How to Know God’s Will
September 30th, 1987 @ 7:30 PM
HOW TO KNOW GOD’S WILL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-30-87 7:30 p.m.
And once again welcome, the throngs of you who share this hour on radio and on television. You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled God’s Will And My Will, or how to know God’s will for our human lives.
There are two background texts for the message. One is in the Gospel of John, chapter 7, verse 17, "If anyone will do His will, he shall know of the didachē," translated here "doctrine." You can translate it "teaching," or "the way," or "the how."
"If anyone will do God’s will, he will know how; he will know the way; he will know the teaching, whether it be of God," or of someone else [John 7:17]. Our other text is in Luke 22:42, in the prayer of our Lord: "Not My will, but Thine be done."
Now the message. Our lives are made up of decisions; put them all together and that’s you. That’s the whole of you, the decisions that we make in our lives. Some of those decisions are small. They are almost incidental and inconsequential. For example, when you go grocery shopping, all of those decisions you make about what kind of cereal to buy or what kind of can goods to take home, or what part of the cow you’re going to buy for meat. All of those decisions, they are a part of the things that make up your table. Then there are more important decisions that you make in your life; "Do you rent, or do you buy a house? Do you choose to do this for your career or to do that? And whom do you marry? These are more important decisions that you make in your life.
And then some of the decisions that you make are eternally significant. Do you remember Pontius Pilate, when the providences of life thrust Christ before him and he cried, "What shall I do with Jesus, called Christ?" [Matthew 27:22]. These decisions, and others like them, are tremendously moving in the human heart. Take a mother who is told that her child in her womb is deformed. Should she have an abortion or not? Such a decision is heart-rending and soul-shattering. Or take again; you are working in a corporation and you see an unethical, dishonest practice on the part of the men who are running the company. And you are told to look the other way or lose your job. What do you do? These decisions are life changing. And sometimes our entire life is depended upon one decision. We must make as children of God; we must make our decisions right or else live in desperation and frustration; in guilt or uncertainty. It must be in God’s will, the decision we make if we are to be blessed in our hearts and in our lives. Now that brings me to five basic principles that lie back of every decision that we make.
Number one: any decision that we make, of vital importance to life, ought to be made in the purview, and presence, and wisdom of God. Take it to the Lord. That is the first great basic principle of the decisions that we make. Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." The first basic principle in making a decision in life is to lay it before God, take it to Him. This incomparably meaningful and beautiful passage I’ve just read out of Proverbs implies four things. One; it implies trust in God. "If I lay this before the Lord, I can trust God for the finest decision." It implies submission to God. "If I lay this before God and He speaks to me in my heart what I ought to do, I am submissive in the wisdom God speaks to my soul." A third; it implies prayer before God. We are before Him in supplication.
Let me give you an instance of that in Joshua, chapter 9, verse 14. The Gibeonites came. And I haven’t time to go into the story, but they tricked Israel. They made as though they were in a far land, and wanted to make peace, when in reality they were right there in their midst. And they made a treaty with the Gibeonites, whom God said were to be destroyed. And do you know what Joshua 9:14 says? Because the men of Israel "did not ask counsel of the Lord"; they never took it to the Lord.
In Colossians 1:9, "We do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." We take it to God in prayer and intercession; and lay it before the Lord. And a fourth and a last; it implies obedience. If we do not intend to obey the Lord, then there’s no need that we ask His direction, His wisdom, or His will.
The second great principle in seeking God’s will for our lives; let us seek to understand the revealed principles of God’s will; reveal to us in His word. The final word in any game – I don’t care what it is, football, monopoly, any game – the final word in any game is the rulebook. The final word in the game of life is God’s rulebook! In human life, we are to play the game by the rules of the Lord God. And they are clearly and plainly revealed to us in Holy Scriptures. You got ten of them in the Ten Commandments [Exodus 20:1-17]. You have many others in The Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29]. And when you read Paul’s letters, the last half of Paul’s letters will always be how the Christian is to conduct himself in this sinful world.
Let me read just for an example, some of these things that you will find; rules in God’s Holy Word. We are to worship God and not idols, Exodus 20:3-4. We are to honor our parents, Ephesians 6:1-3. We are to forgive others, Mark 11:25. We are to love God and our neighbor, Mark 12:28-31. We are to be holy, 1 Peter 1:16. We are not to marry unbelievers, 1 Corinthians 7:39. That’s one of the hardest things that I, as a pastor, have to deal with. These young people go to these secular schools and these worldly places and fall in love. And the guy is a heathen. He is an infidel, but she loves him and wants to marry him. What do you say? What do you do? Do you say, "I will not marry you? You are marrying a heathen." And 1 Corinthians 7:39 says, "You are not to marry an unbeliever." Help a brother in need, 1 John 3:16-19. I didn’t answer that question. You just tell me what I ought to do after the service is over. Do not steal [Exodus 20:15]. Be reconciled quickly to the person with whom you have a dispute, Matthew 5:23-24. Tell the truth, Proverbs 12:22. Don’t try to get rich quick. That is what God says in Proverbs 28:22. Don’t try to get rich quick.
You know, I come across some of the most amazing things that our people fall into, some of these schemes. And I’m talking about some of my staff members being taken in, trying to get rich quick. God says, "Don’t you do that!" Some of us are not going to get rich, I don’t care how long – is quick or long – but don’t fall for these schemes. Put your treasures in heaven, Matthew 6:20. Don’t follow the crowd, Romans 12: 1-2. Choose the best, Philippians 4:8. Work for God, not your boss. Be faithful [Revelation 2:10]. Oh, it just goes on and on and on! The Bible is filled with things that the Lord chooses to make known to us for our good.
All right, number three: how do you make a decision that is in the will of God? This one is something that may be a little beside what you might think. Use your God-given mind and good judgment. For example, in Acts 6:2-4, the disciples, the apostles, of the Lord, were faced with an enormous assignment. All of those people who brought their goods and they had everything in common and what do you do with these poor widows? And what do you do with these orphans? And what do you do with these that were filled with the necessity and appeal? And the apostles were drowned in the work. Man, I’m an authority on that! The detail of a pastoral ministry in a downtown city church is infinite. And you can just be buried under them!
Well, what the apostles did was they used good common sense and good judgment. They said, "Let us choose godly men and anoint them. Put our hands upon their heads and consecrate them for this work, while we give ourselves to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" [Acts 6:3-4]. Just good judgment! All right, let’s look at that.
For example, using your good common sense, knowing the will of God for your life: if you don’t know how to type and you don’t know how to use a typewriter, don’t apply for a job as a typist. That’s just good common sense! If you have never driven a car in your life, don’t apply as a driver in the Indianapolis 500. You usually don’t do that. If you break out in hives when you seek to speak before an audience, don’t run for political office or try to be a trial lawyer. And another one; if you have a weight problem, don’t ask for a job in a chocolate factory. God gave us minds, good common sense. And, when we seek the mind and will of God for our lives, let us investigate our options and consider our consequences and alternatives. A fellow said, and I copied it out, "God gave us a lot of leading when He gave us our minds. And it pleases the Lord, I think, when we seek in His will to do the thing that makes good common sense."
All right, a fourth out of five – and here is another one that I think is very pertinent but maybe some would not think it wise, but I do – when you seek a tremendously important decision in your life, seek the counsel of others. Discuss it with others. Talk it over with somebody who is experienced and who has good judgment.
Let me give you a tragic example from the Bible. In 2 Chronicles, chapter 10, you have the story of Rehoboam. Rehoboam was the son of Solomon, who was the son of David. And when Rehoboam inherited the throne, instead of listening to the counsel, the wise counsel of those who had been with his father, Solomon, and with his grandfather, David, Rehoboam sought counsel with his degenerate generation. And as you know, those hotheaded young fellows guided him in the direct opposite direction that he should have gone [2 Chronicles 10:6-15]. And consequently the kingdom was divided [2 Chronicles 10:16], and was never brought together again until the tragedy of the deportation. Seek the counsel of men or women who are wise and who have experienced, maybe, the alternatives that you are facing. And God will bless you in it, and He will give you His approbation and approval from heaven.
Now the last, number five; what do I do in seeking the will of God? And O Lord in heaven, how I wish, in this fifth one, that I could bring it to the hearts of our people in our dear church. God made us free. He created us within the limits of time; when my life is cast and space, where I am, within those limits, God created me – you, us – free. In that freedom, in that choice, let us seek to honor, and glorify, and serve the Lord; God’s will and God’s work above everything else.
"Well, pastor, apply that for me." It is simple, and I’m glad to do it. You sing, do you? Do you sing? Do you? Tell me, do you sing for the Lord, or do you sing for somebody? Do you? Just what were you doing up there singing? "Well, I was singing for somebody." Then you are going to have trouble in your heart. Someday, sometime, somewhere, somehow, you are going to meet trouble in your heart. But if you were singing for the Lord, "I’m doing it for Jesus," you will never have any problem. "I’m doing it for God."
Do you teach? "I’m teaching for Jesus. I’m doing it for Him."
Preacher, do you preach? Why do you preach? How many men preach as men pleasers? "I’m preaching for the approbation of the congregation." Do you work? "I’m working for God." Do you serve? "I’m serving for Jesus."
Now, two tremendously pertinent passages from God’s Book: Ephesians 6: 6-7, "Working not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to God, and not to men." Doing it for Jesus; that’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m singing. That’s why I’m teaching. That’s why I’m preaching, God willing and God blessed, doing it for God.
Again, Colossians 3:22-23, "Obey in all things, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: and whatsoever you do, do it heartedly, as to the Lord, and not unto men." Sweet people, if we’ll be that way – "I’m doing it for Jesus. I’m doing it for God"; if we will do that, it doesn’t matter the providences. God is my reward. He is my hope and my blessing. And it is His commendation and His approbation that I seek. "I’m doing it for Jesus, and I don’t care what happens." Put you in jail? They did the apostles. Beat you? They did Paul. Fail in the eyes of men? So many servants of Christ have been so judged. It doesn’t matter. See, I’m doing it for Jesus, doing it for the Lord’s sake. And the providences of life, however they turn, are in His wisdom, and His will, and His choice, and His keeping. O God! What a wonderful way to be.
Now Doug, we are going to sing us a hymn. And you young people can stay here. You do not have to leave. Just sing with us. We are going to sing us a hymn. And while we sing the song, a family, loving God and loving us, "Pastor, tonight we are putting our lives with you in this wonderful church." A couple you, coming into the fellowship of our precious congregation; or a one somebody you, giving your heart to the Lord, "I want to be baptized, pastor, just as Jesus was [Matthew 2:13-17]. I want to follow His blessed example and His great commandment to me" [Matthew 28:19]. Or answering the call of the Spirit in your heart; I will be standing right here and I want you to come unto me. "Pastor, I give you my hand. I have given my life in service and obedience to Christ, and here I stand." Make the decision in your heart now, and while we sing this hymn of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, come and welcome; while we sing and while we sing.
HOW TO KNOW GOD’S WILL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Luke 22:42, John 7:17
A. Our lives are made up of decisions, small and big (Matthew 27:22)
B. Our lives changed forever on the basis of one decision
II. Go to the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6)
A. Implies trust in God
B. Implies submission to God
D. Implies obedience
III. Seek to understand the revealed principles of God’s will
A. Final word in any game is the rulebook
B. In human life that rulebook is the Bible (Exodus 20:3-4, Ephesians 6:1-3, Mark 11:25, 12:28, 1 Peter 1:16, 1 Corinthians 7:39, 1 John 3:16, 19, Matthew 5:23, Proverbs 12:22, 28:22, Matthew 6:20, Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 4:8)
IV. Use your God-given mind and good judgment
A. Good judgment, common sense a tool of God in decision (Acts 6:2-4)
V. Seek the counsel of others
A. Discuss it with others; be willing to listen (Proverbs 12:15)
B. Seek out wise, experienced men or women (2 Chronicles 10)
VI. In our God-given freedom, seek to honor, glorify and serve the Lord
A. God’s will and work above all else
B. Doing it for Jesus (Ephesians 6:6-7, Colossians 3:22-23)