All of us long to know God’s will for our lives. How do we know the decisions we are making in life fit in with His larger plan for us? Should I marry this person? Should I quit this job? Should I invest in this stock? Should I move to this town? Should I go back to school? What should my major be? Should I have children? Should I stay married? All of us wrestle with one thousand questions like this every day. How can we know which answer God wants us to choose? How can we be sure we are doing what God is blessing? That’s what Pastor Greg speaks about in this 3-part series called “G.P.S. (God’s Positional System).”
Tonight is Part 1 of 3 – Guardrails, Guardrails.
We’re starting a new three-part series tonight called G.P.S. – God’s Positioning System. Essentially, we’re going to talk about how to discover God’s will for your life. Just like you ask your GPS to give you directions and how to avoid pitfalls along the way, God has a system for helping you navigate all of life and how to know when you are on the right path of God’s will for your life. How do you know this is God’s will for your life? How do you know it’s not just your idea? How do you know that it’s something that God has called you to do? How do you make a decision? You have two options. Do I turn left or turn right? Which decision, which life turn is the right one? How is God going to tell me and how am I going to know it’s from God.
It’s been said that life is really just the sum total of the decisions that we make. And I think there’s a lot of truth in that statement. If I had just made a different turn here or took a different path there in my life, my life would have turned out completely differently. We talked about some of that last month. Sometimes it’s time to start. Sometimes it is time to stop. Sometimes it is time to stay and sometimes it is time to go. The reality is, most of us are not where we dreamed we would be at this stage of life. Most of us have fallen short of our childhood or youthful aspirations. I am not a professional NFL football player. I am not an astronaut. All of those dreams that I had as a kid, those things didn’t happen. Some of that is because God had different plans for me, but I’ve also made some bad decisions along the way, too. I’ve made some wrong turns along the way. I didn’t pay close enough attention to my GPS -God’s Positioning System.
We’ve ended up with our own will or somebody else’s will instead of the will of God in many cases. For the next three weeks our message focus and our prayer focus is going to be, “God, please help me. I need you to show me the way. I need you to plot a course for me. I need you to show me the right path. I need you to put up some guardrails for me. God, I need it to be crystal clear so that I don’t veer off to the left and I don’t veer off to the right. I want to just look at the road and know that’s where I’m supposed to go.” The good news is God is a heavenly Father who loves you and He wants to guide and direct your life. He wants to speak to us. He wants us to hear His voice just like our fancy GPS systems in our cars. He wants us to hear His will for our life.
There really is a God and He really is a heavenly father who loves you. And He cares about your life and He cares about the decisions that you make. And He really does communicate His will to us. God is always up to something bigger in this universe than my itty bitty life or your itty bitty life. There’s a bigger plan that we have to fit into this puzzle. It’s not all about me. It’s about this bigger picture that God is putting together. So would you do me a favor and read aloud with me? There’s a there’s a verse here on the screens behind me. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6 That’s a great promise, isn’t it? So what does that mean? In this case, “straight” means He will make your path obvious. He will make your path clear. He’ll tell you what you’re to do, where you’re to go, just like your car GPS. He will show you His will for your life. God has made that promise to all of us.
If we fully acknowledge Him in all our ways He will make our path straight, obvious, clear. We will know His will for our lives. In the Bible, every reference to the will of God falls into one of three broad categories. — 1) The Providential will of God – 2) The Moral Will of God. and 3) The Personal Will of God. — God’s will fo you personally. Those are the three things we’re going to talk about today. And for the majority of this series, we’re going to talk about that last one, the personal will of God, how God wants to steer and guide your life and your decisions. Today, we want to outline some of the framework for understanding what the personal will of God is, but to do that, we have to first understand the Providential Will and Moral will of God. These two types of God’s will are kind of like two guardrails for our life. When it comes to making life decisions I definitely know I’m not going to go completely off the road because God has given us two very obvious guardrails, protective barriers. That’s why today’s message is called Guardrails, Guardrails.
The first guardrail, let’s call it the left guardrail, is the Providential Will of God. God is going to do what God is going to do just because he is God. He is the creator and owner of everything and if He wants to do something, He’s going to do it. No matter what. Nobody can stop him. Doesn’t matter if you want Him to do it. Doesn’t matter if you pray for him to do it. Doesn’t matter if you believe He’s going to do it or doubt that He’s going to do it. God’s going to do His Providential Will no matter what. I’ll give you an example. God chose to send a messiah who would be born through a human mother. That’s just a choice that God made. Nobody was going to thwart that plan no matter what. The Messiah would come. Didn’t matter if anybody wanted a messiah to come.
Didn’t matter if anybody believed the Messiah would come. God was going to do it no matter what. That’s the providential will of God. We know one day Jesus will return in the clouds, the same way people saw Him go when He ascended back to heaven after His resurrection. There’s going to be a second coming of the Messiah and you can bank on it. It doesn’t matter if you want it to happen. Doesn’t matter if you believe it’s going to happen. Doesn’t matter if you try to stop it from happening. It’s not going to stop it because God’s going to do what God’s going to do. At the end of this age, God is going to judge everyone for their deeds and in respect to their relationship to Jesus Christ. Nobody can thwart that plan. Nobody can avoid that judgment day. It doesn’t matter if you believe it will happen. It doesn’t matter if you want it to happen. It’s going to happen because it’s just the providential will of God. Nobody can stop it from coming. God’s going to do what God’s going to do because He’s God.
As you look through the Old Testament, there’s this running theme that God is going to raise up a nation of people, which He has named Israel, and they are going to be His chosen people. It doesn’t matter if anybody wanted Him to do it or not. Didn’t matter if anybody believed He was going to do it or not. Didn’t matter if anybody wanted to try and stop Him from doing that. He was going to do it and it was going to happen because God wanted it to happen. That’s the providential will of God. God’s going to do what God’s going to do just because He’s God, He wants to do it, and nobody can stop him from doing it. It doesn’t hinge on our obedience. It doesn’t hinge on our willingness. It doesn’t hinge on our faith.
It doesn’t hinge on our knowledge of the word of God or even the will of God. Whatever we want Him to do or not to do, that’s irrelevant. God’s going to do whatever God’s going to do. That’s the Providential Will of God. But now here’s the other side of that. All through history, God has chosen to work through human beings. All through history, God has chosen to work through human beings to accomplish his Providential Will. So we can go back to those examples that I gave you a moment ago. He goes to the Virgin, Mary, and He says, listen, Mary, there’s going to be a messiah no matter what. There’s going to be a messiah. It’s going to happen. Nobody can stop me. But listen, Mary, I want to use you to accomplish this purpose. I want you to give birth to the Messiah. I want to use you to bring about my Providential Will. Will you work with Me on this or should I find someone else?
At Jesus’ ascension, God says to the apostles, “Listen, Jesus is going to come back no matter what. No one can stop it. Judgment day is coming, no one can stop it, I want to work through you to share that news with other people so that the news will spread far and wide and so everybody will be ready for that day when that day comes. And nobody will be surprised by it that when they see Jesus coming in the clouds and no one will be surprised when judgement day arrives. I would like to use you to accomplish my Providential Will. Will you work with me on this or should I find someone else? In the Old Testament, God went to Abrahem. He says, Listen, Abraham, I’m going to start a new nation. It’s going to be a great nation. It’s going to be so numerous, nobody can count them. And I’m going to do it no matter what. Nobody can stop me. But listen, Abraham, I really want to do it through you.
I want to use you to help bring this purpose about. Will you work with me on this or should I go find someone else. It’s going to happen either way but I’d like to do it through you. What do you say? Will you go start a new nation, Abraham? As believers, the more familiar we become with God’s Providential Will, what God is up to now and what God plans to do in this universe, no matter what, then the easier it becomes for us to identify His Personal Will for our lives. That’s because, listen, don’t miss this. Listen. That’s because we know that whatever that Personal Will is for our lives, it has to fit into the bigger picture of God’s Providential Will for, humanity, for the universe and for eternity. It can’t veer off the road through the guardrail of God’s Providential Will and still be the Personal Will of God for my life. That would be impossible. God’s Personal Will for my life and for your life, has to be inside that guard rail of what God is already planning on doing in His universe. Make sense. Again, think of it as the left guard rail of God’s Personal Will for your life.
On the other side, the right guardrail, is the Moral Will of God. Just like the Providential Will of God we also learn a lot about the Moral Will of God in the Bible. Thou shalt do this. Thou shalt not do this. Right? Pretty straight forward. The Bible’s made the Moral Will of God crystal clear. God spelled these things out for us. For example, God’s word defines sexual immorality and then says we should avoid sexual immorality. When faced with a decision about whether or not to engage in sexually immoral behavior, we don’t even have to pray about that. God’s already answered that question in His word. He’s not going to change his mind about it tomorrow. He wanted you to abstain from sexual immorality last week.
He still wants you to abstain from sexual immorality two weeks from next Thursday. That’s not going to change. It’s the Moral Will of God. He’s already revealed it to us on a lot of different levels throughout the Bible. We don’t have to agonize about whether or not to engage in sexual immorality. “Oh God, he is sooooo handsome, she is soooooo beautiful, and I really want to. We’re not married but we really want to. So, is this your will for my life?” NO! You never, ever have to pray a prayer like that because God’s already clearly answered that in the Bible. There are many, many other examples of this in Scripture. Things God has already weighed in on and told us to do them or not to do them. You don’t need to agonize about those decisions, pray about those decisions. You already have God’s answer. It is your right guardrail, the Moral Will of God. We recently talked about obeying the COVID related laws of our government. In Romans and in 1 Peter, twice, God answered this question. We are to submit ourselves to our government leaders because they are only in those positions because God has allowed them to be in those positions.
We don’t have to pray about these kinds of decisions. Should I speed Lord? Should I break the law Lord? Should I cheat on my taxes Lord? Should I ignore the government’s COVID safety mandates? Is that your will? No. God’s already answered that for us. We have the moral will of God right there in the Bible. He’s already put it in print for us. That too is a solid guardrail. The more obedient we become to the Providential Will of God and the Moral Will of God, the two clear, visible guardrails of live, the better we can discern the Personal Will of God for our life. We know, to find His Personal Will for us, it can’t possible exist on the other side of those guardrails.
It has to be somewhere in between those boundaries. So, just to be clear, these two guardrails again are number one, the Providential Will of God. Which is what God is up to now and what God plans to do in this universe, no matter what, just because He is God and He can. Guardrail number two is the Moral Will of God, which is what God has already revealed to us about His will for all of humanity through his Word, the Bible. Again, the more familiar you become with these two guardrails, the more you realize the Providential Will of God and the more obedient you are to the Moral Will of God, the easier it’s going to become for you to identify God’s Personal Will for your life. Because we know whatever God’s Personal Will for my life is, it has to fit into the bigger picture of God’s Providential Will for humanity, the universe, and eternity. And it has to not be in conflict with anything that God has already revealed about His Moral Will through the Bible. It has to be somewhere between those two guardrails. Is that clear? Does that make sense?
With that foundation, let’s spend the next three weeks talking about how to discover God’s Personal Will for your life. Because that’s the one we’re most interested in, isn’t it? God, should I marry her or should I marry her? God, should I take this job or that job? God, should I buy this car or that car or take the bus? God, should I go back to school? God, should I quit my job? God, should I move to Michigan or Maui? Yeah. All those kinds of questions. We all have one hundred of those types of questions every day, don’t we? And God is very interested in those kinds of decisions. That’s the good news today. God is very interested in those kinds of decisions. Look at First Corinthians one. Paul says
Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, … ~ 1 Corinthians 1:1a
Paul says, you know what, it is the will of God that I’ve been called to be an apostle. It’s not just my idea. It’s not just because I thought it’d be a really cool life career. It’s the will of God that I should do this thing in my life, Pretty cool right? Wouldn’t you love to have clarity that God called you to something specific like that? Now, look at 1 Peter 4:19 – this one isn’t as fun sounding. Peter writes
19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. ~ 1 Peter 4:19
Did you know that sometimes it’s according to God’s will that we go through suffering, that we go through trial, that we go through difficult times. It is God’s will that we should commit ourselves to our faithful Creator and continue to do good even though we are suffering. Peter says, sometimes, God wants some people to suffer. That might be His will, at times, for you or for me.
So we’ve all got these big decisions, big struggles in life, don’t we? So what do I do now? Should I join that partnership? Should I move to New Zealand? Should I become a missionary? Should I date that person? Should I let that person back into my life? Those are the kinds of questions related to the personal will of God that you and I face all the time. The difficulty or the challenge of discovering God’s will is not that God will not communicate it to you. You don’t have to worry about that because God loves you and God loves to communicate with us. He created communication. So you can be sure He’s the master communicator. He sent Jesus to die for you because He loves you so much. And anyone who loves you that much is going to want to spend time with you and is going to love to communicate with you.
The problem is our unwillingness to listen and our unwillingness to follow through with what God communicates to us. That’s the problem. The problem is not that God’s not communicating His will to us. He is always shooting that loud and clear! The problem is we don’t want to follow through sometimes with what He reveals. Here’s what we want to pray. “Lord, show me what You want me to do so I can consider it. I’m interested in hearing what you would do, Lord. I want to put Your opinion in my basket of multiple options and then I’ll consider it carefully. Maybe I’ll end up doing what you advise me to do God, but maybe I’ll choose a different option that I like better.” HELLO SOMEBODY! So we all do that. Can we all admit that? Listen. Don’t miss this. Listen. God does not give us options for our consideration. When God communicates, He assumes our participation. He assumes our action, our obedience. He knows everything. Are we really going to try to second guess God? God doesn’t give us His will for our consideration. He gives it to us for our participation. God waits until we’re at the point where we’re FINALLY willing to say, [PASTOR G SINGS] “Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord. Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord. Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord. Amen.” Do you get that?
He waits until we’re ready to say the answer is already yes, God. Before You even tell me what to do, I want you to know, my answer is already yes. Because I trust You and I know You’re way smarter than I am. Because I know You’ve already got my whole life and this whole world figured out. I’m just asking you what to do God, but, my answer is already. Yes. Whatever you tell me to do, God, that’s what I’m going to do. I won’t just make Your will an option. I won’t just consider Your will. My answer is already, yes. Now listen. Don’t miss this. Listen. God waits until we get to that point. And when you FINALLY get to that point, listen, now, when you get to that point, when you are ready to say “God, the answer is already yes, whatever You tell me to do, I will do.” That’s when you are going to hear from God loud and clear about that decision for your life. That’s when you will know the Personal Will of God in your life for that particular question. He wants you to know His will because God loves to give direction to his children. HOWEVER, God doesn’t give out information for our contemplation and consideration. He gives it out for our participation. God, since he knows everything, He also knows when we’re FINALLY ready to fully participate and when we’re really just sitting back, still looking at our options. He can tell the difference. And so He’s not going to reveal His Personal Will for your life while you’re still weighing your options. Look at the scripture we started with tonight. Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6
Let’s break this down one line at a time. Trust in the Lord with what? All your heart. There is our first problem yeah? We don’t want to trust Him with all of our heart. We only want to trust Him with part of our heart so that we can keep our options open. Right? Do not lean on your own understanding. Pretty clear command. The problem is we WANT to lean on our own understanding. We say, well, I’m pretty savvy. You know, I’m pretty smart. I’m pretty sharp customer. You know, I think I can figure this thing out on my own. I’ve been around the block a time or two. I think I can lean on my own understanding a little bit. In computer programing, there’s something they call an if-then statement.
For example, IF X is greater than five, THEN go to such and such a subroutine. Proverbs 3:5-6 is an IF-THEN statement by God. IF you will trust Me with all your heart and IF you will not lean on your own understanding, and IF you will in all your ways acknowledge Me, THEN I will make your path straight, clear, obvious, the direction you’re supposed to go. You see that right? This word, acknowledge – when God says “acknowledge Me” that’s not the way we tend to use that word. We say, “I acknowledge you.” But we just mean, I see you, I see that hand. I note that you exist and that you are here. Right? That’s what we mean. In Hebrew, the language this was originally written in, this word, acknowledge is yâda‛. It means to know by experience. In other words, to really know a person and know what they are about. Not to just acknowledge their existence or their presence.
God wants you to acknowledge Him, like this, in all your ways. IF you will do all that, then then then He will make your path straight, clear, obvious, and then He’ll reveal His personal will for your life. Don’t expect God to reveal His personal will for us, or as the way the Apostle Paul puts it, His good, pleasing and perfect will for us, if we are not trusting Him with all our heart, if we are instead leaning on our own understanding and if we are now acknowledging Him in all of our ways. That’s not how you learn the will of your Father. Thomas Merton once wrote:
We receive enlightenment only in proportion as we give ourselves more and more completely to God by humble submission and love. ~ Thomas Merton
To know the Personal Will of God, we do not first see and then act. We act and then see. And that is why the man or woman who waits to see clearly before he will believe never actually starts on the journey. We want to say, God, I’m not sure yet if I’m ready to do Your will, but I would like to at least know what it is. And then I can consider it and then I’ll decide whether I want to do it. In other words, I still want to be god of my own life. Your God, your Heavenly Father, who loves you, who created you, who sent His Son to die for you, says, “I’m sorry, I don’t work that way. But if you will trust in Me with all your heart and if you will lean on Me completely for understanding and if you will acknowledge Me in ALL your ways, I promise you I will make your path clear, plain, obvious, and you won’t be able to miss My Personal Will for your life.
Now, some of you are frightened by this and you’re frustrated because some of this is new to you and you think you want to know what God’s will is for your life, but you feel like, “What if I don’t like it? I mean, this is kind of new. This is kind of extreme. This is kind of scary. I don’t want to go all-in unless I know what I’m signing up for! What if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do? That’s risky to say. What if he tells me to go become a missionary to Botswana? I don’t want to be a missionary to Botswana. I don’t even know how to spell Botswana. I want to say, “God, I’ll do your will —— as long as it’s not this, this, this or this. And I tell you the truth, I did that coming out of seminary. I was still doing that. I prayed “God, I’ll go anywhere you want me to go. Serve anywhere you want me to serve. I’ll do anything You want me to do —— as long as it’s not hot and humid.” And God said, “Really? Well, have fun in North Carolina for 10 years, OK? And then have fun in Southern Ohio for 10 years? And so part of my journey was to teach me, hey, you can’t do that. You got to say, God, my answer is yes, yes, yes, whatever it is. And if I just said yes in the first place, I would have probably been here to hot and dry Waikoloa 20 years ago, I don’t know.
But God needed to teach me that over the course of time. And maybe He’s teaching you that right now too. Maybe you feel frustrated and scared, thinking “Do I really want to say yes without knowing what He’s going to ask me to do?” If He’s going to be God of your life, you have to. As you grow and mature and as you become more and more obedient to Him, when you can say yes to God no matter what, that’s when He’s going to reveal His good, pleasing and perfect will, to you. Broken people have an easy time discerning God’s will. They are at the end of their rope. They’re at the bottom of the barrel. They’ve got nowhere to turn, nowhere to look, but up. The prayers of broken people sound like this. God, Thy will be done. Thy will be done. My will has been a disaster. God help me, please. Everything I’ve touched has turned into a disaster. Every relationship decision, every career decision, every financial decision, everything I’ve done has turned into an absolute mess. I’ve hit rock bottom. God, I am broken. I don’t dare make another decision without you. Broken people have an easy time discovering the will of God because that’s where they’re at. My answer is yes Lord, yes. Help me God. I’ll do whatever you tell me to do.
This used to happen to me a lot. It hasn’t happened in the seven years I’ve been here. But I used to meet brand new Christians all the time. People who got saved right in our church that I got to baptize. It was awesome. Those brand new Christians were often just so clearly right smack dab in the center of God’s will for their life. It was almost spooky. And you say, why? Why is that? It’s because all they knew to do, in that First Love part of their spiritual life, all they knew to do was say yes, yes, yes to God. They were 100% sold out to Jesus and their only answer was YES LORD YES!
So maybe you’re sitting here tonight, watching online, and you’re feeling like, why does God make it such a needle in a haystack thing? Why does He seem to make it so difficult at times to know His well? Why doesn’t He just write the answer in 20 foot high letters of fire in the sky so none of us can miss it? And here’s the answer, because God is far more interested in you discovering HIM rather than just you discovering HIS WILL. What God is really after for your life is not just you discovering the details of His will, how to make your life better and smoother and happier. He wants to take you through the process of discovering his will but that’s really just a means to the larger end of God wanting you to discover Him. He wants you to build a relationship with Him and He knows that He gets your undivided attention whenever you’re trying to make a decision.
The rest of the time we all tend to just kind of ignore Him. But when we’re struggling with a big decision, man, that’s when God has our undivided attention. That’s when we really acknowledge Him, because we’re really struggling and we’re really scared about how am I going to fix this problem in my life. In the process of trying to know His will, we actually get to know Him better. And that’s ultimately what He’s after. Philip Yancey says it this way.
I do not get to know God and then do his will. I get to know him more deeply by doing his will. ~ Philip Yancey
God opens Himself up to us in ways we never expected when we seek His will. Do we just want to know the right answer or do we want to know the one from whom the right answers come? Parents? You can relate right? If the only time your kids ever spoke to you was when they needed money or help getting out of trouble and the rest of the time they didn’t give you the time of day, that’s not what you’re after is it? Same thing with God.
He is a loving Father who loves to give good gifts to His children but He is also a Father who wants His children to spend time with Him and show Him love as well. So as we wrap up tonight, listen, whatever you’re facing today, whatever struggle, whatever major decision, listen. God has a plan and God has a purpose and God has a direction for your life. God’s personal will for your life always lies somewhere between those two guardrails. On the left, the Providential Will of God, what God’s going to do anyway, no matter what, nobody can stop him because He’s God. On the right, the Moral Will of God, what God’s already revealed to us through the Bible. The more you trust Him with all your heart, the more you lean on Him, seeking His understanding rather than your own, the more you acknowledge Him in all your ways, the more straight He will make your path, the more clearly He will reveal the right choices for your life.
When God is ready for you to know something, you know what? You can’t miss it. You can’t miss it. You can look all you want. But there’s no place in scripture where people heard God speak and they said, “What? I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Could you say that again?” He’s the greatest communicator ever. Yet we often complain about how hard it is to hear God. No. Trust him, lean on him, acknowledge Him in all your ways and He’ll make your paths straight. God wants you to know His will even more than you do. You’ve come to a point where you’re willing to say, God, I want Your will more than I want any of the options I am leaning toward. I have an opinion. Here’s what I would like to see happen but God, no matter what Your will is, my answer is already yes, even if it is the opposite of what I was asking. When you can truly come to that point, you’re going to know the will of God for your life.
When your faith intersects with his faithfulness, you’ll know the will of God. You can’t possibly miss it. Now, next week, we’re going to talk about the shortcut. What if I HAVE to know RIGHT NOW? What if I HAVE to know today? What if I HAVE to know tomorrow morning? You’re talking about learning the Providential and Moral Will of God first Greg? Sheesh. I can’t even spell Providential. What about when seconds count? What about when I’ve got this huge decision I’ve got to make right now, then what do I do to discover God’s will? Well, you have to come back next Wednesday and I’ll tell you.
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~
(Series inspired by an Andy Stanley Series from 20 years ago.)