Anthony Burton is a member of Providence who is planning to plant a church in south Knoxville. He is a graduate of Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. The following post is his.
A few weeks ago, I preached a message about the family of God. At the end of the sermon we took questions from those gathered. There were many questions submitted that I was unable to answer at that time. Therefore, I am writing a series of blog posts to address those questions. I categorized all of the questions into general topics: the will of God; the sovereignty of God; the sinful nature of humanity; doctrine of the Trinity; and others. The first issue to be addressed will be the will of God (or how not to mistake the voice in your head for the voice of God). Here were two questions that represent that line of thinking:
1. In following the will of God, how do I distinguish between God's will for me and my own inner voice (or will) when making decisions?
2. Why is it so hard to follow the will of God when you are trying to live for Him and he remains silent?
What is God’s will for my life? If I had my pick, I would probably say it is the question I have heard the most over my short 10 years in ministry. Too often, however, the will of God is treated like it is a mystical guide, hidden in the middle earth nether-regions. If a believer was only willing to endure the most valiant of quest beyond the fourth dimension, we could know what God wants us to do. That’s way out there, I know, but I exaggerate because many think that God’s will is strangely hidden from them. We are typically waiting on a voice, a sign, or something that we can attribute to a supernatural movement of God before a decision can be made.
God has made his will plain and clear. There is no guess work involved really. Furthermore, his will speaks directly to the life we live. To know his will, we must simply turn to his word and here are a few verses to demonstrate (I would encourage you to read them for yourself in context):
1. 1 Timothy 2:4 [God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. First and foremost, God’s will for me and you is to be saved, to know him, and to have a relationship with him. It is impossible to not have salvation and be in his will.
2. Ephesians 5:17ff Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is…be filled with the Spirit. God has placed his Spirit in each of his children. He has given us new life! And it is not that his Spirit simply dwell, but richly dwells within us. We should fill our lives with his presence—filled with his word! Meditation, study, memorization, song, prayer, and thanksgiving are but a few ways in which fullness is accomplished.
3. 1 Thessalonians 4:3ff For this is the will of God, your sanctification…For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. God’s will is for us to be holy as he is holy; obedient to his word; a reflection of Jesus Christ. God literally cleanses us so that he changes the way we think and feel. We begin to see the world as he does.
My grandmother would put it this way: “God’s will is for each of us to be saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost.” That’s it. But you might say, how does that help me with choosing which job to take, where to live, or what school to go to? When to speak or when to be silent? Or all the many questions we may face at any given moment in life. The reality is, when God’s Will is effective within your life, then God shows you the path, grants wisdom, and gives freedom. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Living the life he has called us to live and having our thinking in conformity with Christ, allows us to know what is God’s will in our decision making.
Psalm 37:4 tells us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Not that God will give you the things of your wildest dreams or that you just hit the God-lottery, but he instills within you his desires for the choices that you make. In essence, when you examine your life and motives and determine you are within the will of God, do and pray for your heart’s desire. Because that desire will be in lock-step with God’s will. As an example, how did I know that God is calling me to plant Bridge Church? Because the desire within me was so strong that it could not be escaped and I know (upon examination) I’m living my life within the will of God. I hope this helps you in your endeavor to know and do the will of God for your own life.