from a sermon by Dwight Baltzell on July 2, 1992
Recently a prayer request was read that said, “Pray that a young couple will find God’s perfect will.” They can have His perfect will, and it is important that they do. In 1 John 2:17 we read, “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” If we are following God and claim to be Christians, we must endeavor to know God’s will.
In Deuteronomy 29:29 we read, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” That is a thrilling verse. There is much about the will of God, the mind of God, and the operation of God that we cannot comprehend. That part is for God alone to know. Yet, a part of His will He takes and hands down to our level where we can understand it. He says, “This is for you and for your children. This will benefit you; you can understand this part.” This was so aptly displayed in the parables. As Jesus spoke to the fishermen, the farmers, and the investors, they understood and could grasp that what He was saying.
When we consider the topic of God’s will, we may think of God’s plan of salvation first, and we should. God devised the perfect plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, who came down to earth so that all of us could comprehend enough to benefit from it. We have access to the gift of salvation, and that is God’s will for our lives. The Lord also says, “If ye continue in my word…” (John 8:31). After we are saved, we must continue in the will and plan of God. Right after the Lord saves us, we want to know His divine plan for our lives. This is especially true with young people. Salvation is exciting. They have started on a new adventure and wonder what the Lord is going to do for them. What does He have planned? They want to serve Him, so what is His direction for their lives?
We will be better off following God one day at a time rather than being concerned with what God has planned for us down the road. The Lord never admonished us to be overly concerned about the plan for our whole life. That is in God’s hands. He said we do not know what will happen on the morrow. Only God can see around the corner. He gently tells us to just go a day at a time as we seek His will. In Matthew 6:33-34 we read, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” This Scripture does not mean that we do not make any plans. The Lord gave us common sense and reasoning to apply to our lives. But we do not need to focus too much on what the Lord has planned for us way out there in the future.
I recall a good illustration of this from my own life. As I was looking up some of these Scriptures, I suddenly remembered something that took place years ago. I had gone to see my grandmother shortly after I was saved. I remember walking inside the house and going into the bedroom where she was lying, sick, dying of cancer. It was the first time I had visited her in her bedroom: no matter how sick she was, she always was sitting in the chair in the living room. I knew she must be getting very close to death for me to have to go into the bedroom to see her. As I walked in, she was so thrilled that I had gotten saved. We talked and she said, “I believe you are going to be a minister.” I remember walking out of the house just stunned. I thought she must have been thinking that way because she was so excited that I had gotten saved. What was I going to do with that comment? I could not carry it, so I just forgot about it. That was probably the best thing to do. If I had thought too much about it, I might have been overwhelmed. I am thankful I recognized I had to take one day at a time. That is the way we walk with the Lord. That is the way the Lord wants to show us His will—one step at a time as we go along with Him.
It is possible to know God’s will. Ephesians 1:8-9 says, “Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.” The phrase “having made known unto us” indicates that there is a part of His will that He has handed down to us: that He has made known to us. You can know it; you can have it; you can live by it; you can continue with it. In Ephesians 5:17 we read, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” In these last days, we are not to be unwise. God lets us know all through the Word that His will is there to direct us. In Proverbs 14:12 it says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” We need to know and follow the will of God for our lives in order to make it safely to Heaven.
When we do not have the will of God directing our life, it can simply be the fact that we do not want it enough. Sometimes people seek counsel, but it is apparent they really do not want to hear what is said. Sometimes, deep inside, we really are not ready to receive God’s plan. Jesus stood and wept over Jerusalem and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings.” He wanted to gather them to Himself, but He said, “Ye would not!” (Luke 13:34). It may be we do not have the will of God because we do not want the will of God. The Lord says He is right there to give it to us. He said to the Pharisees, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Many times the Pharisees would even ask the Lord questions, but he knew that down in their hearts they did not want the answer.
We get saved when we decide we want it now and say, “Lord, I do not care anymore. I want to be saved more than anything else. I do not have any reservations. I am not going to bargain or pray around it. I want it regardless!” The Lord is so quick to answer our prayer. We must have the same purpose in seeking God’s perfect will our lives. We have to have that determination down in our hearts.
David said, “I delight to do thy will.” David could walk in the will of God because he delighted to obey the will of God. The problem of whether or not he wanted it was all taken care of. That can even be likened to the love of the truth. You can love the truth to the point where it does not matter even if it “steps on your toes.”
God can make His will plain to us, just as He makes our salvation plain. In Romans 8:16 it says that, “The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” A wonderful youth camp was held in Southern Oregon some years ago where thirty-eight young people were saved. I was told that one girl told a seeker to “just believe.” She needed to believe, of course, but she lifted up her head and said, “I will know when I am saved,” and she prayed until she knew it. The Spirit of God bore witness with her spirit that she was a child of God. That is according to God’s Word. That same Spirit of God witnessing with our spirit needs to be exercised and effective in our everyday lives when it comes to finding the will of God. God’s Spirit can bear witness with our spirit in our thoughts, our actions, and our decisions.
We are children of our heavenly Father. If we have a normal relationship with our earthly parents, we have a fairly strong sense of what they will approve of and what they will disapprove of even before we ask. We do not have to be told. If we are children of God and His Spirit bears witness with ours, in a very short time we begin to realize the things that bring His approval or disapproval. Sometimes people will come to the Lord and ask Him for things or push toward directions that are contrary to what God is, who God is, or what his Word stands for. We should know better than that. His Spirit bears witness.
Some time back I was speaking to an older lady who enjoyed coming to church but wanted to be involved more. It is wonderful to have people who are willing and ready to be involved. However, this person felt we needed to make some changes in the way some things were conducted. I responded, “I would like to ask you a question. Do you really think that we would be better off if we did what you recommend?” She answered, “I do not even have to think about it. No!” Well, I do not know why we were spending all that time talking. But the Spirit of God is faithful. If we want the will of God, the will of God is there.
We have God’s Word, but we also have God’s Spirit for those “in between the lines” situations. In 1 Corinthians 14:32-33 we read, “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” Those who are true saints, following God in spirit and in truth, know what feels right and what does not feel right. Sometimes we do not know much more than that. That sense of right and wrong is not given so we can judge everything and everyone. It is for our benefit to keep ourselves in the will of God. God’s Spirit is for our benefit. If we are very far from what the other saints of God feel, then we had better check our spirit. “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” Be careful. Pray about who you ask for advice. Make sure that you have confidence in the spirit of the person; pick someone who has a clear connection to Heaven through their prayer life.
Bad advice is what divided the nation of Israel. Rehoboam took over the throne from his father Solomon. He was a young man and he needed advice. It is good to recognize we need advice. He first went to the elders of the church, those who had been around a long time. They had been there through King Solomon’s reign, and they had seen the good and the not so good. They had a good perspective of the whole picture. It was a wonderful opportunity for Rehoboam to gain some good advice, and the elders did give Rehoboam good advice. What a prime setup for a young man to be able to get good advice and to take advantage of what other people had learned!
Rehoboam had the right advice, but he turned it aside and went to his peers—the young men he had grown up with, hung around with, and probably got into trouble with. His peers had some advice, but there was no depth or experience behind it. Worse yet, it had no connection to the Spirit of God. As we read that story, we see the trouble that befell him! Again, it goes back to whether we want God’s will.
A wonderful formula for obtaining God’s will is quoted and referred to in many sermons. “I beseech ye therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). Yes, God has a perfect will. If we want it, we must present our bodies a living sacrifice, we must want holiness, and resist being conformed to this world. Also in 1 John 5:14 we read, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” Confidence in God and finding His will go hand in hand. In Hebrews 10:35-36 it says, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” Do you want God’s promises? Seek the will of God. As you seek God’s will, you have all of God’s promises before you. Can you have God’s promises but put God’s will for you aside? That does not work. You must seek the will of God to benefit from God’s promises. We have to want it all.
If you have a direction you want to go, bring it to God in prayer. Be totally open about it. Lay it out before Him and then listen to God’s Spirit as He speaks to your heart. God is faithful; you are His child. He will lead you. If you are not sure after praying, perhaps the next suggestion is to take a step in the direction that you want to go, but do so with caution. Be ready to back up and stop any time the Spirit of God corrects you, and you will not go wrong. It might sound a little conservative, but I would rather be one step behind the Lord than one step ahead of Him. Be careful not to be dragging back too far that you lose sight of God altogether. The simple point I am trying to make is I would rather be a bit behind so the Lord can pull on the reins and draw me closer than to step out ahead of Him because—where would I go from there? If we step out in front of God, God is no longer leading us. God is no longer our Shepherd. Oh, we want to follow God one day at a time, one step at a time.
Remember the story of Elijah? He performed many wonderful miracles through the power and grace of God. However, the Word of God says he was a man like we are. He was not supernatural. He just followed the Word of God and became a man of great faith, and how the Lord used Elijah! But the time came when he needed a real boost. It seemed like everyone was after him, including a wicked queen who was seeking to take his life. He found himself alone, a day’s journey in the wilderness, and did not know of anyone else that was still serving the true God. It looked pretty dark. He needed God’s direction and revived faith and confidence. How did he get it? As he hid out in the cave, a windstorm came—the mountains shook and the rocks fell. But God was not in the wind. There was an earthquake and all the after-effects, but God was not in the earthquake. There was a fire with all its devastation, but Elijah still needed to feel God’s direction. Then the Spirit spoke to him in a still, small voice that gave him everything he needed. He found strength; he found courage; he found new faith with instructions from the Lord. He was told to go and anoint several kings and also to anoint Elisha to take his place. Elijah was not led by the sensational events of nature but by the Spirit of God speaking to his heart and directing him. That is how God leads us—His Spirit bears witness with our spirit.
Fleeces have their place in assuring us of God’s will. The Bible gives an account concerning the use of fleeces in the story of Gideon. When the Lord chose Gideon to lead Israel and go to battle against the Moabites, He promised He would give them victory. Gideon must have thought, “I am absolutely nothing. How am I ever going to lead an army to overthrow our enemies?” This young man surely needed assurance and to be very positive of God’s will. Any of us would. Gideon’s desire was “Lord, I must be sure and double sure about setting out to do this because I cannot do anything in myself.” That is a good spirit and attitude to have.
Gideon presented his fleece, saying, “Lord, if you are in this, I need a sign. I will put this fleece of wool on the ground and if it is Your will for me to go to battle, then let the fleece be full of water from the dew in the morning and let the ground around it be dry.” In the morning Gideon found the fleece so full that he wrung out a full bowl of water. Gideon then presented another request, “Lord I have to make sure it is Your will; please be patient with me. I will place the fleece there again. This time, let the fleece of wool be dry and the ground wet with dew,” and that was so. Do you know what the fleece really amounted to? It was simply to bring assurance of what Gideon already knew God wanted him to do. An angel had spoken to him. Fleeces have their place, of course, but we cannot be directed by something sensational. The outcome of events must back up our inner conviction we received in prayer. The events can never overrule. Satan will challenge you and attempt to place doubts in your mind as you endeavor to serve and be faíthful to the Lord. Your main assurance needs to be from God’s Spirit bearing witness wíth your spirit in that still small voice.
We need to be careful of making vows. Ecclesiastes 5:5 says, “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” God is not looking for the unreasonable. God is not looking for the impossible. He told King Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). God is looking for simple obedience. God has very rarely asked us to vow. That is very rare. Many times people will make a vow because they are trying to twist God’s own will to their own. The Lord wants us to obey His will, not assert our own.
Once I received very good advice from a family member. It was plain and simple, “If you feel bad at all inside, do not do it.” I was about to engage in a business deal. It was a big step, and I was excited. I came to the Lord in prayer and asked, “Lord, should I or should I not?” Sometimes we can get caught up in our own way of thinking. We want God’s will but we don’t listen very well. I would pray and say, “Lord, I really want Your will,” but something inside would begin to turn a little, and I did not want to feel that. Through the day, as I would try to reason it out, I thought, Surely it must be all right. 1 would pray about it again and start to get that bad feeling. I am thankful the Lord knew the end from the beginning. I felt if I was positive it was right, I would proceed. I put out a fleece and thought, “If this happens and he goes for the deal, it will be the right thing to do.” He went for the deal, but I could not overpower what I felt down inside: that uncomfortable feeling that it was not what God wanted. My wife asked, “Did you make the deal?” I said, “No, I just could not do it. He went for it, but I just could not do it.” Later on I looked back and was so thankful God knew the best outcome all the time. He could see around the comer. Listening to God’s prompting turned out to be best. The advice I received was so simple. We need to be open to God’s will, no matter what our own reasoning or desires indicate.
In Romans 8:28 we read, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” God’s ways are higher than our ways. We are also told, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord” (Romans 11:34)?” Sometimes we may think that God would never allow this or that to happen. What if He did? We want to be able to have it in our heart to say “Lord, you know. I don’t. But give me the grace and faith to be willing to walk in whatever path You have chosen.”
Remember Job? We might think that God would never allow Job’s misfortunes, but Job’s response was, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). He realized that all things have to work together for good to them that love the Lord.
Consider the three Hebrew children. As they entered into the fiery furnace their thoughts were, “God will to deliver us, but even if He does not, we are not going to bow to an idol.” We want to be willing to the point where we are not unduly shocked at what is permitted to come our way. In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ said, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). That lets us know what we should do.
The Lord taught us to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). This is not a general prayer for the whole world. We should pray, “Lord, Thy will be done in my life.” Notice this phrase is at the very beginning of the prayer. If we have not established that we want God’s will in our life, we might as well stop the prayer right there. There is no sense in asking for God’s will in matters if we cannot honestly say, “God, Thy will be done in my heart and in my life.” This prayer is connected to our lives and what benefits us—“Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:11-13). It is an individual prayer with a very individual intent.
While we can ask God for His will, there are many things that we already know are His will. He is not willing that any perish. It is God’s will “that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). It is His will to sanctify us. Sanctification brings holiness into our lives. God is a holy God. Heaven is a holy place, and God has always demanded holiness. His Word says, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Through the promise given to Joel, we know it is God’s will to baptize us, “And to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). We do not have to wonder if it is for us.
As we diligently seek the will of God as it is laid out in the Scriptures, we can surely receive it.