This weekend as our church family gathers for worship, we will be celebrating all of our graduates from preschool to graduate school. It’s important that we celebrate the accomplishments and victories along the way. This is also one of those moments in life, when, if we are going to question our next step, we do. If we are a believer, the answers to these questions are important. “What is God’s plan for me? What is His plan for my child? How does He want me to lead my student through this next transition? What is God’s will?”
This weekend our student minister will lead us through this important truth about the power of prayer.
When we praise our all-knowing God, the very act of praising Him opens the channel through which He imparts His wisdom and knowledge of His will to us.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 directs us to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks. For this is God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will for your life.”
Three realities I hope you will think about this week as we prepare for our time together this weekend.
First, God can be known and His will can be known. One of the great attributes of the God we love and call Father is that He can be known by us. And along with my ability to know God is to know His will. God’s perfect will for your life and mine can be found in His word. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. God’s will is that we love him with all our heart, mind, and soul, and that we love others as we love ourselves. It’s always God’s will that we obey Him, that we pray and have faith. It is in knowing God that we know his character - that He is loving, joy filled, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, self controlled, faithful, and understanding.
As Jesus taught us in Matthew 6, today as you pray, acknowlege what you know to be true about God according to the Bible. Praise Him as your creator, the author of your story, your Lord, Savior, and provider of every good and perfect gift. And then, in light of these truths about God, consider what His word says about the questions you have for your next steps… Finally, engage these truths with great confidence that God is whom He says He is, and He is with you.
Second, make a conscious decision that it is God's will that I want. That may seem counterintuitive when we are already wondering what God's will is. But think about it. God's will can be known to us just as He can be known by us, and so decide up front that He knows what is best. He knows what the future holds. He knows the plans he has for us. And so decide right now that it is God's will that you want, and then praise Him by acknowledging that. Jesus gave us a living example of this in Luke 22:42. "Father, if it is your will, take this cup away from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done." Jesus prayed through the night, until he sweat drops of blood, as he wrestled to align what He wanted with what God had made clear that He wanted from Jesus - complete surrender.
God wants the same thing from you and me. He wants complete surrender. If you think about it, when we stop trying to get our own way or push our own agenda and listen intently, observe the faithfulness, recognize the truth, it is in these moments that we can get on the same page, aligning our lives. The Apostle Paul challenges us this way in Romans 12:1.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. 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."
Third, God gives me wisdom to understand His will when I seek it. Haven't there been times when you just knew the truth about a situation or a person? Times when you were sure of the right decision to make? Times when you sensed strongly what the wrong decision would be. Times when you were aware of danger, although you had no hard evidence… And so you acted on your feelings and still made a mistake... Ephesians 5:17 says, "Do not be unwise, but understand what the will of The Lord is." That means we shouldn't risk making an unwise decision by moving before we understand the mind of God or the leading of the Holy Spirit about it. So how do we get the mind of God?
James 1:5 says,
"If any of you lack wisdom he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."
That's a pretty strong statement. God will give us wisdom if we ask, when seek it. So how do I know if the wisdom is from God or just a hunch? It will match up with the truth of His word, the Bible. It will not contradict it.
And so here is what you do. Live your every day life aligning yourself with God. Go to God and align yourself with the truth about God, who He is, what He has promised. It is all right there in His word. Ask Him for wisdom to apply what you know to be true about Him and what He provides and promises to your situation. When you believe you have the answer make sure it doesn't conflict with the truth of the Bible and then move forward. James finishes his statement in verse 6, "But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double minded man, unable in all he does."
Almost 30 years ago, I had been a follower of God all of my teenage years. I was within months of graduation and believed it was God's will that I go to bible college in Cincinnati. I had checked out the school, been groomed by my minister, I was set to go into vocational ministry. One day the phone rang and it was the FBI recruiting me for a career. I had never met an FBI agent, never been to an FBI office, and never even considered it. I was going to be a preacher. After visiting the local FBI office in Louisville and spending weeks in prayer, I realized that I had been asking God for direction for the two years prior but I was the one who had decided the direction. I mean, what else could God want for me other than bible college? But he wanted something else. At the age of 19, I took the job, completed 9 years of college and months of training, got married, bought a house, and received promotion after promotion. I was the youngest of my peers by a decade or more. God blessed every aspect of my life. Four years into my career, I understood why God chose the FBI and why I was being promoted rapidly. My first wife was diagnosed the first year we were married with a brain tumor. For the next 10 years, God provided everything we needed for her treatment and care. During my 15 year career with the FBI I remained fully engaged in my home church serving as an Elder, Chairman of the Board, part time worship minister and my heart continued to long for full-time ministry.
It was the final year of my first wife's time on earth that I quit my job at the FBI and accepted a full-time position as worship pastor at my home church. God granted me that year to care for her in our home before she died. Later that same year God gave me my wife Sarah. We were married the next year and were given the next 15 months or so to get our feet on the ground. It was then God called me here to Memphis, where God has developed me as a preacher - the very calling He had been preparing me for all through high school, college, my career with the FBI, and certainly my life of leaning on Him and following His lead every day through the mountains and valleys of the journey.
Over the last 30 years, I've sought God's will, I've praised Him for having a will, and I've tried to align my life with what He continues to reveal as His will. Have I made mistakes, chosen my will over his at times? You bet and I have, and I can't imagine what I missed during those thankfully brief times. Today, even when challenges come, I can't wait to see what God has planned next. I'm sure there will be some tough times, some great times, but I praise Him that He is with me and has a perfect plan for me. He offers the very same to all who will love Him with all their heart, mind, and strength.
I look forward to seeing you this weekend at 5:30pm on Saturday and 10:30am on Sunday.