Right after I was first saved, I thought that God wanted me to drag race my motorcycle for Him at racing events. I was going to name the motorcycle “Repent,” and every time I won, the announcer would yell out, “REPENT!” Fortunately, God in His mercy saw that this stupid idea, coming from a newly saved wild teenager, never came to naught!
I had just started attending a Baptist church when a guest speaker, a missionary from Puerto Rico, preached. He shared about the work God was doing in foreign missions, and how God was calling some people listening to his message that night to missions. As the missionary kept on speaking, I felt God stepping all over my toes, telling me that I would be going to the mission field. When the missionary gave the altar call for obedience to missions, I stood up and literally ran out of the door! I said to myself, “this Italian is not going on an airplane 6 miles high, at 650 miles per hour with my head between two highly flammable cylinders, to go tell people about Jesus in a strange land.” Well, after 40 mission trips, I praise God that I was obedient to His will after all!
The will of God for their lives is probably what most Christians wonder about more than any other subject. You may not think about it directly, but you may wonder about some of the following: When am I going to get married? Who am I going to marry? What is my career? What ministry am I going to do? Should I start a business? Should I go to the mission field?
For some of us, God has already shown us His will and we were either too afraid to follow it, or we didn’t really want it. The Israelites were shown God’s will to enter into the Promised Land and when they rejected it, they wandered around for 40 years. They first stood over the Promised Land after 2 weeks! Some of us have seen God’s will and for some reason didn’t obey it or we were afraid of it. Because of this rejection of God’s will, we have wandered around for years wondering why we didn’t receive the blessings that God has promised. Instead of peace, love or joy we have anxiety, fears, anger or lack of satisfaction. It’s because we are out of the will of God. We seem to trust God for our salvation, but not for the direction of our lives!! “Oh Jesus, thank you Jesus for my salvation. But when it comes to my life, I’m in control, and if I run into a problem or I have some needs, we will do lunch!” C.S Lewis once said, “To walk out of His will is to walk into nowhere.” Jesus knew many people would not follow His will when He said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37)
God has a Plan for Our Lives
Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God is telling us here that we are His workmanship, His design, and created for good works done in His power, and for His glory. God has prepared beforehand the good works that we should walk in them, the plans for our lives. Philippians 2:13 reinforces this verse, “For it is God who is a work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” To will and to work for His good pleasure is to carry out His eternal purposes. All throughout the Scriptures God tells us that He has a plan for our lives. Psalm 37:23 tells us, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you..” Paul says in Acts 17:28, “In Him, we move and live and have our being.”
Now that we know that God has a blueprint for our lives, we need to know the steps to finding His will.
Need to be a Christian
The first step in knowing God’s will is that you need to be a Christian. Doing the will of God is not based on doing things for God, but rather, what is God doing through you. God is not going to reveal His will to those who do not have a relationship with Him. In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.” Jesus is saying here, if you’re not gathering people for the Kingdom of God, than you’re scattering them. Unless you have the indwelling Holy Spirit, you can’t work for God, for “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:8) It simply boils down to, if you want to do the will of God, you have to know Him. The Lordship of Jesus
If you’re not interested in doing the will of God, then you have to go back to your “need to be a Christian.” Those who love God are those who want to follow Him, and serve Him. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus was summing up all the beatitudes to his disciples. He shared with them the key to following His will when he said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” This was a colossal statement because Jesus was saying to seek first in time, and priority, His will, His Lordship, and rule in over every aspect of your life. That means that Jesus gets priority in every decision, every action and every day! Colossians 1:18 supports this when it says, “And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.”
Wanting the Will of God
God is not going to show you His blueprint for your life until He knows you want it with a pure heart. God is not going to give you the opportunity to see it first to decide if you want to do it. We may say, “If Your will includes my marrying, okay Lord, but if Your will calls for me being single…well I’ll have to pray about that!” The fear of being called to foreign missions is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to doing God’s will. Many people have this impression that if they say yes to God’s will they are going to end up in a large cooking pot in the middle of a tribe somewhere! Seeking first the kingdom of God is accepting whatever God has for us. I still marvel at the testimonies of the Moravian missionaries that would have themselves imprisoned so that they could reach the prisoners in jail!
God does not work with people who have self-centered thinking, people who are wondering, “what could I get out of this.” Your job isn’t to become a witness by what you become, but a witness by what you let God transform you into.
Accepting the will of God is a step by step process. God will not show us His whole will, otherwise we may not accept it. Step by step means trusting God daily for His direction. I doubt any of us would jump at the thought of persecution and suffering. I doubt if many of the martyrs knew that they were going to be persecuted, they would have jumped at the opportunity. But God gives us the grace to go step by step in His will.
God gives us guidance to do His will. In his book, “Take Another Look At Guidance,” Bob Mumford tells of a harbor in Italy through which ships used to have to navigate through rock formations to get upon the docking station. As the captain of the ship approached the harbor, he would see 3 harbor lights of different colors lined up. He needed to keep those three lights in synch with one another, otherwise the ship would crash on the rocks. The same is true of the will of God in our lives. God has given us 3 harbor lights otherwise known as 3 guidance lights for our lives. Just like that ship would crash against the rocks if the lights did not line up, so too the direction of our lives would be off course if the three lights of God’s guidance do not line up!
The three lights of guidance that God gives us are; the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and circumstances.
I never forgot how God lined up the three lights for me the first time I went to Russia, especially since all my plans were to go to Miami! I was working on a major outreach to the Haitian refugees in Miami, Florida. I had planned to bring the Jesus film, interpreters, and tracts, to reach out to the Haitian community living in tents. Just when I thought I had everything set up, it all crumbled in front of my eyes. My Miami contacts left, my two interpreters said they couldn’t make it, and everything that I had planned was no longer possible. So I shrugged my shoulders, cried out, “woe is me,” and tried to figure out what God wanted from me. A friend invited me over for dinner and asked me to go to Russia in one month. I laughed and said, “I’ll pray about it,” but I really was just trying to shake him off. Yet, I sensed the Holy Spirit prompting me to go, both through the Scriptures and in my heart. As I would read Mark 4:29, “as soon as the grain is white, He puts the sickle to it because the harvest has come,” and John 4:35 – “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” All I could picture in my mind and spirit and sleep was the Russian sickle reaping a harvest. Once I said yes to going to Russia, the peace of Christ came over me. God used His Word, the Holy Spirit and circumstances to lead me to a country where I had the privilege of helping harvest over 12,000 people to receive Jesus.
Another time I sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to show the Jesus film in Mexico. So I picked up the phone and called my contacts in Reynosa, Mexico where I had been going for over 10 years. What I had planned would be a simple setup project turned into 2 months of frustration. I couldn’t get anyone to help me in Reynosa; I had no designated places for the film showing, and equipment was hard to come by. I didn’t understand why God would tell me to go to Mexico when I couldn’t set it up. Yet, one day while eating in a Mexican restaurant, I was explaining the Scriptures to someone about the apostle Paul and that he went to the large cities to reach the masses. God spoke to me in my spirit right in the restaurant, asking me why I wasn’t going to the masses in Mexico City. I almost fell over in my chair as I sensed that God wanted me in Mexico but in a different area. When I got home, I made one call, and what I couldn’t set up in 2 months, God arranged in 2 hours! We showed the Jesus film on the streets of Mexico City with the sound equipment of Keith Green, shutting down streets to show the film. God gave us Bible college students that were hungry for ministry to help us out, and we were able to minister to them as well. We saw hundreds get saved because we were obedient to all three lights of God’s guidance.
First Guidance Light – Word of God – The first and most important guidance light is the Word of God. Most of God’s will can be found in the Scriptures. 2 Peter 1:19 tells us, “And so we have the prophetic word made more sure… “ What this verse also points out is that human prophecy is to never supercede the Word of God. The Bible is the final authority, and there is no prophetic utterance or teaching that takes precedence over the Word of God. The answer to most of God’s will is in the prophetic word made more sure, and God never does anything contrary to His written word. As I once mentioned before, someone prophesied over me telling me not to go to Tula, Russia, because I would be persecuted. Yet, all three of God’s guidance lights were telling me to go, and it was one of the most fruitful and blessed trips that I went on.
We have all heard it said that the Bible was written over 2000 years ago and it does not apply to today’s standards. Yet, Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This verse is saying to us that God still speaks to us through His Word! I once read a unique story about a guy that had a dream about Jesus coming to talk to Him. He asked Jesus a question and Jesus gave the man a Bible verse. He asked Jesus 3 more questions and Jesus responded with 3 more Bible verses. The guy was getting a little frustrated and He asked Jesus another important question, and Jesus responded with another Bible verse. Finally, He asked Jesus “why are you answering me in all Bible verses,” and Jesus said, “My child, all your answers are in the Scriptures, ‘for man should not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
Most of the answers to the questions that we have can be found in God’s Word, if we would just look! The Scriptures tell us that we are going to make errors if we don’t know the Word of God! Hosea 4:6 reads, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” Notice here that God is saying, “My people..,” not unbelievers, but those He calls His own. Mark 12:24 supports this, “And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God?” Do you ever wonder why we make so many errors in our lives? The answer is because we don’t know the Scriptures nor the power of God enough! If you’re thinking of marrying an unbeliever, what does God say in His Word? 2 Corinthians 6:14 answers the question, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” Now that you now the Scripture concerning marriage to an unbeliever, walk on from there.
I’m a big believer that Jesus is coming back soon and that the Author of this world is ready to walk on stage. But, if someone is telling you that Jesus is coming back on a certain date in the year 2000, don’t believe him! Listen to what Jesus says in Mark 13:32, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Now, if Jesus in His earthly body did not even know the date, do you think that someone here on earth does? Just before the last famous “Jesus is coming back” date of Sept. 6, 1996, some Christians put their pets to sleep. Some sold houses and gave the money to the radio station promoting the date. Others cashed in their whole life savings along with their pensions to give their monies to the radio broadcaster proclaiming that Jesus was coming back on Sept. 6, 1996. If all those deceived people had just known what the Scriptures tell us about the return of Jesus, they would have saved their houses, monies, pets, and heartaches.
When it comes to God’s Word, He tells us to, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15) How many of us would say we should be ashamed? The Word of God teaches us, rebukes us, corrects us and trains us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), so we should be making it a part of our daily lives. The Word of God is used to fight off temptation. When satan wanted Jesus to do his will, Jesus used the Word of God saying, “it is written..” If Jesus had to use the memorized Word to fight off temptation, how much more should we memorize the Scriptures? Romans 12:2 is one of the keys to God’s will for our lives. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The renewing of our minds occurs so that we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is. Our minds are like computers – if we put garbage in, then garbage comes out. We have to change the data that we put into our minds. If I watch racy movies, I will have a racy thoughts. If I feed my mind with all business information, all my thoughts are based on money, money, money. Whatever you put into yourself is what comes out. The Bible is the data changer/transformer of our lives! God’s Word renews our mind, making His thoughts, our thoughts, His standards our standards, His ways our ways… as we soak in His Word.
Second Guidance Light – The Holy Spirit – The second guidance light that God has given us is the inner prompting from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has intelligence (1 Corinthians 2:10-11), He has feelings (Ephesians 4:30) and He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11). The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to teach us, to guide us and to give us power for God’s service. Yet the Holy Spirit is blamed for all sorts of things from murdering abortionists, to people driving down the street naked, to people barking like dogs and roaring like lions! Remember GOD DOES NOT GO AGAINST HIS WORD!
The inner prompting must line up with God’s Word. The Scriptures tell us what the key to this second guidance light is in Galatians 5:14, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” The flesh has a strong pull on all of us. I feel like that old adage, “opportunity only knocks once, but temptation is always knocking on the door!” Sometimes we give in to the flesh thinking it’s the Holy Spirit. I knew of a woman who told me that the Holy Spirit was telling her to marry her pastor, even though she was already married, and he was already married. Yet, the flesh sets its desires against the Spirit and sometimes we don’t recognize it. Once again, in the flesh, we use self-centered thinking when we say to God, “Lord I don’t want to go to the mission field, I’m comfortable here.” Imagine if Jesus had the same attitude. We may say to the Lord, “I’ll do your will if you give me a mate,” and we try to bargain with God! But, as we yield ourselves to the truth of God, the Holy Spirit leads us what to say, to do, and to be. God tells us to walk in the Spirit. Walking consists of taking one step, then another, so too is walking in the Spirit. When you walk in the Spirit, you are yielding every step to God. You are yielding step by step, thought by thought, decision by decision, act by act to be put under the Spirit’s control. Then you will experience Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Third Guidance light – Circumstances – We tend to put circumstances first too many times, when it should be last! Too many people put circumstances as the only guidance in their lives. We find a wallet with money in a church and thank Jesus for the extra monies that He provided us. I’ve heard some of the most ridiculous stories that one could imagine blamed on God because believers put their trust in circumstances first. If God is in the circumstances, then it must line up with the first light, the Word of God, and with the second light, the Holy Spirit. Once I was “stuck” in Texas during a major ice storm. I had a team of 11 people trying to get home in time for Christmas. We were stuck in a very small airport and we had two days to get home. They said that no flights were going out on that day that we wanted to fly because of the ice storm, so I made the decision to just wait in the airport. Yet, the airport was so small that they were going to close it down and everyone had to evacuate the building. I then decided to rent a van to drive to Houston, an eleven hour drive, because they were getting flights out from Houston. Even though there was a major ice storm outside, I ran around from one car rental agency to another trying to rent a van. I was totally frustrated when I couldn’t get one and I sat down with the team to pray. I was asking the Lord “why are you doing this to us?” “Didn’t we just serve you in Mexico? Now we can’t get home for Christmas!” The Lord said to me, “Who is in control of the circumstances, you or Me?” “Be still. Forget the van, and wait it out.” The final conclusion of the story is that through some of the strangest circumstances that I have ever experienced, we ended up coming back to the airport 5 hours later to catch a plane. Then we got to Houston, the airlines put us up in a free hotel, gave us dinner, and flew us home, with some of us winding up in first class. If I tried to control the circumstances, I probably would have 11 of us wrapped around some tree on an ice-covered road in Texas.
We often think that when something has gone wrong, that God is not in it. When I first heard that Keith Green, the gospel singer and founder of Last Days Ministries was killed in a plane crash, I thought that was one of the saddest losses in modern day Christian history. Keith’s wife Melody gave testimony that God gave her the verse John 12:24, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Melody then toured the United States showing a film on Keith’s final message, “Why You Should Go to the Mission field.” Because of that final message, over 50,000 people went to the mission field, thus confirming the Scripture verse that God gave to Melody.
On our last trip to Russia, we were not legally allowed to preach in certain areas. Our interpreters actually were fearful of giving out the salvation message in certain areas because we could have been arrested on the spot. Yet, God provided us with an Indian woman, on our team, who spoke fluent Russian. She translated and preached the messages and altar calls that the interpreters were fearful of speaking. The circumstances were that God provided this woman “For such a time as this!” (Esther 4:14) When God controls the circumstances, you know it because there is no deceit, no manipulation, no false motives, and simply a pure heart that wants to advance God’s glory and kingdom. When the circumstances line up with the Word of God and the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit, then you know that you’re walking in the center of God’s Will.
Seeing God’s Plans from His Perspective
Knowing God’s will requires seeing things from His perspective, His mind, and His heart, so that we can know what He requires from us. I believe that we will know God’s plans if we just communicate with Him, and trust Him. Let us closely examine each area:
1] Communication or Prayer. To walk in God’s will, we have to know what it is. If you were a football player, you would want to have a constant communication with the one calling the plays. Otherwise, you might lose the game because you were out of position. The same is true if you were a soldier. You would need to know where the commander wanted you positioned in a war. Otherwise, you would risk injuring others by being out of position. The same is true in the Christian life; you have to ask the Lord, the Captain, where He wants you positioned. The Scriptures tell us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). God wants us to stay in constant communication with Him so that we can always know what His will is for the moment.
2] Trust God! We all trust God for our salvation. It’s for the direction of our lives with which we struggle to trust Him. Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Trust God for His direction. He promises in Psalm 32: 8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Trusting God means not fearing the unknown, the future, or what direction your loving heavenly Father is going to send you. David Livingstone, missionary to Africa once said, “I am immortal until the will of God for me is accomplished.” Trust the one who said, “I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Trust in the Lord with all your heart, your mind, your feelings and your will. Do not lean on your own wisdom or human understanding, but in everything that you do, acknowledge or recognize that He is truly with you. Then He will make your paths straight, and He will work out the directions of your life.
Submitting to God’s Will
You may have a relationship with Jesus, and love Him. You may even be active in your church, but you have no peace that you’re in the center of God’s will. You sense that your spiritual walk is like the Israelites wandering in the desert, you have fears and anxiety, and you wonder where you’re going. As a professional “desert” tour guide, let me assure you that there is a way out of the desert, but you have to want it! You simply have to want God’s will for your life and submit your will to Him. Jesus said in Matthew 10:38-39, “And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life shall lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it.” The key to this passage is self-denial, a total abandoning of oneself without reservation of Jesus’ lordship. You have to be willing to sacrifice all that you are, and all that you have for the sake of Christ. It’s when you’re willing to lose your life to the things of this world, that you actually find it. When you can say to God, “Not my will, but your will…,” then God promises us that, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind can conceive what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Some people may think that they walked so far out of God’s will that they can’t come back. But the Bible is littered with people who messed up, and came back to serve God. I’m sure you will recognize some of the names: King David, Jacob, Samson, Abraham, Jonah, Peter, and list goes on. Yet, our God has a way of restoring you, weaving you back once again into His will. God will restore the years that the locusts have eaten. He will put you back into the center of His will again if you would just confess your sin, and submit to His Lordship in your life!
God’s Plans for You
At one point of my life, I made a mess of my finances and was severely depressed. I didn’t even want to live anymore. But I would wake up to a plaque with a Bible verse starring in my face every morning, and it became one of my life verses. Not only did it minister to me, but also it showed me the love that God truly has for me. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans that I have for you, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope!” God has plans for you already, and they are plans for good! God wants to be your Shepherd, your Guide, your Shelter in a storm, your Provider, because He loves you. His plans are not for evil in your life, but for good. He plans to give you a future and a hope, if only we would exchange our plans for His. Let the prayer of our hearts be the words of Jesus, “My food..is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34