God’s Will

I am writing this from my hospital bed (ain’t technology great!).  This is day 5 since discovering another pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung).  Over these 5 days I have heard the phrase “God’s will” used a lot – “if it is Your Will heal Tim”, “it is God’s will for this to happen (in the context of lessons to be learned)” “thank God that His will was for you to have available the best medical care”.  Now, I do believe in God and I do believe he has a will (definition: volition to act).  But being a Shadowlander hearing the phrase “God’s will” tossed around always resurrects the cynic in me. 

Part of my cynicism comes from the way people historically have thrown around the phrase ‘God’s will’ to endorse their agenda. Crusaders used it to endorse decades of war.  Slave owners used it to endorse owning slaves.  Televison evangelists use it to endorse their need for our money.  There have been a lot of awful things endorsed with the phrase ‘God’s will’. 

But my cynicism isn’t only abuse driven.  I also wonder why, after dedicating my life to serving God, he has willed to curse me with a body that hasn’t worked right for the past 25 years and why now, on the eve of my retirement from CCF, I am in the hospital again.  Times like this are good reminders to me that a life of ease was never promised to those who walk the Path.  That wrong expectation fuels many frustrations about ‘God’s will’.

Assuming God does have a will for each of us why do we pursue it?  Is it to get something in return?  More money.  Better health.   Easier life.  Brighter future .  More health.  Less chaos. Less resistance. Less risk. Less illness.

What do we expect from God in exchange for following His will?  The expectation that God will rescue us from a life of risk, disappointment, and failure ignores the Biblical examples of the lives of  some pretty extraordinary people who followed God’s will to their peril.  A life of faith is a risky life.  

What should we expect from God in exchange for following His will?  Joseph’s (the Old Testament one) provides a good answer to that question, though one you may not like.  He definitely was where God willed him to be according to his own statement to his brothers in Gen 45:7  “God sent me here ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

  • Joseph began life as his father’s favorite son. This made his brothers jealous so they
  • Sold him as a slave to some Egyptions (I’m personally glad this was not an option for my brothers). 
  • But he ended up managing the estate of the Pharoah’s highest civil servant Potipher which was great unil
  • He was seduced by Potipher’s wife (her name is not given but I think it was Slut).
  • But Joseph not only turned down the offer of sex but literally ran away from Slut (Potipher’s wife).
  • She patented the phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” by accusing Joseph of trying to seduce her and Potipher
  • Had Joseph thrown into jail where he
  • Interpreted dreams for a baker and butler who promised to put a good word in for him to Pharoah when released  
  • But they forgot (ingrates!) but finally
  • Joseph interpreted a dream for Pharoah, saved Egypt from a huge famine, got promoted to Vice Pharoah, was reunited with his family and saved the entire nation of Israel.

Sometimes when difficulty or suffering comes our way, we conclude that we have made a choice outside of ‘God’s will’ and sometimes we have.  But Joseph’s story is only one of many stories of people who followed God’s will and still had lots of difficulty and suffering in their lives. 

I believe there are two parts of God’s will.  Part one is the big picture, far beyond what we can perceive. Part two is the particular picture, His will that is revealed and is to be obeyed.  Joseph believed that God’s big picture was being accomplished even though he didn’t see much evidence of it until near the end of the story.  It’s the same way with us.  As part of the story we can’t comprehend how He is working to fulfill His big picture – we just don’t have the perspective for it.

Joseph’s story illustrates how these two parts of ‘God’s will’ look.  Joseph chose to do God’s revealed will  by every day doing the things that kept him connected to God.  Joseph trusted God completely even when circumstances were completely contrary to what he expected God to do.  By obeying God’s revealed will Joseph helped fulfill God’s big picture, but Joseph couldn’t see it.

This is an important lesson for us to learn: God is in control but we may not always know how… so we trust His sovereignty by obeying his revealed will in His Word.  Joseph didn’t know he was JOSEPH he just obeyed God’s will and God did the rest.  Will your name one day be spoken in all caps by those who have look back on our time with the perspective to see more of God’s big picture? 

What should we expect from God in exchange for following His will?  Nothing.  We should thank Him for making us part of His big picture!

God’s Call

Christmas is over and talk of “making a list and checking it twice” have now been replaced with “making my New  Year’s resolution list”.  I don’t know why but I turned to Exodus 3:1-10 this morning and read this rather bizarre account of Moses’ call to become the savior of the Israelites.  Standing before a talking, burning, but not burning up, bush (I told you it was bizarre) God speaks to Moses and says:  “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh” (Exodus 3:10)

After having all his doubts and objections answered Moses obeyed God’s call and returned to Egypt.  The rest is history. 

I have never seen a burning bush much less had one speak to me but I have sensed God’s call to serve Him in a specific way.  Twenty eight years ago just such an experience led me here to UGA to minister to the students and staff of this great university.  The call made no sense at the time but I had no doubt that God was calling me.  Looking back I am so thankful for the call and for answering it!

Have you had a burning bush experience?  Have you sensed God calling you to serve Him in some specific way?  2010 is only a few days away.  As a Christian I know that all time is God’s time but as a Shadowlander I enjoy the fiction that New Year’s is a special time for starting over and doing better.  At any rate now is a good time to explore God’s call . 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I felt God directing me to a specific task or area of service? 
  • If so, have I said yes?
  • Have I, like Moses, told God about my fears? My objections? My feelings of inadequacy?
  • What am I doing right now to answer God’s call?
  • If I’m feeling led to a new area of service, how can I verify what God wants me to do and follow it?

Here is my four step burning bush experience verification plan:

  1. Make sure God initiated it. Don’t force it.
  2. Check the Bible to make sure it’s morally right.
  3. Pray about it — for as long as it takes to be confident of His call.
  4. Get to work doing it!

If God calls you to serve Him in a specific way, do it.   Don’t let anything keep you from obeying God’s call in 2010.

If you hear God’s call, whether through a burning bush or a still small voice, say yes!