Charles Stanley - Walking in God's Plan
I was twelve years of age. I always sat on the second row and the first seat there on the aisle. On this particular Sunday, a lady was preaching. And I don't exactly remember what she said. In fact, I don't remember anything she said except when they gave the invitation, it was about seven steps to the altar. I went straight to the altar, got on my knees, and asked the Lord to save me. And before I knew it, I had five of my Sunday School buddies around me praying that I'd get saved. But I remember thinking, "Okay now, Lord, I'm saved. Now what"? And nobody ever said to me anything about the future, nothing.
Then I began to think, "Well, Lord, You saved me. What did You save me for anyway"? And then I began to think and pray about it, and I thought, "Well, Lord, maybe You have something for me to do". Wasn't very long before I realized and learned and reading the Scripture, God has a will, a plan for all of His children. And if you will turn to Colossians for a moment, and I want us to begin reading in this ninth verse and read through the twelfth verse.
And I want you to listen very carefully to this message. In the ninth verse, Paul writes to the Colossians, "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light".
Filled with the knowledge of His will. When is the last time you ever thought about that God has a will, He has a plan for your life. You probably were saved at some point in your life and thought, "Well, that's it"! And you got baptized and joined the church and you've just sort of been living out your life. Has anybody ever told you that God has a plan for your life? What is His will? Listen to this. I want to be sure you get it clearly. That which God approves of and determines to bring about. It concerns God's choices of what to do and what not to do in our life.
God has a will and a plan for your life. It doesn't make any difference how old you are, where you came from, what the situation is, God has a plan for your life. Don't ever listen to someone tell you, "Well, you're not important". Any time anybody looks at you and tells you that you're not important, you look at the cross and say, "I'll tell you why I'm important. He died for me. He not only died for me, but He died for everyone, but everybody's important".
So, have you ever thought about the fact that God has a will for your life? He knows all about your background. All the things that you would bring up and say, "Well, God couldn't use me. He couldn't do this, He couldn't do that". He knows all about you. He knew about you before you were ever born. He has a will and a plan for all of our lives. The tragedy is that most people will never think about that. They were never told that. They never thought about that, that God had a special plan for their life. Yes, He does. Well, what's God's plan for my life? Have you ever asked Him? And what I want to ask you to do is to listen carefully, because there are three aspects of His plan.
And so, think about it in this light. First of all, there's God's predestined will, and that means He's referring to those things that He will do. His predestined will will happen, and nothing can interfere with it. No matter what's happening in the world, He has a predestined will. Those things He will do or His overriding sovereign will by which He operates in the world in general and in our lives personally. It is irresistible, unchangeable, and unconditional. That is, His predestined will cannot be changed. No matter what happens, who it happens in, through cannot be changed. And a good example of His predestined will is the cross. He predestined the death of Jesus before the world was ever created. He makes no mistakes. His predestined will we can't do anything about. We're just here. Then there's His moral will.
Now, watch this. This applies to every one of us, and let's go back to Exodus chapter twenty, and you know what this says. Listen to this, "You shall not murder," period. "You shall not commit adultery," period. "You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness. You shall not covet your neighbor's house," and belongings. That's just part. That's just part of His moral will. And then I'll turn to First Thessalonians chapter four, and this is a part of His will also, His moral will. Now, listen to this. "Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus Christ, as you received from us instructions as to how you ought to walk and please God, just as you actually do, that you excel even more".
And then listen to what he says. This is His moral will, "For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ". Listen carefully, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification," to live a holy life, "that is, that you," to be specific, "that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles," unbelievers, "do who know not God".
Now, this is a part of God's moral will. We have the Ten Commandments and, specifically, he identifies in this chapter of Thessalonians, "This is the will of God, your sanctification, that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality". That is the law of the Living God. It doesn't make any difference what you think. Doesn't make any difference what group you belong to or where you're from or whatever it might be. And it is a moral law of God for which all of us will give an account for by the way we respond to it. And we have people today who want to defend all kind of things. The Scripture says, "Abstain from sexual immorality," that each one of us should know how to handle ourselves, "not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles," like the unbelievers, "who do not know God".
Every believer knows God through Jesus Christ. We live under the moral law of God to abstain from sexual immorality, which is a major, major, major cause of sin, wickedness, vileness, and a lot of other things in this country. And people can reason all they want to. When you go back to the Word of God, it is absolutely crystal clear that it is a sin against Almighty God, a sin against His moral law. Then, of course, there is one other, and that is God's desired will.
Now, we say His predestined will cannot be changed. His moral law is a law we should live by. God's desired will is this, listen carefully, those things He desires for us: salvation, baptism, the fruit of the Spirit in our life, service, giving, forgiving, loving, praying about everything, many decisions in our life. That is, there are three parts to His will. His predestined will, which cannot be changed. His moral will for which we are responsible. God's desired will is for our whole life. Somewhere in this, you are today.
So, let me ask you: where are you in light of the will of God? You say, "Well, I've never thought about it". Well, you need to start thinking about it today because you'll have to think about it today because I'm reminding you of it. You'll have to think about it. That the Holy God, Almighty God, before whom all of us will stand one day and give an account for our life. Read First Corinthians, we're going to give an account for our life. And some people will die having only known the Lord a few days or a few weeks, sometimes a few minutes.
So, you say, "What about so-and-so and so-and-so, and". You know what, forget so-and-so. You think about your life. You've heard the gospel. You've had opportunities, you've had awesome opportunities. Maybe you didn't have too many opportunities. Maybe you've never felt loved in your life. God loves you, He has a plan for your life. You say, "Well, what about this at this point in my life"? Listen carefully, He'll pick you up right where you are, right where you are. He'll start today in this minute.
If you said, "God, I never thought about this before. I want the rest of my life to be in Your will. Lord, whatever it takes, here I am". He'll pick you up right where you are and He, watch this, He will enable you to do your best the rest of your life. But what He needs and is waiting for is your willingness to surrender to His will. Because watch this, He always has the best. Does that mean the same? No. I don't understand why He allowed some people to suffer the way they suffer. Don't understand why people grow up the way they have to grow up, situations and circumstances, but God knows. And all of His judgments will be according to His perfect will. He knows our opportunities. He knows the things that people are plagued with. And He knows the opportunities He's given us.
So, the issue is this, not what have I done or what have I missed? But, God, beginning today, maybe you never thought about the fact that He has a will for your life. And you see, watch this, you don't know what kind of influence you have. Some of you've had tremendous influence that you've not even thought about. And some of you have thought about it. You have an opportunity. You have influence. You have testimony. You have the privilege of living a life with God if you choose to.
Now, watch this. If you had never heard before, if you've never heard before that He has a plan for your life, what does He do? I'll say it again, picks you up right where you are, begins to show you His will from this point on in your life. "Lord, I never knew You had a will". Yes. "Well, Lord, I want to know what Your will is". Yes, He'll show you. "Well, Lord, what is Your will"? He will begin to put people around you, in your path, something you read, something you hear, message you may hear, that you begin to realize, "Well, God, I never thought about You having a will for my life. Well, Lord, I want to surrender my life to You that whatever You have in mind for me, Lord, here I am".
Watch this, that's always the place to start. God, He knows what opportunities you've had and have not had. And He knows that He'll take you wherever you're willing to surrender yourself to Him. He will begin right there and do what? Work out the best in your life. You don't ever give up. You never quit, because God doesn't give up. He doesn't quit on you. He'll take you right where you are. Some people are brilliantly brilliant in many areas. Some people have little of that. You know what? God takes them both right where they are, and when they stand before them, they will not be judged on the basis of how smart or how ignorant they were. They'll be judged, we will all be judged on the basis of what did we do with what we knew and what we had. That puts us all in the same category. The smarter and those who are less fortunate, whatever it might be, God has a will for your life.
And when I look at this, He says that we, "May be filled with the knowledge of His will". Which means that God, He, listen, He'll give you whatever you need to begin today if you ask Him, "Lord, I missed it somewhere back yonder. Please forgive me, but I'm surrendering myself to You today that whatever You want to do in my life, God, here I am. I probably messed up, Lord, but here I am". Will He forgive you? Absolutely. Do you have to beg Him to? No. All you have to do is surrender your life at this point. "Lord, I, from this point on, I want whatever You have for me". The issue is, have you ever thought about it? Have you ever thought about the will of God for your life?
And so, when I think about that and I think about the fact that He will show us, it's consistent with the character of God to show you His will. In other words, We're talking about beginning right now. We can't change the past, but here's what we can do. We can say, "God, I blew it. If I'd-a had another chance, I may have done something else, but I'm asking You to forgive me for my failures, forgive me for my ignorance. Maybe I didn't pursue it, Lord. Asking You to forgive me. And Lord, just enable me from this point to walk in Your footsteps and to follow Your will".
Listen, all of us have had second chances, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, how many chances all of us have had, the grace of God. The love of God. Listen, God isn't up there trying to judge you. God wants to live His life in and through you, and He'll take you wherever you'll surrender yourself to Him. You can't do better than having Jesus, the Lord, the second Person of the Trinity, living His life in you and picking you up where you are and taking you on to what He had in mind to begin with. So, where would you consider yourself to be as far as the will of God in your life?
Maybe you've said, "Well, I never even heard about it before. Oh, I knew about it, but I was too busy doing my own thing. I knew about it, but I had something else in mind". And here you are this morning and you're hearing about it again. I pray that you won't ever have to hear about it another time before you surrender your life to the Lord Jesus Christ and see what He'll do in your life. God can do an amazing work in what's left because He loves us, because He knows exactly what we need. He delights in showing us His will for our life.
And I want to read you three passages of Scripture. So, let's turn to Psalm sixteen, and it is the eleventh verse of the sixteenth Psalm. Listen, "You will make known to me the path of life, in Your presence is fullness of joy, in Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore". Look at that, "You will make known to me Your path of life". Will you have to be a certain age or much ability, talent, and skill? No. You ask Him. So, watch this. If you left church today, you went home, and you got in your bedroom, you got on your knees or sat in your easy chair, whatever, and you said to Almighty God, "Lord, I heard it. I've messed up badly, but today I'm surrendering my life to You that for the rest of my life, I want You to have Your way in my life". You will be shocked at what God'll do.
Let me give you another verse, Psalm thirty-two verse eight. And you've heard me talk about this verse, probably several times. Listen to this verse, Psalm thirty-two, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go, I will counsel you with My eye upon you". Listen to that, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go". Is that by a certain age? No. Certain person? No. That's His offer to all of us who are willing to listen to Him.
You may think, "Well, I've really blown it in my life. I really messed it up. I wish I'd done better. But Lord, today, whatever's left, here's my life. What will You do with me"? You will be surprised at what He'll do. And so, when I think about these verses and think about how many times... Proverbs three five and six, for example, one of my favorite passages, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him," and what's His promise? "He will direct your path". Just trust Him. See what He'll do.
So, there are things that often hinder us from discovering and doing the will of God, and I'm going to give you a little quick list of them, because oftentimes we come to a place of decision and we give God some excuse. So, think about this. Things that hinder us from discovering the will of God for our life. Number one: self-will. We can't get over what we want to do, how we want to do it. Secondly, the influence of other people. We let other people influence us. "Oh, that won't work. Well, why would you want to try something like that"? You're talking to God who works the impossible. Ignorance of the Word of God, think about all the promises He gives us about answered prayer.
And then doubt. Well, I don't think God could do that in my life. Listen, the God who created this world can do anything He chooses to do, no matter what's been in the past. That's who He is. Feelings of unworthiness. "Well, that may work for somebody, but not for me because I've really blown it bad". God is willing to love you, forgive you, cleanse you, and give you a new beginning. "Well, I'm too busy to deal with that". Listen, you don't want to die having rejected Jesus Christ. Do you think God is going to accept an excuse? "Well, I would have, but I just didn't have time". There are people who are so foolishly busy, they don't have time for God.
Listen, Fear. "Well, I know that's what God wants me to do, but I just don't think I could do that". Probably every preacher who's ever stood in a pulpit has told God at first, "Oh, I couldn't do that. I couldn't stand in front of all those people. Mm-mm-mm-mm-mm". You can't deliberately, willfully choose to disobey God and be happy with your life. And there are a lot of people because of their money, they can cover up a lot of stuff. But you can't cover up a disobedient heart if you've got millions. You can't cover up disobedience to God no matter what you have, or who you have, or whatever it might be.
God has a will for your life. He loves you. He desires the best for you. And if you've missed it so far, start today and tell Him, "Lord, I don't know what You can do with what's left over, but God, here I am, take me like I am". He'll forgive you, cleanse you. Let me tell you something God won't do. You want to hear? Well, somebody does. One thing God won't do to you, He won't bring up the past and say, "See there. I told you. Mm-hmm. See, you, mm-mm, yeah, mm-hmm". He doesn't throw up the past. He brings up the future of what He's able to do and can do with you. It may be late in life or early in life, but one thing for certain, He'll take you where you are. And you've got willful known sin in your life, maybe.
Now, watch this one. God speaks to your heart this morning in the worship service. And He already points to you. He's already said to you, "But you know you'll have to correct this. You know you'll have to stop this. You know you'll have to change this". And you're sitting here thinking, "Oh my goodness, God. What am I going to do"? You let God take you where you are and watch Him do what He's able to do in your life. Listen, if you wait till you figure it out, you'll never do it. It takes surrender. "God, I'm not coming to You claiming that I'm worthy of anything. I'm coming to You saying, Lord, I've messed it up. I've blown it. I've sinned against You. No more toleration or excusing. I'm just laying it before You, God. Whatever You can do with my life, God, here I am. Lord, whatever You want to do, here I am".
What do you think God will do? He'll amaze you. First thing He'll do is give you this awesome sense of peace, forgiven. Forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, and then watch Him work in your life. Watch this, you're not waiting on God, God's waiting on you. He's waiting to give you His best. The past, He forgives and He forgets it. And He gives you the opportunity to start all over again. That's the awesome, indescribable, eternal will of God for your life. And the question is: are you willing to say to Him, "Lord, if I'd only known. God, I'm ashamed. God, thank You for giving me one more chance, and Lord, here's my life. I want to see what You'll do with me". Here's your opportunity today. You came to church today. Here's your opportunity. Before you walk out of this place, here's what you can do. You can say:
God, I don't even know how to confess all of my sin, but I'm saying to You, Lord, that I know I've blown it lots of times. I've sinned against You. Haven't taken advantage of my opportunities. I've overlooked Your goodness and love and mercy and forgiveness toward me. But today, as best I know how, I'm asking You to forgive me of my sin. I'm surrendering my life to You. I probably won't do a very good job of it. I'm surrendering my life to You and I say to You, Dear Father, forgive me, and here's my life. I want You to govern my life from this point forward. Here's my life.
If you will surrender your life to God sitting right where you are, you don't have to give Him any details. He knows all the details. All you need to say to Him sincerely with all your heart:
God, I've messed up. I've blown it. And I'm sorry, I'm ashamed, I'm asking You to forgive me. And Lord, by Your help, by Your strength, by Your wisdom, by Your grace, by Your goodness, by Your love, Your mercy, I'm willing to start all over again.
Think about how awesome God is, that He's willing to forget your past and only remember the future. Amen?
Father, we couldn't even begin to describe how awesome You are, what grace really means. When we think about all that You forgive us for, all that You're willing to do in us and through us, we pray that the Holy Spirit will do His work right now. And that every single one of us will take a fresh look at our life and surrender ourselves totally to You again if necessary. We love You and we praise You. In Jesus's name. Amen.