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 (NLT)
Recently I had a faith discussion with a good friend who was troubled by the notion of God having a “plan” for our lives. In fact, he hotly rejected the idea. His problem centered upon his understanding of the concept to mean that God had every single thing (good or bad) that happens in our lives carefully planned. He had just lost his wife and to think God had orchestrated this tragic event for some greater purpose was beyond him. I told him that is not what I believe to be true about God at all. I explained that it might be better said that God has a purpose for our lives; a reason for being that makes our lives matter and gives us purpose. This is very different than God micro-orchestrating the events of our lives. I don’t believe God kills one person to spiritually awaken another. I hear a lot of people glibly say, “Everything happens for a reason” and this really gets at what my friend balked at in the first place. Does God allow evil for the purpose of a greater good? I addressed this notion in my last book.
Does Everything Happen for a Reason?
There is this popular idea that everything happens for a reason. I think everything that happens is redeemable but I am not at all sure everything happens for a divine reason… In fact, I am quite sure the reason some things happen is because people do dumb stuff.
I think the reasons many things happen is because we live in a fallen world. Genesis teaches that fallen was not the state of the world God created but the result of sin. When we pray for the Kingdom to Come, we pray for restoration; a healing and re-membering of the world of creation. A return to a world pre-sin; no pain, no disease, no abuse, no despair, no crime and no hate. The world of creation was a world filled with people who chose to live under the reign and rule of God. Jesus’ teachings always pointed us back to that world. So when I say God has a plan; I mean that God has a purpose, a dream, a hope for your life. This implies that we are a part of something greater than ourselves and that life consists of more than survival, accomplishment or pleasure; we were created and gifted for a divine purpose. This divine purpose is an important part of how I understand human life.
We might think of this wonderful plan as the will of God for our lives. We may equally say the purpose of God or the hope of God for our lives. But how do we find it? How does a finite human discern the will of an infinite God for an individual life? The author of Proverbs would answer “by wisdom.” The wise not only discover a sense of divine purpose; they discover purpose in the accomplishment of it! We have defined wisdom in this series as “entering the flow of God.” So how do we enter God’s collective flow for our unique and individual lives.
Let’s review just a moment and explore the Biblical concept of wisdom:
What is Biblical Wisdom?
- Wisdom is an ends in itself
- Wisdom builds upon knowledge (you can’t apply what you don’t know)
- Wisdom is applying knowledge in ways that honor and please the Lord
- Wisdom is a lifelong pursuit
- Wisdom leads us to our best lives
V5 Trust in the Lord When Jesus ascended he left his ministry to the church until his return. In a very real sense, the church’s purpose is to be the hands and feet of Jesus and our individual purpose is to serve Jesus in the context of the church. I am not talking about a local church here; I am talking about THE church and that includes all congregations and ministries dedicated to continuing Christ’s ministry of healing, deliverance, forgiveness and salvation. And we conduct the work of the church in faith; faith that Jesus is who Jesus said he is, faith that the Bible is a reliable witness to him and faith that the Holy Spirit empowers us for the work. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as, “The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen.” Trusting God is having the faith to believe we matter to God, we are equipped by God and God has work for us to do.
With all your heart This means giving it everything you have got! The work of Jesus IS the reason for which we were created. It requires our best effort, our best energy and our absolute commitment. When Jesus called the disciples, he didn’t say, “Can you give me an hour a week if you are free?” He said, “Leave everything you know and everything you have and follow me.” Peter, James, John, Andrew and the rest followed Jesus with “all their hearts.”
Do not depend on your own understanding This leans us back into wisdom. The New Testament might describe wisdom as “tapping into the mind of Christ.” Getting so close to Jesus that his thoughts become our thoughts. We think through his brain, we feel with his emotions, our hearts break for what breaks his heart and we are compelled by what compelled him.
V6 Seek his will Seek is a verb. There is a notion going around these days that Christian people should spend their lives in waiting for some great thing God may ask of them. The idea is to say “no” to the good in hopes of the very best. I get the appeal of the notion to worn out and discouraged church and charity volunteers but the bible does not support the premise. Waiting for a “burning bush” call that only has occurred once in the history of humanity seems like a bad use of the limited years we have on earth. In sharp contrast, the bible teaches that being faithful in small things is actually what qualifies and prepares us for a call to greater things. I am convinced the true greatness of a person is not defined in a single heroic act but in the grind of daily faithfulness and obedience to God. I don’t think “burning bushes” or “for such at time as this” moments are the inheritance of those sequestered in wait. Here is the deal; if you hope God will use you to do one thing big, be faithful in all things small.
In all you do Sometimes we want to compartmentalize the parts of our lives we offer to God. We want to give him the big things but keep the small things. The will of God is shown to those who trust God in ALL that they do. For me that means giving Jesus every moment. Getting it down to the “ping” level.
And he will show you which path to take Like finding wisdom, finding the will of God is a matter of making the right choices each and every day.
What Does it Mean to Trust in the Lord?
- We have given our lives to God
- We were created for a purpose
- God’s purpose is our best life
- God’s purpose can be discerned
We may or may not fully realize our spiritual impact in this world but if we live wise lives in obedience to God, we can be assured our purpose was fulfilled. I think many fulfill their purpose without being full aware of just what an impact they are making.
There was a woman of the nineteenth century whose life ended in her early thirties when she was accidently poisoned. Her name was Mary. She was rumored to be the illegitimate child of a wealthy Virginia planter and served as a young adult in the household of a wealthy Kentucky planter. She married a dull and not highly motivated man and lived in a rough cabin where she had a daughter and two sons; the younger of which did not survive childhood. She was described at tall, smart, motivated and afflicted by a touch of melancholy. She lived the kind of life that history tends to forget except that this was said about her, “God bless my mother, all that I am or ever hope to be I owe to her.” Her son was named Abraham from the Bible. Her name was Nancy Hanks Lincoln.
Finding God’s Will Generally (Baseline)
So let’s imagine a job opportunity opens up but you are really unsure as to what you should do. What is the process the godly would undergo to tap into God’s wisdom concerning what you should do.
Finding God’s Will Specifically (MACRO)
- Recognize the prompt or opportunity
- Will this lead you closer to Jesus or further away from Jesus
- Get all the facts
- Pray for wisdom and guidance
- Be open as you read the Bible
- Make your decision
- Don’t look back
God’s will is more often found in the aggregate small than in the one defining moment. Small things often come in “Pings.” I would suggest that the clearest path to finding God’s will is found in learning to hear and finding the courage to heed God’s “Pings”…every, single time. I coined a new term this week. Someone told me that felt a Ping on Sunday and did not follow it up with action. I called them a “Ping Wiffer” and began to sing it to them to the tune of Dream Weaver. When we used to play Wiffle Ball when I was a kid and you failed to make contact with the third strike, you “wiffed.” Here is my advice concerning God’s will: DON’T BE A PING WIFFER.
I close by suggesting this simple notion: If you consistently hear and heed God’s “Pings,” whether those pings be large or small, you are living a life in the will of God. And you may not know the full extent of the role you played on this side of heaven. Many years ago, I read a book by Henry Blackaby called Experiencing God. The thesis was life changing for me. Rather than wait on divine revelation to reveal one future and distant great purpose for our lives; we should get on board with what is doing right now. I determined to do just that; listen and respond. And with that came a realization that God’s plan for my life will not be reflected in my ultimate resume or bio but in my day to day obedience.
The question isn’t, “What great future thing does God want you to do?”
The question is “Will you be faithful in this moment to what God is asking you to do?”