothing about.” So sometimes you corner the Lord when you use these methods and you’re limiting how God is going to answer you. I’d guard against that.

What about throwing out a fleece? You remember Gideon, when trying to get some reassurance that he was supposed to go in battle against the Amalekites and the Mideonites and the people of the East, he put out this fleece. This is a big sheep’s skin. He put it out. That’s normally what they slept on at night. It was their sleeping bag. He said, “Now if I wake up in the morning and there’s dew on the fleece and none on the ground that will be a sign.” Well, that happened. Then he thought, “Well, maybe that’s a natural occurrence. Tell You what, Lord, let’s try this one more time. Tomorrow let the fleece be dry and the dew on the ground.”

The next day it was the opposite and he said, “Okay, that’s evidence.” So some people have these different fleeces that they put out for the Lord and sometimes it’s not all bad to say, “Alright, Lord, I’m going to look for providential evidence,” and we sort of manufacture these fleeces that we’re looking for God to guide us. I know about a lady that, you ever met these people that when they want to make a decision they flip through their Bible and wherever their eyes land they say, “Okay, that’s going to be Your message to me, Lord.” Be careful about using your Bible like a deck of Tarot cards. You’re probably heard of people that…. Now, I’m not saying God can‘t lead that way. I know stories of the Lord has led some people. Dear friend of ours has passed away. Her name was Lolita Simpson. You’ll read in Testimonies about a famous evangelist called W.W. Simpson and Lolita told me the story one time when her mother was trying to pray about whether or not to marry this young, handsome evangelist, she said, “Lord, I’ve got to know this is Your will.” She prayed and agonized.

She said, “I just need reassurance that this is the right man.” So she took her Bible and she flipped her Bible open, she was praying there by her bed, and she put her finger down on a verse and this is where she put her finger. Genesis 24:58, “Then they called Rebekah and said to her, ‘Will you go with this man?’ And she said, ‘I will go.’” Now when you pray about who to marry and you flip the Bible open and that is the place where your finger lands, well, that’s a pretty strong indicator. Some of you are going to go home and try that now, right? I’m not recommending this. I’m just saying God can use it, but I don’t think it’s advisable because you never know. You might flip your Bible open and it’ll say Judas went and hung himself. That’s obviously not His will for your life so be careful about doing that.

What about dreams and visions? I’m trying to deal with some of the dubious things that people use to make big decisions. Can God guide us through a dream? God can guide us through a vision, but you know, I’m hoping, the majority of your dreams are gibberish that come because your brain is defragmenting the things you’ve experienced through the day. It sort of sorts itself out when you reach that point of rapid eye movement and all kinds of bizarre things may go through your mind. Some people have weird dreams and they go and visit psychoanalysts that help them to try and understand what’s going on deep within because of their dreams and it may just mean too much pizza. Some people just put a little too much emphasis on that. And visions, you’ve probably heard about the farmer that was out hoeing in the field one day and it was hot.

He was a young farmer and he wondered if he was supposed to spend his life out farming. He was pondering these things and he looked up in the sky and he saw that the wind was moving the clouds around and all of a sudden he distinctly saw the letters in the sky, “P C” and he thought about that. “P. C. Lord, you don’t want me farming anymore. You want me to preach Christ. Preach Christ!” He threw down his farm equipment and he went and got his Sunday suit on and he started going around the community preaching. They said, “Zeb, what’d going on?” He said, “God showed me in a vision I’m supposed to be a preacher. I saw clouds that said P C and I know that means Preach Christ.” So he spent several months out there trying to preach and didn’t have very big results and his family started getting hungry and about eight months later he’s back out there in the field hoeing the corn. Someone said, “Zeb, what’s up? I thought God gave you a vision you’re supposed to preach Christ.” He said, “Well, I made up my mind that P C meant Plant Corn. It didn’t mean Preach Christ.”

So be careful about the dreams and the visions. If you’re going to have dreams and visions make sure there is other reinforcing evidence and I wouldn’t make your decisions just upon that but God can speak through those things, right? So let’s be careful. Now someone said that in the US alone there are more than twenty-three thousand ways to make a living. The odds are clearly not in favor for you to decide what you’re supposed to do as a career or who you’re supposed to marry (think about all of the options there) based on pure luck. You want divine leading in your life. Amen? And you want God to give you wisdom how to discern His providence and His will.

Alright, I’m going to give you now a list of, I have taken the best lists I could find from the people I respect the most, the Bible, George Müller, Tozer, the Spirit of Prophecy, friends, talked to our pastors this week and we got a few more points on the list. I’ve got about fifteen points that I’m going to share with you on how do you determine the will of God biblically and using good reason. Here are what I think some of the most important things. You may add to my list later, but after years of praying about it, this is the first time I’ve really preached a message like this. Here is the list. I’m going to go through these quickly because I want to get this in one message.

Number one, Be surrendered and willing. The most important thing, if you want to know God’s will, is be willing to do His will. Matter of fact, John 7:17, “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” If you’re wanting God’s will Jesus said if he’s willing he will know the doctrine. You will understand, but the first thing is to be willing. Pray that God will give you a pliable and a willing heart. Step number one is to be surrendered. Surrender yourself before Jesus before you expect Him to lead you. If your heart is in a state of rebellion and you’re not surrendered to God then why is he going to show you His will? All He does is add to your compounded guilt. He shows you more that He wants you to do and you’re not doing what He’s shown you. So be willing. I heard about a native in the Congo that prayed. He said, “Dear Lord, you be the needle, I’ll be the thread. You go first, I’ll follow wherever You lead.” That’s the kind of attitude we need. Isaiah 45:9 “Does the clay say to its potter, ‘What are you doing?’” (New Jerusalem). When God shows you His will, then do it. You may not like what He shows you. Be open. Psalm 25:9 “The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way.” If you want to know the will of God and the way of God, humble yourself before God and He’ll teach you His way. So be willing.

Number two, Consult the word of God. Find out what the Bible says on the particular options or the direction that you’re praying about. The word of God has a lot to say about a lot of things so acquaint yourself with His word. You read of course Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” When you’re walking through life, if you want guidance, ask for the word of God to guide. There is scripture on so many different things. More specifically in the word of God you have the law of God so a lot of things you might see as options are clearly commanded to be done or not done based on what the law of God says. There are some things God gives us an emphatic no and there are some areas where He will give us an equally emphatic yes. So find out what the law of God says. If you’re wondering “Should I leave my spouse and go off with this other person?” You don’t need to pray about God’s will regarding that. You’d be surprised. I’ve met people. It happened this year. Two married people, members of the same church left their spouses, got together and when I counseled with them they said, “You know it just feels so right. We just can see God blessing. We’ve got so much peace. Those other relationships, they just weren’t good. We just see this is God’s will for us.”

You don’t need to wonder if this is God’s will. He clearly commands you not to do this. It’s a sin. So don’t be praying about the will of God, you know, “Lord, should I steal this car?” You don’t need to pray about that. If God’s word gives you some clear direction on that, that’s clear. Now someone might say, “You know I’ve got this job and in order to get this incredible job opportunity I just need to work for three or four Sabbaths for one month until I get the tenure and then I’ve got the job.” You don’t need to pray about that. If God says, “Remember the Sabbath…” it doesn’t mean when it’s convenient, you can break it in order to get a better job. The word of God gives us really clear guidance in certain areas. It’s a slam-dunk; it’s a no-brainer. So find out what the word says. It may involve searching through the word a little bit. Psalm 40:8 “I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.” So if you’re wondering what the will of God is, the law of God is the will of God. They’re one and the same. Amen?

Number three, Be faithful to His revealed will. So if you’re praying about “What school do I go to, Lord? I really need You to show me. What do You want me to take in college? Who is it that You want me to date? I’ve got three options. What country am I supposed to go to?” You’re praying about making big decisions, first ask yourself, am I doing what He has shown me? Make sure that you’re living out what He has revealed. John 12:35 “Then Jesus said to them, ‘A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you…’” Walk in the light you have, in other words, and if you continue to walk in the light, He gives you more light. But don’t be praying about perplexity regarding God’s will if you’re not doing what He has shown you. Matthew 13:12 “For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance…” If you are embracing the will of God that He’s shown you, He’ll give you more because He can trust you to follow it. Some of you are saying, I don’t know why God won’t guide me. Well, are you doing what He said? “You ask, what is the will of God? Well, here’s the answer true. The nearest thing that should be done that He can do through you.” Sometimes you need to say am I doing what lies closest at hand with all of my might.

You and I have met people before, they stand stationary with their arms folded waiting for God to show His will and they’ve got stuff right there they need to be doing. I heard about the king of Bavaria, King Henry. He got tired of all of the responsibility of being a monarch and he began to long after the life of a monk and he went to the monastery and he talked to the head pastor there and said, “I’ve decided I just want to come to the monastery. I want to be a monk.” He said, “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” He said, “I do.” He said, “Are you willing to submit to the discipline of the monastic life?” And the king says, “I am. I’m longing for that peace.” He says, “It’s very rigorous.” He says, “I’m willing.” He says, “You must obey absolutely.” He says, “I will.” He says, “Okay, here’s your first order. Get back to the palace and be king.” From that point on King Henry went back and he said, “This is my calling. This is what God wants me to do.” Sometimes we’re frustrated looking for God’s will because we have not learned to be content where we are.

He may want you right where you’re at, and He’s just trying to teach you contentment. So are you doing what He’s given you nearest at hand? From the third book of Testimonies, page 428, “Those who are seeking to know the truth and to understand the will of God who are faithful to the light and zealous in the performance of their daily duties will be sure to know the doctrine for they will be guided into all truth.” If we’re being faithful to perform known duties God will help us understand more. Again, from the book Education, page 267, here is a list that Pastor Mike forwarded on to me. I guess actually Helen forwarded this and Mike got the credit for it. Education, 267, a simple list of three from the Spirit of Prophecy, “We need to follow more closely God’s plan for our life. Number one, do our best in the work that lies nearest, number two, commit our ways to God, and number three, to watch for the indications of his providence. These are rules that will ensure safe guidance.” Make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to do. There’s a simple, short list, if you will, of how do you know the will of God. Alright, but I’ve got more detail because sometimes our questions are more complex.

Number four, Obtain Christian counsel. Find others who are believers with good judgment that will be honest with you and present your options to them and say, “Please guide me.” Proverbs 11:14, you know this, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” What kind of counselors? Any counselors? Are you going go down to the bar and ask for counsel? No, you want to get Christian counsel. 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’” Avoid bad companions. Get good people. Matter of fact, that’s a good policy for life, surround yourself with good counselors. He who would be wise makes friends with the wise, right? Psalm 73:24 “You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory.” So look for people that you can trust.

By the way, one way to pick good counselors look for folks who look like they’ve got their lives together. If you’re taking counsel from people whose lives are a disaster, well, that might tell you something. They may not be in the best position to give you advice if their lives are a train wreck. It’s amazing to me. I’ve met some people that… I’d better be careful what I say. Some people I know who have gone into counseling their personal lives are a disaster and I think how come they’re going into counseling? Maybe that’s sort of a subconscious way for them to try and find answers so they’re counseling everybody else. Make sure when you pick people to be your counselors say what is their personal life like? What is their spiritual life like? And if they’re blessed like Joseph and you can see the hand of God is with them, that’s a good person to pick as a counselor. Say, you know I’d like to go to them. I’d like to be more like them. Those people often give you good advice. It doesn’t mean you always have to listen to it. It doesn’t say a counselor, “counselors”. Get a few different opinions. If someone has got a life threatening disease and they go to the doctor and the doctor is recommending something what does someone often say? Get another opinion.

Maybe even a third opinion because if it’s life and death sometimes one doctor might be seeing things wrong. So get a multitude of counsel when you’re looking for making these decisions. Godly friends will help you take inventory of yourself, help you to discover your gifts and talents, and they may encourage you to try new things you’re not even thinking of. Several people might look at you and say… You know one reason I’m in ministry, nobody growing up thought Doug was going to be a pastor, but after I became a believer, and it never occurred to me right away. After I became a believer, and I started sharing with my friends and had some success in giving Bible studies, more and more people that I respected said, “Doug, have you considered the ministry?” I didn’t know how that would ever happen, but they said, “You need to pray about it. We think you’ve got gifts in those areas.” So it was through collective counsel of godly people that I moved in this direction. He’ll do the same for you if you ask him to.

Number five, Observe providence. Look for providential leading. God often shows what He wants you to do by events that happen. One example I always think of, in Ruth 2:20 Ruth and Naomi came back to the land of Bethlehem. They were destitute and they had to glean in the fields just to get food for their daily bread. There was only one person in all of Israel that had the right of a redeemer that had the inclination to redeem them. It just so happened that when they went out to the fields to glean that it happened that Ruth ended up in the field of Boaz which was the one man who had the inclination and the ability to be her kinsman redeemer.

She didn’t know what field it was. When she came home and told Naomi she said this is the providence of God. Don’t go to any other field. That’s the one. God led you there. You can see many, many stories. Of course she ended up marrying Boaz and redeemed the family of Elimelech, and it ended up being a great blessing. So look for the providence of God. Look for doors that open. God often guides us in His will regarding doors opening, doors closing, and sometimes you say, “Well, I guess this is not God’s will because that door slammed shut.” He often opens something else along the way, right? Some people are always trying to kick down doors that God has closed because it’s what they want and they’ve got the door of opportunity right there, they’re neglecting it. 2 Corinthians 2:12 “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord…” All of these opportunities came to Paul. Especially if you’re willing to work for God, He will show you open doors of opportunity.

I prayed many, many times, I’ve said, “Lord,” I’m on the road traveling, I’ll say, “help me to recognize opportunities to witness for you in some way.” Just yesterday… My neighbor might be watching this, but I’ll be careful. We’ve got a lovely, we’ve got the best neighbors in the world, and we’ve got one neighbor that lives right by us and we’ve got a cat that goes back and forth between our houses. The cat, you don’t really own a cat; they decide who they belong to. It’s sort of the neighborhood cat, and we take care of it so he and I were talking about the cat. Whenever I see this brother, he’s an ornithologist, is that what it is, dear? A studier of birds. Yeah, I didn’t know whether to say that or orthodontist or something like that. He’s one who studies birds. Really nice family. I’ve always thought, I look for opportunity to share with them, a very educated couple. They travel around the world; he’s a specialist in birds. I saw him out front, we were talking about the cat. I thought, I wish I had some opportunity to say something, turn the conversation towards spiritual things. And he comes over to me while I’m weeding my flowers, and says, “Doug, I need to ask you to do me a favor.” I said, “Sure, anything.” He said, “I’m going on another birding trip.

I’ve got some friends and they’re Seventh-day Adventists. They live in Montana. I told them, oh, yeah, I’ve got a Seventh-day Adventist friend lives across the street, guy named Batchelor. And they said, ‘Doug Batchelor? Oh, we watch his programs!’ If you’d just sign a little card for them…” It just gave me an opportunity to give him a book and I’d just prayed. That’s providence! When you pray that and all of a sudden somebody says, I’m going to Montana and I’m staying with Seventh-day Adventists that know you. He’ll open doors for you if you will ask, doors for ministry, doors for opportunity, doors for careers, doors for relationships, and sometimes He closes doors. Some of us, we don’t want to admit the doors are closed. Like Balaam we’re on our donkey riding for all we’ve got and we’re beating the donkey, we don’t know there’s an angel in the way. You know what I’m talking about? We’re just trying to plow ahead. It’s like the guy who told everybody at the office, he said, “Look, I’m going on a diet. I know it’s time and I’m giving up doughnuts.

No more doughnuts.” He shows up the next day, he’s got a big box of two dozen doughnuts. They said, “What happened, Fred? We thought you swore off the doughnuts.” He said, “Well, it was God’s will that I get these doughnuts.” “Well, how’d you figure that out?” He said, “It was providence.” “What do you mean?” He said, “Before I left for work, I often drive by the doughnut shop and it’s just packed. You can’t ever find a parking place. I said, ‘Lord, if there is a parking place right in front of the door, then I’ll know it’s Your will for me to get this box of doughnuts.’” He said, “You know, I only had to drive around the block ten times then a parking place opened up and I knew it was God’s will!” Now I’m telling you that story because some of you do, you use those incantations. You say, “Is this Your will, Lord?” And you just keep pushing the door down, “You sure, Lord? You sure?” You’ll kick it open eventually sometimes. And you wonder why everything went wrong. You say, “Wasn’t this Your will?” Well, you were pushing awful hard.

Balaam finally got where he wanted the donkey to go, didn’t he? He lost his life in the process. God will often permit you to do something that is not His will because you’re pushing for it. I remember one time going down in the street, after I’d just learned about the Bible and the Lord, and I’d sort of accepted the Lord, but I also drank beer and I kept panhandling until I got enough money to get beer. I said, “Well, it must have been God’s will for me to get beer because I got the money.” I’m sure that same logic is used by people who stand at the intersections around Sacramento all the time. So sometimes when you say “providence” be sensitive to let God lead and don’t be pushing the doors down. There might be an angel in the way with a drawn sword. Amen? Then I’m not putting these necessarily in sequential order.

Number six, Pray. Pray that God will guide you. 1 John 5:14-15 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” So when you pray, pray according to the revealed will of God. Again, John 15:15 Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” If you want to know the will of God be a friend of God. How do you become a friend of God? You talk to Him all the time. You remember when the angels were on their way to Sodom to destroy it; God stops by to see Abraham on the way. He said, “Abraham, shall I hide from you what I’m about to do because you’re my friend?” Friends talk about their plans together, don’t they? If you want to know the will of God for your life, then be a friend of God. Spend time praying and talking to the Lord. God reveals His will to His friends. That, by the way, was Genesis 18:17. The secret things of God are with those who fear Him.

Now praying may also include fasting and praying. There’s different intensity of knowing God’s will. You might say, “Where shall we go for lunch today? Shall we do Mexican, shall we do Italian, shall we do Chinese?” Well, you might pray about God’s guidance in that and I think God even cares about those things. I do. I pray, “Lord, where shall I go today?” I look for God sometimes to guide me in little decisions, but some things are big decisions. For instance, who shall I marry? What move shall I make? What job shall I take? These are big decisions. You might want to invest some time in fasting and praying. If we’re praying about God’s will for someone else’s life too, you might fast and pray. When it’s life and death decisions you’re making, I recommend you fast and pray. 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 when Israel was surrounded by millions of enemies, Jehoshaphat commanded that the people fast and they pray throughout Judah. Acts 13:2-3 when the disciples were wondering what was the next missionary endeavor, the Bible says, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.” They knew the direction, they knew the will of God as they listened and they fasted and prayed. I’m sure they applied the other criteria.

In determining the will of God have faith. If you’re going to pray for His will, then believe that He’ll show you His will. Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord…” What is trust? Have faith. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” The Bible says the just shall live by faith so believe God has a plan for you and that He’s going to show it to you in His time. In the 3rd Bible Commentary, page 1155, “When you’ve sought to know His will, your part in the operation with God is to believe that you will be led and guided and blessed in the doing of His will.” Think about it for a second. If you’re willing to do His will, then God’s responsible to reveal His will to you. You must believe He’s going to do that, right? I mean, if you’re willing that’s our biggest battle is step number one, just be willing to do God’s will and He’ll reveal it to you. Now it takes faith sometimes to do the will of God once it’s revealed. Some people are praying about the will of God. You don’t need to pray “shall I return a full tithe?” you need faith to do the will of God; you know what the will is. Or do I need to pray about the will of God to follow His word? If it’s revealed in His word then you know that it’s His will.

I put number nine right where I did after number eight because while you should have faith you should not be foolhardy. When you’re seeking the will of God be faithful, be courageous, but don’t be foolish. Sometimes the answer is do the safe thing, that’s number nine. When you’re looking at all the options and one of them may be risky, when it comes to living the Christian life, don’t say, I’m going to see how close to the edge I can get and still… It’s like some people want to walk like this the Christian life and say, “Lord, is this Your will?” No, get as far away from that edge as you can get. Sometimes if I’m getting ready to speak and I’ve got an illustration I want to share and I think, “Boy, that illustration is a little on the edge, Lord. Should I share that or not?” A little voice says, “Doug, do the safe thing. Don’t share it. I’ll give you something else.” Or Karen, yeah. Well, yeah. That’s under the category of Spirit led, or the multitude of counselors, that’s that category. You’ve got the multitude of counselors and you’ve got a spouse that gives you a multitude of counsel. I’m sorry, dear. That’s what it’s all about. So you want to be cautious. You know, “Lord, is this dress too short? Should I wear that to church?” Do the safe thing; lengthen your hem or get a different one. You know what I mean? So when you’re praying about the will of God just consider that. Don’t take unnecessary risks is what I’m saying there.

Number ten, again, these aren’t in order because this is very important, make sure that God is glorified in your decision. Make sure your decision will bring glory to God. If it’s going to dishonor God and His kingdom then it’s the wrong decision. 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Keep the kingdom priorities. Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first” in making the decisions of God “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” You might be saying, “Lord, in this decision regarding a career in my life…” or a choice in my life or someone I’m going to marry or whatever the decision might be you’re grappling with, what is going to reach the most people? What will make the biggest impact for Your kingdom? How will I be the best advertising agent for Your glory? And make sure that’s a major factor in your decision process. Now in keeping with that, not just the glory of God, what’s the great commandment? Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and what’s the second part? Love your neighbors.

Number eleven in making a decision about the will of God: How will my decision affect others? I’m amazed sometimes when people are making decisions that all they’re thinking about is, “What’s this going to mean for me? How much will I get paid? How much do I like the climate? How do I like the environment? What do I think of this school? And their decision, they’ve got a family, and their decision is going to affect everybody in the family and I’m concerned sometimes. I’ll hear, it’s often a man, he’s got some career opportunity and it will mean uprooting the family and taking them away from all of their family and the kids out of school just before they’re ready to graduate and all of these tremendous volcanic upheaval and the husband is thinking, “Well, how much will I get paid, what are my promotion opportunities?” And “Yeah, they’ve got jet-skiing in the lake nearby.” They’re just not thinking about what it’s going to do to the family, and so that’s something very important. Christians should be governed by love. Not just love for God, but love for others and God wants us to be considerate of how your decision, and it may not even be your family members, it might be other people. Sometimes I’ve really respected, there are people at amazing Facts that have job offers other places, and they’ve said, “You know, Pastor Doug, this looked like a good opportunity and I might even get paid more, but I know how much the ministry needs me here and the people in my department and I’m staying.”

I’ve thought bless their heart. The maturity, the Christian maturity to say, “Oh they can get someone else to do that job that they’re looking for me. I think I’m needed here more; the people will need me more here.” That’s a sign of a real conversion when someone is not just saying, “What’s in it for me?” They’re thinking, “What will it mean to others the decision that I’m making?” Amen? So you want to pray about that. Romans 14:7, “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.” And again, Galatians 5:14, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Number twelve, Be guided by the Holy Spirit. Pray that God’s Spirit will guide you in making your decisions. Now that’s sometimes one of the harder factors to annunciate. It’s a very important one. But for mature Christians, you’ve heard that voice. You know the voice of the Spirit. How else did Abraham know when he was supposed to take his son? I’d want to know that was God speaking to me. And the Holy Spirit will guide you. Isaiah 30:21, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” So when you’re praying about, “Lord, what is Your will?” regarding something then say, how am I feeling led by God’s Spirit? I understand years ago that when some of the Arabs were crossing these vast deserts that frequently someone in the caravan would keep a dove with them, and they had a long piece of string and if they got all turned around somewhere because of a sandstorm and didn’t know where they were, they would release this dove. Doves have these, pigeons have these homing instincts and as soon as it would take off, it would circle a little bit and then start pulling in the direction of home. The Holy Spirit sometimes is compared to a dove. You just want to have that tug of the Holy Spirit that is guiding you. John tells us, he says, you don’t need that any man should teach you anything. The Holy Spirit, the same, will teach you. And so as we have lived Christian lives of walking in the Spirit, we’ll have the confidence when God’s Spirit is telling us what to do. Many times you’ll see where Paul was saying, “The Spirit said” go here. The spirit said come this way. The Spirit said, “Don’t go.” They were really in touch with the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God, by the way, will never guide you differently from the word of God. Amen? So listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Now what number was that? That was number twelve?

Going on number thirteen. This is going to be a tough one. Be patient. In deciding the will of God, you want to be patient. James 5:11, “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” Sometimes when you’re praying about the will of God, we become restless and we want to do sometime and God is going to show you His will, but you’ve got to wait. Sometimes He just wants you to wait. Moses wanted to deliver his people; he tried to do it his way. It backfired. He waited forty years before the next opportunity came along. When you’re praying about a big decision, be patient. Periodically people are thinking about making some dramatic move in their life and they’ve got ailing parents and they need to consider them and perhaps they need to wait for them. Or they’ve got children that are young and they can’t handle this kind of move or this career change right now. Give them a couple more years. Wait on the Lord and He’ll guide you.

Sometimes you haven’t gotten an answer yet because God wants you to stay right where you’re at and just be patient. Yes, He’s got a big plan for your life. He’s got a big change. He’s got that person you’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with you haven’t met yet and you’re wondering if you’re ever going to. Wait. “Ah, but Pastor Doug, I’ve been waiting so long!” Be glad because you are better off waiting for God’s will having the right job, the right spouse, the right school than rushing ahead of the Lord and having the wrong job (you’ll be miserable), the wrong spouse, the wrong school. You know what I’m talking about? and so you want to pray, wait on the Lord and be patient. Luke 21:19, “In your patience possess ye your souls.” Part of following the Lord and looking for His will is standing still. You remember those stories in the Bible? Exodus 14, Moses said to the people, verse 13, “Do not be afraid. Stand still…” They didn’t know which way to go. Where were they supposed to go? Nowhere. They were supposed to stand still.

Sometimes God’s leading is your standing. 2 Chronicles 20:17, “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord…” In other words, sometimes the will of God is not you going to it, sometimes the will of God is it coming to you. You just stay where you are and watch what happens. Sometimes you think that I’ve got to get out of this circumstance, and I don’t know what I’m going to do and Lord, which way am I supposed to go and what phone call do I make and which direction, what door? And God is saying, “Stay right there. I’m going to change everything without you moving anywhere.” So part of God’s leading is your being patient and trusting and just stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. You know the generals years ago, you’ve often heard it said during the Revolutionary War their muskets were very inaccurate and it took forever to load them. What would the generals say to his troops as they were itching fingers to fire at the approaching enemy? They’d say, “Hold, men, hold!” And Washington said, “Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” The patience. You’ve got to wait for timing. So sometimes God says, “You’re wanting to jump. It’s not time.” Wait. He’ll tell you when the time is. I’ve seen many times, I’ve ran ahead of the Lord and if I’d just waited!

Now after you do all of these things, (I’m adding one more here. I’m adding a couple more.) tally the evidence. I’ve given you a number of criteria from the Bible and good judgment of how do you determine the will of God. Sometimes it’s not any one of those things, but it’s the addition, the accumulation of many of those things that helps you make a decision. You kind of add things up. It’s like with those little hand-held GPS satellites you use, and you can use them in your airplane, you can use them when you’re walking on the trails now. When you first turn one on it’ll tell you your exact location, it’ll tell you which way to go, but you’ve got to wait a minute while it acquires satellite. You turn it on, it’ll say it’s got one satellite. It can’t even triangulate until you get three satellites. You get real good altitude and all kinds of information if you get five or seven satellites so you just wait until you get all of the satellites and when it’s picking them all up and it says we’ve got seven satellites now, you can know pretty sure where you are within a couple of feet. So when you’re praying about this big decision, say, what does the word of God say? It’s not always precise on everything. So, well, I’ve got some background there. What do my Christian counselors say? How will this glorify God? And you just start going through the different evidence. Make a list. Karen and I, when we were dating each other, we made a list of what the pros and cons were. I hope she still remembers the pros. So you add these things up and say, “Well, here’s the things to consider…” and you want to hopefully there’ll be a preponderance of evidence on the right side when you add up the list.

By the way, something everybody can do, you might say, “Doug, this is an interesting sermon. It doesn’t apply to me. I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m in the will of God right now.” But you always need to be adjusting yourself into the will of God, always. You know they’ve got these oil drilling ships. They used to just use these platforms that they would root and anchor down in the seabed floor, but now they’ve got ships that have these computer controlled propellers all the way around the ship and the ship is not anchored. The ship is not tethered to the ground. The ship is able to control its location through constant adjustments, micro-millisecond adjustments of a computer that are keeping it so that it stays over the same spot while it’s drilling. That’s sort of how a Christian is. We are constantly measuring that we’re in the will of God based on all these things all the time because it’s real easy for us to do something called sliding. You stop calibrating that you’re in the will of God and you can start sliding off-center. And those ships I just described, if they don’t make continual adjustments, the drill-line and the pipe cracks. So you want to constantly be centered in God’s will. Some of you are sort of in the right vicinity, but you’re not centered in God’s will. So take a look at the list. Now, I’ve got good news for you in the last one here. Oh, by the way, another verse for number fourteen. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses shall everything be established.” So you add up all the evidence. One more verse for you.

Number fifteen when you’re deciding the will of God, What is your heart’s desire? Yeah, don’t e ashamed of that. What do you want? Sometimes God places things on your heart because He’s wanting you to do something and He’s putting it in your heart where actually you want the same thing God wants. Everyone automatically assumes, “Alright, Lord, where do you want me to go? Oh, I’ve got to marry them? Alright.” “What school? Alright, this is the job? Oh man, I hate teeth, but You want me to be a dentist, I’ll be a dentist.” We’re always thinking that God’s will is for us to do what we don’t want to do. That’s a myth. If you’re converted, He will often then implant within your heart this burning desire to do the very thing He wants you to do. If you’re converted your desires are going to be lining up with His desires.

Let me give you some scripture for that because you already feel guilty about believing that, but that’s good news. 1 Chronicles 17:2, David wanted to build a temple for the Lord. That was his desire, to see a temple to God’s glory, and Nathan said, “David, do all that’s in your heart.” Well, it turns out that it was done through David’s son, but his desire was still fulfilled. Build a temple for the Lord; God put it in his heart. Psalm 21:2, “You have given him his heart's desire, And have not withheld the request of his lips.” Psalm 20:4, “May He grant you according to your heart's desire, And fulfill all your purpose.” Many times you’ll pray about something and you want it and God says, “You know I love you. I want to give you what you want.” Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord…” Now here’s the key. “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” If your delight is God and His will and His glory, you’ll be finding out He’s giving you the desires of your heart. That’s exciting when you think about it. He’ll surprise you. God doesn’t want what’s worst for you; He wants what’s best for you, and you’ve got to trust Him that in the end you’ll always be happier being in the middle of God’s will and doing what He asks.

Now I’ve got an appeal for you here. Romans 12:2, this is a good verse I saved and highlighted for the end of this message. Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” and that’s a continual renewing of your mind. Why? “that you may prove” that means test, evaluate “what is that good and acceptable and perfect” some people are doing the imperfect will of God. You should strive for that good and that acceptable and that “perfect will of God.” And that’s where you’re going to be the happiest is when you’re where God wants you to be, when you’re right directly smack-dab in the middle of where God wants you to be, you’ll be happy. Amen? Now we’re going to do something different here at the end. I know I put in your bulletin that we were going to sing a hymn, but we’re going to sing a song instead. Stand up. We’re going to put this on the screen. Does it scare you when I come out here with my guitar? Any of you remember the NET99 program that we did? We sang this song. It’s called “Help Me to Know Your Will, Lord”. Debbie knows it. She was with us in New York. I’ll do this through with you once and then I think, yeah, they got it on the screen. Thank you, Sherle. That’s fast work. All right.

Help me to know Your will, Lord, that I might follow Thee. Make me to hear that still, small voice tenderly calling me. If when that waves start mounting, speak the words, “Peace, be still.” Give me the mind of Jesus. Show me the truth that frees us. I want to do what pleases You so help me to know Your will. Lord, please help me to know Your will.

You want to try it again? You all sing it with me. It’s a good song. I hope it sticks in your head.

Help me to know Your will, Lord, that I might follow Thee. Make me to hear that still, small voice tenderly calling me. If when that waves start mounting, speak the words, “Peace, be still.” Give me the mind of Jesus. Show me the truth that frees us. I want to do what pleases You so help me to know Your will. Lord, please help me to know Your will.

Amen. Is that your desire, friends? Are you willing to do His will? Step number one, be willing to do His will and don’t forget to follow the word. You’re usually home free if you’ve got those two down. Is that your prayer? Let’s ask Him now.

Father in heaven, Lord, we know that real happiness comes from praying with sincerity “Not my will, Thy will be done.” Lord, I pray that You’ll help all of us to recognize how crucial it is that we constantly check to calibrate our lives to make sure that we are in the middle of Your will. Thank You for the promise in Your word that if any man is willing to do His will, he shall know. Lord, we want to be Your friends. We want to know that we are doing what You have planned for us. And if there are any who are here or listening, if some area of our lives we’re getting off-track, Lord, I pray that we will humble ourselves before You, be pliable clay in the Potter’s hands and be willing for You to direct and to mold us into that pattern. Lord, make us willing to follow Your will. Have Your own way in our lives every day for when we see Jesus on Calvary’s hill, we want to be willing with Your Spirit filling, willing to follow Your will. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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