A Light For My Path

God's will 1 A frequent question asked by Christians and non-Christians alike has to do with knowing God’s will for our lives. It seems people instinctively perceive there must be a purpose for their existence and, therefore, knowing and understanding that purpose becomes a top consideration at some point in time for most of us. For those in a twelve step program, knowing God’s will is an integral part of the process as stated in the eleventh step: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.

Many of us have, or know someone who has, sought God’s will in very specific ways, such as which job should I accept, what college should I attend, should I own a home or rent, or even whom should I marry. Just as frequently, perhaps, we’ve heard a friend or family member (or ourselves) say something like, “I know this decision is God’s will because I have peace about it.” Still another may claim that they let their Bible randomly fall open to a page and the first verse they read confirmed their decision must be God’s will. Without a doubt, the tendency to seek God’s will in a specific circumstance can occupy much of our thinking (and can lead to some very errant methodology).

But what if I told you that’s not the way it works at all? What would it mean to you to learn there is no “magic dot” or “x-marks-the-spot” quality to God’s will? Will it help you to know that God’s will does not revolve around you and His purposes will prevail regardless of which job you accept or which college you attend? I find it quite encouraging to know that God has not created for us some mysterious puzzle that we must constantly attempt to solve to determine what he wants us to do. He has not set before us a hidden agenda buried within a complex maze of possibilities that we must persistently search for. Quite the opposite, we are given immense freedom to enjoy life and all that God has created.

But God does have a will for us and the good news is that he has made it pretty easy for us to know and understand what that is. And we need look no further than our Bible, for God’s Word is God’s will. As the psalmist writes, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) And the Apostle Paul instructs us in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” God changes the way we think when we read his Word and seek to understand the truths it contains.

I think it may help to understand that God’s will is more about who God wants us to be than what, specifically, he wants us to do. When we advance down the path of growing in Godliness, we begin to make decisions consistent with the way God would have us live. In this regard, we are likely to find it advantageous to attend a church with strong Bible teaching as this will guide us in our understanding of the Bible. Having fellowship with a mature Christian who can act as a mentor and/or joining a small group Bible study can also be quite beneficial, especially when it comes to determining what is our will and what the Word of God says. We will find, when we are diligent in our study of his Word, our decisions will begin to reflect the character he is building within us.

It may be a good starting point to look at a few areas of God’s will we can be certain of:

God wants us to be thankful: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:18)

We should avoid sexual impurity: “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

God wants everyone to be saved and to know the truth: “This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

God wants us to trust him in all things: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

He wants us to be wise: “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5)

God wants us to be joyful: “Always be joyful.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)

And he wants us to pray regularly: “Never stop praying.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

The Bible is absolutely rich in the depth of its truth and its revelation of who God is and the relationship he desires to have with us. There is simply no greater endeavor one can undertake than to study the revealed truth from the One who is our Creator and the lover of our souls. As Paul taught his young protégé, Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Whether you have been a Christian for quite some time or you’re brand new to Scripture, once you commit yourself to studying the Bible I am confident you will learn to understand God’s will in new and meaningful ways and you will gain confidence in all areas of your life as you grow in His image. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

May the love and peace of God be with you and yours.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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Imperfect…Just Like Me

Imperfect 3  When you think about the Bible, what comes to mind? Specifically, with regards to the characters in the Bible, do you think of them as role model types…the kind of perfect people whose stories are told for our benefit so we might know how we should live? The first time I walked into a Christian church at age 30, this is the idea I had in my head. Christians were perfect people who went to church, served the Lord, and committed no wrongs. Certainly, the characters in the Bible were like that, too.

It was on a Saturday in early September back in 1993 during a men’s morning gathering that I first came to realize Christians were not the perfect people I had believed. All my misconceptions melted away as two pastors shared their personal testimonies and I came to understand they were flawed men just like me. In fact, the similarities to my own story were more prevalent than I could have imagined. Years of feeling inadequate and outcast melted away as I listened to their stories of how God turned things around for them.

But even once I was saved and armed with this newfound awareness that Christians were imperfect people just like me, I still had this tendency to read the Bible as if every character I encountered within its pages was somehow a Godly example for me to admire. Surely the likes of Moses, David, Samuel, and Solomon were the epitome of the flawless kind of people God wanted all of us to be, right? After years of Bible study and teaching from some awesome pastors, I have come to realize that is not true. Not at all. With the exception of Jesus, every character in the Bible is an example of a fallen human being who has made mistakes, usually many of them, and is in desperate need of God’s grace just like I am.

To explore this further, let’s look at one such character: King Solomon. Solomon was the wisest man to ever live on earth. Why? Because when the Lord came to him in a dream and told him to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon did not ask for wealth or long life, he asked for wisdom and discernment to lead the Lord’s people. We read this in 1 Kings 3:7-9 – “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

This humble request was very pleasing to God and he happily granted it and subsequently, Solomon became wise beyond measure. In fact, I am personally certain no wiser man has ever lived even to this day. Solomon did many things that were pleasing to God, including building the Lord’s temple and writing the book of Proverbs, which is filled with practical counsel on how to follow the Lord. Solomon also wrote the Song of Songs, which presents a beautiful picture of what God intends marriage to be. Reading such things makes it easy to think of Solomon as a great example of Godly living.

But then we read that Solomon, the man who wrote the book on what marriage is supposed to be, had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3) in addition to the great personal wealth he amassed for himself. Many may be tempted to think that if Solomon had multiple wives and concubines this must be OK with God, but that is simply not true. In Deuteronomy 17:17 the Lord’s instructions are quite clear: “The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.”

Solomon’s taking of many wives and concubines was in direct violation of God’s Word. And just as God had foretold, they turned Solomon’s heart away from the Lord. We read in 1 Kings 11:4 – “In Solomon’s old age, they (his many wives) turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been.” And a little further on, in 1 Kings 11:9, we see the Lord was quite angry over Solomon’s disobedience – “The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.” The consequences of Solomon’s indiscretion were far-reaching and eventually led to the division of Israel.

You can read more on this in the book of 1 Kings, and it would be a good idea for you to do so. These stories are rich in life lessons that can benefit us today. In Solomon we see an individual who was hardly a perfect man. He was, like we are today, given to pursuing his own pathway through life, making choices that he almost certainly knew were wrong, to fulfill his own lustful desires. He started out in great humility and became prideful and arrogant and the ramifications of his actions spread far beyond his own life.

It is never God’s will that anyone should sin, but He does allow us to make our own choices. The story of Solomon is not the story of a perfect man, but the story of an imperfect one, and it holds a powerful lesson for us. Solomon thought that having all those wives and concubines would provide happiness, but whatever pleasure he experienced was not worth the price he paid. Solomon came to realize the grave nature of his mistakes as we read in Ecclesiastes 12:14: “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”

Solomon needed God’s grace just like we do. And through Jesus, that grace is available to us all. As we read in Romans 5:17 – “But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” Whatever mistakes we have made, whatever wrong paths we have followed; we can be assured God’s gift of grace is greater and we are able to live in triumph when we trust in Jesus Christ. May you find him now, if you haven’t already.

Blessings to you.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.