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Discovering God's Will for Your Life
By Sheila Walsh
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2003 Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhere There's a Will ...
"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
Matthew 6:10, NKJV
Clearing the Cobwebs
Consider these two words: willfulness and willingness. Just a few letters are different, but the meaning is altered considerably. How would you compare these two attitudes?
As we ponder the big questions in life, our minds wander down well-worn paths. "Who am I?" "What should I do?" "Where should I go?" "Why am I here?" We long to do something of value, to be recognized, to distinguish ourselves, and to leave a legacy. As Christians, we also wish to discover God's will for our lives. Surely He is already laying the groundwork for our lofty aspirations in life. Then, when things don't quite meet our expectations, we are perturbed. And if they take a dire turn into disaster, we are perplexed. What went wrong? We missed the point.
The thing is, God's will is just that-God's will. He tends to do things His way, in His time, according to His own plan, and with His own purposes in mind. God often ignores our agenda! Over and over the Scripturesbring up an important theme: "My ways are not like your ways!" Sometimes we need a gentle reminder that He's not like us.
1. Have you ever tried to reason with a two-year-old? A mother can begin calmly enough, but when faced with the one-track-minded, stubborn resolve of a selfish little person, she is reduced to begging, bribing, threatening, shouting, compromise, and even surrender. How are we like a self-absorbed toddler compared to God?
2. Consider Isaiah 55:8. "'My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord." How does our limited perspective affect our day-to-day living?
Sometimes we find ourselves in a clash of wills. God's way just isn't what we had in mind. In the midst of troubling circumstances, God does not despise us for our honest questions. He welcomes us to pour out our troubled hearts before His throne. In fact, when our pain is so deep, His Spirit even provides groanings on our behalf. More than one of God's chosen prophets has stood before Him and cried out "Why?" However, at the end of each rant, God gently reminds the mere human of the way things are. Some of us might need to be nudged back into our place once in a while as well.
"So you see, God shows mercy to some just because He wants to, and He chooses to make some people refuse to listen. Well then, you might say, 'Why does God blame people for not listening? Haven't they simply done what He made them to do?' No, don't say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to criticize God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who made it, 'Why have you made me like this?' When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn't he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? God has every right to exercise His judgment and His power, but He also has the right to be very patient with those who are the objects of His judgment and are fit only for destruction. He also has the right to pour out the riches of His glory upon those He prepared to be the objects of His mercy." -Romans 9:18-23, NLT
3. Read Romans 9:18-23 above. Do you ever feel like the pot that says, "Why have you made me like this?" Would you love to ask God, "Why?" about some aspect of your life?
4. Something within us fights against being told what to do. We are constantly urged to fight for our rights, to value individuality, to find our own path, to sport our own unique style. According to Romans 9, what are God's rights? What are ours?
5. Make no mistake, though He has His own motives, God is at work in our lives. Philippians 2:13 reminds us that "it is God who works in you." But the verse goes on to say why He is working: "both to will and to do for His good pleasure." What does Paul mean "to will and to do"?
6. Look up Romans 12:2. How does Paul define God's will here?
So, we are insignificant. Compared to God we are nothing. We are blades of grass. We are specks. We are nothing but dust (Ps. 103:14). Perhaps we have overestimated our own value? How very ... encouraging? But wait! God does not always humble us. Often the Scriptures remind us that we are precious in His sight. Though we are very small, we have been created to glorify God in our lives.
7. Remember the song "Jesus Loves the Little Children"? That last line states: "red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight." God has a plan and a place for each of His precious daughters. Read John 6:39. What does Jesus say is His Father's will?
Look up Psalm 95:10 and Hebrews 3:10. The writer of Hebrews is quoting from the Psalms passage, and speaks of people who do not know God's ways. Contrast that with the beautiful description in Isaiah 58:2, with a people who delight to know God's ways!
Ponder & Pray
This week, pray that God will open your eyes to see the people and things around you the way that He sees them! Allow Him to help you distinguish between the things that are fleeting in this life (like television sitcoms, manicured nails, and immaculate homes) and the things that will last into eternity (like God, His Word, and people). Ask Him to shape your life so that He can use you for His glory.
Trinkets to Treasure
At the close of every Women of Faith(r) conference, women are asked to play a little game of pretend. Each conference guest is asked to imagine that a gift has been placed in their hands-one from each of the speakers. These gifts serve as reminders of the different lessons shared by the Women of Faith. This study guide will carry on this tradition! At the close of each lesson, you will be presented with a small gift. Though imaginary, it will serve to remind you of the things you have learned. Think of it as a souvenir! Souvenirs are little trinkets we pick up on our journeys to remind us of where we have been. They keep us from forgetting the path we have traveled. Hide these little treasures in your heart, for as you ponder on them, they will draw you closer to God!
Trinkets to Treasure
Our token gift for this week is a tiny clay pot, to remind us of our smallness and fragility compared to our great God. Though a humble pot is made from mud, it has been shaped in such a way to make it useful. Remember that no matter how shapeless your pot may seem, God has chosen to pour out His riches and glory into it.
* Notes & Prayer Request * _________________________________________________ _________________________________________________ _________________________________________________ _________________________________________________
Chapter TwoGod's Will Is Relationship
"Whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother."
Clearing the Cobwebs
What relationships in your life have most shaped your Christian walk? What did these people help you to see?
Have you ever had to fill out a form? You know the kind: name, birth date, and social security number. Then there comes a line that is always cause for pause. "What is your religious affiliation?" With furrowed eyebrows, I think back and consider my options. Some of my first memories are of long wooden pews and stained-glass windows. Then my parents enthusiastically switched to a completely different church where hands were raised and worship was rather rowdy. Then, as a preteen, I was sent to a conservative school where boys' hairlines and girls' hemlines were strictly monitored. If Christians were given pedigrees, I would be considered a mutt!
So how do we fill in the blank? Do the makers of these lists really want that much information? Do they care? So do we declare a denominational preference? With a sigh, I carefully print the word Christian on the form.
The makers of such lists simply categorize us as an adherent to one of the many different religions out there. They have no idea what that single word entails. We are not just Christians, as opposed to people of other religious groups. We are Christians-chosen, forgiven, redeemed, saved, changed, filled, sealed, adopted, and thankful! To them, it is the answer to a fill-in-the-blank question. To us, it is everything! Christianity is not just a religion-it is a relationship.
1. God has promised to fill in the blanks in our relationships. He is a parent to the orphan, a husband to the widow, a friend to the lonely, a brother to the believer. Doing God's will secures our relationship with God. How has God met your need for Him?
2. Look up Mark 3:35. What kind of relationship results from doing the will of God?
3. So, you are a believer and you have a relationship with God. Great! The next logical question seems to be "So what do I do now?" The answer is surprising! John 6:29 says, "The work God wants you to do is this: Believe the One He sent." God wants believers to believe Him. What does that mean?
4. If we really take God seriously and take Jesus at His Word, how should our beliefs affect our everyday lives? Have you allowed what you believe to transform you?
Sometimes a parent can look into the face of their child and they are struck to the very core of their being with love. The emotion is so intense that it almost hurts, and often that sweet sting brings tears to the eyes. Mother-love must be one of the strongest feelings possible. It can cause moms to do the strangest things! Yet God loves us more than that. "In His goodness He chose to make us His own children by giving us His true Word. And we, out of all creation, became His choice possession" (James 1:18, NLT). He did some pretty wild things on our behalf, too! How astonishing to find the Master of the Universe taking time to build relationships with friends and disciples. "No longer do I call you servants ... but I have called you friends" (Matt. 15:15, NKJV). That hand of friendship has been extended to us as well!
5. Look up 1 Timothy 2:4. This is a pretty clear statement of what God wants. What does Paul say here?
6. In fact, God is so anxious for our salvation that He is allowing time to pass so that more and more of us can become Christians. According to Matthew 18:14, what does Jesus say is not God's will?
7. Don't you get frustrated with people who can't seem to read a clock? The kids dilly-dally around when their rooms need tidying. Our less-than-punctual friends can't seem to remember what time we agreed to meet at the park. Peter faced people who were criticizing God for being too slow. Look up 2 Peter 3:9. Is this a case of pokey-ness? Who can you think of that can still benefit from God's delay?
As a Christian, the Spirit is drawing you in God's direction. There is a longing for His Word, for prayer. Those are the building blocks of a relationship-and a divine one at that! Though you cannot see this new Father, this new Brother, this new Friend, there is no doubt about His presence. He has chosen you, and welcomes you to know Him better. God assures us He has a plan for our lives-a purpose in our place here. Though His purposes may only become clear to you in hindsight, you can walk forward in confidence. He who has led you safely thus far will surely lead you on!
8. Many women have taken Jeremiah 29:11 as their life's verse. Look it up! Why do God's words here bring us such comfort and confidence?
9. What is another aspect of God's will as found in 1 Corinthians 1:1?
10. Calling does not always entail full-time Christian ministry. Some women are called to be wives and mothers. Others are called to be friends, helpers, encouragers, intercessors, listeners, teachers, advisors, protectors, leaders, and motivators. Do you feel a calling of God for your life? What niche have you found in this season of life?
How do you build a relationship with someone you cannot see? People are trying it all the time nowadays on the Internet! But we are talking about God here, and He doesn't seem to have an email address. Though our pursuit of God might seem one-sided at times, let's look at some passages that assure us God is find-able and know-able.
Deuteronomy 4:29 Proverbs 8:17 Jeremiah 29:13 Matthew 7:7 Acts 17:27
Ponder & Pray
This week find ways to deepen your relationship with God. Choose a passage of Scripture to read and reread. Memorize one of the verses from the Digging Deeper section. Go for a prayer walk and tell Him about your day. Tack up a hymn to sing while you do the dishes. Start journaling your prayers. Type Him an email! Pray that God would reward your earnest seeking by revealing Himself to you.
* * * Trinkets to Treasure
This week's token is a reminder that we have a relationship, not just a religion. We hear of friendship rings and promise rings, engagement rings, wedding rings, and anniversary rings. The bands on our fingers become physical reminders of the relationships we hold dear. Your trinket for this week is a pretty little ring to remind you of your pledge to One who loves you more deeply than words can express. Slip it onto your finger every time you mull over Jesus' Word, and allow what you believe in your heart to transform your life.
* Notes & Prayer Requests * _________________________________________________ _________________________________________________ _________________________________________________ _________________________________________________
Chapter ThreeIs God's Will So Mysterious?
The people asked Jesus, "What are the things God wants us to do?"
John 6:28, NCV
Clearing the Cobwebs
If you were forced to simplify your life down to the very basics of survival, what few precious items would you keep with you? What nonessential items would be hardest to give up?
How can I know God's will for my life?" "Am I outside of God's will in this?" "What is God's will for us?" "If God wills it, we will proceed." "I am praying that God will show us His will." "I want to be in God's perfect will for my life!"
Why does "God's will" seem to be such an elusive thing? God's ways may be unsearchable, but is His will unknowable? Some days we are never quite sure if we are on the right track.
So, how do we find God's will for our life? Many of us have looked for a magic formula to determine the will of God. Some of us have tried the strangest things in order to figure it out! Moments of struggle have found us in some quiet corner, allowing our Bible to drop open, and with closed eyes pointing out a verse on the page. Desperate times have driven us to make strange bargains. "Lord, if this is your will for my life, then please let the next car that drives past my house be a red one!" We look for a verse. We pray for a sign. We wish for an arrow painted across the sky.
Thankfully, we do not need to abandon common sense in seeking God's leading! Let's get down to brass tacks then. What are the steps for finding God's will when we are faced with a difficult decision?
1. The first place to turn is God's own Word. Luci Swindoll says, "The Bible is very definitive about the responsibility of a disciple of Christ." How can we look to the Bible for decision-making advice now when it was written centuries and even millennia ago?
2. We are seeking God's will, but the only way we can please Him is if we know what He wants! Romans 2:18 says: "You know what He wants you to do and what is important, because you have learned the law" (NCV). Then Jesus came with a whole new way of doing things. Look at John 15, especially verses 8-12. What are some of the things asked of us here?
3. So, is God's Word really just a guidebook for living?
4. The next clue we have in searching out God's will is our circumstances. Do you have a story of a time when God's hand was clear in closing one door in your life and opening another door in an unexpected way?
Excerpted from Discovering God's Will for Your Life by Sheila Walsh Copyright © 2003 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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