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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Putting First Things First - Part 2

Robert Jeffress - Putting First Things First - Part 2

Robert Jeffress - Putting First Things First - Part 2
TOPICS: Prayer That Really Work, Prayer, Priorities

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. As children of God, it's important to engage in frequent conversations with our Heavenly Father. But what exactly is the purpose of prayer? What are we supposed to say, and what should be our highest priority? Gratefully, Jesus gave us a timeless model for effective praying. And today we'll continue to discover how to use the Lord's prayer as a foundation for all of our prayers and petitions. My message is titled "Putting First Things First" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Sometimes, when we talk about God's will, we're talking about God's providential will. God's providential will is best defined as that secret plan of God's that determines everything that happens in this universe. Now, on the other end of the spectrum, is a second part of God's will, we call it God's preceptive will. And God's preceptive will includes those parts of God's will that are very obvious to us, okay? They're contained in scripture, the precepts, the commands of the Lord. Let me give you two examples. 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul says, "For this as the will of God". Here it is right here. "That you abstain from sexual immorality".

Paul says, you want to go with God's will? Here's God's will, that you abstain from sexual immorality. Or 2 Corinthians 6:14, those of you who are single adults, you're on the hunt for a mate right now, okay? What does God say to you? He says, "Do not be bound together with an unbeliever: for what partnership have light and darkness, unrighteousness with righteousness"? And God's preceptive will are those parts of his will that are clearly revealed in scripture. And then third, there's God's personal will. Many times when we talk about God's will we're talking about his personal blueprint for our life. Where does God want me to attend school? What vocation does God want me to enter into? Whom should I marry? Where should I live? And a thousand other questions. God's personal will.

In another series, we've seen that the fact is God reveals his plan to us, not just in one way, but in a variety of ways. He speaks through his word. He speaks through the desires that he puts in our hearts. He speaks through prayer, the wise counsel of other people. That's God's personal will. Now, when we are praying, "Thy will be done," what are we really saying to God? Let me mention to you three applications of that prayer, "Thy will be done". What we're saying is, first of all, God, I will accept your providential will. That is, that hidden plan you have, even though it doesn't always make sense to me, I will accept your providential will.

An acquaintance of mine a few years ago decided he didn't have time to go with his family on spring break, and so he sent his wife and three children in their van on without him. During that trip, the van flipped over three times, the wife and mother was killed, one of the children was killed, the other two were badly injured. And this Christian father now has the task of not only providing for his two injured children, but taking care of them as well without a mother. The natural question is, why would God allow such a thing? How could God's providential will include such a tragedy? I imagine every one of you here this morning could come up with a similar story and ask the why question. Joni Eareckson Tada, who has spent the last 40 years of her life in a wheelchair, said one time, "God permits what he hates in order to accomplish what he loves". God permits what he hates in order to accomplish what he loves. What is it that God loves? What is it that he wants to accomplish in your life?

Romans 8:28-29 answer that question. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him, to those who are called according to his purpose". God says everything that happens in your life, not only the good things, but the terrible things, those are all working together for good to accomplish God's purpose in your life. What is God's purpose in your life? Here's a hint, it's not a big bank account. It's not a satisfying marriage. It's not a fulfilling job. It's not an easy existence. That's not God's plan for your life. Verse 29 of Romans 8 tells us God's plan for our life. "For whom God foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the image of his son". You know what God's plan for your life is? His plan is to make you, to mold you into the image of Jesus Christ. And God uses, not easy things, it's those hard things. Like for Joni being in a wheelchair for 40 years, it's those hard things that God uses to make us like his son. God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.

My friend and mentor for so many years, Howard Hendricks, tells the story about going to a leprosy center in India one time. And while he was visiting that leprosy center, he went to a praise service that some of the lepers were holding. He stood at the back of the room and he watched this elderly woman, her body filled with leprosy. She was blind and badly disfigured. She hobbled to the platform. And when she got to the platform, she raised her almost-fingerless hands to heaven, and she said, "I praise God for my leprosy, because without my leprosy, I never would have come to know Christ as my Savior". And then she said, "I would rather be a leper who knows Jesus than to be whole in my body and be a stranger to his grace".

God uses evil to accomplish his purpose. And when you say, God, I accept your providential will, you're not saying, God, I understand it, or I agree with it, but I am trusting you, even though I don't understand what's happening. There are some of you who are in that situation right now. You're going through a difficult time, you're wondering why. Let me give you some words of assurance this morning, Jeremiah 51:29 says every purpose of the Lord will be accomplished in your life. Isn't that great to know? Everything God has for you will be accomplished. Or Proverbs 12:21, nothing without purpose happens to the righteous. If you're a child of God, there is no accident, there is no adversity that comes to your life that has not come, first of all, through the loving hands of the will of God for you. Nothing without purpose happens to the godly. When we say "Thy will be done," we're saying, God, I accept your providential will. But we're saying more than that, we're also saying, God, I will obey your preceptive will. I will obey your preceptive will.

For most of us, the problem with God's will is not that part of God's will we don't comprehend, it's that part of God's will that's very clear to us, because it's revealed in scripture. Well, what does God have to say to us about his will? What is it that God desires for us? Let's do a little quick journey through scripture and see what God might be saying to you this morning. How many of you are husbands? If you're a husband, raise your hand, okay? Wake up and raise your hand, good. Thank you for doing that. Does God say anything in scripture about what his will for you is? Ephesians 5, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her". Wives, God, doesn't let you off the hook either. He says, "Wives, submit to your husbands in everything, just as the church submits to Christ". Children, the Bible says to you, "Children, obey your parents, for this is right in the eyes of the Lord".

Parents, God says to you, "Don't provoke your children to anger". My kids are saying, "Amen, preach it, dad". "Don't provoke your children to anger, but instead bring them up in the discipline and the admonition of the Lord". God has some very clear words about his will for you. Or what about your work life? We spend 60% of our waking hours on the job. Does God have a will for us about our jobs and what we do? Of course he does, Colossians 3, "Obey those who are your masters here upon the earth, not merely with external service, but with sincerity of heart. Whatever you do, do your work enthusiastically as unto the Lord, for it is the Lord God whom you serve".

What about your relationships? How many of you have ever been hurt by somebody, okay? Anybody been wronged by somebody? Does God have anything to say about his will in that situation? Matthew 6, "If you forgive men of their transgressions against you, my Heavenly Father will also forgive you one day. But if you refuse to forgive those who have wronged you, my Heavenly Father will also refuse to forgive you of your transgressions". What about your moral life? Does God care about your moral life? Does he care about what you do in your relationships outside of marriage? Does he care about what you watch on the internet? 1 Corinthians 6:18, "But flee immorality". That is, run as far and as fast from it as you possibly can. "For every other sin a person commits outside of his body, but the immoral person sins against his own body".

How about our money? Does God have any desire about what we do with our money? Does he have a will regarding our money? No preacher worth his salt wouldn't mention Malachi 3:10 here with the opportunity. Remember what it says? "But bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, saith the Lord, that there might be food in my house". My point is God has a very specific will that governs every part of our life. Now, we're not going to have any confessionals this morning, but I do want to ask you, how many of you would say, pastor, there's at least one thing I know I should be doing that I'm not doing right now? Would you raise your hand? All right. Not too many liars in the congregation. Most of us are honest here. Of course there is.

When we pray "Thy will be done," listen to this, we're not saying to God, God, I want to obey your will. God, I know I should obey your will. We're not even praying, Lord, help me to obey your will. When we pray "Thy will be done," we're saying, God, I am going to start obey in your will right now. That's what that prayer is. I accept your providential will, that part I don't understand, but I will obey your preceptive will. And then third, I will follow your personal will. You know, too many times, we pray, Lord, show me your personal plan. Show me where to go to school, show me whom I should marry, show me what vocation I should choose. And the reason we want to know what God's will is is not so we can do it necessarily, it's so we can decide whether we're going to do it or not. God, show me what you have up your sleeve planned for me, and then I'll decide whether I'm going to obey it. No, God doesn't give direction to people with that kind of attitude.

You know why we want a sneak peek at God's will? 'cause deep down, most of us don't trust God. Deep down, we're not really convinced that God's way is the best way. We're not really convinced that God wants the best for us. Martin Luther said, "All sin is basically contempt for God". We think wrongly of God, and so we think, you know, we've gotta watch out for ourselves, so, God, you show us your best idea, we'll decide whether we're going to follow it. No, when we say "Thy will be done," we're saying, God, when you give me revelation, I'm going to follow your plan for my life. "Thy will be done on earth as it's right now being done in heaven". That's what Jesus said.

Think about heaven right now. Who is it that's in heaven right now to obey the will of God? Jesus said God's will's being obeyed in heaven, who is up there to obey God's will right now? Who is it? The angels, aren't they? The angels are up there right now. Now, when God tells an angel to do something, how does an angel respond? If God says to an angel, "Now I want you to do this," does the angel say, "Well, God, I'll pray about that and I'll get back with you"? Is that how the angels obey God's will? Or if God says to the angel... You know, the Bible says they're ministering spirits sent to render service for us?

Let's say that God sends an angel down to help you this week in a particular task, he said, "I want you to go down and I want you to help Darlene Anderson this week in a particular task, this is your command". Does the angel say, "Well, Lord, I'd really like to do that, but that's not my spiritual gift, go ask another angel to do that"? That's not how the angels respond. No, when God tells the angels to do something, they obey immediately, completely, and continually. That's how they obey God's word, completely, immediately, continually. And when we pray "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is being done in heaven," we're saying, God, I am going to obey your will immediately, I'm going to obey it completely, and I'm going to obey it continually.

You know, Romans 12:1-2 are great verses for us to remember. Paul said, "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect". When you say God, I'm going to obey your personal will, there's no promise that every moment of your life is going to be filled with ecstasy. Obeying God's will is no promise that you're going to be exempt from suffering in life. But what Paul is saying is, when you follow God's will for your life, in the end you will see it to be good, acceptable, and perfect. Would you say those words with me? Good, acceptable, and perfect. What is God's will for your life like? It is good, acceptable, and perfect.

Many of you are familiar with the Christian author, Phillip Keller. Wrote a great book on the 23rd Psalm. Phillip Keller grew up in Pakistan and he said when he was a young man, he was fascinated by a potter that formed those clay vessels used to transport the water and wine. And one day he visited a potter's house and asked him to show him how he performed his work, to show him every step in the creation of a pottery masterpiece. Keller writes:

First, the potter led me to a small, dark closed shed at the back of his shop where he acquired his clay. As he opened the door, I was engulfed with a repulsive, overpowering stench of decaying matter emerging from the gaping dark pit in the floor of the shed. Kneeling down beside the black, nauseatingly hole, the potter reached down, and after searching carefully for a while, he brought up a lump of dark, smelly mud. With a tremendous impact, I thought of the first verses of Psalm 40. 'he brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay'.

As carefully as the potter selected his clay, so God used special care in choosing me. As the potter started to work with the clay on his wheel, I noticed that beside the potter stool stood two basins of water, and that all the while the wheel was turning, he would dip his hands in the water and then mold the clay. The water was extremely important, because without it, the potter's hands would stick to the clay and ruin the work. It was fascinating to see how swiftly but surely the clay responded to the pressure applied to it through those moistened hands. Silently and smoothly, the form of a graceful goblet began to take shape between his hands, and the water was the medium through which the potter, his will, and his wishes were transmitted to the clay. Immediately, I thought of the water of the Word of God, which is God's agency for doing his will in the earth. Gently the potter removed any stones that managed to come to the surface of the goblet. But after many large stones appeared and the goblet was marred, the potter crushed it in his hands. I said to him, 'what will happen to that goblet now'? The potter replied, 'oh, I'll just make it into a common finger bowl'.

And then I thought of Jeremiah 18:4, 'and the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter'. Seldom did any lesson come home to me with such tremendous clarity and force. Why was this rare and beautiful masterpiece ruined in the master's hand? Because the potter had run into resistance. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: are we going to let God make us into a beautiful goblet, fit to hold the fine wine of God's very life from which others can drink and be refreshed? Or are we, because of our resistance, going to be made into a crude common finger bowl in which Passerby's will simply dabble their fingers briefly and then pass on and forget? Are you willing to let God accomplish his will in your life?

Ladies and gentlemen, if you don't remember anything else about this message, remember this, prayer is not about bending God's will to conform to my will. Prayer is bending my will to conform to God's will. Prayer is not about getting my will done in heaven. Prayer is about getting God's will done here on earth and in my heart. "Thy kingdom, thy will be done on earth as it is being done in heaven".
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