God’s Will

"I delight to do thy will, O my God."—Psalm 40:8

The Essence of Consecration is contained in the words of our theme text; and although these words of the psalmist prophetically spoke of Jesus they also speak of the attitude that Jesus’ body members—the church—must have developed fully in them. The ‘will’ may be expressed as one’s desire, delight, what one takes pleasure in, what one wants, approves of, and deems acceptable. When we speak of God’s will, as does this verse, we speak of God’s desire, delight, what God takes pleasure in, what God wants, what God approves of and deems acceptable.

The Scriptures point out various important features about God’s will. Jesus said that it would not be enough just to believe or to even know God’s will, but that doing it was necessary also. "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt.7:21) The Apostle Paul tells us that God’s will must be done from the heart—it must be rooted in a heart’s desire to please God. "Not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." (Eph.6:6) In order to do God’s will, we must know what that will is. Hence these words, "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." (Col.1:9) Summing up the eternal importance of doing God’s will, the Apostle John says, "He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." (1 John 2:17)

Learning His Will

Those who have taken the step of full consecration to God, whether recently or many years ago, have likewise dedicated their lives to the doing of the Lord’s will. Yet, actually doing and performing in full accord with the Lord’s will is a struggle. The influences of the world, the adversary, and our own weak flesh hinder us at times from doing the Lord’s will to the extent we would like. Like many endeavours in the Christian walk, the matter of doing the Lord’s will is something we learn over time, through experience. Our sentiment in all this is that expressed by the psalmist, "Teach me to do thy will." (Psa.143:10) Before we can do the Lord’s will, however, we must first know what that will is. This is the primary focus of our lesson—determining the Lord’s will.

Fortunate it is that in many of the day‑to‑day experiences of life it is quite easy to determine the Lord’s will, both in temporal and spiritual ways. If we are employed, we believe the Lord would be pleased that we go to our job each day and carry it out to the best of our ability. If we have a home, he would expect us, as part of his will, to take care of it and not let it fall into disrepair. The Lord, we believe, is also pleased that we take reasonable care of our physical bodies and our health. These, and many others, are temporal things, yet they are part of our stewardship, and it is the Lord’s will that we take care of these responsibilities as part of our consecration vows. Likewise, concerning the all‑important spiritual responsibilities of our life, we can easily understand that it is the Lord’s will that we come to meetings regularly, attend conventions when possible, spend time in study, prayer, and meditation, speak the gospel message to others, and develop a character in the likeness of our head, Jesus. These are all part of God’s will.

God’s Will Not Always Obvious

The focus of our lesson, however, is not so much the clear‑cut matters described above, important though they are, but on the experiences of life in which the Lord’s will is not so obvious. Suffice it to say that in some experiences it is difficult to determine God’s will and, in those cases, we need assistance and help to make such a determination. The Scriptures set some ‘ground rules’ for helping us determine God’s will. The first rule is that we cannot determine God’s will in an experience by using worldly or fleshly thinking. "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Rom.12:2) Notice that the will of God is proven by having our mind transformed from ‘this world’ and renewed by the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit. To put it another way, we must use Godlike or Christlike thinking—spiritual thinking—to determine the Lord’s will. The second ground rule for determining the Lord’s will is that, in order to do so, our walk must be circumspect. The Apostle Paul makes this connection between walking circumspectly and understanding the will of the Lord using these words, "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is."—Eph.5:15‑17

Even with these ground rules though we sometimes struggle in our determining of the Lord’s will. God, in his great love, has provided tools to help us in this endeavour. One such tool is found in this touchstone scripture, "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, this is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." (Isa.30:21) We note in this scripture the fact that God knows we will face experiences in life which present us with a choice to go either in one direction or another. When we come upon such experiences we should realize that we have not sinned because we face a fork in the road, but we have come to a point at which we need to be especially guided by God in our decision making. The ‘word behind thee’ is not to be considered literal, but figurative, referring to the tools we have to help us. These tools or methods that say symbolically, ‘this is the way, walk ye in it’ are suggested as follows:

  1. ) Prayer; 
  2. ) The Word of God;
  3. ) The brethren;
  4. ) Family; and
  5. ) Experiences / God’s providence.

Having begun by following the ground rules of spiritual thinking and walking circumspectly, through spiritual exercise is very important.

Spiritual Exercise

The key verses are 1 Tim.4:7‑9. The Apostle Paul frequently borrowed metaphors from the athletics track. (1 Cor.9:24‑27; Gal.5:7; Phil.2:16) The picture here is the Greek gymnasium, with grounds for exercise, running, wrestling etc. It was a place for bodily exercise and competition. Now see what Paul says to Timothy: "You, as a Christian, must exercise your soul as carefully, regularly and rigorously as the worldly Greeks exercise their bodies. Their motto was body‑culture. Yours must be soul‑culture. Theirs is a physical exercise. Yours is a spiritual exercise. Theirs makes the body well and develops it. Your objective must be to keep your soul fit and to develop it into godliness"—in order that you may become a godly person, growing in spiritual maturity and Christ‑likeness.

It is very important to notice that the apostle does not despise or dismiss bodily exercise and physical health. No Christian should neglect his body. On the contrary, every Christian should by wise living, sensible eating, and taking the right amount of rest, fresh air and exercise, maintain a body that is fit and well. (1 Cor.6:19‑20) But having said this, notice Paul’s emphasis. He says (1 Tim.4:8 NIV) "physical training is of some value" that is, for this life only. After all, the body is only the body, however much you exercise it. The body is not the man; it is only the house in which the man lives. Spiritual exercise, however, profits and benefits the soul, the person who lives in the body. To train yourself for godly living and keep yourself spiritually fit—notice three things about this taking time and trouble to become and to keep fit:

  1. It is a Personal matter—the apostle says, "Train yourself." (v.7 NIV) This is something we must do for ourselves—compare 1 Tim.4:16.
  2. It is a Profitable matter—for it is, as verse 7 shows, "to be godly." In verse 8 (NIV) we are told that this exercise "has value for all things", that is, in every way! Verse 8 also tells us that spiritual exercise is profitable in two special ways: (i) in "the present life", and: (ii) "the life to come". How profitable it is to live a godly life! We receive the benefit in this life and in the life to come.
  3. It is a Progressive matter–"Train yourself to be godly." It takes patience, hard work and discipline to achieve godliness—see 2 Peter 3:18.

All this leads us to ask the question: How are we to train ourselves for godly living? What are the exercises in which we are to engage in order to produce and maintain spiritual fitness? We are to exercise ourselves privately and corporately, that is, alone and in fellowship with others. Both are equally important.

Ways in which we are to exercise ourselves privately

  1. By entering the secret place of prayer. Look up Matthew 6:6 and notice that the emphasis is upon being alone. This should be the Christian’s first exercise, to be often alone in the presence of his Heavenly Father, communing with Him (Psa.4:4); receiving His pardon (John 8:10‑11); His cleansing (1 John 1:9); His rest (Matt.11:28‑30); and listening to His voice (Luke 10:39). Do you have a regular private prayer time?
  2. By the devotional reading of God’s Word. If the athlete is to get strong, grow muscles and produce tone, he must have the right food and so must we if we are going to become strong Christians. This is strikingly brought out in 1 Timothy 4:6–notice the words brought up "on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching." (NIV) Are you a well‑nourished Christian, feeding on God’s Word? See what we read about the Bereans in Acts 17:11! Alone with God’s Word we hear Him speak to us (Psa.85:8); we receive His guidance (Isa.30:21); His wisdom (James 1:5); His comfort (Psa.23:4); His illumination (Psa.119:18) and all we need for godly living?
  3. By practising the presence of God. How are we to obey? 1 Thessalonians 5:17—by living in fellowship with the Lord, as Brother Lawrence (1614‑1691) did when he "practised the presence of God". This is the way to true godliness.

Ways in which we are to exercise ourselves corporately

  1. By attending Public Worship. According to Luke 4:16 it was the custom of the Lord Jesus to attend the house of God, and there is a danger of getting out of this good habit (Heb.10:25). Many Christians forsake the house of God. They attend infrequently and they do not recognise the privilege and benefit of meeting together with other brethren to worship the Lord. (Matt.18:20) We easily stay away for a variety of reasons or distractions. Little wonder that our spiritual life suffers! (Psa.122:1)
  2. By partaking of the Lord’s Supper. 1 Corinthians 11:23‑26. When we take the bread and the wine, we exercise ourselves spiritually as we look back to Calvary and forward to the return of our Lord Jesus. If we neglect His Table, we neglect the culture of our souls (John 6:50‑51).
  3. By engaging in specific service. According to Ephesians 2:8‑10 we are saved to serve, and we are to serve in accordance with the specific plan that God has for us. Are we exercising ourselves by doing that service?

The Holy Spirit Necessary

One very important element which allows all of the aforementioned tools to work together in harmony is the Holy Spirit—God’s power and influence directed in our lives. Note that the previously mentioned scripture which spoke of walking circumspectly (Eph.5:15‑17) is immediately followed by these words, "be filled with the Spirit." (Eph.5:18) It is this Holy Spirit which works with the mind of our new creature mind to help us use all these tools to their best possible benefit in assisting us to determine the Lord’s will. Therefore, as we utilize the first tool of prayer and watching, we should include in our prayers the request for more of the Holy Spirit’s guidance in seeking God’s will.

Summarizing these tools as they relate to the touchstone scripture of Isaiah 30:21, we see that we are to use prayer, the Bible, the brethren, our family, and the experiences of life as words behind us, saying figuratively, ‘Here is the way, here is the Lord’s will.’ The word ‘behind’ also implies that although we have these tools, we must still proceed with the eye of faith. We are not looking for, nor will God give us, a miraculous vision of what his will is, but by faith we should see his direction as we use the tools He has given us. "We walk by faith, not by sight."—2 Cor.5:7

Making Needed Decisions

Let us suppose, however, that an experience comes upon us, and in spite of our best efforts to use all the tools provided to assist us in determining God’s will, the path to choose remains unclear. Additionally, let us suppose we are faced with a decision which must be made. What should we do? First, we should continue to pray and watch, and not stop using all the other tools given to us. Second, we must claim the precious promises, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Rom.8:28; Heb.13:5) Third, we should then make the very best decision we can in the matter, being firm in it, not wavering, and carrying it through. We should be full of faith that God, who knows our very hearts, will guide our decision in some way. In such cases, we should pray again, after making a decision asking God to overrule according to his will that our decision will be made to work to our best spiritual welfare and watching for his further providence in the matter.

We must always remember that God’s hand is not short—He can and will overrule. "Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness." "Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear." (Isa.50:2; 59:1) These promises are all by faith, and such experiences in which the Lord’s will is not made clear to us may actually be permitted as a test of our faith.

Doing God’s Will the Ultimate Goal

The key to success in the narrow way is not only determining the Lord’s will, but actually doing it to the best of our imperfect ability. This requires action on our part. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." (John 13:17) The Apostle James states the matter with these words, "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed."—James 1:22,25

If we follow the ground rules of spiritual thinking and a circumspect walk through spiritual exercise; if we use the tools of prayer, the Word of God, the assistance of our brethren and families, our past experiences and providences; if we make the best decisions we can; if we use the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit; if we are watchful, claim the precious promises, and have an unwavering faith, we cannot fail. In so doing, let us echo the words of Jesus, "I can of mine own self do nothing…I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." (John 5:30; 4:34)