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:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus for you.

You might think, “Is that it? That is not very grandiose. Surely, God’s will for me is something greater!” But I ask you, as simple as it seems, are you doing it? If not, why should God ask more of you?

We don’t have a problem with rejoicing and 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 obey God’s will during disasters, sickness, pain, and anytime something is not going our way.

Nevertheless, a joyful, prayerful, and thankful spirit in “all” circumstances distinguishes a Spirit-filled Christian from the rest of the world. It causes unbelievers to notice, and it glorifies Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need to seek this spirit to obey God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.

Ironically, one of the difficulties for American Christians is that we have so much wealth as a society that we tend to take for granted things like food, clothing, shelter, and health care. 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, but from a spiritual point of view, we are in worse shape. We don’t consider what we have 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. 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."

Leprosy is a 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 lepers are outside the village. They can’t get close to Jesus because of their disease, so they have to stand at a distance and call 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? Or show yourself to the priest as Jesus commanded?

Interestingly, one of those healed had the presence of mind to return to Jesus. 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.

Jesus 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, so they called out to Him, but that is the extent of their faith.

 

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 is God. That faith expressed itself in gratitude, praise, and adoration.

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 truly 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, worship, thanksgiving, love, and obedience.

Many people come to Christ for His blessings, but they don’t really want Him. They want Heaven but they don’t want to be intimate with Jesus. 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 realizing who Jesus is.

In the same way, many people come to Christ 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 an addiction. Maybe they need help with depression, anger, or some sin in their life. Maybe they just want to be in a group of loving people, to be a part of a community. But when they get the blessing, they’re satisfied. They don’t really want Christ. They don’t want Him to actually 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.

Romans 2:4 Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

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 Almighty God.

That is why rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks in all circumstances are so important. They show trust and love to Christ for who He is, rather than just for the blessings He gives. If there is little or no joy and thankfulness, there is little or no faith, and little or no love for Christ.

Let’s take a moment to 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?

I’m not suggesting we should pretend that everything is “awesome”. It’s not, for the world is full of evil. But what we focus upon matters. I am suggesting that in the midst of everything, our focus should be on: God’s goodness toward us in Christ, His will for our lives, and on His Word.

Colossians 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.

No matter what we are doing, no matter what’s going on in our life, no matter what our circumstances, we can be rejoicing, praying, and thankful.

But if we are honest, we will admit it is not the way we always act. When things are going badly, we tend to complain, grumble, and moan about life. When we do that, we are not in God’s will. We need to repent and focus on our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 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.

Therefore, whether we are eating dinner at a nice restaurant or cleaning the toilet, rejoice and give thanks (remember the outhouse). Whether we get a promotion and raise, or get a pink slip and shown the door, be prayerful and thankful for God’s provision. Whether we are strong and healthy or sick and weak, rejoice and pray and be grateful for God’s love.

And, whether our marriage is rewarding and satisfying, or whether it’s a painful struggle, rejoice, pray, and give thanks.

In every situation, we are to have an attitude of joy and thankfulness toward God. It seems impossible, but God does not command us to do something without giving us the grace to do it. So, how is it done?

First, recognize that although not everything is good in itself, God can and will use everything in our lives for the good of those who love Him. It may be for our good or for the good of others in the Church, but it will be for God’s purpose and glory.

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 rejoice and 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 rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

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. Faith is precious to God. Gold won’t get you into Heaven, but faith will. And when Christ returns, we’ll see and understand that even our greatest suffering was worth it, because it increased our faith and brought us closer to God.

Secondly, the closer we get to God, the more grace we have from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us power to rejoice and be thankful no matter what we are facing. Thanksgiving and praise will be our natural response, like the example of Paul and Silas who were whipped and put in chains in a Philippian jail.

Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them

They were practicing what they preached, for Paul wrote in Ephesians 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.

We see from this passage that God’s will for us is more than rejoicing always, praying continually, and giving thanks in all circumstances. In addition, His will for us is to be filled with the Holy Spirit, with Himself.

Don’t say, “Well, that is fine for you, preacher, but I’m just not like that.” Perhaps you are not, and you should be concerned about that. If you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and He is living in you and you in Him, then you will be like Jesus—full of the Holy Spirit and overflowing with joy, prayer, praise, and thankfulness. Without the Holy Spirit, you are not God’s child, for all His children have been born again of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

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.”

Therefore, if you haven’t received Jesus Christ as Lord, you don’t have much to be joyful and thankful about today. But, you can change that if you believe and confess that Jesus is the Son of God who atoned for your sin on the cross. Confess your sin to Him and repent by giving your life Him. Then follow Jesus in baptism, and He will give you a new life born of the Holy Spirit and fill you with joy and thanksgiving.

That would make this Thanksgiving especially meaningful this year.