Robert Jeffress - Know God's Will By Knowing Yours
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. In our series on discovering God's will, we've identified two practical steps. First, to discover God's will for your life look upward to God in his word. Second, look outward at your counselors and your circumstances. And today we're going to talk about a third step, one that's going to surprise you. The Bible says we need to look inward to identify your personal desires. My message is titled, "Knowing God's Will By Knowing Yours" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
A few years ago, a friend of mine asked me perhaps the most penetrating question I've ever heard. He said, "What would you choose to do with the rest of your life, if you had all of the time, money, and education necessary, and you knew you would not fail"? I want you to think about that in terms of your own life for a moment. What would you choose to do with the rest of your life if you had all of the time, money, and education necessary, and you knew whatever you did, you would not fail? Your answer to that question, perhaps more than anything else could be the best way to know God's will for your life.
In our series on discovering God's will for our life, we've been talking about the various ways that God communicates his plan to us. Certainly, God speaks through the scripture, much of what we need to know about God's will is already revealed. We talk about the way that God speaks to us through prayer, prayer is not just talking to God, it's listening to God as well, and sometimes in some mysterious ways he speaks to us through prayer. We saw that occasionally God will use circumstances, even supernatural Revelation to speak to us about his plan for us. Last time we looked at the role that other people play in communicating God's will for our lives, authority figures, counselors. But today we're going to look at perhaps the most overlooked method by which God speaks to us, and that is through our desires.
Today we're going to discover that perhaps the best way to discovering God's will is by discovering your will. We're going to talk about some biblical principles about using desires to discover God's will, but I think at the outset we need to look and see what the Bible says about our desires. And so for just a few minutes on your outline we're going to do just a brief biblical theology of what the Bible says about our desires. Now, somebody would say, "Well, Robert, aren't our desires evil"? Well, that's true, the Bible says, first of all, our desires have been corrupted by sin, our desires have been corrupted by sin.
Perhaps the best diagnosis of the condition of your heart and my heart came from a man who lived 2,000 years ago, his name was the apostle Paul and turn over to Romans chapter three as he gives us an x-ray of the condition of the human heart. And by the way, the results are not encouraging. In Romans chapter three verses 10 through 12 Paul is quoting Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, and look at what he says, Paul writes, "For there is none righteous, not even one: there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God: all have turned aside, together they have become useless: there is none who does good, there is not even one". Pretty depressing, isn't it?
When I was growing up I remember one of our family rituals, especially during the summertime, was making homemade ice cream. You can probably tell by now ice cream was a real big part of our family life, and we would make homemade ice cream several times a week and how many of you have made homemade ice cream before? You know what you do, you mix up that wonderful mixture of eggs and cream and sugar and you put it in that steel container and you place it into that container, and you fill it with ice and you either crank the container or if you were upper or middle class you had an electric motor that would turn the container for you, but you would watch that whiz around in the packed ice, but there was one ingredient you had to add. You had to add the salt, the rock salt, in order to make the ice melt more quickly and freeze the ice cream.
Now every maker of homemade ice cream knows that the one danger you have to be on guard against is allowing any of that salt into that container, because it would just take a little bit of salt just perhaps one grain of that rock salt to contaminate the entire batch of ice cream. I doubt Paul ever made any homemade ice cream but what he did use was this image, he said, "It takes just a little bit of levain to levain the whole lump of dough". It only takes a little bit of sin in our lives to contaminate every part of our lives, and that's what he's talking about here in Romans three. He says, "Every part of our life, including our desires, have been corrupted by sin".
Now, that's the bad news, here's the good news. Our desires can be transformed by the power of God, our desires can be transformed by the power of God. Simply put, corrupt desires don't have to remain corrupt. Turn over to Romans chapter eight for just a moment, let's look at that passage we read just a moment ago. Romans eight, beginning with verse six. Paul says, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind that is set on the spirit is life and peace, but the mindset on the flesh is hostile toward God: it does not subject itself to the law of God, it's not even able to do so: and those who are in the flesh can please God".
The flesh represents that part of our life that is opposed to the will of God, and the Bible says we have the flesh, we have these evil desires we're born with. But when we become a Christian, God places a new set of desires in our life, the spiritual desires. And there's this constant battle going on between the flesh and the spirit, the spirit and the flesh, now look at verse nine, "However, you are not in the flesh but in the spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone doesn't have the spirit, he does not belong to him". What Paul is saying is, before you became a Christian you had no choice but to obey the desires of the flesh, but those desires have been transformed when you became a Christian, there is a new set of desires, spiritual desires, inside of you. Your desires can be transformed.
Now, here's where it gets interesting, number three, God can direct our lives through our transformed desires. When we say that God directs us through our desires, we're talking about those new desires that he places in our heart. Why can we rely on desires? Because they are transformed by the Spirit of God. I want you to turn over to Philippians chapter two for a moment. I want you to look at two verses we looked at last fall in our study of Philippians, but we're going to look at them in just a little bit different way today. Philippians two, verse 12. Paul writes, "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling".
And remember we said Paul used the word work out, he didn't say work for your salvation. There's nothing we can do to earn salvation, it is a gift of God. He doesn't say, "Work for your salvation," but he does say, "Work out your salvation". That word work out refers to the working of a field so that it can yield the greatest possible result for a farmer. Plowing it, sowing it with seed, making sure the underbrush is cleared. It takes hard work to work a field, and Paul says in the same way it takes effort, effort, hard work, to live as a Christian. Not to become a Christian, that's free it's a gift of God, but living as a Christian requires a lot of discipline.
It means setting your alarm clock early in the morning, getting some blanket victory so you can get out of bed and read God's word. It means staying up a little bit later than you would choose to so you can spend time praying. It means saying no to that desire to do something you know is absolutely against God's will for your life. He says, "Work it out, work out your salvation with fear and trembling". But if that exhausts you to even think about here's some good news, verse 13, "For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure". That is, while you're working out your spiritual maturity God is working in your life and he's doing two things. I like the way the Phillips paraphrase says it, it says, "For God is at work within you, giving you both the desire and the power to accomplish his purpose".
Now, again, there are all kind of warnings we need to give about this, so how can I know if my desires are really coming from God? I want to share with you today five practical but more importantly biblical principles for using our desires to discern the will of God. First of all, if you're going to use your desires to discover God's will for your life, first of all, we need to discover what our desires are. If we're going to use desires to discover God's will, we need to discover what our desires are. And I'm not talking about spending hours contemplating your navel, okay, I'm not talking about that kind of introspection: but I am saying there is something healthy about understanding who you are and the way God made you, and specifically about discovering what you really want in life.
Now, turn over to Romans chapter 12, verse three. Paul is getting ready to talk about spiritual gifts to the Roman Christians, but notice how he prefaces his remarks about spiritual gifts. In Romans 12, verse three he says, "For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you, don't think more highly of himself than he ought to think but think so as to have sound judgment as God has allotted to each a measure of faith". And then right after that Paul begins discussing spiritual gifts.
Did you know that when you became a Christian God gave you a unique gift, a certain desire and a certain power to minister in his name, and he talks about the different gifts, prophecy, service, giving, teaching, and so forth. You'll never find real fulfillment in your life until you discover what your gift is, and you start using it in the body of Christ. But Paul says in verse three, "Before you know what your gift is you need to think of yourself so as to have sound judgment". He says, in other words, "Evaluate yourself properly".
Don't think more highly of yourself than you think, should think, but he says, do understand yourself. And I would say it's the same thing when it comes to using our desires to determine God's will, we need to do a little bit of introspection and see exactly what desires God has placed in our hearts. We've got to discover what our desires are. Secondly, our desires must be consistent with scripture. If we're going to use desires to determine God's will for our life, they always must be consistent with scripture. God is never going to give you a desire to leave your mate, to engage in an extramarital or premarital relationship, he's never going to give you a desire to disobey God ordained authority, he's never going to plant a desire in your heart to engage in an illegal activity. All of our desires have to be checked against scripture.
Number three, our desires should be checked by common sense. Our desires need to be checked or measured against common sense. Proverbs four verse five says, "Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding". Let's suppose for a moment that you have a desire to start a new business, a new computer software business and you search through the Bible and there's nothing against starting a computer software business in there, so you check that off. How can you know if this desire is really coming from God? Well, you need to get wisdom, the Bible says, you need to get understanding.
For example, you need to ask yourself, "If I start this business, how will I provide financially for my family during the startup phase? After all, God wants me to take care of my family. What are my chances of success in this business? Do I have the temperament necessary to be a successful business person? As I talk to other people who are in this business, what do they say are my chances of success? What is it that will make my business unique among all the other software businesses out there"?
You say, "Well, Robert, why would you ask those kind of questions if you feel God is leading you to do something"? Very simple, usually God will not ask you to do something that violates common sense. Most of the time, God is not going to lead you to do something that violates common sense, that's why Proverbs says, "Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding". As we said a few weeks ago, obviously there are some exceptions to that. Sometimes God does ask us to do things that doesn't make sense, usually God is going to lead you in things that make sense. Desires should be checked by common sense.
Number four, and this is key, star this. The reliability of our desires is proportionate to our spiritual health. The reliability of using our desires to know God's will is directly proportionate to our spiritual health. Let me illustrate that for you. When I go to have my annual physical, the nurse wants to know, before she ever draws any blood she wants to know, do I have a virus? Do I have a fever? Because she knows that any test results can be skewed if I am physically sick.
Now, it's the same way in our spiritual life. The only way we can know whether our desires are trustworthy indicators of God's will, is to know whether we're spiritually well or we're spiritually sick. godly desires do not flow out of an ungodly heart, that's just a principle in scripture. In fact, Jesus said something very similar to that in Matthew chapter 12, verses 34 and 35. Look at what the Lord said, he said, "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth that which is good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil".
Jesus said, our words are a good indicator of the condition of our spiritual heart. If evil words flow out of our mouth that means we have an evil heart, an evil heart produces evil words. And the same way an ungodly heart will generate in us ungodly desires. Many, many years ago I was in ministry and even though I was having what people would consider outwardly a successful ministry, inside I was deteriorating spiritually. My relationship with God was not what it should be, I wasn't reading my Bible, I wasn't praying, and it was during that period of time that out of nowhere I got this desire to do something else with my life. Maybe not full-time but part-time, on the side, while I was in the ministry.
And so I started reading books about this particular vocation, went to a couple of seminars, started dabbling in it and began to experience some success in this particular area. I had a desire to do this, but it was a desire that was flowing out of a spiritually sick heart, and only when I got right with the Lord and my relationship became what it should be with the Lord, as soon as that happened those desires evaporated completely. And never since that time, the last 20 years, have I ever had any desire to even think about doing that full-time or even part-time. You see, godly desires only come out of a heart that is spiritually well.
Well, how do we make sure that our heart is spiritually in tune with God? Turn back to Philippians chapter two for just a moment. Philippians chapter two, "For it is God who is at work in you". The word work is the word that we get energized, it is God who is energizing you both to will and to work his good pleasure. David Jeremiah uses the illustration of a toaster. He says, "Before a toaster can function properly it has to be plugged into the outlet, and only when it's plugged into the outlet can the power flow through that electrical cord to heat those nichRome wires in the toaster".
In the same way, before God's power and desires can flow into our life, we have to be plugged into God's power. That happens when we become a Christian, we receive that generator, he's a person called the Holy Spirit. But for the Holy Spirit's power to come into our life, that power has to flow through two power lines or two channels or two conductors. We talked about those, we said conductor number one is the Word of God. God's desires and his power flow into our life through his word, that's why reading scripture is so important, it has a way of making God's power and desires our own. Listen to one Thessalonians two 13, "And for this reason we also constantly thank God when you received from us the Word of God's message, for you accepted it not just as the word of men but for what it really is, the Word of God, which performs its work in those of you who believe".
Folks, in some mysterious ways, when we read the Bible the Bible actually does a work in our heart. It transforms our hearts, it is a conductor, a channel through which God's desires become our desires. The second conductor through which God's power flows into our life is of course prayer. Romans chapter eight, verses 26 to 27, "And in the same way the spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we should but the spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words". God's word, prayer flow into our hearts in such a way that our desires and God's desires become one river that you can't distinguish. As God's word flows into our life, our desires flow out. His desires become our desires and our desires become his desires.
Principle number five, and perhaps the most important. Our desires are subject to God's sovereign plan, our desires are subject to God's sovereign plan. Sometimes the desires we have may correspond to scripture, they may make good sense, they may follow the council of other people, and yet as good as our desires are they are in conflict with God's specific plan for us. Consider the example of king David, turn over to First Kings chapter eight, verse 17. These were actually Solomon's words about his father, David.
First Kings chapter eight, verse 17, Solomon said, "Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. But the Lord said to my father, David, 'because it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart. Nevertheless,' God said, '...You shall not build the house but your son who shall be born to you, he shall build the house for my name'".
David was a man who loved God, he was a man who walked after God, he was a man who was faithful to God, except for a few notable lapses like the Bathsheba fiasco, but for the most part he was a man after God's own heart: and David had this burning desire in his heart to build a temple for the Lord. He didn't think it was ripe to wander around with this portable temple, the tabernacle, he said, "We ought to build the most magnificent temple we could, that would glorify God throughout the whole land".
You know what God said about that? He said, "David, that's a great idea. That's a wonderful plan and I am going to have that temple built, but you're not the one who's going to do it. Your son is the one who's going to do it". We need to realize no matter how good our plans are, ultimately God has the final say. Our desires are always to be superseded by God's decrees. Are desires a way God speaks to us? Absolutely, but Paul is saying, "Ultimately, the only desires that we can trust are those desires of ours that have been transformed by the power of God, and those desires which have been sacrificed on the altar of God".