Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Priority of God’s Will
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:5 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.
The priority of God’s will is not the gratification of our desires, but rather the glorification of Himself. Yet the average Christian chooses to think about God’s will in the context of personal decision-making. As a result, their lives are lived in constant tension. The Holy Spirit is drawing them to consistent surrender of their will to the Father’s, while their definition of God’s will is nothing more than a spiritualized practice of pride. Let me illustrate:
Several years ago, in July, a college graduate signed a contract to teach. In August she received another offer from a school closer to where she wanted to live. So she broke the original contract, claiming that she had prayed about it and felt it was God’s will. However, her decision broke the biblical principle found in Psalms 15:4, where God answers the question of who may dwell in His presence by stating, The one who keeps his oath even when it hurts.” God’s will for her decision had already been revealed in Scripture, but she defined God’s will in the context of what was best for her, not God. The department chairman of the school said that her justification was “I have a peace about it,” to which he commented rather sardonically, “Isn’t that lovely? She’s got the peace and I’ve got the pieces.”
I believe that girl missed the will of God. She violated a principle which, if she had been alert and had applied it to her situation, would have given her clear guidance in this specific detail of her life. But she’s not alone. We all do the same. And the reason is because we have missed the whole meaning of God’s will. God’s will is not about which color car you should buy, or what house to live in. God’s will is about living a life that is completely and sacrificially surrendered to Him in every way so that the Holy Spirit is in absolute control of every decision. To know God’s will is to deny our own will.
There are sixty-four references to the will of God in the New Testament, and not a single one of them refers to decision-making. Every one of them is expressed in the context of living a surrendered life to the purpose of God, and that purpose is declared clearly as bringing glory to the Father by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word, deed, and lifestyle.
Just look at the example of today’s Scripture passage. Paul is commending the people of Macedonia for their financial support. He says they did the will of God. But they were only capable of making that financial decision after they had first given themselves to God. What a confirmation of what Paul said yesterday in Romans 12:1-2 about offering our bodies to God as living sacrifices, and having our thinking transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may know and do the will of God.
My friends, this may hurt, but it is necessary. We have allowed Satan to quench the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches because we are trying to know God’s will for decision-making before we have crucified our own wills and surrendered to the absolute and complete control of the Father’s will. We pray to know God’s will about financial issues before we surrender our finances to God. We ask to know God’s will about relationships before we know anything about being content with Jesus as our only necessary relationship. We get bogged down in all of the management of life because we have not yet surrendered to the Manager of our lives.
The priority of God’s will is not the gratification of our desires, but rather the glorification of Himself. Yet we tend to think that God’s will is about us adding a spiritual dimension to getting what we want. Any inclination of our hearts towards getting what we want is the will of our pride, not the will of God. We must deal with this issue individually by going to the place of prayer. The place of prayer for Jesus was the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there that He dealt with the issue of His fleshly will verses God’s perfect will. He asked for a way to gratify the flesh, but surrendered to the glory of the Father. Dennis Corrigan in Bridge Builder states it this way – Gethsemane teaches us that the kingdom of God is entered only through the denial of one’s own will and the affirmation of the will of God. Therefore, the cross must stand central to an understanding of the kingdom. Since the essence of the kingdom is our obedience to the absolute will of God, we understand it only as we bring our own will to the foot of the cross. No self-will can live unchallenged in God’s kingdom.
We’re wasting our time trying to find the will of God for decision-making if we haven’t first surrendered our hearts to the reign of God. So here’s a quick test my wife and I discovered years ago to know if we are at that point or not. We ask ourselves, “Are we completely neutral about the outcome?” Surrender will be manifested by neutrality. It’s not that we can’t have a preference, but our preferences don’t matter and certainly don’t motivate us to manipulate the outcome. Knowing and doing the will of God requires the absolute surrender of our will to His. Let’s work on that together.