Charles Stanley - Getting Ahead Of God
One of life's most important lessons is to learn to listen to God. If you don't listen to Him, you're not going to know what to do. If you listen to Him, you then have to decide whether you're going to obey Him or disobey Him. But how will you ever know how God wants you to live your life if you don't learn to listen to Him? And not only to listen to Him, but also to recognize that God's timing is always perfect. We don't always agree with His timing. We have our own selfish reasons, probably. But learning to listen to Him and also to follow His timing is a great lesson in life.
In fact, many people miss most of His blessings because they don't wait for His timing. They have their own idea. They get frantic. They get worried. They listen to the news. They listen to somebody. And on it goes, and never stop to think, "God, what's Your plan? What do You want me to do? When do You want me to do it? How do You want me to do it? What's Your will for my life"? And I think our failure at seeking His guidance and His direction as to timing is a major issue. And if you will recall in the twelfth chapter of Genesis, here's what God said to Abraham. He said, "Go forth from your country, from your relatives, from your father's house, to the land which I'll show you. I'll make you a great nation, bless you, make your name great, so you shall be a blessing; and I'll bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed".
Now, that is as straight forward as you can put it. That could not be clearer. And so, God made it very, very clear what he was to do and what He was going to do. And so, instead of following God's instructions, he just had a little slip here and a little slip there. Listen, watch this carefully, God knows you perfectly. He knows what His will is for your life, His purpose for your life. He doesn't make suggestions. God gives commands because God's commands come from a mind, a will, and a purpose that is absolutely perfect. He would never ask you to do anything that would not fit His will for your life. His will for your life is always the best choice. And if you'll notice in this passage of Scripture, He not only promised him that he'd have an heir, He said, "In fact, you go outside and look up in the sky and the stars that you see, your heirs are going to be like that". And then He told him there'd be four hundred years in Egyptian bondage. But He told him that he would die in peace with a good old age and that he would have a land of heirs. So what God promised is exactly what He did. Now, He said, "I'm going to make your name great," and all of us who are believers can trace, we can trace our lineage from today back through Jesus, back to Abraham".
And so, I want you to turn to the sixteenth chapter of Genesis. And some years had gone by since God made that promise to him. And, "Sarai, Abram's wife had borne him no children, but she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar". When he left home, he was headed to Canaan, God's choice land. When he got there, they were having a famine, so he goes south to Egypt, He had no business bringing her from Egypt into his family. So, Abraham was an awesome choice of God. But he made mistakes. And when God says something, He doesn't say, "And do this if you want to, be sure you do this and do that," no, He gave him specific instruction because He knew what the future held. So, there's this maid, "So Sarai said to Abram, 'Now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go into my maid, perhaps I'll obtain children through her.' And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai".
He kept making mistakes. You think a man chosen of God would listen to God. But I want you to see, "After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram's wife Sarai, took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, gave her to her husband as his wife. He went in to Hagar, she conceived, and when she saw that she conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. Sarai said to Abraham, 'May the wrong done to me be upon you.'" Whose idea was this anyway? "I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she'd conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the Lord judge between you and me". And so, what we see is simply an act of disobedience. Couldn't wait for God, and listening to the wrong voices. And people are still listening to the wrong voices. Can't wait for God, want to have it now. Because I don't understand how God could do it, I'll do it myself.
Many people, most people are living in disharmony with God, out of the will of God, doing it their own way because things didn't work out like they planned. God has a plan for your life, and if you follow His plan, you're going to be better no matter what somebody tells you. If you follow your own plan, you're on your own. Remember this: that God who created you, who is infinite in intelligence, who knows all about your past, your lineage, your present and the future. God has a plan that's best for you, whatever that plan is. But you must learn to listen to Him. If you don't learn to listen to God, how are you going to obey Him? If you don't obey Him, how are you going to experience the blessings of God. It's just that simple. You teach your children to be obedient and you live a disobedient life? God says we're to obey Him because He only has the best for us.
And so, because of disobedience, unwillingness to wait for God, Sarai has her way, but she has not only her way, but a lot of days and years of headache and trial and strife and conflict and all the rest. And so, she has a child and Abraham is a hundred. Now, why would God wait that long? Why didn't He do something before then? Because he wanted to make a statement to the world, that his choice, his lineage would be a miracle from God. He had a plan. Watch this, and this is why your prayer life ought to be so important to you. Listening to God, "God, what do You want me to do"? And I think about all the things that transpire in a person's life which is a perfect example of what happened here.
We don't want to wait for God's timing, we want to do it now. For example, you're going to buy a house. Is that the Lord's will or is it not? Maybe you say, "Well, you know what, we've waited and waited and waited till we waited long enough, we want it now". But you've stepped ahead of God, because that's the way it looked. You didn't ask God for direction. I think about people, for example, who are looking for positions in life, and one comes along and they say, "Well, I better get this. This is the best I can do". You don't know that. No telling what God has in mind for you. I think about people who are, who get married. A few years goes by, twenty-one, twenty-five, twenty-seven, thirty, "Oh my goodness, I'm embarrassed I'm not married". You know what? Don't jump ahead of God because of what your friends think. And many people, many people miss the best in marriage because they have got to have it now. And they make choices before God is able to show them who that person is. And think about this, God may show you the person you're going to marry. That doesn't mean you go to bed with them that night. It means that you wait until God is ready, until you get married.
We live in a society that does not want to wait for anything, that wants it now, no matter what the future price is. And if people who live in sin, if they had looked ahead and made God's choices, in God's timing, life would be totally different. Whether it's making a purchase or marrying someone or whatever it might be, going to college, deciding on a major, "Well, here's what I'm going to do". Well, have you asked God about that? Did God lead you or did He not? Listening to God is a part of living the Christian life. Listening to God is a part of life. God who knows it all, who has planned the best for you, and you're going to make your own foolish, unwise choices because you can't wait. Yes, you can wait. You don't want to wait. And you pay the penalty for not waiting.
So, look at your own life. Are you living according to God's plan and His will for your life? Are you asking Him for direction and guidance in your life? Are you asking Him about timing in your life? Are you just making up your own mind? "Well, I don't have time". Yes, you do. God could take you off the scene just like that if He wanted to. You do have time to wait on God. That's the best, it's always the best. So, what happens? We decide we're going to get ahead of God. No, we don't make those decisions. We just make decisions that please us for the moment. And I wish I could tell every college student, "Before you make a choice in your particular vocation and what you want to do, what you're going to major on, you need to ask God. You don't want to waste your time and you don't want to waste your life after you graduate".
But if you decide that you're smart enough to make up your own mind, you don't need God. Have I heard that so many times? You don't need God; yes, you do! If you don't think you need God, listen, no degree will overcome your ignorance, if you think you do not need God. You can get a BD, you can get a ThD, you can get any kind of D's. But if you think you're smarter than God, you've already failed. So, what happens? We listen to other people. "Well, here's what I think you ought to do". Is that what God said? Is that what God said, or is that just what I said? And oftentimes, people are deceived by appearance. I want to marry her because she's beautiful. And so, we make a choice on the basis of appearance. That's not the will of God. Sometimes it's just a matter of impatience. "I believe in God, I'm waiting upon God, but I'm only going to wait so long".
Can you imagine telling God you have a limit on how much time you're going to give Him before you choose somebody to marry? And you marry them and you begin a life of turmoil, strife, separation, and finally divorce. Listening to God is absolutely essential to walking with God. And walking with God is absolutely essential to living a life that brings satisfaction and peace and joy; and everything you're going to need, God's going to provide. But, you decide, you know what, you can't wait that long. Your friends are doing this and your friends are doing that. You're not your friends. Listen, your relationship doesn't go from you to him through her to them and then to God. It's between you and God. What your friends think's not an issue. And if your parents or they pushing you to do something, that before you can find out from God, you just say, "We got to talk to God about this". This is why, when I see young people, I think, "God, give them godly parents, parents, Lord, that fit Your will and purpose and plan for their life because they're going to make wrong decisions".
Look at all the rioting and all the things that are going on in our country. Where's mom, where's dad, where are the grandparents? Is anybody listening to God? They would never do that if they were. They watch appearances. Sometimes people, because they're afraid of failure, they're going to get ahead of God. Well, if I don't do this and if I don't do that, and I'm going to miss out. Listen to me carefully. You never miss out obeying God. God knows all about your future. He knows also what causes you to stumble. He knows your weaknesses. He knows the areas that He's going to help you through. When you start out in life without God, you're starting in the wrong direction. When you submit yourself to Him, you're allowing Almighty God, who knows all about life, to guide you to make the right choices every single time.
I think about in my own life, I was fourteen. And I knew that God said to me, "You must preach the gospel". It's the only thing He ever said to me at that point in my life. And I went through high school and through college and I knew that's what He wanted me to do, and naturally, through seminary and all the rest. God will tell you what He wants you to do if you will ask Him. It doesn't mean He's going to tell you your whole life, but He'll tell you the next step and the next step and the next step and the next step. God is interested in your, listen, your success, if you follow Him. It doesn't mean your success will always mean that you're rich or that you'll have everything in life that you want when you want it. But it means that your life will be full, and it'll be filled with joy, peace, happiness. There'll be some suffering and heartache and loss, yes. But ultimately, you will sense satisfaction and completeness in life.
People fear they're going to fail if they don't do it now. That's the devil's lie. The issue is not your age. The issue is what's the will of God? That's the key. And sometimes afraid that we're going to miss out on something. And then, of course, the problem of unbelief. "Well, I don't believe that God has a plan for my life. I don't believe I have to wait. I don't believe this, that," what do you believe? In other words, if you don't believe in God, what do you believe in? If you don't believe God has a will for your life, are you just here by accident, or through your parents? And it's all up to you in this crazy, mixed up, fouled up world. Is it all up to you to make a choice of what you're going to do and where you're going to do this and so forth. And I think about how many students would not be head over heels in debt, having finished college and owe two hundred thousand dollars or more for their college. Is that what God wanted you to do? He always has our best. I didn't say easiest, but it'll be our best in the long run. And so, we pay a penalty when we don't wait on God.
Perfect example: Sarai said, "Listen, I've waited long enough. I'm getting old and I won't be able to have children, so let's take this Egyptian slave girl and let her be a substitute". That wasn't the will of God. God forgave him, in spite of that wasn't the only mistake he made. But it looked, watch this, it looked like the simplest, right thing to do. You can't always tell by the way it looks. You can't tell by the way it counts. You can't tell by how many voices there are that agree. What's the will of God in your life? And so, there's a penalty we pay, we step ahead of Him. And part of that penalty is we deny ourselves of God's best. Think about this, you can go ahead and make a decision and you can get by for a while. You may get by all life, but have missed God's best for you.
Listen, we don't get but one trip down here. You do know that, don't you? We don't get but one trip. Well then, why take a wrong direction when you don't have to? We deny ourselves of God's best. We delay God's purpose in our life. When we take a wrong turn, the purpose of God isn't finished, isn't completed. You're heading in the wrong direction, and sometimes people have to go through disaster before they surrender themselves to God and are willing to say, "Lord, I want Your way and Your will. I've messed it up. I'm asking You to forgive me". Will He forgive you? Yes. Will He take you from that point? Yes. Will you be able to fulfill His will for your life? Maybe so, maybe not, depends on what it is. Does God give second chances? Third, fourth, fifth, hallelujah! Ten, eleven, twelve, He gives us all kind of choices; but each time we take a leap in the wrong choice, we lose. Then of course, we experience disharmony in our life. When we don't wait upon Him, there's going to be disharmony.
And so, life creates situations that create disharmony. But when we're committed to Him, He enables us to walk through it, to grow in the midst of it, to be better because of it, and still follow His will no matter what. Then of course, we suffer great disappointments in life. Out of the will of God? You'll be disappointed. And I think so many people think that they've got it all together. And they head in a direction in their life, out of the will of God. And thinking, "Well, you know, what can happen in our situation"? And surely, as blessed as we are, we must be doing the right thing. Not necessarily. Your parents may be able to finance your schooling and part of your life maybe, but that doesn't mean that you're in the will of God. And you're not going to have them forever. The issue is what does God want?
And you have to ask yourself this question: am I wise enough to stop in my life right now and ask the question: Lord, what do You want for my life? What are You willing to do in my life? What's the next step for me according to Your plan and Your will? You say, "Well, how do I know God's going to speak to me"? Because He promised to. He said, listen to this. He said, this is God. "He acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him". When you say, "Lord, I'm not going any... I need to know Your will. What's the next step in my life"? God will be there to show you what that is, if you'll trust Him. But if you don't trust Him, then you don't get God's guidance. You can't have God's guidance and live in sin. You have a choice to make. Then of course, I imagine that somewhere along the way, you can anticipate defeat after defeat after defeat and maybe destruction in your life.
Look what happens to people's lives. Doesn't have to be that way. And so, the issue is how am I going to live my life? Am I going to live it according to God's will and following Him? May not have this, that, and the other, but I want to know, God, what do You want for my life? Would you not agree that happiness, joy, peace and contentment and satisfaction are all more valuable than a pile of money? They're all more valuable. They're all more valuable than notoriety and all the rest. But it's a choice we make. We all make that choice every day. Am I going to be obedient to God today or am I not? Am I going to follow the steps of a God who loves me unconditionally? Who's promised to give me direction, promised to provide for my life, promised me the best, am I going to choose Him? Am I going to choose the voice of God, or am I going to listen to the call of the world and go that way? It's a choice. And I wish I could speak to every one of you out there who've already messed up your life. You made some choices in life that, right now, you're suffering from.
Let me just tell you this: God will forgive you if you will ask Him to forgive you and surrender your life to Jesus Christ. And I think about all of you who are going through situations and circumstances and you're into things you know you have no business. It's wrecking your life, ruining your future. If you're willing to stop and ask God to forgive you and to receive Christ as your Savior and surrender your life to Him, He'll take you where you are, and He'll change your life totally. It's a decision you make. If we confess our sins, faithful and just to forgive us of our sins is God, and head us in the right direction. Would you do that? Do you want God's best? I can tell you this: no one else can choose God's best for you. God has chosen what's best. If you're willing to listen, you can experience God's best. God is willing to forgive you, cleanse you, of all your sin and give you a new beginning. It is a choice you make. And my prayer is you will make the wise choice to change. He's listening. Because remember this, you can't change this, listen, can't change it.
You reap what you sow. What have you been sowing? You reap more than you sow. Where are you? And you reap later than you sow. You cannot avoid or escape what you sow. You can be forgiven, but it doesn't change all that. While you have the opportunity, ask God to forgive you, to cleanse you. Ask Him to give you a new beginning. Whether you are sixteen or sixty-six, you can have a new beginning. Will it be like the original plan God had for your life? No, but He'll take you where you are. You don't know whether you're going to be sixty-seven or not. You don't know how long you're going to live. So, I think if you'll think clearly, it's time you made a decision between you and God through His Son, Jesus, and surrendered your life to Him and watch Him work. You'll be awesomely surprised. And that's my prayer for you.
And Father, thank You that You can rescue anybody. You're willing to rescue everybody. The forgiveness that Jesus provided through His death at Calvary takes care of every kind of sin imaginable. And I pray that every person who hears this message will stop, think, confess, repent of their sin and surrender their life to You and then watch You work in this awesome way in their life, in Jesus's name amen.