Knowing and Doing God’s Will

How does God lead His sons and daughters? Sometimes His will seems mysterious—maybe just beyond reach. In many circumstances of life, however, Scripture provides clear instructions about God’s desires for our lives. The challenge in such moments is not so much knowing God’s will but in actually doing it. For example, every husband is to sacrificially love his wife. He need never wonder about God’s will in that regard!

Here are a few biblical passages that (very clearly) express God’s will for each one of us:

  • It is God’s will to invest our time wisely and to not be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Instead we are to live under the influence of—and be continually filled by—the Holy Spirit. God also wills that we gather to encourage one another and express thanks in every situation. (Ephesians 5:15-21)
  • It is God’s will that we rejoice and pray with thanksgiving in every situation while submitting to the Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22)
  • It is God’s will that we yield to the Holy Spirit who will sanctify or make us holy in our choices and actions. Paul specifically adds that it is God’s will to abstain from sexual immorality in every form because God has called us to live pure lives. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)

I don’t ever need to wonder if God wants me to give thanks in every situation—including life’s most difficult moments. He has already said so! I don’t need to waste mental energy asking myself if I should yield to the Holy Spirit’s influence in my life, rather than trying to solve every problem in my own strength. He has already made that abundantly clear.

My problems really boils down to doing more than knowing.

Let’s consider a broader question: “Does God have a specific plan (will) for each area of our lives, or are we free to choose things like where to live or work? I used to believe something like this: “God doesn’t care as much where I serve as why. He cares more about my motivation than the location.” I am still convinced that God deeply cares about the motives governing my decisions. But it’s also true that what I “want” may not be what God wills.

While ministering in Bend, I occasionally received a telephone call from a seminary grad or a pastor in the Midwest stating that God was calling them to plant a church in our city. They were looking for my counsel (or so they said). After a few minutes I would ask, “Why do you feel called specifically to Bend?” When the answers became a little vague and cloudy I would ask, “Do you like to ski or fish?” Often there was a clumsy silence before a mumbled “yes.” The ornery side of me assumed Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort or the Deschutes River was calling them to Bend. Those who eventually came to Bend (attracted by our quality of life) seldom lasted more than a couple of years before God “changed His mind” and sent them back home.

Sometimes, however, God still leads us like He did with the apostle Paul in Acts 16:6-10. Several times Paul’s plans to minister in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) were stifled. Doors slammed shut. I assume Paul’s motives were pure; he wanted to preach the gospel and plant churches. None of these locations offered a unique quality of life to attract Paul’s team. God simply closed the door.

After these Holy Spirit red flags, Paul received a vision of a man from Macedonia (northern Greece) saying, “Come over and help us.” That plea was like saying “fetch” to a Golden Retriever.I love the way Luke describes Paul’s response. “And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

Immediately they left for Greece. Doors in Asia Minor had been closed to reveal an open door to bring the gospel to Europe.

I can identify with the story because God clearly revealed His plan for my life when He called us to pastor a rural church in Ohio. That’s what I want to share with you today on the Front Porch.

I chose to attend Moody Bible Institute where I met Mary. I could have chosen a dozen other colleges, but looking back I see God’s hand in my choice. Having completed our training at Moody we moved to Mary’s home town in Ohio where I could attend Ohio State University. Mary was pregnant, so I needed a job to provide for our family. I applied at North Electric, a telecommunications company. Bert, the personnel manager read my resume and noticed that I had recently graduated from Moody. From that point on the job opening was off the table. Bert was convinced she had just witnessed a sign from God, because she was part of pastoral search committee for her church. They had written Moody asking if there were any alumni in the area that might consider serving as their pastor.

But that hadn’t been my plan. Not at all!

My plan (my will) was to finish OSU in a year and attend Dallas Theological Seminary. I wasn’t interested in becoming a pastor, but Mary’s pastor challenged me to at least check out Pulaskiville Community Church because, in his words, “Perhaps God was in this.”

Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed to meet with the church board, but I really wanted to go to Dallas. Having read the church’s by-laws and Statement of Faith I told the board I disagreed with their doctrinal statement and stated emphatically that I was going to Dallas in a year. At that point, this Jonah set sail for Nineveh.

About six months later the church contacted me once more. They challenged me to pray about pastoring their church for one full week before finally saying no. Being upright and noble I agreed to pray. Following that week, I met the board again and laid out these conditions: “I am still planning on seminary in a year, and I will preach what I believe the Bible teaches, not your doctrinal statement.” Confident they would now reject me, I relaxed.

But they didn’t reject me. Every excuse I had offered was swept off the table. They were a desperate church; I was a begrudging candidate. Finally believing that it really was God’s will, we accepted the call and moved into the old farm-home-parsonage.

My one-year commitment to the church became seven and a half wonderful years. I grew. The church grew. My spiritual gifts were confirmed and sharpened. It was a love affair.

God had known all along what was best for me. I have always said, “Pulaskiville was better than any seminary I could have attended at that time. It was just what I needed and what the church needed.”

Next week, I want to share a few anecdotes from our ministry at Pulaskiville and introduce you to one of the men whom God gloriously saved—and who eventually served as the pastor of that same, white-frame-country-church on Morrow County Road 98

If you have experienced a time when God clearly led you by opening or closing doors, please share it with us.

Thanks for visiting The Front Porch Swing today. I welcome your comments and input. Please invite your friends to join us.