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|Publisher:||B&H Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||3 Months to 18 Years|
About the Author
Emerson was the senior pastor of Trinity Church in Lansing, Michigan, for almost twenty years. He holds a BA in biblical studies from Wheaton College, an MA in communication from Wheaton College Graduate School, and an MDiv from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. He and Sarah have been married since 1973 and have three adult children
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DISCOVERING GOD'S WILL
God Has a Will
Since some variation of the words "the will of God" or the "Father's will" occur more than twenty times in the New Testament, it is fair to assume "the will of God" exists and can be known. The apostle Paul commands us to "understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17). Jesus uses the expression when He addresses God with the words, "Your will be done" in what has come to be known as the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:10). Yes, God has a will that we must discover and do from the heart.
Paul declared "the whole purpose of God" (Acts 20:27). There is a body of content between Genesis and Revelation that squarely applies to the church. In less than thirty-six months, Paul taught the Christ-followers this "whole purpose."
We read in Jude 3, "the faith ... was once for all handed down to the saints." There are boundaries to this content. In fact, Paul warned: "learn not to exceed what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6).
Epaphras was "always laboring earnestly ... in his prayers" for the Colossians, that they might "stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God" (Colossians 4:12). Unfortunately, we can know and do just part of God's will.
How important is it to learn the whole purpose of God and do it from the heart?
Consider Jesus' words in Matthew 7:21: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter." Later, He adds, "For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother" (Matthew 12:50). John further emphasizes the importance of God's will when he declares, "the one who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:17). Doing the will of God, therefore, not only reveals our relationship to God, but it is also related to our eternal destiny. Concerning eternity, the writer of Hebrews states, "Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised" (Hebrews 10:35–36).
From Jesus and the apostles we learn that the will of God never ranks second to anything. For this reason, all of us should be asking, "What is God's will?" Most of the time when people ask, "What is God's will for my life?" they have in mind a specific concern: career, love relationships, finances, etc. Rarely do people simply ask, "What is God's will, His whole purpose, to which the Bible refers?" The difference between these two questions is crucial to finding God's will for you. I believe that if you start by asking the second question — "What is God's will?" — you will likely discern the answer to the first question, "What is God's will for my life?"
The question, "What is God's will for my life?" considers what I refer to as the unique will of God for me. The question, "What is God's will?" explores what I call the universal will of God for all believers. I contend that the best way to know God's unique will is to know and follow His universal will for all believers, and this book is about four universal wills of God, which serve as a great starting point, as I referenced in the Introduction.
God's Universal Will
The apostle John describes how following the universal leads to the unique. First John 3:21–22 states, "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight."
There we have it. Keep God's commandments (His universal will in imperative form) and encounter His unique response to our petition. In response, God guides and provides for us at a personal level. We can experience a remarkable answer to prayer, an orchestration of events pointing to a particular course of action, or a supernatural peace in the midst of unanswered prayers. Amazing things can happen as we keep His universal commandments and then ask Him to uniquely direct our steps.
God's Four Universal Wills
Though all of God's commands in the Old and New Testament that apply to the church fall under God's will for us, God reveals in four passages, four specific wills. I refer to them as the four wills of God.
Like on a map, it is as though God declares, "Start Here!"
This doesn't mean we can ignore the rest of God's commands, only that we probably will ignore the rest if we ignore these four.
These four wills, or commands, are found in four passages that identify precisely the will of God. These four specifically declare "this is" or "such is" the will of God. These passages are matchless. No other verses identify God's will with such exactness.
What are these four?
John 6:40: "This is the will of my Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life and I Myself will raise him up on the last day" (emphasis added).
1 Thessalonians 5:18: "In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (emphasis added).
1 Peter 2:13–15: "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men" (emphasis added).
1 Thessalonians 4:3: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality" (emphasis added).
In other words:
Believe in Jesus Christ.
Give thanks in everything.
Submit in doing right.
Abstain from sexual sin.
These four wills are divinely highlighted in gold, so to speak. God intends for these four to stand out. Follow these and you are in the best position to have confidence He will reveal His unique will to you as you ask Him to lead you, as the apostle John taught.
God's Unique Will
All of us long for God to uniquely lead and bless our lives. But is that a valid desire? Does God have a unique will for us?
Scripture tells us God designed us and knew us before we were born: He "knit [us] together in [our] mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13 niv). Even when we feel totally lost, God knows everything about us and our circumstances. As the psalmist says, "I will counsel you with My eye upon you" (Psalm 32:8). Though we may pursue or plan many things, "the Lord will continually guide you" (Isaiah 58:11) because your steps are directed or "ordained" by Him (Psalm 37:23; Proverbs 20:24).
We believe such Scriptures as these: "He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5–6), "... your plans will be established" (Proverbs 16:3), "the Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9), and "if any of you lacks wisdom ... it will be given to him" (James 1:5).
God responds to our good and personal desires. Psalm 20:4 says, "May He grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your counsel!" Psalm 21:2 states, "You have given him his heart's desire, and You have not withheld the request of his lips." We read in Psalm 145:19, "He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them."
We would be hard-pressed to argue that God is not interested in being personally involved in the believer's life!
As the apostle John told us in 1 John 3:21–22, when we keep His commandments and do what is pleasing in His sight, then whatever we ask — as individuals in specific circumstances — we receive from Him.
Listen to three amazing stories of God actively involved in the personal lives of believers.
Let me illustrate with a godly father and mother of a daughter that I learned about from my friend Paul Lewis. This husband and wife walked with God, trusting and obeying Him faithfully. Here's what happened.
One summer this family of three from southern California went hiking in Oregon. As they trekked in the woods, they found a Bible lying on a huge rock. Because the Bible evidenced no weather damage, they concluded the owner had recently left it there. Though the cover had the name "Sam" on it, there was no further identification. As the father thumbed through the pages, he noticed heavy underlining, exclamation points, and devotional comments that indicated that Sam possessed a vibrant relationship with Jesus. Not knowing what to do with the Bible, the family took it home with them.
One day the parents were interceding for their daughter and felt led to pray for a future spouse. The spiritual passion of Sam came to mind, and they found this prayer surging from their hearts: "God, please send a man to marry our daughter who loves you as much as Sam, that young man." Since Sam's faith so clearly reflected their hopes for their daughter, they simplified the prayer over the years to "Send us a Sam!"
What parents would not smile when four years later they learned that their daughter, now in college, was dating a guy named Sam? One weekend this Sam offered to help the family move across town. While carting boxes from the house to the moving trailer, he saw a book slide out. When Sam picked it up, he was stunned to realize that he was holding his long-lost Bible. "Where did you get that Bible?" he asked in amazement. "That's my Bible!"
Indeed, that was Sam's Bible. Not only did God send a Sam, He sent the Sam! And, Sam eventually married their daughter.
Such a story should send chills up our spine!
We can receive from God what we ask from Him. We can experience the unique moving of God for our lives. He knows us by name in a very intimate way (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 21:27) and responds as though we alone exist!
For Marilyn, a friend of mine from Holland, Michigan, God demonstrated His unique and wonderful will. Marilyn recounts an incident in which she and her husband found themselves $1,500 short of what they thought they had in their bank account. When they figured out that Marilyn's husband had mistakenly recorded one $1,500 deposit twice, he said, "Marilyn, don't write any more checks. I've really made a mess, and we are $1,500 overdrawn." Then they prayed together and asked for God's help.
That night they went to their weekly church supper that cost $10.50 for the family to eat. Marilyn asked the Lord how to pay for this since they were overdrawn and could not pay for the meal with a check. She then remembered she had fifty cents in her purse and ten dollars she was saving to put toward her husband's Christmas present. Though she didn't want to use the gift money, she thanked God for reminding her of it. However, that night when she came to the counter to pay for their meals, the woman said, "Someone already paid for your dinner tonight."
Marilyn told me, "For eighteen years I had eaten at this church potluck and no one — not one — had ever paid for our family until this night!" Clearly, God understood her unique plight, small as it might seem, and responded. Emboldened by this divine moment, Marilyn asked God to supply the $1,500. After she told her husband about her prayer of faith, he called every day and jokingly asked, "Well, did you get a check through the mail?" Together they would laugh, though she kept praying.
Ten days later a big envelope arrived that was marked "Express Mail." Since her husband usually received "that kind of mail," she left it on the counter. When she later recognized the names of good friends on the envelope, she decided to open it. Inside she found two small envelopes. When she opened the first one, she found a check for $1,500! In utter amazement, she opened the second envelope and found a note saying, "Accept this gift, not from us but from the Lord." When her husband came home that night and learned of the check, he was so awed that he called the family together to thank the Lord for His specific answer to their prayer.
When Marilyn decided to call these friends that very night to thank them, she was eager to learn why they gave that amount. She inquired, "Why did you send $1,500, why not $10 or $100 or even $200?" Her friend replied, "Well, we had both been impressed in our prayer time together that you had a financial need, but we didn't know how much. We decided to separate for a time to pray on our own, asking God to reveal to us how much we should give. When we came back together, the Lord had impressed upon both of us the amount of $1,500."
Wow! Is your heart leaping at the possibilities of God answering your prayers? Do you desire God to reveal His unique will to you in ways that mirror these examples?
What I can say is that when we fully surrender our hearts to God's will for our lives without fear and with holy anticipation, good things begin to happen. Some people who attended my church shared their experience with me. The day Steve and Brenda Nesbitt fully surrendered their lives to serve Christ in France, they went to a local supermarket near their home in Royal Oak, Michigan. In this time of surrender to God's call to serve overseas, they prayed, "Lord, we will go to Ronchin," which is a little town outside of Lille, France. After that prayer time, just one hour later, they needed to pick some things up at the store. While they were shopping, they overheard someone speaking French, so they engaged this person in conversation, and in passing said they were headed to France. The man asked where and they said, "Lille." The man replied, "That is where I am from!" Then Steve said, "Well actually it is a little town just outside of that." When he named the town of Ronchin, the man said, "That is exactly where I am from!"
Afterward, Steve and Brenda asked the question, "What are the odds of surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ completely and God confirming that surrender a few moments later by having some French person from the very village you are going to meet you in a store in Royal Oak?" This was no coincidence to them.
Almost three years after moving to France, something else happened. After looking at great length for a house to rent in Ronchin, the Nesbitts finally found one that was suitable. The owner was unavailable to give them the key on the day they were to move in, but said the elderly couple who lived next door had a copy of the key. When they arrived at the neighbors' place to get the key, the neighbor lady learned that Steve and Brenda were Americans from the Detroit area in the U.S. and commented, "Well, that is interesting, I have a son in Royal Oak, Michigan. You wouldn't by any chance have ever met him?" And of course they had. (And that elderly couple became like adoptive grandparents to the Nesbitt children.)
So, how can we encounter these kinds of answers to prayer? I believe when we start with the four universal wills of God we position ourselves in the best way to trigger God's moving in our lives. This book is about the triggering effect!
When a person lives to do the will of God, such obedience is what triggers a distinct encounter with the living God. These encounters are personal, and have no exact replication anywhere else in the world. Yes, others will experience similar leadings but just as each unique individual's name is written in the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5), each individual's leading and life story is precious and unique too.
When I say our obedience "triggers" God's active response in our lives, I do not mean some kind of mechanical process that handcuffs God. Such an idea would be irreverent. He is not bound to us. He has no obligation to do our bidding. This is not like a series of dominos that fall in line because we have coerced God into intervening. This is not a hocus-pocus approach to God Almighty.
A better image might be that our obedience touches the heart of God who loves us and desires to show us favor and blessing. Said another way, "God things" do not happen when we refuse to follow God's will. The psalmist exclaimed, "If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear" (Psalm 66:18). Most of us know that God will not respond in the way we are describing when we do not fulfill the conditions that warm His heart toward us.
Will God respond every day, all day? No, not visibly to us or according to what we dream about. Though we long for God's personal and powerful moving in our lives with signs, wonders, and miracles on a daily basis, that won't happen. It didn't happen with the apostles or the prophets. Many years passed, even decades, between the dramatic stories we read about in the Bible. Even with our Lord, there is nothing miraculous mentioned after His birth except at age twelve when He astounded the Jewish leaders in the temple with His knowledge. From age twelve to thirty we have no record of anything supernatural happening. Then at the beginning of His ministry, at around age thirty, He turned the water into wine at the wedding at Cana.
Thus, I will not over-promise here about your experience of supernatural encounters. The Son of God lived eighteen years without any testimony that miracles transpired in His life. However, when we trust and obey Him, there will be moments here and there throughout our lives when He manifests Himself in ways that send chills up our spines with awe over His kindnesses. This happens because we have chosen to follow His will.
Excerpted from "The 4 Wills of God"
Copyright © 2018 Emerson Eggerichs.
Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: "Start Here!",
Chapter 1: Discovering God's Will,
Chapter 2: Important Questions,
Chapter 3: God's Will: Believe in Jesus Christ,
Chapter 4: You in Christ and Christ in You,
Chapter 5: God's Will: Give Thanks in Everything,
Chapter 6: Give Thanks in Everything, Really?,
Chapter 7: God's Will: Submit in Doing Right,
Chapter 8: Resistance to Submission,
Chapter 9: God's Will: Abstain from Sexual Sin,
Chapter 10: Sexual Temptations,
Chapter 11: Does It Work?,
About the Author,