The Will of God and Your Decisions

Steve Viars May 24, 2008 Colossians 1:9-12

 

- one of the most frustrating aspects of the Christian life for many of God’s people is the matter of making decisions...

- when there’s a new job offer on the table...how in the world do you decide?

- or when it’s time to make a purchase...how much do you spend and which one do you buy?...

- which educational option should you choose for your children?...

- where should you go on vacation?...

- the number of decisions you have to make in a given week is incredible...

- quite a few of you have asked about tree number 3...

- do you remember a couple of weeks ago I told the story about having three trees behind our house that we wanted to take down...

- So I got out my chain saw and dropped the first one into the woods away from the house like an expert woodsman...

- then I dropped the second one...right onto our house...doing some decorative work to our gutters along the way...

- and several of you fussed at me because I didn’t finish the story...I didn’t tell what happened to tree #3...

- I’ll admit it – I was ashamed of that part of the story...because I chickened out...

- so tree #3 is still standing...right outside our bedroom window...mocking me...

- and this week our neighbors were having some of their trees cut down with a professional tree cutting company so we had them come and give us a price for taking #3 down...but if you know me, you know what’s coming next...I thought that price was kinda high...so I’ve looked at that tree several times this week and I’ve been thinking about bringing my woodcutting skills back into play...see, what is God’s will there?...

- we’re also in the process of seal-coating our driveway...

- that sounds simple, doesn’t it...

- so we had a company come out and give us a bid...

- but their price was...[would you like to guess]...kinda high...

- so we’re trying to decide – maybe we should do that ourselves...

- well, what’s the challenge with that?...have you ever gone to a store, or gone on the internet, and looked at how many different options there are for various seal-coating products?...is there even such a thing as determining God’s will about a driveway seal coating project?

- so I think we would all say that this can be frustrating...

- what adds to the challenge is the way you hear different people talk about the way they handle the process...

1. For example, many Christians say that they wait on God’s leading...well, that sounds spiritual but what exactly does that mean?

- evangelist Dawson Trotmon used to like to tell the story of four different men who told him “God is leading me to marry a particular person”...but as he drilled into their stories, he found out they were all talking about the same woman...

- now what would you conclude from that?...and remember, they were using strong spiritual terminology...God is leading me...

- well, unless you believe in polygamy...at least three of those guys were wrong...and maybe even all four...

2. Other people say that God spoke to them...like some kind of audible voice, or prompting, or other form of revelation...

- I think of one man who was convinced that God was telling him to go to Germany to serve as a missionary – that sounds pretty spiritual, doesn’t it?...

- well, he didn’t take the time to get input or evaluation from his local church...

- he didn’t ask anyone to evaluate him in light of I Timothy 3 or Titus 1....

- no one had examined his spiritual giftedness or lack thereof.....

- he didn’t know the language....knew nothing about the culture....

- but he had this feeling....this experience that God was calling him to Germany......

- so he sold his car to pay for a one-way ticket to Germany.....

- making no provisions whatsoever for the care of his wife or children....

- now I ask you, was God calling him to Germany?

- Was that God’s will for his life?

- I don’t want to be unkind to this man, but my answer to that question would be no...and I think I could support that position on the basis of Scripture...

3. Then there are those who try to discern God’s will on the basis of peace...

- I think of a church that was growing and reaching people in their community for Christ....

- it came time to do something to handle the number of new folks that were coming.....

- they either needed to start a second service, add on to their auditorium, or start another church......

- but different men had different views.....and the deacons finally came to this conclusion.....we don’t have unanimous peace about any of these options.....some have peace about a building program, some have peace about starting a second service.....

- but since we don’t have unanimous peace about any one option....we believe its God’s will for us to do nothing!.....and that’s what they did.

- and it has been very interesting to watch what has happened to that congregation since that time...because they stopped reaching their community for Christ...

- is it possible that they had an improper approach to discerning God’s will?...

- I think we would all say that this is a topic worth studying...

- because of all the decisions we have to make as individuals [tree #3 is still standing]...

- and because of the decisions we are trying to make this year as we determine our church’s next 5 year strategic ministry plan...

- with that in mind, would you open your Bible this morning to Colossians chapter 1...

[page 156 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you]

- this morning we’re completing a three week series on knowing and doing God’s will...

- and we’ve divided this topic along these lines...

- May 11th – The Will of God and Your Holiness

- May 18th – The Will of God and Your Ministry

- May 25th – The Will of God and Your Decisions

- read Colossians 1:9-12

- this morning we’re going to look for3 principles to help God’s people make wise decisions.

I. Be Able to Discern between the Different Aspects of God’s Will.

- Paul tells the people in this church that he prays regularly for them...

- and he is very specific about the content of his prayers...

- Colossians 1:9 - ...we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will...

- and you say, that’s great...that’s exactly what we were discussing a few minutes ago...

- but the challenge is...as you follow the flow of thought through the rest of the verses...it would appear that Paul is talking about something different than how you’re going to seal coat your driveway...or what should happen to tree #3...

- he goes on to describe the phrase “his will” with words like...in all spiritual wisdom and understanding...so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects...bearing fruit in every good work...increasing in the knowledge of God...

- there’s not a driveway or tree anywhere in sight...

- here’s why...the phrase will of God is used differently in the Bible...

- and it is very important to be able to make the distinction...

- theologians who have the various uses in Scripture like to speak of two different aspects of God’s will...his directive will, and his decreed will...let’s think about them together...because this can bring a lot of clarity to our study...

A. Directive will.

- also known as His:

1. moral will.

2. what He has already revealed to us.

3. can only be found in the Bible.

4. what He wants us to do.

- for example --- Thou shalt not steal......God does not want you to go to Cracker Barrel, eat a big dinner, and then walk out without paying.....

- I don’t have to know you personally...I don’t even have to know your name to be able to say with confidence.....that is not God’s will for you.

- if you told me that you’re single and that you’re planning to marry an unbeliever next week....I can say with confidence that that’s not God’s will for you....

- I don't have to think about it any more.....

- I don’t need to pray about it.....

- I don’t need to hear any more of the story.....

- God’s directive will is very obvious for anyone who knows Scripture...

- now, if you are familiar with the book of Colossians...it would appear that this is the aspect of God’s will that Paul is praying for the people in this church to know...

- [cf. v. 1:23, 25-29, 2:6-7]...the emphasis is on the instruction they have received from the apostles, the early leaders of the church

- the other aspect of God’s will is his:

B. Decreed will.

1. “sovereign” will.

2. ultimate, eternal, determined will.

- some like to refer to this aspect as God’s permissive will.

- what He allows to come to pass.

- Ephesians 1:11 – also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.

- that is different than what we’re reading about in Colossians 1...

- this is talking about details...specific events...what is going to come to pass...

- now, let’s put these 2 categories to the test with what is pretty close to a trick question...

- in Luke 22:32 --- when our Lord is talking to Peter about his upcoming denial......

- was it God’s will for Peter to deny Christ?  (yes and no)

- it was not God’s directive will.....it was sinful for him to do that.

- but it was God’s decreed will....because if it was not part of God’s decreed will it would not have come to pass.

- otherwise you have a God who is not sovereign.

- here’s the real issue.....

3. Can only be determined after the fact, cannot be known in advance.

- now, what are the implications of this to our topic?

- often when people talk about knowing the will of God, they want to know the decreed will of God, and the decreed will of God cannot be known in advance.

- let’s look at some passages and ask the question....

“Is the writer speaking of the directive will of God, or the decreed will of God?”

Psalm 40:8 - I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart.(Directive)

Mark 3:35 - For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother. (Directive)

Ephesians 5:17 - So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Directive)

Romans 12:2 - And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Directive)

James 4:15 - Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that." (Decreed)

1 Corinthians 4:19 - But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power. (Decreed)

- now, what are some implications to this subject?

- often, when someone is talking about knowing the will of God, they are talking about wanting to know “category B”, and that can’t be known in advance.

- now, let’s pull over there and park for a minute.....please think with me about...

C. Why we sometimes want to know God’s decreed will in advance.

1) We think by doing so, we’ll be guaranteed freedom from trouble.

2) If He (God) makes the decision, we’re freed from responsibility for the consequences.

- “God told us to build this facility so it’s not our fault we can’t pay for the utilities.”

3) If He makes the decision, the pressure is not on us to get all the facts necessary to make a good decision.

- there are already 2 extremes beginning to emerge from all of this...

- one would be those who go through life making all sorts of decisions without really caring what God’s will might be...like the Psalm 10 man, God is not in all his thoughts...I’ll buy the car I want to buy, I’ll take the job I want to take...

- the other extreme is made up of those who are more concerned with trying to learn God’s decreed will through some sort of supernatural revelation than they are focused on discerning God’s directive will, His moral will which is clearly outlines in His Word for those who will do the work to find it...

- another way of thinking about this is – are you an answer to Paul’s prayer...

- he wanted the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will by developing a reservoir of spiritual wisdom and understanding which comes through careful study of the Scripture...friend, are you an answer to that prayer?...

- now, let’s take it one step further...

II. Understand the Primary Place of the Scriptures in Discerning God’s Will Today.

- in order to get this topic right, it is very important that we understand the point of God’s redemptive history in which we’re living...

- just because something happened to a certain person/group of persons at a certain time in the Bible does not mean that we should expect that to be normative for you and me today...let’s think about that...

A. God has guided His people in a variety of ways throughout history.

- Hebrews 1:1-2 - God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.

- so we have to be careful in saying, well, if the Lord did it for one person in one particular way at one particular time, I should expect Him to do it for me today in that exact same way...no, let’s think about the process of how God gave us the Scripture...do you remember what happened just prior to Jesus being crucified...

B. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles in all truth.

- John 14:26 - But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

- now, did Jesus keep that promise to guide His apostles?...yes...

- but can you and I claim that same promise in that same way?

- could a student who recently took their final exams say – and that is why I didn’t study...I just claimed the promise of John 14:26 – I asked the Holy Spirit to bring to my remembrance all I was taught...

- so I just prayed during the exam and asked God to show me His will for each question...

- that might sound spiritual...but that is a gross misapplication of that verse...

- one of our key principles of hermeneutics (principles of Bible study) is to carefully discern who was actually being spoken to at the time...

- just because God promised to do something for one group of people at one particular time does not mean we should expect Him to do it for us in exactly that same way...

C. There are no apostles today.

Ephesians 2:20 - having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,

- Acts chapter 1 discusses the qualifications for an apostle because that information was needed when Judas had to be replaced...

- and the bottom line is – no one meets those qualifications today...

- the office of apostle was crucial to the establishment of the church but the office is no longer part of God’s program in this age...

- the point is – the way some people discuss the way they make decisions would suggest that they think there is no distinction between the way the apostles received revelation prior to the completion of the Scripture, and the way they do today...

- and that is one of the key issues here...

D. Special revelation ceased with the completion of the canon.

- we believe the Bible ends with a two-fold prohibition on purpose...

- Revelation 22:18-19 - I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.

- that is why during this entire planning process you have not heard us talking about looking for visions, or voices, or promptings, or dreams...

- all of that falls under the heading of extra revelation...

- now, I’m sure there are some important questions about this...

1. But don’t we believe in praying about our planning process?

- 1 Thessalonians 5:17 - pray without ceasing;

- absolutely, but please be very careful about what some writers are saying about prayer...

- they tell you to be quiet and wait for God to talk back to you...

- that is not NT biblical prayer...- we speak to God in prayer...He speaks to us through His Word...then you might ask...well,

2. What about God leading us ?

- it is very important to study such statements in their context...

- Romans 8:14 - For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

- that is a great verse, but it has nothing to do with decision making – the context is speaking about Christian growth...about putting the death the deeds of the flesh...and when you are doing that [putting to death those aspects of your inner and outer man that don’t please God]...you are being led by the Sprit.

- Galatians 5:18 - But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

- the context there is almost identical to Romans 8:14 – we certainly believe in being led by the Spirit, but not in the sense of receiving new revelation from God in the decision making process, but by receiving strength and enablement as we seek to follow His Word...

3. What about peace?

- some folks say – that’s how I make decisions...I wait until I see if I have peace about something...and peace is a great gift from God...

- Colossians 3:15 - Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

- you probably know where this is going to go...

- if you study the passage in its context, it has nothing to do with decision making...the verses are speaking about solving problems in the church using biblical principles of communication, and when you do that, there will be peace in the church...

- well, if special revelation has ceased, then that must mean that God has given us all we need...and that’s exactly right...

E. God has given us all the guidance we need in His Word.

- 2 Peter 1:3 - seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

- 2 Timothy 3:16-17 - All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

 

- now, let’s try to put all of this together into some sort of a strategy...

II. Be Committed to Following Careful Steps to Wise Decision Making.

- how do we practically give the Scriptures their proper place in this matter.

A. Understand that the Bible gives us both direct statements and indirect principles.

- using the seal coating example, if I told you that I believe it’s God’s will to hire an outside company to sealcoat my driveway, but I’m just never going to pay them, and hope they don’t take me to court...how long would it take you to determine that it was not God’s will for me to do that?...

- not long, because that would be violating a direct command of God...and frankly a lot of options go by the wayside for that very reason...

- however, even if a choice gets through the first line of defense [direct commands] – there are all sorts of indirect principles...

- for example, you may in a situation where you are really pressed for time...and in order to fulfill your biblical priorities to your family, or to other responsibilities...you need to let someone else do that...

- but you are making that determination on the basis of a biblical principle...

- so what does the process look like...

B. Gather all the facts relevant to the decision and list the pros and cons.

- the reason many people want a warm wind on the back of their neck is so that they don’t have to do the hard work of thinking decisions through...

C. Search out all principles, examples, etc. of Scripture that have a bearing on the decision.

- recommend books by John Kruis...

D. Apply these to the pros and cons to the various options.

- perhaps this diagram will help at this point...

- walk through the matrix of direct statements and indirect principles...

E. Pray and ask God to help you to apply His Word wisely.

- Psalm 119:18 - Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.

F. May need to seek godly counsel.

Proverbs 19:20 - Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.

G. If narrowed down to two equally good decisions (based on biblical principles), may decide on the basis of preference.

H. Remember that God’s will for you might be different than God’s will for someone else.

- could I say that since I decided it was God’s will for me to seal coat my driveway myself, that that must be God’s will for everyone?

- no, one man may need the exercise and decide to do it himself, someone else may need the time and decide to hire it out...

- the key is that they made the decisions based on principles not feelings...

I. If question of possible sin is involved, use “holding” principle.

- Romans 14:23 - Whatever is not of faith is sin.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video