Understand the will of the Lord

two roads

“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

– Eph 5.17

Do you understand what the will of the Lord is?  Much has been said about the will of God.  We kill ourselves wondering which profession we should choose, who we should marry, where we should live, and other major life decisions, asking God for a sign or a direct revelation of His will.  Since we often consider these types of decisions the main emphasis when considering the will of God, we are left to speculation and discouragement while trying to interpret dreams, circumstances and omens.

God, however, is primarily concerned with our hearts and sanctification.  In fact, Scripture plainly teaches us that the will of God is that we are sanctified – that is, made more like Christ.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”

– 1 Thess 4.3

God sent Jesus to live and die in order to pay the penalty for our sin and offer us salvation.  God sent the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sin and push us on to righteousness (John 16.8).  The sanctification process, therefore, is us understanding what God defines as sin, allowing the Holy Spirit to convict and change us, dying to that sin, and living to righteousness.  Both of these passages that speak so simply about the will of God give us very clear pictures of what that sanctification looks like:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.  But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks…So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”

– Eph 5.1-11, 17-21

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.

– 1 Thess 4.3-7

Scripture clearly teaches us that everything we do can and should be done to the glory and honor of God.  Eating, drinking, talking, working, etc.  Anything you will do throughout your day should be done to God’s glory.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

– 1 Cor 10.31

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

– Col 3.17

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

– Col 3.23-24

Therefore, we should be primarily concerned about our hearts and sin in relationship to the will of God.  Then, as we are making decisions about work, moves, dating, marriage, child rearing, we have a clear standard by which to judge our decisions:  Are we making these decisions to the glory and honor of God?  Are we sinning or going against any of God’s commandments to make this decision?

There are also some big picture commandments that we are given, which we often neglect in making some of our major life decisions.  The final commandment Jesus gave us, for example, was to go and make disciples of all the nations (Matt 28.18-20).  Is your job, relationships, family, everything doing that?  Is it enabling you to do that?

Perhaps we should reconsider how we pursue the “will of God”.  We should remember that God is primarily concerned about our holiness, and therefore we should also be concerned about dying to our flesh, repenting of sin and living our daily lives every day to His glory and honor.  Above that, as we are making our life decisions, we can simply ask the examining questions:  Is it sin?  Does it glorify God?  Is it obeying scripture?  Is it making disciples or enabling me to make disciples?  It is possible that there will come a time when there are two equally God-glorifying options before us and in those (very rare) situations, we can be confident to do what we want.  However, more often, we will clearly recognize that one decision will prove to be more effective at facilitating our holiness and obedience.

It is God’s will that we become more like Jesus.  He is, at fact, at work within us to produce this outcome.  Let’s join Him and understand His will.

“…for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

– Phil 2.13


Don’t go without His presence.


How do you go about making your daily plans?  How does your church go about reaching out to the community?  Missions and evangelism have gone through waves of trends and whenever a church sees a large response, many others try to jump on the bandwagon and reproduce what the church did in order to attain the same results.  The same can be said for third world missions, for community development, and even for daily, individual decision making.  We think that if it worked for so-and-so, I am going to give it a try to see if it works for me.  We turn to God as our magic genie instead of the sovereign creator who has a purpose and a plan for history and our lives.

Moses had a tricky situation.  Pharaoh had commanded that all of the baby boys be killed who were two years old and younger in order to keep the Hebrew slave population under control, but his mother saved him and hid him.  He was providentially rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter who raised him as her own son.  Imagine that.  Pharaoh was trying to minimize the number of Hebrews and here one is raised in his own household.  Moses knew his heritage (he was not confused as the recent movie suggested) and even from his position in Pharaoh’s household attempted to help his brothers out by killing an Egyptian who was mistreating them (Ex 2.11-14).  But, as is human nature, Moses’ good intentions were misunderstood and reviled by the Hebrew men.  The Hebrew men were jealous of Moses’ position and lashed out at him.  The story got back to Pharaoh and Pharaoh tried to kill Moses for what he did, so Moses ran for his life.  He settled in a nearby country, married a priest’s daughter and began working as a shepherd.

But then God called.  God wanted to use Moses to free the entire nation of Israel from slavery and Moses was a coward.  He did not want to go.  God spoke to him verbally, told him the plan, showed him miracles, and still Moses whined.  He pushed back so hard that it provoked God to anger, in fact (Ex 4.14).  Ultimately, however, God used Moses and he became the most well known and revered patriarch of the people.  Moses was the only person with whom God spoke face-to-face, as a friend, and was the man to whom God gave the entire Law.  God transformed a murderer and a coward into a dynamic leader.

As God was leading the people to freedom into the wilderness, they questioned every step of the way.  God became so frustrated with them that He said,

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’  I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.  Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.”

– Ex 33.1-3

This is a strange omen.  God had promised the people the land of Canaan, and we know that by the next generation Joshua would lead the people into the land.  But God intended for this generation to live out their lives in the wilderness.  He was so tired of their foolishness that He told them to go up to the land, that He would send an angel before them, but He promised to not accompany them and to destroy them on the way.  The people mourned and Moses pleaded with God:

“Then he said to Him, ‘If Your presence does not go with us,do not lead us up from here’.”

– Ex 33.15

Moses had been transformed and wanted only to be in God’s presence and under His provision.  God had proven Himself faithful and powerful, and Moses wanted to remain there.  Moses was not concerned about how other nations were seeing victory and settling the land.  Moses was not concerned about anything except remaining in God’s presence and in His will.  Therefore, His plea was simple.  “Go with us”.

When was the last time you were approaching a decision, a conversation, an event, a mission or outreach and stopped to say, “God, where do you want us to go?  What do you want us to do?  We do not want to do anything unless you go with us!”?  Just because First Baptist down the street saw a huge response to Vacation Bible School does not mean that we should have a Vacation Bible School.  Just because we have always had a youth camp at the end of June does not mean that we should have another youth camp at the end of June.  Just because so-and-so planted and entire church in any-city, USA using such-and-such evangelism method does not mean we should polish and perfect such-and-such evangelism method.

God is not a God of systems and methods.  God is a God of those who love Him.  We will not force His hand to move.  We can only seek His will and ask Him what it is that He would have us to do.  So let’s slow down.  Let’s evaluate our day-to-days, and let’s consider our regular decision making processes.  Do we stop and wait for God and His presence?  Or do we judge barge forward and ask Him to bless our activities?

Notice that Moses acknowledges that God can lead the Hebrew people without accompanying them.  He is sovereignly in control of everything that happens.  He is not shocked when we try to mimic other people and churches’ successes.  He might even lead us to that failure in order to open our eyes to our need of His presence.  So submit to Him.  Slow down.  Remember that it is in fact better to stay in the wilderness with His presence than to barge into the land of milk and honey without it.

Don’t go without His presence.

Obey God, and leave the consequences to Him.


Sometimes when we are left looking at our lives at the moment of decision or crisis, we weigh the consequences.  We list the pros, the cons, and we think about where each potential decision could lead us.  Sometimes we are deciding between right and wrong.  Sometimes we are deciding between good and best.  Sometimes we are just deciding.

God has given us a few, very clear, commandments (this list is not exhaustive):

1)  Die to ourselves daily and follow Him (Luke 9.23)
2)  Put away sin  (Rom 6)
3)  Go make disciples of all the nation (Matt 28.18-20)

So when we are making decisions we can ask ourselves things like, “Am I dying to myself by making this decision?”, “Is this sinful?” and “Is this decision helping or hindering me to make disciples?”.  We can always test and gauge ourselves by asking ourselves examination questions in our decision making and lifestyle choices.  God has been clear about what He wants from us and how we are to live.

Last night my dad was reflecting on a missionary family that he has known since early adulthood.  The man took his wife and son to Australia, living by raised support, and has been serving faithfully for over thirty years.  He is now in his late fifties, his wife has many medical issues, they are still serving and the man owns nothing.  My dad asked him if he had plans for retirement, and he said “I will keep working, I have nothing”.  He has no house, he has no money, he has nothing to “fall back on”, as we like to say.  He has given everything to God, and is trusting God to provide.

Charles Stanley encourages us simply:

Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.

God has promised us eternal life, to meet our needs, and to work all things together for His glory and our good.  Even if we do not see radical blessings in our lives as a result of obedience while we are here on the Earth, we know that our treasure and our reward is in Heaven.  So examine yourself, test your life, your decisions and your treasures against Scripture, and trust God for the outcome.  He is in control.  He will work it out.

Do you have a peace about it?


Decision making can be difficult at times.  For those of us who put our trust and hope in Jesus Christ, we know that God has plans for our lives, we know that we are supposed to pray to seek His guidance, but knowing which path to take can sometimes be difficult to discern.  My small group was discussing last night how exactly we are supposed to ascertain God’s will in a decision between two good options.  God gives us very clear outlines in Scripture about right and wrong, and defines parameters for us when it comes to decisions like who to marry, ethics and morality.  But what about when doors 1 and 2 have no moral implication?

My dad used to tell me that as long as we are abiding in Christ, if we are one with Him and seeking Him, then we can rest confidently that God is molding our hearts to be like His, He is making our hearts desire what He desires, so when it comes to this kind of a decision, we can do what we want!  We can trust that God has affected our hearts and one decision will not lead us down a path of destruction since it is not sinful.  We should not over-spiritualize the good/good decisions.

“Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.”

– Ps 37.4

This verse is often misunderstood and misapplied to lead people to believe that God will give us whatever we want.  Rather, it is teaching that when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will transform our hearts to desire what He wants us to desire.

That being said, we are often advised – or we just think – that God will give us a “peace” about the right decision.  Peace.  We contemplate minor and major life decisions, pray about them and wait for peace.


Where in Scripture does it say, “God will tell you which path to take by giving you peace”?  Let us consider the last great journey of Paul.  After he had completed his missionary journies, the Spirit led him to go to Jerusalem to report to the Apostles everything that had happened amongst the Gentiles.

“Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, ‘After I have been there, I must also see Rome.'”

– Acts 19.21

“And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.”

– Acts 20.22-23

Paul knew that the Spirit was taking him to Jerusalem.  He said that he was “bound by the Spirit”.  He had no other option but to go.  And he was unsure of what would happen, other than that it was probably going to be bad.  It was a long trip to Jerusalem and Luke records the stops along the way.

When we came in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo.  After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.

– Acts 21.3-4

While Paul and his crew were staying in Tyre, the Holy Spirit told the disciples to urge Paul to not go to Jerusalem.  The Spirit was telling Paul one thing, and telling others to tell Paul the opposite.  Paul knew the voice of the Spirit and was unwavering in His decision, but consider what your level of peace would be heading out on a journey when the Spirit was compelling people to tell you to not go!  Later they came to  Caesarea and stayed with disciples there.

“As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.  And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says: “In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”’  When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem.”

– Acts 21.10-12

Each step closer Paul got to Jerusalem, the Spirit’s warning grew stronger.  Agabus prophesied that Paul would be bound and turned over to the Gentiles if he went on to Jerusalem.  And what was Paul’s response?

“Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’”

– Acts 21.13

Now, one might argue that Paul had peace from God and had made peace with himself that he would be obedient no matter what happened.  And the only true knowledge of Paul’s heart condition that we have is that he himself said that the disciples were breaking his heart by pleading with him to not go.  But my point is simply this:  it is possible that God will give us convictions and callings and will Himself test us by telling other Christians to oppose us.  Will peace be the driving factor when someone opposes us?

But let us now examine the example of Jesus.

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’  And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.  Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’  And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’  And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?  Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’  He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.’  Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.”

– Matt 26.36-44

Jesus, as He neared the end of His life on Earth, as He approached the very reason He had come to Earth, was grieved and distressed in His spirit.  He spent the last few hours before it all began begging God to find another way, to let him avoid the cross.  Three times He prayed, for at least an hour, pleading with God for another way.  He submitted Himself to the ultimate plan of redemption and salvation by dying on the cross, but Jesus most certainly did not have that peace we often require in making our decisions.  He even told the disciples that His Spirit was willing to obey, but His flesh was fighting against it; His flesh was weak.  He did not will for it to be, but He was willing to submit to God’s will.

Jesus Himself, before the single most important event in history, did not have peace from God, but rather was distressed and grieved, with weak flesh fighting against the decision that had to be made to assure salvation for everyone who would believe.  Why, then, would we expect God to work differently for us?

Let us consider our decision-making tactics.  God has given us extremely clear instructions for life on Earth through His written word.  We understand morality, ethics; we even understand His heart for us (our sanctification, 1 Thess 4.3) and His heart for the Church and the world (to make disciples of all nations, Matt 28.18-20).  We can test every decision before us by those standards:  does it glorify God?  Are we making disciples?  Are we growing in maturity and Christ-likeness?  If those three things are met, then we can and should trust that God is making our hearts to be like His – desiring what he desires.  But we must also recognize that there are times when He will test us by placing roadblocks in our way.  Sometimes He will straight up refute our decision to test our obedience and determination.  And there are times that our flesh will fight against that to which He is calling us.  Peace is not the standard.  Calling is.  Obedience is.  Let us ask God for wisdom, because He promises to give it freely to anyone who asks, and let us rest on His word, regardless of our emotions.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

– James 1.5

The Danger of Compartmenalization

Have you ever gone on a mission trip, or a retreat or Church camp?  We find that we often experience God much in these settings.  Why does that happen?  Why does God reveal Himself and interact with us when we put ourselves in these situations?

The answer is simple.  We go in expecting to interact with Him.  When we go on a mission trip, we have our quiet time regularly.  We often have a daily devotion with the whole group.  We also pray about the things we are going to do, and we are intentional about our endeavors to talk about Jesus and the Gospel and to serve the lost.  Camp is the same!  We go in expecting something different and we set aside time for Jesus.

I am in a time of transition in my own life.  I am getting married in a few months and all of the big life decisions that come with that are staring us in the face.  One thing that has been particularly heavy is the discussion of where to live.  We would like to be overseas, but will spend at least the first year of marriage in the states.  Do we buy a house and have it available for missionaries to stay when we leave?  Do we build equity and rent it out when we go?  Do we just rent and try to save money?  The housing market in Denver is insane and discouraging, to say the least.  And I found myself quite discouraged last week.


Because I was trying to make the decision based on what I want.  In college, I intentionally lived in the international dorm to be amongst foreigners.  Overseas I walked and prayed over communities and asked God to provide the exact place He would have for me to live.  But for some reason in Denver, I have started down this path in my own “wisdom” (with my fiance, of course).

Thankfully He got my attention.  And the freedom that has come since Sunday in releasing my “wants” and asking for His direction and trusting that He has a place for us has given me deeper communion with Him and has released the stress of trying to figure it all out.

Is your faith compartmentalized?  What decisions are you trying to make on your own?  What habits are established in your life simply out of normalcy?  How often do you consider your daily decisions in prayer?

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

– Col 3.17