Robert Jeffress - Discovering Gods Will - Part 1
Hi, I am Robert Jeffress, welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Every day we're faced with a thousand different decisions ranging from what to wear, to where to move. So how do we make personal decisions that are in alignment with God's will? Today we're beginning a practical new study in which I'll teach you how to listen for God's direction in every decision you make. My message is titled: Discovering God's Will, on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
I know a pastor who says, if you want to guarantee a large crowd when you preach, just announce that you're going to preach on any one of these topics. Sex, the end times, or will there be sex in the end times? Always a crowd pleaser. But there's also a fourth topic that always generates interest, and that's the subject of discovering God's will for your life. It was the late Joe Bailey who wrote, if there is a serious concern among Christians today it is for guidance. Holiness may have been the passion of another generation of Christian young men and women, or soul winning, or evangelizing the world in their generation, but not today.
Today, the theme is getting to know the will of God. I've discovered that in my own ministry. I sometimes ask our tape ministry through the years what are the tapes that generate the most interest and always family, finances, but at the top of the list are any messages about how to know God's will for your life. Why is that? Why are Christians so interested in this topic? I want to suggest to you today three reasons for interest in this topic. First of all, it's only natural that Christians would want to know God's will for their life. You know, in John 4, verse 34, Jesus said: my food, that is my substance, is to know the will of God of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
Jesus said, the reason I exist is to know God's will and to accomplish his purpose. Shouldn't that be our goal as well? Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:9, therefore we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to him. It's natural that those of us who are children of God would want to know what God's desire is for every area of our life. Second, I think there is renewed interest in this topic because it's a challenging topic, to know God's will for your life, especially in the age in which we live that is filled with options.
I love the story about the newspaper reporter who was doing a story on the citrus industry in Florida. And so he went to this plant and he watched as a workman at the bottom of a conveyor belt would take the oranges as they would come off that conveyor belt and start to sort them. The big oranges had placed in one hole, smaller oranges in a second hole, the bruised oranges in a third hole, and the reporter watched as he did this over and over and over again, and he thought to himself how does this guy stand at this monotonous job all day long? So he went up to the orange worker and he said, boy, this is some job, how do you do it? And the orange worker said, oh, you don't know the half of it. From the time I check in the morning until the time I go home at night. It's the same thing. Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Well, you know, we all face decisions in life but most of them are much more complicated than which orange to put in which hole. Now just think about it. Think about all the options that we have. It wasn't that long ago that if you wanted to choose a long distance Carrier, you had one choice. AT&T, you didn't have to decide which one you're going to choose. Today, you have dozens of choices. When I'm talking to students, they can't believe this, but I say when I was growing up, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, if you wanted to watch television here in Dallas you had four choices. Remember that? You had the three network affiliates and an independent station, that was it. Today, if you want to watch television, you have hundreds of choices with cable and with satellite television.
A hundred years ago, if you wanted to order an automobile, Henry Ford gave you one choice, the Model T in basic black. But I read somewhere that today between all of the makes and models and options available on cars did you know there are 25 million different combinations of what you can order in an automobile? And those options that we have extend to every area of our life. We face numerous choices like no other generation in where we can live, or what vocation we can choose, or what school to attend, or thanks to eHarmony, whom to date or whom to marry. Lots of choices out there, and that's why as never before Christians need to know how to discover God's direction for their lives.
I think a third reason for this series and renewed interest in this topic is because knowing God's will is also a complicated issue. Quite frankly, the reason I'm addressing this topic is not because nobody's ever spoken on it before but so many people are speaking on this topic with so many contradictory ways to discover God's will for your life. Go to a Christian bookstore or listen to some of the best known speakers in America today. They're all addressing this topic but they give you different ways to discover God's will. For example, there's what I call the formulaic approach. That says there's a formula for knowing God's will. It's kind of like a checklist that a pilot uses before he takes off. You have to check everything off. You know God's word, check, prayer, check, wise counselors, check, and then if all of them line up and agree you can know that particular decision is God's will.
Now, the problem with the formulaic approach is what happens if all of those ingredients don't say the same thing? What if, for example, you pray about a particular decision you feel like God's leading you one way, but then you go to a wise counselor who says, boy, that'd be a big mistake. You shouldn't do that. Which do you give more weight to? What you feel like God's leading you through prayer or what wise counsel is saying to you? A second way some people try to discover God's will is through the experiential method. They'll say, well, when Moses was trying to listen to God he didn't have a checklist. He just got to know God intimately, and God led him and they say if you'll just simply get to know God, experience God, then you don't have to worry about knowing his will. You'll just know automatically what to do.
And then some people use the rational approach to discover God's will. They say God doesn't have a particular will for every little detail of your life. What he's interested in is you're making wise decisions. So wise decision making is the key to knowing God's will. And yet above all of this chaos and confusion about God's will, Jesus has this very simple promise which is going to be the foundation of our series. It's found in John 10, verse 27, Jesus said, my sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.
Will you notice what Jesus is promising in that short verse? First of all, he says, God's voice is audible. God has a voice. He is speaking as Francis Schaeffer said. He is there and he is not silent. God's voice is audible. Secondly, Jesus says, God's voice is discernible. That is, you can actually distinguish God's voice. You can hear it. Of course he says a condition for hearing from God is first of all belonging to God. The only people who have the promise of hearing from God are those who belong to God through Jesus Christ, those who are truly his sheep. And then thirdly, Jesus says, God's voice is directional. It's leading us someplace. When God speaks to us, he does so more than just to give us courage and comfort to face our present situation. He actually promises guidance, direction to those who trust in him.
Now today as we begin this series together, I want to start with just three very simple and biblical presuppositions about God's will that we have to understand before we can ever hope to hear from God. I want you to write them down on your outlines. First of all, we must desire to obey God's will. If we ever hope to hear from God we must have a desire to obey the will of God. Now, listen to me this morning. It's not enough just to want to know God's will. We can't say, God, show me your will so that I can decide whether or not I want to obey it. God doesn't work that way. He only reveals his will to those who truly want to know his will.
In John 6:38, Jesus said, for I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me. Jesus said, the consuming passion of his life, John 4:34, was to do the will of God of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Let me ask you this morning, is that true of you? Is your overriding passion in life to obey God's will? When you roll out of bed in the morning is your first thought, how would God have me spend my time today? Or when you face a difficult decision or a thorny dilemma, is the first thing you ask yourself is what would God have me do in this situation? What is his will in this decision?
I want to take a poll this morning. How many atheists do we have here in the sanctuary? Would you raise your hand? How many atheists? Not many, not many. Fact is there are very few theological atheists left in the world. We are not theological atheists, but I submit to you today most of us live our lives as practical atheists. We live our lives, we formulate our plans, we expend our resources as if there were no God in heaven. We do what we want to do. We solve our dilemmas like we want to solve them without any thought of God whatsoever. We live as practical atheist. But ladies and gentlemen, there is a God in heaven. And that God in heaven has a plan for your life. And he promises to reveal that plan to those who truly want to know it.
Let me give you a great illustration from the Old Testament. This is the story of the beginning of Solomon's reign over Israel. Remember Solomon was the son of David? And Solomon knew he had some pretty big shoes to fill. He was only 19 years of age when he became king. And so realizing the challenge that was before him, at the beginning of his reign he went to a little village called Gibeon and there he met with God. And I want you to notice what happened in Gibeon in verse five of 1 Kings chapter three, the Lord appeared to Solomon and said, ask what you wish and I will give it to you. He said to Solomon, you can ask for anything and I will give it to you.
Now, think about this. If God came to most 19 year old boys and said ask whatever you want and I'll give it to you. What would most 19 year old boys ask for? Latest model chariot? Closet full of designer tunics? The hottest girlfriend in all of Israel? That's what most would ask for, not Solomon. Look at verse nine. He said, "So give thy servant an understanding heart". That word understanding in Hebrew means a hearing heart. He said, "God, more than anything I want to be able to hear from you. I want to know your will. I need your direction because this task is too big for me". 1 Samuel 3-10 said, when Solomon asked for that it was pleasing in the sight of God. And we find not only did God grant Solomon the wisdom that he wanted, but he gave him the chariots and the tunics and more girlfriends than he knew what to do with.
See, the point is God answers the prayers of those who ask for wisdom in life. And the same is true with us. God is not trying to withhold direction. He will honor, he will direct us if we truly have this desire to obey him. Listen to some of these promises that you find in scripture about God's promise of direction. Jot it down, Proverbs 3:5-6, trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight. Or Matthew 7:7, the Lord said, ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be open to you. Or James 1:5, if any one of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it shall be given to him.
God promises to reveal his will if we are intent on obeying it. But exactly how does God do that? How does God speak to Christians today? Before I answer that question, I think at the outset we need to define some terms here. When we talk about the will of God what do we mean by the will of God? As I search both through the old and the New Testaments I find that this phrase, the will of God is used in three distinct ways. First of all, sometimes the phrase the will of God refers to God's providential will. His providential will. God's providential will is that secret plan by which he governs everything that happens in the universe. His providential will is his secret plan that governs everything that happens in the universe.
Turn over to Ephesians chapter one, verse nine. Here is a great illustration of God's providential will. The mysterious will that governs everything that happens. In Ephesians 1:9, Paul says, he God made known to us the mystery of his will according to his kind intention which he purposed in him. In other words, Paul is saying before the foundation of the world, God's plan was to send Christ to die for us but just in later times, latter times, as he made known to us this mystery that was a part of his plan from the beginning.
By the way, will you notice two things about God's providential will? Verse nine? First of all, there's only one of them. This word will is not plural, is it? It's singular. God doesn't have multiple wills. He has a will, singular. Now, we're going to get into this more in this series but contrary to what you've heard in the past there are no two wills of God. God doesn't have what some people call a perfect will and then a permissive will. Have you ever heard that before? Well, this is God's perfect will but this is God's permissive will.
You ask me, well, what do you mean by that? They say, well God's perfect will is what he wishes really would happen, but God's permissive will is what actually happens when God can't pull off his perfect will. Now, do you believe in a God like that? Do you even believe in a God who has to settle for second best? A God who is so impotent he can't get his purpose achieved? The fact is God has one will, one plan that was formulated before the foundation of the world, and by the way, God's plan was big enough that it encompassed the fall of Satan from heaven. It included the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. It included Israel's disobedience in the wilderness. It even included the torture and crucifixion of God's own Son.
God has a plan, by which he's governing everything that happens in the universe. And notice what Paul says. For the most part, it's a mystery. It's hidden, it's hidden. You can't know it. I would say in this broad category of God's providential plan would be such questions as the origin of evil or the reasons for suffering or predestination in election. All of those things we can sit around and theorize about and argue about and fight about. The truth is none of us will understand it, because it's a mystery. It's in the mind of God.
The secret things belong to the Lord, the scripture says. That's God's providential plan. But on the other end of the spectrum, is God's preceptive plan, number two. His preceptive plan. And that's the part of God's will that can be clearly understood by everyone from the precepts, the teachings that are found in scripture.
Do you realize that most of what we need to know about God's will has already been revealed in the scripture? Even many of the specific things we want to know about are already revealed in scripture. For example, in 1 Thessalonians chapter four, Paul says, for this is the will of God. Somebody walking around saying and Thessalonica, "Oh God, show me your will. I want to know your will". Paul said, "Okay, Thessalonians, here is the will of God for your life, your sanctification. That is that you abstain from sexual immorality. It's very clear, God wants you to abstain from premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexual sex, pornography. That's God's will for you to abstain completely from those things. It's right there in scripture".
Or maybe somebody comes to you and it may be a business partner. It may be a son or daughter who says, mom, dad, friend, I'm trying to get on my feet financially. I've just gone through crown financial program and I'm ready to get on my feet financially but I need some help. I need some money, and the bank says they won't loan me any money unless you co-sign this loan for me. Do you need to pray about that? You don't have to pray about that because God already has said what his will is about anybody co-signing a note. In Proverbs 17:18, it says a man lacking in sense pledges and become surety in the presence of his neighbor. Don't co-sign a loan for somebody. If you want to give him the money, fine, don't co-sign a note for them.
As a pastor, I have people all the time coming and saying, oh, pastor, I'm so excited. God has done such a great work in my life. I've been praying for a mate and God has brought that perfect guy, that perfect girl into my life. Would you please pray for our coming marriage? I said, I'll be happy to, but tell me, when did that person come to know Christ as his Savior? They kind of bow, well, they're not quite there yet. But I just know if we got married or we started dating I just know I could have a great influence on them.
I always say the same thing. I say, I'm not going to pray for you. You're not going to pray for me? You're a pastor, aren't you paid to do that? No, I'm not going to pray for your relationship because I know it's not God's will for you to get married. Well, how do you know that? Because the Bible already says it in 2 Corinthians 6:14. Do not be bound together with unbelievers for what partnership has righteousness and lawlessness or what fellowship has light with darkness? I don't care how much you pray about it, I don't care how much you feel the Lord's leading. It is never God's will for you to marry an unbeliever. He's already revealed that in scripture.
God's perceptive will is that part of God's will that has clearly been defined in scripture. But the third use of the term God's will is the term that most people use it, the way most people use it, and that's in reference to God's personal plan for my life. When we talk about knowing or discovering God's will, most of the time we're talking about God's personal plan for my life. Of course, I guess we ought to answer the question does such a plan exists? Does God have a blueprint that governs every part of your life, even the smallest details of your life?
Some years ago, Gary Friesen, a professor at Dallas theological seminary wrote a book entitled "Decision-Making And The Will Of God". And there are many helpful things in that book, but Gary Friesen argued that, yes, God has a providential will, a secret will that governs everything. He has a perceptive or what Friesen calls a moral will, but Friesen postulates that there is no individual blueprint for your life. He uses logic, he said, do we really think God cares what color socks we put on this morning, or what color dress we choose, or whether we order chicken or beef for lunch? I mean, what do we really think God has a plan that governs all of those things? He says, God, there is no blueprint, that we need to learn to make wise decisions.