God's Will for Our Lives

God’s Will for Our Lives

What is God’s will for our lives? We need to know and make sure we are doing it, don’t you agree? Well, here it is:

1Thes 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
 

We agree with giving thanks when things are going well or according to our plans, but we have a serious problem with that little word “all.” It is more difficult to be thankful during disasters, sickness, pain, death, and anytime something is not going our way. Nevertheless, a thankful spirit in “all” circumstances is one of the key distinguishing marks of a Christian. It sets us apart from the world. It makes us different, the world takes notice, and it glorifies Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need to seek this grace to be thankful in ALL circumstances. After all, it is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.

One of our difficulties in 21st-century America is that we live in an entitlement culture. We have so much wealth as a society that we tend to take for granted things like food, clothing, shelter, and health care. We believe these things are not just something good or desirable, but something we earned or deserve. The majority, today, believes these things are something our government should provide and not something God provides through work that He gives us to do.

Most people today consider a color television and a cell phone to be necessities rather than luxuries. What we consider to be ‘poverty’ today is far above the quality of life that most people enjoyed fifty years ago. From a material point of view, we’re better off now than we’ve ever been, and this inevitably affects our attitudes. We don’t see all these things as blessings, as gifts to us from a loving and gracious heavenly Father. Even though most people in the world see us as incredibly wealthy, we tend to view all of this abundance and prosperity as simply our birthright. And if, for some reason, we are temporarily deprived of the standard of living we expect, we feel we are being denied what is rightfully ours.

The danger of living in prosperity, especially for those who are seeking to follow Christ, is that prosperity dulls our sense of gratitude and thankfulness toward God. Because paradoxically, the more we have, the less we seem to appreciate it. This attitude of a “spoiled child” and is one of the evils of our society. We need to examine ourselves to see if we are infected with it?

Luke 17:11-19 “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."
 

At this time, there was no known cure for leprosy. Leprosy is a gruesome, horrible disease that cripples and disfigures its victims. Anyone with leprosy was forced to live outside the city, and was forbidden to have any close contact with other people, lest they spread the disease to others. In this passage, the ten men are outside the village. They can’t get close to Jesus because of their disease, so they have to stand at a distance and yell to him. Jesus gives them a command, which they obediently follow, and as they are going, miraculously, all ten are healed of their disease.

Imagine if you had been suffering with a disease that was not only painful and repulsive, but made you an outcast in society. If you were suddenly cured, what would you do? Run home to your family? Buy some new clothes? Show yourself to the priest as Jesus commanded?


Interestingly, one of those healed had the presence of mind to return. Was he disobeying Jesus’ command to go and show himself to the priest? No, because this Samaritan saw beyond the gift to the Giver. He recognized who Jesus is. He came back to show himself to the Eternal High Priest and give thanks to God.

What was Jesus’ response? He asked, “Where are the others? Were not ten cleansed?” You can sense His disappointment in the other nine, and His joy in the faith of this one who returned to praise Him and give thanks. “Rise and go,” Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well.”

There is a lesson about faith in this story that we don’t want to miss. The faith of the nine who did not return was limited to believing in Jesus as a miracle worker. They believed that He could cure their leprosy, and that was all. But the one who came back was “praising God in a loud voice.” He wasn’t just rejoicing over being healed; He realized who Jesus is and he was praising God, the source of his blessing. By faith, he knew that Jesus was more than just a miracle worker; he understood that Jesus was God and the Eternal High Priest. He had faith, not just in what Jesus could do, but in who Jesus is. That faith expressed itself in gratitude, praise, and adoration. The nine received a tremendous gift, but only one received the greatest gift of all--Jesus.

We see from this story that it is possible to be blessed by God and not have true faith. It is possible to receive help from Jesus Christ and not know Him. Listen: The fact that God has done something good in your life is not a guarantee that you have a relationship with Him. The indicator is not how God has blessed you, but whether you are responding to His blessings with faith, praise, thanksgiving, and love. Are you doing that? It is His will for us.

Many people come to Christ for His blessings but they don’t really want Him. They don’t want a relationship with Christ. They don’t want to know Christ and be known by Him. They don’t want to follow Him. They don’t want to be disciples. They don’t want Him to rule their lives. They just want something from Him. Most of the lepers just wanted healed. That’s all they cared about. When they got what they wanted, they went on without considering who Jesus is.

In the same way, many people come to God today because they want something from Him. Maybe they want money. Maybe they want to be healed of some disease. Maybe they want to be delivered from some addiction. Maybe they need help with depression, anger, or some sin in their life. Maybe they just want to be around a group of loving people, to be a part of a community. But when they get the blessing, they’re satisfied. That’s all they want from God. They get it, and that’s the end of it. They don’t really want Christ. They don’t want Him to be Lord over their lives. They don’t spend time with Him in prayer, worship, praise, or reading His Word. They just want what He can do for them.

Does that describe you? I hope not. But if there’s no gratitude, no thankfulness, no love toward Jesus for all He’s done for you, if there’s no desire to know Christ, then perhaps you need to examine your heart. Because the whole purpose for God’s blessings is to draw us to Himself. If we’re missing that, we’re missing everything.

To illustrate the importance of this, let me use the husband and wife relationship. Men, if all you want is what your wife can do for you – cook, clean, take care of the children, and share the bed – then you don’t really want a wife. You want a cook, a maid, a nanny, and a prostitute, and that is how you make her feel. To have a love relationship, you have to want her, not just what she can do for you. Likewise women, if all you want is a man to take care of you – fix things around the house, keep the car running, and bring home money for you to spend, then you don’t really want a husband—you want a handy man, a mechanic, and a rich sugar-daddy, and that is how you make him feel. To have a love relationship, you have to want him, not just what he can do for you.

I don’t mean to be crude, but the greatest commandment is to love the Lord God with ALL our heart, soul, mind, and strength. To only love Jesus for what He can do for us, is to treat Him like He is Santa Claus instead of our loving Savior and God.


You may have faith that Jesus is able to do something for you – help you quite smoking, help you control your temper; help you do a better job of raising your kids. You may even be willing to follow His instructions, as these lepers did. You may even get what you seek from Him. But if that’s all the faith you have, then your faith is just the same as the nine lepers who didn’t return. It’s faith in Jesus as a miracle-worker, but not as God, and you don’t love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

That is why giving thanks in all circumstances is so important. Gratitude and thankfulness are essential, because they cause us to love and appreciate Christ for who He is, rather than just seek blessings from Him. If there is little or no thankfulness, there is little or no faith, and little or no love for Christ.

How do we know if we are thankful or not? Let’s examine our own heart.
* Which do you tend to talk about more – your blessings, or your disappointments?
* Are you a complainer, always grumbling, always finding fault with your circumstances?
* Are you content with what you have, or always dissatisfied and wanting more?
* Do you express thanks to others when they help you, or do you just take it as your due?
* Would others say that you are a thankful person?

I’m not suggesting that we should pretend that everything’s “fine”, but what we focus upon matters. The Word tells us that in the midst of everything, our focus should be on God’s goodness toward us in Christ, and our trust should be in Him.
 

Col 3:15-17 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Thankfulness should be a constant attitude of the heart. No matter what we are doing, no matter what’s going on in our life, no matter what our circumstances, we can be thankful.

Now, is that the way it usually works in your life? If we are honest, we will admit it is not the way we act. When things are going well, we’re thankful. When things are going badly, we complain, grumble, and moan about how badly life is treating us. Therefore, we are not in God’s will. We need to repent and focus on God’s Word and our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Cor 4:17-18 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Therefore,

* Whether we are eating dinner at a nice restaurant or cleaning the toilet, give thanks.
* Whether we get a promotion and raise, or get a pink slip and shown the door, be thankful.
* Whether we are strong and healthy and full of life, or sick and diseased, be grateful.
* Whether our marriage is rewarding and satisfying, or whether it’s a painful struggle, give thanks.

In every situation, we are to have an attitude of thankfulness toward God. How can we do it?

First, recognize that although not everything is good in itself, God can and will use everything in our lives for our ultimate blessing.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God has a good, wise, and loving purpose for everything He allows into our lives, even pain and suffering. We can give thanks in the knowledge that He loves us and will never permit us any pain unless the ultimate benefit is worth the cost. That doesn’t mean we always understand His ways. We may have no idea how anything could be worth the pain we are suffering. But God’s Word tells us that it will be worth it.

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

1 Peter 1:6-7 “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

One of the reasons that God allows us to suffer is to refine our character and strengthen our faith. Our faith is worth more than gold. It’s precious to God. And when Christ returns, we’ll see and understand that even our greatest suffering was worth it, because it brought us closer to God.

Secondly, we can be thankful no matter what we are facing if we are full of the Holy Spirit. Thanksgiving and praise will be our natural response, like Paul and Silas who were whipped and put in chains in a Philippian jail, for the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22-23)

Eph 5:17-20 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Heb 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."

However, if you haven’t received Jesus Christ as Lord, you haven’t received His Kingdom. In that case, you don’t have much to be thankful about today. But, you can change that by confessing Jesus as the Son of God, your Savior and Lord. Confess your sin to Him and repent. Give Him your life by following Him in baptism, and He will give you a new life born of the Holy Spirit.

  December 2017  
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