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Jack Graham - How Can I Know the Will of God?

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    Jack Graham - How Can I Know the Will of God?
TOPICS: Straight Up, God's will

I want to invite you to take God's Word and turn with me to Romans chapter 12. Then look up here. Our STRAIGHT UP questions and answers are very important, because they give us a biblical perspective, a world view, if you will, regarding the most important issues and answers of our times. The question that people are asking today is: What is my purpose and meaning for life in being here on earth? My friend Rick Warren wrote a book a number of years ago called The Purpose Driven Life. It became the most prolifically sold hardback nonfiction book in history, 22 million copies. Everywhere you went: airplanes, offices, school rooms, universities, people were reading The Purpose Driven Life. And it's because that's the question people are asking.

When I thought about this message, "How can I know the will of God?", can was thinking well, you know, that's not, you know, as exciting maybe as some of these other questions, or as controversial as some of these other questions that we've dealt as provocative as some of these questions may have been. But yet it is the question that we are asking. I can tell you as a pastor and our staff team could tell you this, over the years this is the number one question we get. "What is God's will? Can I know God's will? Does God have a purpose for me? What is the meaning of my life"? So this subject is so very, very important. How can I find value and significance beyond my success, and there's a great deal of success in our lives at many levels. And yet, success doesn't do it for us, because we're all in need of significance, knowing that there's a purpose and a meaning for this beyond any successes that we may have.

Humans are hardwired to believe in the transcendent; that is, something beyond us. This could be a desire for the Divine, it could be exoteric experiences that some people seek. Why? Because man is by nature as religious as much as he needs food to eat and air to breath, he needs a faith by which to live! Man is made for God! And therefore God has placed in us, baked into our DNA a desire to know our purpose! We need to know that there is something higher than ourselves-greater than ourselves! Our souls are imprinted with an instinct to know God! When God created man He breathed unto him life and the man became a living soul. And that goes right to the conscience and to the moral compass by which we live.

We all innately, instinctively have moral standards by which we live and make decisions. Why? Because God created us above the animals. We're not the product of an evolutionary scale. We are created in the image of God, to know and love Him! We are made for more than passion and plumbing! We are made to make a difference in the world! God has given you something called life! And this is your life! There is a first day, which we believe begins in the mother's womb, and there is a final day! And thousands of days in between, God willing. So from the womb to the tomb God has given us life, and beyond this life, a life to come, a destiny! God gives you a heritage; God gives you a history, and God gives you hopes that are within! It's life! And who in the world pushed the fast-forward button on life?

Billy Graham was once asked the question: What is your biggest surprise in life? And in his own indomitable style he said, "The brevity of it"! He can say anything and it sounds great! "Pepsi Cola"! He sounds great. And life is speeding by so quickly, isn't it? Like somebody pushed the fast-forward on your DVR and it's just spinning by! And if you're not careful you can miss God's perfect plan and God's will for your life. When I was playing college baseball and all baseball players learn this, if you're a hitter, you learn this: whether you're up in the count, down in the count, don't miss your pitch! Wait on your pitch and when you get it, don't be late but lay the bat head out and swing with everything you've got. Don't miss your pitch! And so I'm saying to you today: This is your life! Don't miss God's best for your life! God has a master plan for your life and that's what we want to talk about today.

So unfortunately so many people live their lives just punching in and out of the clock and they never ask "Why"? "What is my life to be about"? You want to live in such a way that the world is glad and Satan is mad. In fact, when you die all of hell ought to say, "Whew, glad that's over with"! Because you're making such a difference for Christ! God wants to use you for His glory! To honor Him! To magnify the name of Jesus! That you would have a passion, not just to make a living but to make a life, to change the world! That is significance! That is the master plan that God has for us! Regardless of what we end up doing. There's a lot of emphasis on the will of God in the details: "What am I going to do? Where am I going live? Who am I going to marry"? You know, "Am I going to get well? Am I going to get sick"? In all of these I'm not minimizing these questions, these are big questions, that certainly God is concerned about, God has a plan for all of these things. But the bigger question: "What am I going to do with my life? Am I going to love God? Am I going to honor God"?

It's not so much, you know, my location or my vocation, whether I'm a butcher, baker, candlestick maker; whether I'm a pastor, an educator or a homemaker. Whatever I do is to be a platform for the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ! That is significance! And that's what the will of God is about, and therefore, to know it, we need to know what the Scripture says, so look at verses 1 and 2 of Romans 12: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship". That can be translated your rational service. It is the right thing, the rational thing, the spiritual thing to do, to offer your life in worship and service to God. "Therefore do not be conformed to this world", I like the way Phillips gives this in His paraphrase, "Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold". Don't be conformed to the world, "but be transformed", and this is how you know the will of God, "by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect".

How do we make the big decisions as well as the little ones? How do we make choices that forge our character because character is really the sum total of the decisions that we make in life. That's your character. Well, according to the Word of God, we should always remember first and foremost, that God has a will for your life and He does want you to know it. You're not here by fate or fortune; it's not all about the luck, you know. Christians aren't into luck. Things don't just happen! The Lord is in control. He makes things happen! The Bible is filled with promises and precepts and possibilities regarding God's will. For example, the Bible here talks about God's perfect will which "is good, perfect, and acceptable". A blueprint. God gives a blueprint for every believer! And we pray that every plan is His plan, the Master's plan. That your life is God's plan, fulfilled! That's His perfect will!

And God who is good always wants to accomplish His best with those who belong to Him, that we would live pleasing to Him. But then you can talk about the permissive will of God. Because it's possible to miss God's will. Possible to be out of God's will. It's possible to choose to obey God or disobey God, to walk in His steps or to walk outside of His will for our lives! So God in His sovereignty, He's still in control, He's still on His throne, but He may not be on the throne of your life! You may have stepped into His stead. You may be calling the shots and that, therefore, moves you outside of the will of God, and you've made some bad decisions, and bad choices. But even in this, God uses these bad decisions to bring us back to Him, to teach us what we need to know. Maybe to break us!

I was speaking to Governor Rick Perry earlier regarding his personal faith, how he came to know Christ, and he shared with me about coming to Christ as a young man, and then he said, "After the Air Force," he said, "I wasn't walking with God. I was outside of God's will for my life. And it was a bad time in my life. It was a breaking experience in my life"! And he came back to the Lord. God got him back on track with his life. And God will do that for you! You don't have to live on plan B or plan C for the rest of your days. You can come back to honor God and He will get you. Sometimes we feel if we miss the will of God that we can't ever get back with Him! Yes, you can! God's in control of your life! You can't change the past! The past is passed! But God has a future for you!

Jeremiah 29:11 "I know the plans that I have for you; plans not to harm you, but plans for your welfare to prosper you, to give you a future and a hope"! So there is the perfect will of God; there's the permissive will of God; but ultimately there is the prevailing will of God! Many are plans of man but the Lord knows them all! The Lord is in control of our lives! Psalm 32, verse 8 says, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will guide you with My eye". The child of God ought to be so sensitive to the eye of God. He says don't be stubborn like the mule but look to My eye. Hebrews 12:2, "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith".

God gave Deb and I in these forty years three wonderful children and they grew up in church. In fact, we all grew up in church. And sometimes the children when they were little, they all walk with the Lord, they're all members here at our church and serving the Lord. Sometimes when kids are in church, you know, they may misbehave, so I would always watch our kids. And I wasn't particularly hard on them but I did want them to listen up and I did want them to behave. And you know sometimes they didn't? "Why do those preacher's kids always mess up"! It's because they're hanging out with the deacon's kids! That's why! But our children knew that if I was preaching, let's say, and they were being disruptive or disobeying in some way, they would get what is affectionately now known as "the look". And, you know, the look could initially be just a glance, you know, just a glance, "can see you", and hopefully things would get back in order. But if it didn't, the look turned in to a longer look, and then a stare, and then a frown. And that means "Wait till you get home"! I would guide them with my eye.

Now if they were responsible, just the first little glance, it was over. But maybe other discipline came if they weren't responsive. And so we are to be so sensitive to the will of God, God's ways in our lives, God's plans for us, that we would obey Him and honor Him; that we are led by a look. Proverbs 3:6 "In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path". No, we're not left to fate or the fortuitous conjunction of circumstances. Overwhelming evidence in God's Word and in life's experience teach us that God does have a plan for every one of His children.

Acts 22, verse 14: "The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will and see the Just One and hear the voice of His mouth". So yes, God has a will for your life. He wants you to know it. He's not playing hide and seek. This isn't some cosmic Easter egg hunt. You know, "you're getting warmer". No! He wants you to know His will more than you want to know it! Psalm 37:4, "If you delight yourself in the Lord He will give you the desires of your heart". Don't be afraid of the will of God. God would choose for you what you would choose for yourself if you had sense enough to choose it. God always leaves His best to those who leave the choice with Him! It doesn't mean that God's will is always easy. Sometimes God's will may be even dangerous.

Ask Jim Elliott, a martyred missionary who died for his faith, taking the Gospel to South America. But he wrote in his journal, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose". No, the will of God is always best. It's not always easy, but it's always perfect, it's always good, it is always acceptable! And please, therefore, don't wait until all else fails to try God's will! Matthew 6:33: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things will be added unto you"! And, oh, by the way, the will of God is not just for young adults or teenagers pondering careers or calling in their life. The will of God is for every season in life. Whatever your stage or age in life, God has a will for your life. He wants you to know it.

The psalmist said, Psalm 40:8: "I desire to do Your will, O my God!" Make that your daily prayer; make that the prayer of your life. "I desire to do Your will, O God". And as Martin Luther said, if you will do that, Luther put it this way, "Love God and do what you want to do". For you see, if you love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, if you desire above all else the plan and the purpose of God in your life, He's going to lead you. I look back on our lives together as a couple and as the Scripture says Genesis 24:7, "I, being in the Lord's way, He led me". You look back on God's will and you see how He adjusted things and moved things around and worked in you and on you and around you to make it happen.

You know, people talk about "Oh, I found the will of God". You don't so much find the will of God as God's will finds you. And may God's will find us faithful. God has a will for your life and He wants you to know it. And so the way to know God's will, I could talk about a lot of details, and we've done this in other messages and talk about God's Word, the Scriptures, how God guides us through His Word. Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path". We talk about spiritual counsel, godly counsel, people who know God's Word and can help you along. We talk about prayer, of course. How dare we make a decision and, sometimes people walk up to me and ask me a question, "Should I do this and that"? And I say, "Have you prayed about that"? "Well, not really". I'm thinking, "Why would you ask me when you haven't even asked God"? You know, to pray about the will of God. The intuitive, instinctive spiritual leadership.

Romans 8:14, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God". We could talk about all of that. But the ultimate principle, okay, is surrender. It's not six secrets to finding God's will, or ten formulas. If you will do what the Scripture says, Romans 12:1, "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God". What are these mercies of God? All that God has done for us, starting with His cross and His resurrection. These are the mercies of God. Because of what He has done for us, He says, "I beg you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice". Say, "Lord, here I am. I will serve You for the rest of my days".

When I was a young man in my teenage years I believed God was calling me to preach. I went forward in our church, the Sagimore Hill Baptist Church in east Fort Worth, Texas, and told our student minister who was standing there in the aisle that I believed God was calling me to preach. And I said, "can not resisting that. I just want to know what God wants me to do. And so if He's not calling me He'd better tell me because I'm right there"! He said, "Jack, you go home, you live your life in Eastern Hills High School, on your baseball team, in your classroom. You so live for Christ everyday. Win your friends to Christ, that when He does call you and shows you what He wants you to do, you'll be ready". That was good advice. It's the advice that I've given people through the years. I do remember walking out to our practice field at Eastern Hills High School one evening after church and I was particularly moved to follow the will of God for my life, to find, follow and fulfill God's will, because it's not just knowing but doing the will of God that counts.

So I wanted to know and I wanted to do it. And I remember getting out at my position, second base and that starlit summer night, and I just stood before the Lord and surrendered my life to Him. I said, "Lord, You have all of me". I wanted to play baseball as long as I could. Have since I was a little bitty boy. And so here I was at that place that I loved the most, saying, "Lord, I want to do what You want me to do, not what I want to do". I remember getting down on my knees and ultimately stretching out on my face before God and surrendering and making myself a living sacrifice to God. Now the problem with a living sacrifice like me and you is living sacrifices often crawl off the altar. And I will tell you there have been many other times that I've had to crawl back on the altar and reaffirm and reassess and refuel for life. But I can tell you from the days of my youth, finding, following, fulfilling God's will for my life has been the most exciting adventure; to know His meaning, to know His purpose and plans for my life is just incredible! And it is the only way to live.

Now again, I'm not talking about you being a preacher or even a missionary. God may call you to do that. But whatever you are doing, wherever you are living that you would accomplish God's purpose for your life. And if you don't know Christ, here's what I know about the will of God for sure. The Scripture says, "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance". God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. Sin has separated you from that perfect plan. But Jesus died on the cross for your sin and rose again to make the way possible. He is the way-maker, the life-changer. And if you will turn from your sin by repenting and receiving Jesus as your Lord and Savior, trusting in Christ and Christ only as your Lord and Savior, He will come into your life, He will forgive your sins: past, present and future. He will live in you to accomplish His will, His purpose in you, and your destiny will be secured! You know that there is a future and hope of Him forever and ever and ever.
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