Monthly Archives: June 2016

Living in God’s Will

One of the questions that Christians commonly ask is “What is God’s will for my life?” or “How can I know God’s will?”

What-should-I-do

In actuality, Scripture is very clear on God’s general will for the believer’s life: He wants us to love Him with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves (Luke 10:27). He wants us to lose our lives for Jesus’ sake, deny ourselves, and take up our cross to follow Him (Matt. 16:24-25). He wants us to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:18-20). And so on.

These things, in a very real way, are also God’s specific will for each believer, and we need to honestly assess whether we are being obedient to His will in these ways. But usually when someone asks what God’s will is, they’re looking for more concrete and direct answers, instructions on what specifically they should do or where they should go.

Two promises the Scriptures make regarding the Holy Spirit guiding us are Isaiah 30:21 and John 16:13:

“Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left” (Is. 30:21).

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:13).

But while we are promised this guidance from the Holy Spirit, does that even include things like what type of degree we should get, who we should marry, where we should live, and things like that?

Sometimes, but not always.

Having said that, there is one way we can know if we are living in God’s will or not, and if what we want to do out of our myriads of options is in His will. We can test it by Colossians 3:12-17.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

With verses 12-16 as an important background, we can ask “with what I’m doing or with what I want to do, can I honestly do it in the name of the Master Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father?”

Obviously this question would then exclude all and any sinful actions. And this questions requires that we not just think about what we do, but why we do it too. To examine our motives.  It means we need to be intentional about what we do and don’t do, so that whatever we do in word and deed can be done in the name of the Lord Jesus.

If we live this way, with let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and let the word of God richly dwell within you, we will be living in God’s will. No, we still won’t have clear directions on who to marry or where to work, but the more our actions and lives please God and line up with His will as revealed in Scripture, then the more easily will we be able to discern His specific will for those types of things (and I think we’ll find that He’s really quite permissible. With a lot of the choices we have in life He’s more concerned with the why and how of what we do than the what itself, to a degree).

Of course, doing this doesn’t replace the need to pray for wisdom (James 1:5-8), to seek the filling of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), and to seek godly counsel (Proverbs 19:20), but it both enhances them and ensures that we are living lives pleasing to God (which also makes us more receptive of hearing God’s voice!).

This passage, Colossians 3:12-17, is especially important for those who lead in churches, in any capacity. Do we do it intentionally and with right motives? Can we say everything we do and don’t do, every decision and action we make as leaders, and why we make them, is in the name of our King Jesus?

Just as for individuals, God will guide us and those we lead as we frame our decisions with this in mind: “whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

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When God Doesn’t Heal

This past Sunday I preached at church on the topic of praying for healing, from James 5:13-18. Afterwards, someone texted a question which I’d like to answer here.

Q&A

This is the question:

“What are some of the things you would say about people who are afraid of praying for healing because they are afraid that if the prayer failed, it will bring doubt to their own, the patient, and witness’ faith? I’ve seen people turning away from God because of this.”

There are two ways I want to answer this question: the first is what I’d say about such people, and the second is what I’d say to them.

Before I get to that, though, I’d like to say I understand the fear here, and I’m sorry that the asker has seen people turn away from God over this. I don’t know if this is the case here, but I think a lot of damage has been done by televised “faith-healers” and those well-meaning charismatic Christians who proclaim that if we have enough faith God will heal (as if He’s obligated to, or He’s like a vending machine: deposit prayer and faith and out comes healing). When God doesn’t, then the blame rests squarely on the sick person (and often the one who prays too) for their not having enough faith.

What I would say about someone afraid to pray for healing because it will bring doubt to them and others if God doesn’t answer the way they expect, is that it seems they actually already doubt that God will/can heal, or expect that He won’t, and they’re afraid that it will confirm that doubt. So the issue is likely one of unbelief, which leads to disobedience.

It also sounds like their focus is on theirs or others’ faith, and not on Jesus Himself, which is the wrong focus and will actually kill their faith. Finally, it sounds like they have a consumeristic view of God (that is, what God can do for me as opposed to Him being my King and master), while someone who is surrendered completely to God will accept both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ from Him. My guess is that this last reason is why people walked away from God when He didn’t answer the prayer with healing.

What I would say to someone afraid to pray for healing is that supernatural healing is not a science, and while healing is promised by God (James 5:15), He will always answer in accordance with His will which we don’t always know (see James 4:13-16). Also, I would encourage them to reframe the idea that the prayer for healing “fails” or “succeeds.” It could be that God has answered, just not in the way we expected Him to, like He did to Paul (2 Cor. 12:5-10), or it could be that we haven’t persisted in prayer enough about the matter (see 1 Kings 18:42-44 and Luke 18:1-8).

While it’s easier to just not pray for healing than it is to face disappointment with not receiving the expected answer, I would encourage them to keep praying, but with an attitude that is both expectant that God will answer by healing, and yet ultimately surrendered to His will. We won’t see God move in miraculous ways unless we pray, so we shouldn’t not pray, or be afraid to, until we see God move.

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There are a lot of aspects of this topic that I didn’t cover, either here or in my sermon, but what do you think? What would you tell someone in this situation, or what would you say differently than me?

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Floppy Disk Friday

IMG_0127O God,

I lift up X to You.

I appreciated his honesty with me, and his willingness to share where he’s at,

but I’m troubled by his saying You’re not really real to him,

and more than that,

that he’s okay with that.

That he’s letting his relationship with You “stagnate.”

Heavenly Father reveal Yourself to him!

Draw him to You!

Make Yourself real to him!

And give us –

me, the church, his friends, his family –

give us wisdom when we speak to him.

Reveal Yourself through us to him.

In Your Son’s Holy name I pray,

Amen.

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Facing the Pains of Life with the Psalms of Lament

In our Christian culture, we often promote the idea that Christians must be happy all the time, or even joy-filled, or else there is something wrong with us – not enough faith, sinful, something like that. We have a hard time being honest with each other (and ourselves) about the pains we face as a normal part of life.

The scriptures, however, are not so hesitant to be honest. Complaint and lament are a big part of the Psalms, Job, and the book of Lamentations of course.

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The Psalms are so full of complaints to God, in fact, , crying out to Him with the expectation that He will act and change whatever situation the psalmist is addressing, that they’ve been given their own genre, called “Psalms of Lament.” These psalms have been used as prayer by followers of God for centuries.

The psalms of lament are Psalms 3, 4, 5, 7, 9-10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, 36, 39, 40:12-17, 41, 42-43, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 70, 71, 77, 86, 89, 120, 139, 141, 142.

The Psalms of Lament help us to face our pain, face the struggles and ugliness of the world, and direct it in a way that is both honest yet hopeful that He who is returning soon will act on our behalf. Praying these psalms remind us of God’s sovereignty and ultimate goodness.

 

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