Monday, November 8, 2010

When Your Ways Please the Lord, You Can Do What You Please"

"For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." (Colossians 1:9)

Pretty snappy title, huh? Well, to my way of thinking, it's not just an aphorism; it's a principle. When your ways please the Lord, you can do as you please.

Remember the verse with which we began all this? "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philip. 2:13). God's will is all about incrementally transforming us into "God-pleasers." Every decision we make ultimately falls into that criterion. As Kevin DeYoung says, "God always gets His way" (DeYoung, 19). His will cannot be thwarted, but it can be resisted. Pharaoh did it. The angel told Mary, "Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son..." That was God's will, and nothing could have stopped it. Mary answer to this was, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1). This was Mary's will, and it displayed her obedience.

I would submit to you that you are in the will of God only to the extent that you are pleasing Him. If your life is void of the God-pleasing attributes enumerated in the second article ("God's Will and Our Wills: Mutually Exclusive?"), you are not in His will, no matter where you are or how much good you may think you are accomplishing. For instance, fornication is direct defiance of the will of God, whether you're a pastor's wife or a pole dancer (1 Thess. 4:3).

As I see it, there are four things that go into Biblical discernment of the will of God for one's life, with another important ingredient that gives credibility to the four.

1) Providence — both kinds: There is God's invisible providence that "works all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11). As the old song goes, "There is an unseen hand to me/That leads through ways I cannot see/While going through this world of woe/This hand still leads me as I go." And we also have visible providence, as Paul experienced in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18, when his desire to talk face to face with the believers of Thessalonica was hindered by Satan. As far as he was concerned, the door was shut.

2) Prudence: Jesus said in Luke 14:28, "For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it." Does this mean we should never venture anything for God without sufficient funds or reasonable hope for success? Not necessarily. But it does mean it should not be a way of life with us. Count the cost.

3) People: One could not read the book of Proverbs without seeing that God expects us to "talk among ourselves," if possible, when we have a decision to make. And should we assume that the only reason we're told to assemble ourselves together is to pray, praise, and preach? Acts 2:42 tells us the primitive Church "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship."

4) Prayer: Most of all, praying that God will help us to be submissive to His will. After all, telling someone the way to go is an exercise in futility if that person is dead set on going his or her own way. The most effective prayers, in the long run, are not the ones that change things or other people, but the ones that change us.

Finally, I have found (and I think the Bible bears this out) that as I saturate myself more and more in the Bible, the easier it becomes to know the right thing to do. It's as simple as that. The will of God is the way of God; and the way of God is found in the Word of God. This is true, even when our choice is not defined in the Bible. There are definite guidelines into which you can plug any decision; and if several choices fall within the boundary of those guidelines, pick one and go with it!

This is why Paul prayed for the Colossian believers to be "filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." The Word of God, illuminated by the Spirit of God, provides the child of God with the wisdom and spiritual understanding he or she needs to discern the will of God. If you're heart is right with God, you can't miss. And that's why I say, if you ways please the Lord, you can do what you please. If we are to wait for God to show us every move to make before we step out, why would He admonish us so often to gain wisdom? Wisdom for what?

Let me finish, not by saying something touching, but, hopefully, by letting Kevin DeYoung put a burr under our saddle, if need be. Perhaps you're someone who has been teetering on the brink of a decision, waiting for the perfect answer for a perfect life. If so, here is his admonition to you:

"So go marry someone, provided you're equally yoked and you actually like being with each other. Go get a job, provided it's not wicked. Go live somewhere in something with somebody or nobody. But put aside the passivity and the quest for complete fulfillment and the perfectionism and the preoccupation with the future, and for God's sake start making some decisions in your life. Don't wait for the liver-shiver. If you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you will be in God's will, so just go out and do something."[i]


[i] DeYoung, Kevin. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will. Ch. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009. p.61

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