Charles Stanley - He Will Show You His Will
My father died when I was about nine months of age, and so those were pretty tough years for me because I was sorta pushed around to this one and that one for somebody to keep me while my mother worked. I don't remember anything much about those years except that I do remember feeling very lonely because I would come home and my mother was gone because she had to work. And she was not there, not because she didn't want to be but because she couldn't be. My only remembrance of those early years was that I felt real empty and all alone.
And then when I was twelve years of age, the second row where I usually sat on the edge, I stepped out one Sunday morning, fell on my knees and asked the Lord Jesus Christ to save me and immediately, without anybody ever telling me, somehow, I had this awesome sense of feeling: God not only has saved me, but God has something to do in my life. God must have a will or plan or purpose in my life. Never heard a sermon on it. Never heard anybody explain it. It was just the witness of the Spirit that God had something in mind for me. Two years later when I was fourteen years of age, I knew that the Lord wanted me to preach the gospel. It's the only thing I've ever thought about doing, the only thing God ever impressed me to do, never doubted it one single time from the moment I was absolutely sure.
Did I know how to find the will of God in those days? Probably not. And in my ignorance of just asking the Lord, "What do You want to do with my life"? I'm sure that He impressed me so strongly, so clearly, so simply, so early in life. He knew that I would never doubt what He was saying in my life. But I remember that after I was saved, that I didn't feel all that lonely anymore. All of a sudden, this God who was out of reach and totally beyond my comprehension in those days, suddenly He'd come into my life. And as I began to read the Scripture, things started looking a little different. I began to understand things I didn't understand before, began to read how He worked in the lives of Jesus and how He worked in the life of the apostles. And I wasn't too much into the Old Testament in those days till later on. But I knew that God was saying something to me and speaking to my heart and getting me ready for something.
And I think one of the most overwhelming, assuring, encouraging things that I've ever learned in my life is: God has a will and a plan and a purpose for every single one of us, no matter who we are. I don't know of anything much more exciting than to know that the God who created all of this has you in mind, has me in mind, has a purpose and a plan. And the wonderful thing about it is He doesn't keep it a secret. When the Bible talks about the mysteries of God, it's certainly not the mystery of His will and His purpose for your life and my life. God's will could be divided generally into His moral will, into His personal will, and if we get beyond that, in His providential will. That is, the way He's gonna operate creation and all those things above and beyond our understanding. But in His moral will that deals with those things, those do's and don'ts, some things we know fit into His moral will: thou shalt not steal, lie, cheat, commit adultery, murder, have other gods before us.
Then there's His wonderful personal will for our life. That is what God's agenda is for your life as a person, what He has in mind when He created you. And so what I want to talk about in this message, listen, not only the fact that He has a will for your life, but you can know the will of God for your life. The will of God, He will show you His will for your life. So I want you to turn, if you will, to Ephesians chapter five, and I want us to look at a couple of verses here. In this fifth chapter, Paul has been talking about our relationship to evil and sin and how we should lay those things aside that do not fit who we are in Christ Jesus. And so then he comes down to this fifteenth verse, and here's what he says of Ephesians chapter five. He says, "Therefore," based on all the things that he'd said about laying aside the old man and so forth. He says, "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is".
Now my friend, God has a personal plan and purpose for your life. And so the question is: Well, can we know what God's will and plan for our life is? Yes, we can. Not only does he have one but we can know it. Why would He say, "So then do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is"? Would God tell us in His Word to understand what His will for our life is? He says we're not to be unwise as the world is, walking as the world walks, walking as unbelievers walk. He says we're to understand what the will of the Lord is. That means that not only does God have a plan and a purpose for your life and mine, but we have the wonderful privilege of being able to understand what it is.
Now, that's just as consistent with God as knowing that He has a plan, that He is willing to show us what that plan is, because you see, it'd be inconsistent for God to say, "I have a plan for your life, but I'm not gonna tell you what it is. I want you to live a certain way but I'm not gonna tell you how. I have a purpose for your life but you have to figure that out". It would be totally inconsistent for God to require of me something and then not tell me what it is nor enable me to do it. Because you see, the truth is, you and I cannot live a spiritual life in the flesh. The God who has a will and a purpose and a plan for our life also is the same God who has promised to enable us and equip us, not only by spiritual gifts, but also by the fact of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
Listen, anything and everything, and you've heard me say this over and over again, because I want you to understand it. Anything and everything God requires of us to become or to be, that is to be or to do, God has committed Himself to enable us by His indwelling presence to do that in our behalf, for us, through us, to us, and in us. He knows that apart from us, we can never discover His will. Apart from Him, we can never discover His will nor could we ever do His will. Therefore, we have the wonderful privilege of knowing that He has a will for our life, and the wonderful privilege of knowing that He has assumed responsibility for revealing His will to us.
And so, God has not said, "You figure it out". He says, for example, the Holy Spirit is the one who discerns the mind of God, and He's the one who speaks through our spirit and enables us to know. And sometimes when a child trusts the Lord Jesus as their Savior at six or seven or sometimes five, I'm sure that sometimes adults say, "Well, how in the world could they understand what God is doing in their life at five"? Never underestimate the power of Almighty God to speak to a child. As I think about, at the age of twelve, I think some of these five-year-olds and six-year-olds know a whole lot more about what Jesus is all about than I did at the age of twelve because they've got godly parents and they've come to Sunday School and they've heard a good teaching of the Word of God throughout those early, early years of their life, probably learning a lot more than we realize. And so, you never underestimate the power of God to make Himself known to a child as well as to an adult.
Now, how is it that God shows us and reveals His will to us? Well, I want you to listen carefully because I want to give you several things. The first step I believe and the most important step in understanding the will of God in any particular area or big major issues in our life is go to the Word of God. Now, listen carefully, I do not mean that the things I'm getting ready to share with you, that all of these you have to go through some ritual to find the will of God. Not saying that, but I'm saying in major issues of life, all of these things are important. Listen, and when this begins to be a habit of our life, what you're gonna discover is that finding His will in those daily decisions will just be just like this. You'll know what to do. Why? Because you're in the habit of reading and listening to the Word of God. You're in the habit of discerning and understanding the principles of God, so you will, listen, automatically react by the Spirit to understand what He would have you to do.
I want you to turn to Psalm one nineteen for a moment, Psalm one nineteen, and I want you to look at verse one-o-five. The hundred and nineteenth Psalm and a hundred and fifth verse. Listen to what he says. I'm gonna give you a moment to find it. Hundred and nineteenth Psalm and the hundred and fifth verse. Listen to what he says. He says, "Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path". What does that mean? It means that the Word of God will, listen, will lighten our path, will show us the way. And in the King James, I believe it is, the hundred and thirtieth verse. You may want to look at that in whatever translation you have in the same chapter, hundred and nineteenth. The hundred and thirtieth verse says, "The unfolding of Thy word gives light," or the entrance of Thy word gives light.
That is, the Word of God, listen, the Word of God lightens the way. The Word of God shows us the way. If I want to know what God is thinking about, listen, in any given area, I know exactly where to turn. Open the book and find out what is it that God said about this situation or something so similar to it that the principle is here. And so, the Word of God is full of the wisdom of God because it's the unfolding revelation of God Himself. That's the first step. The second one, of course, is to pray. If I want to know the Lord's mind about something, get on my knees and ask Him to show me. You say, "Well, do you have to get on your knees"? No, you don't. "Well, can you stand up"? Yes, you can. Sit, ride, yes, you can. But you know what, there is something about kneeling before God, humbling ourselves before Him and saying, "Father, I desperately need Your direction. I need wisdom. I humble myself before You".
If you're too proud to get on your knees, more than likely, you are too proud to listen to what He has to say. And so we need to humble ourselves before Him and in prayer asking the Lord to give us direction. Now, praying isn't doing all the talking. Praying is telling Him what we think, how we feel, and listening, backing off and listening. That's why it's so important that prayer involves meditation. Reading the Word of God, being quiet and listening. Lord, what are You saying to me in this? And sometimes God'll just stick me on one passage of Scripture or one or two verses and sometimes one verse, sometimes a week, sometimes two weeks, sometimes longer than that, and I know when I can't get away from something, God is trying to say something to me.
Well, you say, "Well, why can't you get it the first time"? Same reason you can't. And that is, we don't always understand exactly upfront what God may be saying to us. And none of us have any inside on God. All of us have the same Holy Spirit living on the inside of us. God deals with each one of us in relationship to how He knows us. And so sometimes, you get me in some passage, and I think, "Well, Lord, what are You saying"? Prayer, seeking, listen, spending time with God. I want you to get this. There is no substitute in all of life for spending time with God in prayer with an open Bible.
Now, people say, "Well, I pray". Well, how much time do you spend reading the Bible and praying? "Well, you know, I just pray all the time". That's not the issue. What, listen, what guides our praying, what gives validity to our praying is the Word of God. Now, once in a while somebody will say, "Well, I like the sermons you preach that helps me understand getting my needs met. But these doctrinal sermons, sometimes they go over my head". No, they don't go over your head.
Here's the important thing about doctrinal messages. In order to, listen, in order for the message about meeting our needs to have validity and strength, you've got to understand who God is. You must understand those basic truths about God. This is why people get all emotional, jumping up and down and praising the Lord and hallelujah and praising God, have a nervous breakdown. You know why? Because they are living on emotion, not truth. Not, listen, not abiding rich, deep, theological truth, that is the truth of God. And so, that's why I don't want to always talk about getting this need met and that need met, but who is God? Who is the Lord Jesus Christ? What is the work of the Holy Spirit? What is His way? How does He operate in our life? Then we understand when we begin to see our needs, we seek God to meet our needs based on solid biblical principles, not on some, "Oh, Lord, bless me good! Hallelujah! Praise God"!
Well, listen, when your feet hit the ground, the truth is, are you on truth or are you on some emotional bend? You want to walk in truth. The Bible says we're to walk in truth, walk in love, walk in light. Not walk, listen, walk in joy, yes, but not walk in some frivolous kind of emotional upheaval which is up today and down tomorrow. On our face before Almighty God.
The third thing that's so important is this. Now, listen carefully. Listen, if I want to know the will of God, listen, not only must I be in His Word and in prayer, but listen now, listen carefully. I must focus on my relationship with Him. Now, listen carefully. God is not an information center. He's not an information center waiting for us to tap into Him. God is our Father. What is it He wants? He wants a relationship with us. So therefore, if I want to know the mind of God, if I want to know His will about something, then what I want to do is I want to pursue my relationship with Him at some given point about this particular situation. Lord, I want You to speak to my heart. What do You want to say to me about You? What do You want me to know about You that has to do with all this?
You see, He's not interested in just dishing out information. He's interested in drawing us to Himself. He's interested in conforming us to His likeness. He's interested in building a relationship with us. So here's what I've discovered and am discovering, and that is simply this: if I want to know the mind of God about something, I don't have to make a big issue about what that is. What I want to do is focus on: Father, what do You want to say to me about my life? What is Your will and purpose and Your plan here? I want You to show me how to love You. Show me how to express my love and devotion to You. Show me how to walk in Your will. And you know what? It's very clear. The will of God and the purpose of God and the plan of God begins to unfold as I find myself being enriched in my relationship and deepened in my understanding of who He is. He doesn't keep secrets from His children, more than willing to show us.
And so what happens? Oftentimes we just come to Him and say, "Now Lord, here's the decision I have to make, and I need some direction here, what do You say, God"? And God's real silent. You know why? Because He's not an information center, He's not an operator sitting on the other end. God is a lover. He is the chief of all lovers and He loves us and He wants us for Himself. And the unfolding of His will for us is an expression of His love. And so therefore, God's not interested in handing out information with no relationship. And this is why people say, "Well, I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed and God hasn't said a thing". You know why? Because praying and praying and praying's not the issue. It's relationship.
Remember that. If I want to know God's mind and heart, I focus on the relationship, not on the particular issue that I'm after. The fourth thing is this. One of the ways that He reveals His will is through circumstances. Sometimes God closes a door. Sometimes He closes this door and opens this door. So, oftentimes, He will reveal His will and purpose and plan in a given situation for your life by opening a door or closing a door. Anytime, listen, anytime, watch this, anytime God closes a door, it's for your protection. Anytime He opens a door, it's an invitation. And sometimes you and I may run right up to a door that looks open to us and slam right in front of us, why? Heading in the wrong direction. Something about that appealed to us, it wasn't the will of God, and in His love, He slams the door. What is He doing? Protecting us from making a wrong decision.
So, somebody says, "Well, I would make a decision but I'm afraid". You don't have to be afraid. If you genuinely, with all of your heart, surrendered and yielded to Him, make a decision, and it's the wrong decision, listen, God will rescue you out of a wrong decision if your heart was committed to being obedient to God and, for some reason, out of inexperience or ignorance, you misread what the will of God was. You weren't trying to indulge yourself, you weren't trying to have your way. You really believed that was the will of God, it didn't seem to work out the way you expected it to. God, listen, if, listen, if God closes one door, He's got something better. All I have to do is to be responsible, to be obedient to what He says do and trust His reasoning is far greater than my understanding.
And so, it's so very important, I think, that you and I understand that. Well, of course, one of the things that you and I can depend upon to some degree is godly counsel. Sometimes you and I will talk with someone else, maybe not even bring up the issue at hand, and God will use that person to say something exactly what we needed to hear. And so, godly counsel is certainly one of God's ways of revealing and unfolding His will and purpose and plan for a particular area, or making a decision for us. Now, lot of other things I could say. Let me bring this to a close. How can I be sure? Ask myself seven questions. How can I be sure that I've heard what God has said? So if you just jot these down. Number one: Is what I believe I've heard consistent with the Word of God? Now, this is why it is so very important that you and I not only know verses, but we know the principles. Is this consistent with the Word of God? Second question I'd ask myself is this, and that is, listen: Is this a wise decision?
And you know, you and I, deep down inside, we know when a thing's wise and when it's not wise. And does He not say here in Ephesians, he says, "Be not foolish," but he says, "Be wise, be understanding what the will of God is". Is this decision a wise decision? The third thing is this. Can I confidently ask God to enable me to do this? If something is not the will of God, and I say, "Well, I have confidence, I'm gonna do that". Listen, the Spirit of God will bear witness with your spirit with static. There'll be conflict in your spirit. When you say, when I say, "Well, can I confidently ask God to enable me to do this"? Watch this, there is no way for me have any confidence to ask God to enable me to do something that's not His will. I won't have any confidence. I can try to muster it up all I want to. I'm not gonna have confidence to disobey God. I'm not gonna have assurance to disobey God.
The confidence comes in knowing the mind of God. And listen, if it's in keeping with Scripture, if it's in keeping with Scripture, if it's a wise decision, if I can confidently say, "God, You must enable me and I'm asking You to enable me to do this". Then the fourth question is this: Do I have the witness of the Spirit? Is the Spirit of God giving me a quiet sense of affirmation on the inside? Now, watch this, somebody says, "Well, as soon as I get peace, I'm gonna do it". You know what, sometime we can sorta think we've mustered up peace. Listen, you can't go by feeling. It must be the witness of the Spirit. You will know in your spirit when the Spirit of God has affirmed for you: This is the mind of God, this is the will of God. You are free to move in this direction.
The next one is this. I have to ask myself this question: If I believe this is the will of God, does this fit who I am as a child of God? Does this conduct, does this purchase, does this act, is this in keeping with the mind of God? Does this fit who I am? Does it fit who I am? Is it a violation of Scripture? Doesn't fit who I am. I'm coming back to illustrate that in a moment. The next question is this: Does this fit God's overall plan for my life? Somebody says, "Well, I don't know what God's overall plan for my life is". Well, listen, does it fit the Scripture? Does it fit who you are as a believer? Listen, if it fits who you are as a believer, it's gonna fit God's overall plan in your life. And then, we have to ask ourselves this question: In thinking about all of these things, will this honor God? If I do this, will this honor God? Now, you ask yourself those seven questions, you're gonna know whether it's of God or not.
Now, let me give you a couple of examples and I want to close. A lady came to me one day and she said, "I'm going to the mission field". I said, "Well, wonderful! Praise the Lord about that". I said, "And I know your family's all excited about that". She said, "No". I said, "What do you mean"? And she said, "I'm leaving my family and going to the mission field". I said, "Now wait a minute". She says, "I've asked the Lord to give me direction for my life and I know this is the will of God". I said, "Now, what's the will of God? You mean to tell me that you're leaving your husband and your children and you're going to the mission field in obedience to God"? "Yes, I am". I said, "No, you're not. You may go to the mission field, but you're not going to the mission field in obedience to God and walk away from your husband and your children because you want to be a missionary". "Well, I believe God called me years and years ago and I probably shouldn't have gotten married and had these kids". And I said, "Too late, ma'am. Don't sit here and tell me that God's called you to the mission field to leave your family".
God would never give you guidance to violate His Word. He's not gonna lead us to do anything that's gonna harm someone else. He may lead us to do something that causes someone else pain because they don't agree. But He's not ever gonna, listen, He's not ever gonna lead us to do something that violates the living Word of God. You ask yourself those seven questions and you will know whether you have heard from God, whether you have the will of God for your life or not. Now, God's a wonderful Father. He wants the best for us. He makes it simple. Now, I've strung this out a longways and told you a lot of things about it. Does that make it complicated? No. I'm simply saying: here are some things that you can consider in the major decisions of your life, in the minor decisions of your life.
And listen, what God wants us to do is to walk in His Spirit and it be such a natural, normal thing for us that we just sort of know what to do next because we are, listen, because we are walking in the Spirit, our mind and heart is committed to the will of God, and knowing the will of God oftentimes is very, very simple in most things in life. But then there are those tough things. And you know what, He is there to make it very clear. This much I know, it is the will of God for you to be saved. This much I know, it's the will of God for you to be baptized. It's the will of God for you to be a part of a local fellowship somewhere. And I know there are some people who live in different areas of the country where they live maybe many, many miles away from a church and can't get there every Sunday.
I do understand that there are those circumstances health-wise and so forth, but under normal conditions, it's His will for you to be a part of a local body of people who believe God's Word and love Him, love each other. It's the will of God that you walk in the Spirit. It's the will of God that you love each other. It's the will of God that you forgive. It's the will of God, listen, that you and I are growing in our faith toward Him. Lot of things I know are the will of God for your life. And I just want to say to you: if you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you ask Him to forgive you of your sin. Tell Him that you're putting your life in His hands, and that moment you've taken the most awesome step you can take because you will have just changed your whole eternal destiny in one commitment of obedience to Jesus Christ.