THREE ASPECTS OF GOD’S WILL
John Christopher Samuel
One day a TV reporter asked a mason, “How do you like your job?” “I hate it,” he said. “It is the most boring job in the world.” That same reporter asked another mason on the other side of the building the same question. “Oh, it’s great because I see myself building an architectural masterpiece.” Same situation, but two different perspectives.
One of the greatest privileges of being a Christian is to have the capacity to give thanks regardless of what happens. It is easy to be thankful when things are going our way, but a Christian can rise above any situation to thank God for causing all things to work together for good. Paul, the apostle, was a man who suffered a great deal of pain and yet he wrote, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thess. 5: 16-18).
The will of God can sometimes be challenging. Oftentimes, we have a hard time discerning what the will of God is for our lives. While it may seem impossible to know God’s will for each individual, I believe that there are some crucial key elements to His will for man that will help us to know what His will is in our walk with Him and with our daily lives.
Paul has been giving words of encouragement and exhortation to the church at Thessalonica in view of the fact that Jesus is returning for His people. There are three keys to knowing and being in God’s will. In the time that we are in now, it is especially critical that we know and practise these things.
“Rejoice evermore.” God never promised a trouble-free life, but only comfort through the troubles. When I think of God’s desire for His people to rejoice, I am reminded of Paul.
When in prison (Acts 16:25-38), Paul sang praises, witnessed and won souls for Christ. In the midst of troubles, Paul praised the name of the Lord and he was given the victory. Even with his thorn in the flesh, he continued to love and serve God. He said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”(Phil.1:21).
We do not know for sure what that “thorn in the flesh” was. But I am led to believe that it was his eyesight. Paul was struck blind during his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Perhaps, the Lord allowed Paul to have periodic difficulty with his vision in order to remind him of the need for total dependence upon Him. (In Gal. 4:13-15, Paul referred to his infirmity of the flesh and said that he knew that, if it would have been possible, the Galatians would have given their eyes to him).
Yes, sometimes the Lord allows us to keep the scars of the past to remind us not to return to those ways. No, we are not promised an easy walk, but yes, we are promised victory through Christ Jesus our Lord!
Again, the Scripture proclaims: “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). It is clear to see that the Christians indeed have victory. It is just that, too often, we tend to focus more on temporal defeats rather than the eternal victory that we have been given.
“Pray without ceasing.” I have heard prayer referred to as a communication between two people who love each other. Prayer is a very vital aspect of the Christian’s life. It should not just be a one-sided conversation, but a time of listening as well, a time of communion and fellowship with the Heavenly Father. God created man to have fellowship with Him.
The Greek word translated ‘pray’ is proserchomai which means to pray to God, ie., supplicate or worship. Matthew 6:9-13 outlines the definition of what prayer involves: Communion with the living God, reverence, anticipation of Christ’s return, desire for His will to prevail, a purposeful faith in Him alone, confession of sins, forgiveness toward others, a desire to be kept from temptation, praise and thanksgiving. Prayer is not merely talking, but a communication of the heart to The Lord. The phrase ‘without ceasing’ would tell us that we are to be in this constant state in our heart. This does not mean that we are to walk around with our eyes closed and heads bowed all the time, but simply that our hearts be focussed toward the Lord constantly in a state of communion and fellowship with Him.
Too many times in our life, Sundays and Wednesdays are the only time when we even think about the Lord. This clearly is not His will for us. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Matthew 22:37 tell us that we are to love Him with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind. By human nature, it is easier to love someone who loves us. God knows this and He made it easy to love Him.
We can learn this from the life of Abraham. In Genesis 12:1, God sent forth Abram to go to find a new land. Abraham did not know where this was, but he obeyed and went forward. Genesis 12:8 mentions that he built an altar to the Lord. This tells us that his heart was continually focussed toward the Lord for guidance in his journey.
3. Give Thanks
“In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” What does this mean?
The Lord has clearly given His people blessing upon blessing and it is His will for us to be thankful. Thanksgiving should not just be observed on one day of the year, but every day of our life.
There are two points to be made with that statement.
1. No matter what the circumstances, give thanks to the Lord always, because He wants us to be thankful for His blessings. He wants us to meditate on the blessings that He has given, not just the troubles that we encounter.
2. Most of the time, things happen in our lives and we do not understand why they are allowed. But, if we will let Him, God will work it for our good. “But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20). “For we know that all things work together for the good of them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
The Scottish minister Alexander Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something to be thankful for. One Sunday morning, the weather was stormy and dark. One of the deacons said, “The preacher won’t be able to thank God for anything on a day like this. It’s absolutely horrible outside!”
But much to his surprise, Whyte began the service by praying, “We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this.” Whyte understood the truth of our Bible lesson. We should thank God, no matter what! Because the same God who rules the universe when times are good, is the same God who rules the universe when times are not so good. God always has reasons and motives and purposes for doing what He does. Giving thanks to and loving God go hand in hand.
How can we know what God’s will is and be in it? Simply by rejoicing, praying, giving thanks.
Corrie Ten Boom says, “When she (Corrie’s sister) was at the concentration camp, she stayed in Barrack No. 28. It was infested with fleas. It was almost unbearable. But one night, they read the above passage of Scripture. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances.’ And Corrie’s sister said, ‘God wants us to thank Him for the fleas.’ Corrie said, ‘No way! That’s taking religion just a little bit too far! I’m not going to thank God for these infernal fleas!’ After a while, the nightly Bible studies attracted more and more women. Corrie started wondering if they would get caught. So she asked one of the women, ‘Why don’t the Nazis ever come in and check on us?’ And she said, ‘It’s because of the fleas. They won’t come near this place for that reason.’ Then Corrie remembered this Bible verse and said, ‘God, thank you for the fleas!’”
Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. There are several things you need to remember, if you are going to do this. Remember that God is at work in our lives even when times are bad. In 1 Thess. 1:6 Paul says, “In spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” In other words, as harsh as your life has become, God is still at work in your life!