The Shepherd’s Will - Part 3
Discerning and Applying God's Will
We are coming to the close of our Shepherd Series today. We have looked at Psalm 23 and the Lord who is our shepherd who provides, protects and guides his sheep. Isa 40:11 tells us the great love and grace God has for his flock. We also studied the aspect of the sheep hearing the voice of the shepherd and avoiding strange voices in John 10.
Several weeks ago Romans 12:1-2 became the focus of our study on the Shepherd’s will. The will of God is a fascinating study as it relates to His Sovereignty and our free-will. Paul gave us five keys to approaching God’s will appropriately. And then encourages the Roman believers to test and approve the will of God; his intentional, circumstantialand ultimate will. This morning I would like to help us to discern and apply the will of God to our lives personally. I would like to begin by speaking of the Jesus’ interaction with the will of God as he approached the cross and how the disciples experienced God’s will.
Jesus and the Will of God
Jesus himself wrestled with God’s will as we see in Matthew 26:39 - “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane knowing his Father’s intentional will (God’s original design) and yet wrestling under the weight of his own circumstances. Jesus is crying out to his Father, agonizing over his coming death. In this case Jesus would fulfill God’s circumstantial will and suffer for it. I can imagine Jesus saying, “I am terrified of the thought of nails going through my hands and feet tomorrow. Father, can you adjust your will for me? That would make my flesh feel better, after all, I am human…”
Sometimes doing the will of God is unbelievably difficult. But in doing so Jesus would become the Great Shepherd leading many sheep into God’s ultimate will and eternity. We have a shepherd who has been tempted to disobey God’s will for his self-preservation, but instead choose God’s will and triumphed in victory. Not my will but your’s be done…
The Disciples and the will of God
Here are a few of my Scriptural thoughts relating to the disciples being taught about God’s will. Firstly, Ephesians 1:11 is a significant statement in regard to the wills of God. It says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will…” I believe that we see God’s intentional, circumstantial and ultimate will in action here. He chose us in the beginning (Eph 1:4) and he now works all things, the circumstances of life, according to the counsel or purposeof his ultimate will. This passage of Scripture allows me to rest secure in the Shepherd’s love and care for my life. The will of God covers the past, present and future, helping me to experience the peace of God. Carrying on in Ephesians 2:10 - For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do, the will of God hopes for a life of obedience and good works that bring glory to God. We must remember that the will of God is good and full of blessings in this life.
However, in our first world Christian culture we can lose sight of the fact that many Christians today are suffering for their faith as a result of the circumstantial will of God. Sometimes the pursuit of the will of God has become twisted and the focus is all about our personal happiness. 1 Peter 2:15 - For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Sometimes doing good is not easy… 1 Peter 3:17 says, “It is better to suffer for doing good if that should be God’s will than for doing evil.” There are times when disciples, past and present, suffer for the sake of righteousness whether on the job or at school.
The disciples of Jesus’ day wrestled with a paganized and sexualized culture much like our own today. Jesus encountered the woman caught in adultery and the men who were unable to cast any stones because of their own sexual sin. Paul addresses this topic to in 1 Thess 4:3-5 - It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honourable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.
The writer of Hebrews calls believers to perseverance in light of God’s will. Hebrews 10:36 - You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
Discerning God’s Will
We have looked at several passages of Scripture that speak of God’s will and I know that there are many other passages as well. These verses help us to know God’s will and help us to discern his will for our lives. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:17).
- One of the best ways to know God’s will is to be a friend of God. Jesus modelled his relationship with his Father for us to see. His love and friendship for God is what carried him through those challenging times. So the question must be asked, “How is your friendship with God?” What does friendship look like to you? How does the life of Jesus reflect his friendship with his Father? This is one of the main starting points for perceiving God’s will.
- The Scriptures reveal God’s will in so many varied circumstances; in times of peace or war, prosperity or lack, single or married, young or old, and so on. Let’s remember that we are created to do good works. In fact, it says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for correction, for reproof, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be fully equipped for every good work.” Amen…
- We are told in the Scriptures of the importance of the Holy Spirit being an active presence in our lives. The Spirit searches all out all things, even the deep things of God, as related to one’s need to know God’s will personally. It is the Spirit of God who gives us the wisdom we need as we discover God’s will Eph 5:17-18 - Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. The will of God comes into focus as we grow in spiritual truth, words and wisdom.
- I have used the analogy of a sailing ship coming into harbour at night using only the lights from marker buoys as a way of discerning God’s will. If the sailing ship comes in direct the captain will only see one light at a time; if they come in off course they will see more than one light and need to adjust their course. Buoy #1 - God’s peace. Buoy #2 - God’s provision. Buoy #3 - God’s timing. Buoy #4 - God’s people. Buoy #5 - God’s circumstances. When these buoys line up one can become confident there are discerning God’s will.
Applying the Will of God
One of the challenges I have faced personally is this - the struggle to make a decision. Often their is a wrestling with regards to making a decision with regards to the will of God. Sometimes we are afraid to make a mistake. We need to be careful that we don’t hesitate or lag behind the leading of the Spirit. Or we need to make sure that we don’t jump ahead of God. Hesitation and or presumption can frustrate the will of God in our lives. I know at times in my life I have been presented with the will of God that causes fear in my heart;. Following the will of God requires great courage because it can take us beyond our comforts.
Here is another question to consider, Do I really want to know God’s will or am I really looking to validate my own? In order to fully discern God’s will we must be willing to set our will aside and to follow him… Am I willing and ready to change to align myself with the will of God? One of the greatest ways to apply God’s will to your life is to “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). I believe God is looking for a mature people who will delight in God and find that their desires begin to agree will God’s will.
If I am truly willing to lay aside my will and follow God, we can come to a place of peace in and with God. The peace of God will satisfy our lives as we carefully answer the aforementioned questions. As the will of God is discerned and applied to one’s life we can enter into a great trust in God. We will find ourselves living freely in the love of God and without fear. Not only that, but we can find ourselves casting our cares upon Jesus because he is the Good Shepherd who is leading us and equipping us for his work. Hebrews 13:20-21 - May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
It is the will of God to equip you with everything you need for doing his will. We can’t lose with that kind of God on our side.
The will of God is something mankind can know and apply to their lives. We need to become students of God’s Word who are empowered by the Holy Spirit. So we pray in the Spirit and we study God’s Word and associate with like kind of people. Prayer is the foundational activity of the Christian life. “Which father of you has a son who asks him for bread would give him a snake or if he asked him for an egg would give him a scorpion? If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit?” (Luke 11:13).
God is Good and so is his will… God’s goodness and Spirit will bring about a transformation and renewal of our minds so that we can know the will of God.
In closing: How does the Holy Spirit do that? He is helping us to stay engaged and follow in his ways and will. This happens in life a little at a time. Although there are times when God seems to accelerate our transformation process. W see in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “…we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
In light of this Scripture we understand that the will of God is something we experience from glory to glory. We are growing into the will of God daily and it is the goodness of God that empowers us with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was sent into the world to make Jesus known, and to help people to see God’s glory and his beauty. If is God’s desire that we would be changed into his likeness of Jesus so that when I live my life, doing the will of God would become so natural. One day God’s intentional will and original design will come full circle and we will know his ultimate will perfectly forever. In the meantime we live in the midst of life and circumstances that require us to choose life, the life of Jesus. In doing so obediently, we can discern and apply God’s good, pleasing and perfect will to our lives.