I promised you more on the subject of knowing God’s will so here goes…. There’s God’s will as revealed in scripture, given in a clear but more general kind of way, such as His command to honor those in authority, or to pay our taxes. And then there are those areas where God grants some latitude to use our “sanctified preferences,” such as what color shirt to wear or where to go for lunch. But what about those situations where we need special guidance, God’s specific direction for my life where it really matters most?
Paul E. Little, in his pamphlet, “Affirming the Will of God,” speaks about “prerequisites for special guidance.” Little says, one prerequisite is to be a child of God, which makes all the sense in the world. If God is not our Father, why would it matter what His will is for our lives? Next Little asks, “Are you obeying God in the areas where you already know God’s will?” Again, that’s a no-brainer. A child needs to learn to crawl before he walks and to walk before he runs. But Little goes on to speak of an important issue for all of us as Christians – “Are we willing to accept the will of God in the unspecified areas of our lives BEFORE knowing what it is?” How many of us approach the matter like this – “Lord, show me what your will is so I can decide whether it fits in with what I have in mind.”
I think of my own call to ministry. Two of my uncles were pastors and my Dad has been in active lay ministry for most of his adult life. As a youth, I observed first hand what ministry life was like. For much of that time, although I admired these men, I was sort of turned off to ministry. I certainly had no plans to pursue that career path. Slowly but surely, however, God began chipping away the rough edges of my thinking. The obvious passion and love for Christ and his church that these three men possessed, in addition to the way Scripture began speaking to me, and the way in which the Holy Spirit began working with me, melted my initially resistant heart. Here I am today, with 27 years of ordained ministry behind me, not to mention my years of preparation in college and seminary. I mention this only to demonstrate that God brought me to the point of being willing to obey His call, before He actually called me into full-time pastoral work.
This leads me to say that it is a most unfortunate occurrence when people come to the point in which they assume that they must choose between doing what they want to do and being happy, and doing what God wants them to do and being miserable. To think that way, paints a picture of God as some celestial codger who pushes a plate of their least favorite food in front of them and rubs their noses in it, demanding that they eat it; instead of being the gracious and loving Father that Scripture reveals Him to be whose delight is to give good gifts to His children.
I’ve spoken with missionaries for instance, who have told me they get tired of being placed on a pedestal for “leaving it all behind” to go to the mission field; as though they were somehow dragged kicking and screaming to their place of service. They’ve said, “Don’t people understand that part of God’s call includes giving us the desire to serve Him in this way?” I can identify to a certain extent because people have said to me, “How can you do what you do? I could never be a pastor!” The reason they feel that way is that they haven’t been called to that particular arena of service. I love Psalm 37:4-5, which says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this ….” His call to an area of service comes out of the overflow of a love relationship with Him in which His desires become ours.
I hope these thoughts have helped to clarify your thinking regarding this business of God’s specific guidance in our lives. Stay tuned, there’s still more to come. -MAJ