The Will of God for Us
October 11th, 1987 @ 8:15 AM
THE WILL OF GOD FOR US
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-11-87 8:15 a.m.
And once again welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering a textual sermon, a message from the Gospel of John chapter 7, verse 17; John 7:17. The message is entitled The Will of God for Us. John 7:17, in the King James Version you have it translated “man,” “If any man”; the Greek is a little word t-i-s, which means “anyone.” “If any one will do God’s will, he shall know of the didachēs”—our word didactic comes from that—“he shall know of the didachēs,” translated here “doctrine,” the way, “whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself” [John 7:17]. And may I add to that another word written by the same deeply spiritual apostle John? In the last chapter, chapter 5, of his first letter, “This is the confidence we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him” [1 John 5:14-15].
“If any one will do His will, he shall know the way, the teaching, the doctrine, the revelation” [John 7:17].
Can we know the will of God? Is that possible? “Absolutely not,” says the agnostic. “I cannot know the will of God,” he says. Then he jumps to omniscience; “And no one can know the will of God.” From knowing nothing, he concludes he knows everything. That’s an interesting word: the Greek of “know” is here, “If any man will do His will, he shall gnō,” g-n-o, gnō, and put an “a” in front of it, an a is a Greek negative—they call it alpha privative—agnostic, “don’t know.” He says we cannot know the will of God.
A young agnostic was standing before a thoughtful old man, and the old fellow said, “What did you say you are?” And the young fellow said, “I am an agnostic.” And the old man said, “What is that?” And he says, “That means I’m not certain about anything.” And the thoughtful old man replied, “Then how can you be certain that you are an agnostic?”
Can we know the will of God? “No,” says the agnostic, “I can’t know anything in certainty.”
Can we know the will of God? “No,” says the infidel, “we cannot. There’s no God to reveal His will to us.” I could ask him, “Are you omniscient? Do you know everything?” He’d have to reply, “No, I am not omniscient. I don’t know everything.”
“Then maybe in some area of knowledge that you don’t know, God could be there.” Then I could ask him, “Are you omnipresent? Are you everywhere?”
“No, I haven’t been nor am I everywhere.”
“Then maybe in some area that you’ve never been, there may be God.”
It’s an unusual thing, the Holy Scriptures with regard to the being, the existence, the presence of the Almighty God. The proposition is never argued; the discussion is never made. The only reference in the Bible to infidelity, to the denial of God, is in the first verse of the fourteenth Psalm, and repeated in the first verse of the fifty-third Psalm: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” [Psalm 14:1, 53:1]. It is not discussed, it is not argued, that’s the only sentence in the Bible regarding the infidel. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” So the infidel says, “We cannot know the will of God; there’s no God to reveal His will for us.”
Then the worldling avows a denial of the revelation of the will of God, for he is consumed in the interests of this world. His mind, and his thought, and his heart, and his vision never include a life that is yet to come, or a judgment day before whom in heaven someday he’ll stand before the Lord. His interests and his life are bound up in this world. So there is no thought or purpose in seeking the will of God, the will of heaven; he is consumed in the interests of this present life.
One of the most beautiful words, sentences in the Bible, is in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews. Calling the roll call of those who died in the faith, the author says, “They look for a city whose builder and maker is God” [Hebrews 11:10]. What a beautiful characterization of these saints in the Old Testament: “They look for a city whose builder and maker is God . . . Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them that city” [Hebrews 11:10, 16]. But the worldly, with his life and interests consumed here, he says, “I do not see that city; therefore it does not exist.” He closes his ear to the whispering of the Holy Spirit, and says, “He does not speak.” He hardens his heart against the revelation of God, and says, “His presence is unknown.” And he maps the world in a fog of darkness and death, and refuses to see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:6].
Can I know the will of God? “No,” says the agnostic; “No,” says the infidel; “No,” says the worldly; “Yes,” says the follower of Christ, “I can know the will of God.” Then how do I know it? Thelō thelēma; thelō, “If anyone will”; now that’s not future, that’s volition, “If anyone will” [John 7:17]. If I will, if I choose to know, thelēma, the will of God, in an obedient and a believing and a humble heart, if I have it in my soul to follow the will of God, the will of God moment by moment, day by day will be revealed to me—if I have it in my heart, if I choose volitionally to follow God’s leading.
It’s like the headlight on a locomotive, a railroad engine: it shines continually, continuously, and onward as it moves the light shines. So the will of God for us. And that little word tis, “If anyone,” the Lord faces the whole world, the whole earth, and says to all of us of humanity, “If you have in your heart the willingness to follow the will of God, you will know the way” [John 7:17]. He will speak, and you can hear His voice.
Then if I have it in my heart to follow the will of God, to listen to His voice, and to follow after, what is the will of God for me? For us? First and above all it is the will of God, it pleases the Lord God in heaven, the Father of majesty and glory, it pleases God that I love, and believe in, and accept, and adore, and worship His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. At His baptism, the Lord said, “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:17]. At the transfiguration, His voice was heard once again, “This is My
Son. . .hear ye Him” [Matthew 17:5]. God is pleased when I love, and adore, and worship, and accept, and believe His Son. “God so loved us, He sent His only begotten Son” [John 3:16]; and when I receive Him, and believe in Him, and trust in Him, and adore and worship and follow Him, I am being obedient to the will of God for me.
I think one of the most moving things that I can remember in this last war, there were two young men in uniform; they were fighting in the midst of a furious battle. And when you’re in a uniform, and when you are marching and fighting as a soldier, whether you came from a rich home or whether you came from a poor home, you look exactly alike. One of these young men came from a most affluent family, and the other one was homeless, he was an orphan lad. And those two young men became steadfast friends as they marched together in the army. And when the battle was raging, the affluent son took out of his pocket a sealed letter with an address on the front. It was his father’s name and address and city. He took that sealed letter and laid it in the hands of his friend, and said to him, “If I don’t come back, if I don’t outlive this battle, promise me that you, if you live, that you will deliver this letter to this address and to this man.” The other lad faithfully promised; and after the battle was fought, the affluent lad didn’t come back, he didn’t survive. And when the war was over, the other lad took that sealed letter, made his way to the city, made his way to the address, and before a palatial home knocked at the door.
The husband and father and owner of the house came and opened the door, and saw standing there this soldier boy. The lad placed in his hands that letter. And the father opened it, and read it: “Dear Father, if I don’t come back, I’m asking that you receive this lad as your own; that he be your boy and your son.” The father flung wide the door, and said to the lad, “For my son’s sake, for my boy’s sake, come in, come in.”
That is exactly and precisely what God has done for us. “For my son’s sake, for my boy’s sake, come in, come in.” We are beloved in Him. We are precious in His sight because of Him [1 Peter 2:5]. He paid the penalty for our sins [2 Corinthians 5:21]. We are justified in His love and grace [Romans 4:25]. He came into this world to seek us and to save us [Luke 19:10]; and for His sake God loves us [Ephesians 1:6]. It pleases the Lord that we praise, and adore, and believe in, and love the Lord Jesus Christ. If I were categorizing the things that please God in doing His will, that would be the first and overshadowing one of all. It is the will of God that we love, trust, receive His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is God’s will for us? God’s will for us is that we belong to the assembly of His people. Ephesians 5:25: “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it.” If I am doing the will of God, if I love the Lord, I will love His church, the assembly of His people.
I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The church our blessed Savior saved
With His own precious blood.
I love Thy church, O God!
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye
And graven on Thy hand.
For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend;
To her my toil and cares be given
Till toil and cares shall end.
[“I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord,” Timothy Dwight]
“Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it” [Ephesians 5:25].
In that assembly of the church, I find myself strangely constrained, drawn. There is no time in my life when I have not been thrilled at the thought of being a part of the church of our Savior. I look forward to the day, I look forward to the moment; there’s no entertainment in this created earth that has in it the beginning of the interest that the assembly of God’s people has for me. And I cannot understand anyone who loves Jesus, who does not love the assembly of the Lord’s people. The Book of Hebrews says, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together” [Hebrews 10:25].
I never was more hurt than I was last week, when one of the men of the church said to me, “About a day ago, I was walking through a corridor here in our church, and in front of me was a staff member, and with him were two interns. And they were discussing whether or not they would attend the services of the church that day.” If I lived a thousand lifetimes I would never ever be able to enter into that. If I were not paid, I would love being here. When I was not paid, faithfully it was a joy to me to attend the services of God. It’s in my heart. It’s in my soul. It always has been. And it is the will of God that we assemble ourselves together. It pleases the Lord [Hebrews 10:25].
I must hasten. Here in this Holy Word, in the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, “I praise you, brethren, that you are faithful in all things, and are keeping the ordinances, as I delivered them unto you” [1 Corinthians 11:2]. That means that I am gloriously glad, first ordinance, to be baptized. It pleases the Lord that I be baptized. There is not much I can do for Christ; but I can do that, I can be baptized. That is the will of God for us [Matthew 28:19], that I be baptized. Keeping the ordinances, buried with the Lord and raised with the Lord [Romans 6:3-5]. And in this same eleventh chapter, in this eleventh chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he speaks at great length concerning our reverence for the Lord’s Supper [1 Corinthians 11:17-34]. Keeping in the ordinances, that pleases God; it pleases the Lord.
And in our church, I do not think in the earth there is a more reverential way of breaking bread and drinking the cup together than we do here in this dear place. That pleases God: that I be baptized [Matthew 28:19], and that I join with you in the observance of that sacred Supper [1 Corinthians 11:17-34].
If I do the will of God, it is a pleasing to the Lord that I love supporting our church. “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit”—isn’t that an old English expression?—“We do you to wit, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy, their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality” [2 Corinthians 8:1-2]. The poorer they were, the more they gave. That’s one of the most amazing characterizations I’ve ever heard of in my life. The poorer they were, the depths of their poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
O Lord, that I could be like that! Whatever God has placed in my hands, a part of it, Lord, is sacredly, prayerfully, lovingly, gladly set aside for Thee. “For you remember the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” [2 Corinthians 8:9].
I must conclude; the time is gone.
Doing the will of God in my personal life, in my own life; doing the will of God. You see, my mother, bless her heart, my mother was ambitious for me beyond what I could describe, my mother. Her father was a physician; he was a doctor. It’s hard for me to realize how the generations seal history together. He was a doctor in the Confederate army, my grandfather. That Civil War, that War Between the States, seems centuries ago; yet my grandfather was a doctor in the Civil War, in the War Between the States. My mother had an overwhelming ambition for me. I was her eldest son; she had two boys, and I was the older. And she had it in her heart that I was going to be a doctor, like her father.
So living on a little farm, just across the northwest Texas line in New Mexico, out in the desert, it looked so barren to me. Four miles from the closest town, I had a little pony named Trixie, and I had a little buggy, and six and seven years of age I drove that little pony and rode in the buggy to go to school. And no matter what, she saw to it that I went to school. My father and mother didn’t realize it, but I remember one day it was nine degrees below zero; and I got in that little buggy and drove to school. I can remember crying now; the cold hurt me, especially my hands. So my mother said, “I’m moving to town, putting my boy in school.” So my mother moved to the little town and put me in school when I was about seven years of age.
Then my mother took me to Amarillo. The little town in which we lived had no accredited high school; and she was determined I was going to be a doctor like her father, and she took me to Amarillo and put me in high school. And I went through Amarillo high school. Then my mother took me to Baylor University. I was going to be a doctor like her father. And she was ambitious for me to be a doctor like her father. And all through those years, and as far back as I can remember, I felt God calling me to be a preacher and a pastor. And I would say to my mother, “Mother, I’m going to be a preacher.” My mother and my father thought that it was a childish fancy, that I would get over it, that I’d outgrow it. Instead of outgrowing it and getting over it, it became more of an obsession in my soul. God has called me to be a preacher and a pastor.
When I went to Baylor, I took several of those pre-med courses with those pre-med students. I made A-plus in every one of them. But I had in my heart one love, one devotion, one commitment: God called me to be a preacher. That’s the will of God for me. And it was only in the after years that my father and mother, and especially my mother, ever reconciled herself to my being a preacher.
I’d talk to her about it—I’d elaborate—I’d talk to her about it. “Why is it, Mother, that you don’t want me to be a preacher?” And she would speak to me at length, “They’re badgered, they’re starved to death, they’re not paid their salaries, they’re in trouble all the time, they have unhappy people,” just my mother would go on and on and on, “I want you to be a doctor. I want you to be a physician.” But that was God’s will for me: however the fortune may be, however the turn of providence may be, whatever, God called me to be a preacher; and I never was dissuaded or waivered in it.
I am not peculiar or unique in that. There is a will of God for each one of you as there is a will of God for me. All of us, Mary Crowley used to say, “God doesn’t take time to make nobodies.” She’s so correct, God bless her memory. There is a will of God for you, you. You are as precious in His sight as the greatest king that ever reigned or the mightiest preacher who ever preached. There is a will of God for you. And to find it and to do it is the joy and gladness of the human soul. He speaks, if you will listen. He calls, if you will obey. He directs, if you will follow after. And that is our commitment in His blessed name.
Brother Doug, let’s sing us a song. And while we sing the hymn of appeal, a family you, or a couple you, or just one somebody you [Romans 10:9-10], “Pastor, the Lord has spoken to me this day, and I’m answering with my life; I’m coming.” If you’re in the balcony, there’s time and to spare; down one of these stairways. In the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “This is God’s day and God’s time for me, and here I stand.” On the first note of the first stanza, come. Come, while we stand and while we sing.
I DO NOT
KNOW GOD’S WILL: WHAT SHALL I DO?
1 John 5:14-15
I. Is it possible to know God’s will?
A. Agnostic says “No”
B. Infidel says “No” (Psalm 14:1, Psalm 53:1, Psalm 19:1)
C. Worldly man says
“No” (Hebrews 11:16)
D. Man who asks amiss
says “No” (James 4:3)
II. We know God’s will through an
obedient, submissive heart
A. “If any man willâ€¦” (John 7:17)
B. The Lord will lead
III. The will of God for us
Love and believe in and receive Him (Matthew
“For my Son’s sakeâ€¦”
Concerning His church
To love and belong to the church (Ephesians
5:25, Hebrews 10:25)
Keep the ordinances (1 Corinthians 11:1)
A privilege to support it (2 Corinthians 8:8)