Anyone who’s experienced the Christ-following life will eventually be faced with the question “How do I know the will of God for my life?” We will have times in life when we need very specific guidance in very specific situations (who to marry, whether to take a particular job or not, what college to go to, etc.). We needed to know God’s specific will. But God’s specific will is always preceded by doing his general will.
We’re in the midst of the holiday season – or more accurately, the annual stress and cholesterol festival! This blog is a reminder of the will of God for each of us everyday of the year – but it is especially apropos during the Holy-days from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years.
The will of God I am talking about is found in 1 Thess. 5:16-18: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The apostle Paul is saying, “…if you want to know what God’s specific will is, then practice this first…”
The will of God is that we…Never Stop REJOICING: “Rejoice always…”
The OT prophet Nehemiah told the people he led: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” God wired us to operate best when we’re joyful. Joy in our spirits makes us function better than when we’re in a state of despair. Being joyful is one of the greatest sources of energy and spiritual vitality that we can experience.
But joy is a choice. True happiness and lasting joy are found in the choices that we make. We can choose to be joyful or we can choose to be joyless. It’s up to us. The apostle Paul says, “If you want to be in God’s will, then choose joy.” “Rejoice always!”
Next the will of God is that we…Never Stop PRAYING: “…pray without ceasing…”
The reason prayer is so important to the will of God in our lives is because when we really learn to connect with God in prayer we’re changed forever. Prayer may not always change things for you, but it always changes you for things. Now, don’t get me wrong – I believe that prayer changes things – but the primary benefit of prayer is that we are changed. God always uses prayer to move us closer to Him and to make us more like Him.
Sam Shoemaker was an Episcopal minister from New York City who was instrumental in founding AA – Alcoholics Anonymous. Whenever Sam encountered someone who didn’t believe in God he would suggest that they enter a “30-Day Prayer Experiment.” He told them, “Don’t pay any attention to whether you believe or not. Just pray every day for thirty days that God will meet you at the point of your greatest need, and see what will happen to you.” Pastor Shoemaker’s little experiment literally transformed hundreds of people from staunch skeptics to committed Christians. Prayer changes things – but it especially changes the person who prays!
Finally the will of God is that we…Never Stop BEING THANKFUL: “…in everything give thanks…”
A thankful heart marks the person who wants the will of God in their life. God’s will is that we give thanks for ALL things – no exceptions. If we’re going to be people who are hungry for the will of God to be accomplished in and through us, we will learn to be grateful and thankful people – in everything. We can all be grateful no matter what our circumstances may be.
On my way to church last Sunday, I was involved in a serious car accident. I was struck from behind at 45 mph by an uninsured, underaged, drunk driver while making a turn into the church parking lot. The force rammed my car into a stationary 4×4 wooden lamp post attached to a fence bordering the entrance. My car took out the post and fence, veered off into a hedge, flew into the air – “Dukes of Hazard-style” – and landed in a ravine 12 feet below. My car was a total loss. I walked away unscathed.
I’ve been pondering that experience for several days now. At first I asked God, “Why?” (The car was in very good condition with low mileage and I planned to have it for another ten years. It’s going to be hard to replace). But then I had to move on to the more important question, “What?” What, Lord, do you want to make of this seemingly unfair and unjust situation?
At that point I had a decision to make. Was I going to think like a victim or was I going to trust God for his provision in a difficult situation? I decided on the latter. Here’s my declaration of thankfulness: “I am thankful that in my entire life I have never been in a serious car accident until now. Also, even though the accident totaled my car, it did not take my life – and no one else was in my car at the time. And even though my car will be hard to replace, it will not be too much for God to provide. Finally, I am grateful that it was I who was hit by the drunk driver and not someone else.” I have decided that it is God’s will to “…in everything give thanks”!
Of all the people on this planet, we followers of Jesus Christ have the most to be grateful for. Our eternal destiny is secure because Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for ours on the cross and offered His forgiveness to us. And it’s ours for the asking.
So, as you celebrate the holidays with your family and friends – remember that God has a plan to be fulfilled in you. His will for you is to…Never stop REJOICING, never stop PRAYING, and never stop BEING THANKFUL!