Reading Between the Lines
It's great to be back after a refreshing staycation! Many thanks to guest writers Todd Zimmerman and Ben Tickle for the great insights they shared the past couple of weeks. I hope you enjoyed their stories as much as I did! Look for more from them in the future!
As summer ends, a lot of us are making plans for the last half of the year. With all the planning going on, this is a good time to talk about God's plans and what they mean for us!
Many of us have struggled to find God’s will. If that sounds familiar don’t feel badly, because you’re not alone. At one time or another most of us have wondered what God wants of us. When that happens I'm encouraged by the fact we’re in good company: some of the best-known characters in the Bible struggled, too!
The good news is: God really does have a plan for your life! He has an answer for every life question you ask. You are a unique creation, designed for success. But a lot of people miss out on that success because they haven’t discovered God’s personal plan. In the next few blogs we’re going to learn the process for finding God’s will.
Before we can talk about how to find God’s will, we need to understand what constitutes God’s will. The simple definition is “God’s will is what he wants you to do in a certain situation.” For example:
- You need a job. Is it God’s will for you to start a business, or work for someone else?
- You’re in a serious relationship with someone. Should you marry them?
- You’ve finished undergrad courses. Should you pursue more education?
These types of questions weigh heavily on all of us!
The will of God actually consists of three parts:
The first is God’s providential will. This includes everything God is going to do…no matter what.
Take, for instance, the sun. It rises every morning like clockwork. You don’t have to ask God to make the sun to come up. It’s going to happen…whether you want it to or not. Day and night are a part of God’s providential will:
And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning-the first day.
- Genesis 1:3-5 (NIV)
Another good example is death and what happens after it:
…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…
- Hebrews 9:27 (KJV)
Death is a certainty for every one of us. It’s part of the providential will of God. Thankfully, Jesus changes this judgment into an awards ceremony for anyone who follows him.
The second part is God’s moral will – These are things he’s asked every one of us to do. A good example is this command Paul gave to the believers at Thessalonica:
It is God's will that you should be sanctified…
- 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (NIV)
In the original Greek manuscript, the word “sanctified” means “purified.” Just like we purify water to keep us from getting sick, God wants to purify our lives so sin doesn’t destroy us.
God’s commands concerning stealing are another example of his moral will. God never wants us to take something that doesn’t belong to us.
People tend to think of God’s moral will as a list of things we can’t (or shouldn’t) do. But it’s a lot more than that! He’s given many more things for us to do. We’re commanded to love people. We’re taught to pray for our enemies. Jesus showed how important it is for us to restore broken relationships. All of these are parts of his moral will.
The “do’s and don’ts” of God’s moral will are clearly outlined in the Bible. We don’t have to pray or ask God if we should follow them. We should simply ask God for his help in living as he’s already said we should.
That brings us to the third part: God’s personal will. This includes everything he’s asked you as an individual to do. The examples I mentioned in the beginning…should I start a business, get married, continue my education…are examples of his personal will.
A great Biblical example is found in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth:
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…
- 1 Corinthians 1:1 (NIV)
Not everyone was called to be an apostle…but Paul was! In a similar fashion, not everyone should be a doctor, or a builder, or a chef. God has a specific…a personal…will for each of us.
When seeking God’s plan for your life, it’s critical to understand that his “personal will” is always found somewhere between his providential will and moral will. These two pillars are essential to the smooth operation of his creation. Chaos and confusion occur when we step outside these boundaries. Living between God’s providential and moral will provides peace and contentment, even in our world overwhelmed by choices!
Take a minute to consider your life. Are there any areas where you’re living outside the boundaries of God’s providential or moral will? If so, now is a great time to correct your course! Ask God for forgiveness and strength…then let him lead you from there. You’ll be amazed at the result!