Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How can I know God’s will for my life?

I am so glad you asked! Many Christians go through their whole lives without ever wondering what God might want out of their lives. It seems that they come to God for what they want—usually assurance of eternal life—and then go their own way as if that were all there was to knowing God. It is astounding to me that this happens so often! Having begun a relationship with the Almighty God ought to at least make us a little curious about who he is.

Here God, I believe, has left us with a wonderful example. Enoch, the scripture says, walked with God, and was not, for God took him. Think of it for a bit. Someone long ago named Enoch decided he really wanted to know God, to have a relationship with him. So he took time out of his day to muse upon God, to seek God, to even, the Bible declares, walk with God. He got so close in his relationship with God that God took him. Where is Enoch now? With God, the God who wanted his fellowship, who liked him enough to take him and create a “forever relationship”.

There is yet another example found in the prophet Elijah. Elijah lived his whole life musing on the things of God, dedicating and risking his life for God, and being wonderfully gifted as a mighty prophet of God. At the end of his life, the Bible says, the chariots of God separated his servant from him, and a whirlwind carried him up to heaven. For another eternal relationship. The next time we see Elijah, he is on the Mount with Moses, talking to Jesus. And we hear the voice of the Father crying, “This is my beloved Son, hear him.” Both he and Moses went back up to the heaven that they had come from to continue their eternal relationship with God.

So the question is, for the new believer, how can I get to know God? Fortunately, God has equipped us with his own Holy Spirit. At the moment of conversion, dozens of important things happen. Your name is found in the Book of Life. The angels in heaven are rejoicing over your conversion. And God has given you a new beginning, one that is filled with all sorts of hidden treasures. It becomes your task, as a new Christian, to find those many treasures, but in order to find them, you are going to have to build a relationship with your God. Like Elijah. Like Enoch.

The first step is in opening up your Bible. You might tell me that you have read the Bible before, and found it incredibly boring. But you have never read the Bible before with the aid of God himself, the Holy Spirit. I do not ask that you start at Genesis and read, though soon in your life it would be a good idea to start an annual Bible reading plan. But not to start with. For even if you received Christ late in life, yet the Bible calls you a baby, and a baby needs the proper beginning teachings to grow in Christ. Most of the time, for new believers, the gospel of John is a great book with which to begin. Why John, you ask? Well, John is the gospel that emphasizes the place of Jesus, and teaches us that God’s son was from eternity past, and that he is the Savior of the world. And getting to know your Savior is a good place to start.

Thus I would highly recommend John. Take one chapter a day, and read it through several times thoughtfully. Make a list of the things that are taught in the chapter, the things that you have learned. In a surprising short while, you will become much more familiar with who your God is, and what he might want from your life. And the Holy Spirit’s part? I am so glad you are thinking about that. John itself teaches us lots about how Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit, what the Spirit does, and what we might expect in our new relationship. Let’s look at a few of those things.

First, Jesus tells us an important job of the Holy Spirit is to teach us all things, and remind us of the things that Jesus taught (John 14:26). So, you get your own private tutor to teach you about God’s will. It can’t get more personal—or better than that! Second, Jesus tells us that same Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, and will take the very things of God and teach them to us (John 16:14 & 15). So we can come to know God, and his will for our life. Isn’t that idea exciting? A Spirit who lives in us, and is never wrong—always leading us properly and truthfully.

Finally, Jesus himself tells us that he has to go away, but that when he goes he will prepare a place for us, that where he is going, we may also go (John 14:2). Jesus is making a place for us, that where he is we may be also. Like Elijah. Like Enoch. Into an eternal relationship with the God who made the universe and all that is in it.

And that brings us to the second step of building a relationship with God. Your Bible is filled with hidden treasures, promises of God that apply to your life. I just discovered two in my Bible reading today, two that I had not noticed before. You will need to know those verses, but reading them one at a time in your annual Bible reading program is not the best way to get to know them. I would recommend highly a good Bible memory program. There are several hundred verses that direct your behavior, and include sweet promises from God as you go through your life, both in green pastures, and in suffering trials. They are good to memorize, that the Holy Spirit (your personal teacher) might bring them to mind just when you need a reminder. The Navigators have an excellent program called the Topical Memory System. That would be an excellent place to start.

By now, you have probably observed that the picture of Jesus drawn by John is pretty big. Very probably, your idea of who God is has already changed, and you find that God is bigger than you ever thought before. Get used to it. I have been a Christian for 4 decades, and the more I find out about God, the more amazed I am. I remember discovering John’s gospel early in my new life, and liked it so well that I decided to memorize it. Early in my life, after much arduous work, I managed to memorize the first eleven chapters. During the years which I faced trials, I memorized many Psalms. In every case where I memorized scripture, I found them to be the richest sort of treasure—treasure that told me about my God and his love for me.

And that is what this question is all about. Knowing God loves you. Usually a new believer knows that God loves him, and for a short while he might feel valued, but as the memory of coming to God fades, as it will, often new believers forget the precious love of God. God wanted so badly to start a personal relationship with you that he gave his own Son. And he authored the Bible through over 40 different men over a period of nearly two thousand years, just so he could give personal directions to you on how to live for God. And let’s not forget the personal tutor—the very Spirit of God himself. The problem is not in knowing God’s will, for he has left open clues all about you to find, if you will but begin the lifelong journey of getting to know God. How it must wound his heart to have given so much for us who appreciate it so little!

But you protest! I can hear it now. You say I want to know God’s will for my life. Does he have a specific plan for my life? Our next question will be focused on that aspect, the aspect which you probably thought I meant when I first presented the question. But do you see that this answer comes first? How can you possibly expect God to have any plan for your life if you have not even bothered to learn who he is?

And he is so much bigger than we first know. Packer gives us a clue in his excellent book, Knowing God, “How may we form a right idea of God’s greatness? The Bible teaches us two steps that we must take . The first is to remove from our thoughts of God limits that would make him small. The second is to compare him with powers and forces which we regard as great.”1 We can only get to begin to appreciate how big God is when begin to begin to study his nature. I was teaching my grandson out of John 1, which he had to read to me this morning. I pointed out the scripture that tells us Christ was in the beginning, and was with God and was God. Such great truths in that chapter! But he thought about it awhile and then asked when did God get started? It was quite a marvel for him to think about a being that has no beginning, and once it soaked through, it was wonderful to see the light of understanding begin to spread across his face.

No matter the box we build for God, yet he proves to us that there is that which we have not considered, and that he is much bigger than we thought. He is a puzzle—an enigma, if you will. You can spend all of your life getting to know him, and if the Bible is right, we will spend all of eternity getting to know him. What a shame it is that some of us wait to know him—there is so much that he has to teach us about himself, and there is so much love that he desires to spread abroad in your heart and life as you get acquainted with the Master of the universe.

1. Packer, J. I. (2011-09-26). Knowing God (p. 94). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

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