86. God’s plan for me

Does God have a plan for my life, and will He direct me into it?

I believe a sovereign, Almighty, all-knowing God does indeed have a plan for the life of His children, just as He had a plan for Paul (Acts 9:15). The same God that led Israel through the wilderness with the pillar of cloud and fire (Numbers 9:15-23) is the God that we have today.

Are Christians slaves to the will of God?

Do I need a word from the Lord as to which grocery store to go to today? What believer to visit? Which car to drive? Is every aspect of my life to be a simple adherence to what God places before me? Or is the will of God more than that? I would like to present what I believe is the teaching of Scripture in relation to some of these things– things that I have wondered about in time past.

A Christian is indeed a bondslave of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:6), but he/she is motivated by love, not by forced obligation (1 Peter 5:2, 2Cor. 5:14).

I believe God is more interested in developing His likeness in us than telling us specific things we are to do. Having a heart like His heart produces a life that is fruitful and which delights to fulfill His will. When the Lord brings into our circumstances something He has equipped and exercised us to do, it is the natural thing to do it. Also, God delights in giving us things we ask for that are according to His will (John 16:24, 1John 5:14). If we were robots, He wouldn’t want us to ask. Paul had a longing to see the saints in Rome (Romans 1:10). God granted His request, but it was in His way and time. God wouldn’t want us to ask for wisdom if He didn’t expect us to use it (James 1:5). So God isn’t looking for mindless followers, but for children who know Him, grow in His wisdom, and walk uprightly because they delight in His character and Person.

Doing the will of God is directly related to pleasing God. I can ask myself, “would this please God?” (Ephesians 5:10 NASB). God doesn’t need to give me special guidance for things He has already forbidden in His Word.

Guidance from God

That being said, God has directed His people to do specific things in the past. For example:

  • The Old Testament is full of specific commands given by God to individuals, often through prophets.
  • Failure to ask for counsel and direction brought difficulty (Joshua 9:14).
  • God gave direction regarding who to preach the gospel (Acts 13:2) and where to preach the gospel (Acts 16:6-10).
  • God gave instructions in regard to Gentile visitors, Acts 10:9-21. Note that God didn’t give Peter all the information all at once. The will of God was made clear to Peter over time in various ways.
  • Many examples of today could also be given. Norman Crawford speaks of being without the money to be able to drive to meeting, and that day in the post office, though there was no mail, someone (who had no idea as to his circumstances) walked up to him and gave him money that enabled him to get to meeting that night, saying “the Lord told me to give this to you.” D. L. Moody has accounts of answers to prayer by men and women who obviously were led in some way to send the needed help at just the right time. Darlene Deibler Rose tells of how the Lord spoke and strengthened her through her many trials in prison camps (listen). Many similar circumstances could be related (including some in my own life).

God may not speak in the same way today as He did in past days, but I believe He still directs His people. So, God may choose to direct me to a particular grocery store so as to be able to share the gospel with someone there, but I should not be preoccupied over which one to go to if I don’t have reason to believe God is taking me to one or the other. He will see to it that His will is accomplished in my life if my heart is right before Him. It is good to be on our knees before God for direction for the day, and we can trust Him to do His work through us when the time is right, as we meditate upon His word, attend meetings, and receive His instruction. Chances are, if God wants me to talk to someone at a particular grocery store, He will work the circumstances in such a way that what He wants to take place will happen without my even knowing that He’s doing it. I just have to be in the proper condition before Him to be ready to take that opportunity. If someone comes up to you and asks if you’re a Christian, well, you don’t have to doubt whether God wants you to talk to them about the Bible! Be willing and ready and let God work. Consider the example of Esther. She likely didn’t know God was leading her into the position of being queen, but God put her there at just the right time so as to be in a position to save the Jewish people (Esther 4:14). Being in that position, she was faced with a decision and  finally submitted her will and personal fears so as to be a blessing to others (Esther 4:16).

Sometimes circumstances are out of our control, and we have to simply accept them as being the will of God (Acts 21:14). Sometimes things are unpleasant for us, but are still permitted by God for a reason–He is in control of our circumstances (Luke 22:42; 1 Peter 3:17; 4:19).

I do not believe that God wants us to be in constant turmoil over what is His will for me.  Rather, He would have us to understand His revealed will from the Scriptures which is plain and simple to understand. Then if we are open to the Spirit’s guidance in our lives, we will be directed into His will in other areas of our lives as well. We may not even know the Lord is directing us at times, but He is able to work all things out according to His good plan, whether I am aware of the details or not, and whether I do everything “just right” or not (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 8:28 NASB). Don’t let the concept of being afraid to do the “wrong thing” paralyze your usefulness for God. Do what you believe God has given you the ability to do, and what is beneficial to others, and you will find that as you are actively seeking to live for Him, He will channel that desire and labor into the areas where it will fulfill His purposes.

Scripture selections from the epistles relating to the will of God for all believers:

Perhaps someone says, “The Bible is lengthy. Where particularly can I read about God’s will for me?” It is with this in mind that I have put together a list of verses that should give every believer a good idea of God’s will for them. You may choose to go through them as part of your daily reading.

  • Romans 12:1-13:14; 15:1-7
  • 1Cor. 10; 11:24; 13; 15:58
  • 2Cor. 4:7-18; 5:6-15, 20; 6:14-7:1; 9:6-15; 12:7-10; 13:11
  • Gal. 5:1-6:10
  • Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-6:20
  • Phil. 1:21-2:16; 3:7-4:9
  • Col. 1:9-12; 2:6-4:6
  • 1 Thes. 4:1-12; 5:12-28
  • 1 Tim 2:1-15; 4:6-6:21
  • 2 Tim 1:6-14
  • Tit. 2:11-3:8
  • Heb. 12:1-14; 13:1-18
  • James 1:27; 4:15; 5:7-20
  • 1 Peter 1:13-2:3; 2:11-3:12; 4:1-11
  • 2 Peter 1:1-11; 3:18
  • 1 John 3:23-24; 4:7-14; 4:21-5:3

Conclusion

Should I be interested about, convicted about, desiring God’s will for me? Yes! Should I be overly worried and preoccupied about His specific, daily plan? As long as I am open and willing, no (Phil. 4:6-7 NASB). We should use the wisdom God has given us and the desires He has instilled in us by His Spirit, while waiting on Him for specific direction when the need arises.

God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect (Romans 12:2). It is God’s best, though it may not seem best to me or be the most enjoyable. God’s will for Christ was Calvary. It meant hardship and suffering, but ultimately infinite blessing to us and infinite glory to Him. Let us seek to please Him in all respects (Col. 1:10 NASB, 2 Tim. 2:4), trusting Him to work in our lives (Hebrews 11:6).

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 (Proverbs 3:5-6).

85. Lessons from vineyards

Rejected from the vineyard

  • So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others.  (Luke 20:15-16)
  • The Lord Jesus came into a world He had created. That world should have received Him and given Him the fruit of righteousness, obedience and worship. But that world crucified the Son of God.

Respect for God’s vineyard.  

  • “Give me thy vineyard”  (1 Kings 21:2).
  • Naboth was willing to die for what was right. He was unwilling to give away the inheritance he had received from God. Am I willing to hold to the truth that God has given me?

Project of the vineyard. 

  • “She planteth a vineyard” (Prov. 31:16)
  • Am I using the abilities God has given me?

Neglect of the vineyard

  • I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. (Prov. 24:30-31)
  • God would not have us to be lazy! How is my vineyard?

Prospect through the vineyard: “Go work today in my vineyard.”

  • And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?  They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive…. These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.  (Matthew 20:1-16)
    • This is the passage that got me thinking about this topic. I appreciated William MacDonald’s comments on Matthew 20:
      • “The first bargained for a denarius a day and got the wage agreed on. The others cast themselves on the farmer’s grace and got grace. Grace is better than justice. It is better to leave our rewards up to the Lord than to strike a bargain with Him.”
      • Many of us have to admit that it seems a bit unfair to us, too. This only proves that in the kingdom of heaven we must adopt an entirely new kind of thinking. We must abandon our greedy, competitive spirit, and think like the Lord. The farmer knew that all these men needed money, so he paid them according to need rather than greed. No one received less than he deserved, but all received what they needed for themselves and their families.
  • Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? (1Cor. 9:7)
    • The farmer is worthy to receive the fruit of his labor, and our toil is not for nothing in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58).

“Son, go work today in my vineyard.” (Matthew 21:28)

83. Crucified with Christ

Why does the cross of Christ mean death to my old self-life and my own sinful will? I would like to suggest a number of things (but feel free to share your thoughts as well):

  • Christ was dying at Calvary because of sin. Sin put Him there, and sinners nailed Him to that tree. To demand my own sinful way, void of God, is to sin against God, mirroring the hearts of those who crucified Him. They would have their sinful way, not His, and to gain their way, they had to crucify the Lord of glory. Shall I sin, that grace may abound? May it not be so! That sin nailed Him to the tree, and how can I delight in that which made Him suffer? (Rom. 6:1-2; Gal. 6:14)
  • Christ was the perfect man dying a perfect death. He lived as every person ought to live. He is our perfect example, and we should desire to follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21 NASB). He said, “not My will, but Thine be done” and submitted Himself to the Father (Luke 22:42).
  • When Christ died, He was dying as my substitute, in my place. I should have died there. In dying, He took my sins away. Thus, my old life is buried in the sea of Calvary and gone forever. If He died in my place because of my old life of sin, then my old self and way of life is crucified with Him (Rom. 6:1-11).
  • Through His going away, the Comforter came. With the Holy Spirit, we have new desires, new aspirations. To desire the old life is to go against He who lives inside me and to do what is not natural for a child of God (John 16:7; Rom. 8:1-14; Gal. 5:22-24).
  • When Christ died, He was completing the greatest, most costly purchase that has ever been made. He was purchasing you. It is a wonderful thing to be able to say “I am His, and He is mine!” (Song 2:16, 6:3) That fact binds me to Him, and His purchase of love should cause me to understand that I am not my own: I have been bought with a great price (1Cor. 6:19-20).
  • Submitting to the Christ of Calvary as “my Lord and my God,” obeying the gospel by faith and trusting in the Savior, means that I now have a new Master. Christ has conquered death, and I am no longer a slave to death and sin, but a servant of righteousness (Rom. 6:20-23).
  • The cross is the greatest manifestation of love the world has ever (and will ever) know. How can I live for myself, when Christ has endured infinite suffering with infinite, eternal love, and has given Himself for me? How could I continue to live only for myself, when He has given all for me? “For the love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor. 5:14-17 NASB). “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me ” (Gal. 2:20 NASB).

Oh for the grace to stand with Christ on resurrection ground! Oh for the heart to love as He loved!

Father, fill me with Christ! Let me fix my gaze on the man in the glory with wounded hands and feet, and let me be filled with His glory, grace and love until He comes to take me home.

 

77. The heart of a true minister

I have been challenged lately by the life and heart of the apostle Paul, and specifically in 2 Corinthians. What a minister (servant) He was!

In 2 Cor. 5, we read that he was a minister of the New Covenant, and an ambassador for Christ.

Note 2Cor. 6:3-11 NASB

giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death,
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.
Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide.

What an example Paul was for us. He relates even more hardships that he endured as Christ’s servant in 2Cor. 11:23-30.

Surely he imitated the greatest Servant of Jehovah, our Lord Jesus Christ (Isaiah 42:1). Christ, the Man of Sorrows, was the one who said “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). None other went from such riches to such deep poverty, selling all that He had to purchase our redemption (2 Cor 8:9, Matt 13:46). Dying upon that tree, He owned nothing in this world naturally, but was the possessor of heaven and earth.

He told the Corinthians,  “you are in our hearts to die together and to live together” (2Cor 7:3 NASB).

Paul was willing to go through so much for the Corinthians, “though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Cor 12:15).

His aim was the Lord’s glory, and his goal, the Lord’s commendation (2 Cor. 10:17-18).

After all, why glory in men, and why strive for the menial things of this life? For all things are yours (1 Cor 3:21-23). What a hope we have to look forward to as heirs with Christ! (Rom 8:17)

Paul gives us a high standard when he writes in Colossians 3:17, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…”  Albert Barnes sums this up by saying,

His authority should be the warrant; His glory the aim of all our actions and words.

May each of us strive to be “a good minister of Jesus Christ” (2Tim. 4:6).

76. How’s my Heart (Part IV)

Part IV. What kind of heart would God like me to have?

A. We have been thinking about David, a man after God’s own heart. So let’s look first at the longings of David’s heart.

What characterized David’s heart, and what did he long for?

  • Precepts of God (Ps 119:10-11)
  • Purpose of God (Ps 40:8)
  • Panting for God (Ps 42:1-2)
  • Power & Glory of God (Ps 63:1-2)
  • Praise of God (Ps 150)
  • Pondering God (Ps 63:6)
  • Preeminence of God (Ps 115:1)
  • Prayer to God (Ps 5:2-3)
  • Promises of God (2 Sam 7:28-29)
  • Peace of God (Ps 4:7-8)
  • Purity, Holiness of God (Ps 51:10)
  • People of God (Ps 28:9)
  • Place, House of God (Ps 27:4, 84:2-4,10)
  • Preference for God & Restoration to God (Ps 137:6)
  • Pain of God felt (2 Sam 18:33)
    • Isaiah 1:2  Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. 
B. And now in general, what kind of heart would God like to see in me?
  • Loving heart: Deut. 6:5  And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
    • God is the greatest lover.
  • Patient heart: Psa 27:14  Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
    • Patient, trusting expectation
    • God’s way is worth seeking for, and God’s will is worth waiting for. (v11, 14)
  • Trusting heart: Prov. 3:5  Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
    • Psalm 62:8  Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah. 
    • God’s word is worth trusting
    • He is the most trustworthy
  • Willing heart: 2Cor. 9:7  Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
    • Christ was the most submissive to God’s will
  • Thankful heart: Col. 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
  • Serving heart: Eph. 6:6  Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;
    • Service should not be dependent on the praise of men
    • Christ was the greatest servant
      • “Pleased not Himself” (Rom. 15:3)
        • He took the reproach of men for the sake of the Father
      • “Not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42)
  • Peaceful heart Php. 4:6-7  …And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
    • Our peace is not dependent on our circumstances
  • Comforted heart: 2Th. 2:16-17  Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
  • Joyful heart: Psa 4:7  Thou hast put gladness in my heart
  • Worshipful heart:  Psa 9:1 I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.  
  • Reverential heart: Psalm 86:11 Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. 
  • Directed heart: 2Th. 3:3-5  And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.
  • Teachable heart: Psalm 51:6  Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. 
  • True heart: Heb. 10:19-22  Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
    • “Blessed are the pure in heart” Matt. 5:8
    • “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts” Psalm 139:23
  • Beautiful heart of humility: 1Pet. 3:4  But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
    • Prov. 18:12  Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.
  • Soft heart: Mar 6:52  For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.  (submitted by reader)
    • What is my reaction when the Lord works in my life?
    • Mark 3:5 – A hard heart grieves the Lord
    • God would not have us to be soft when it comes to the world’s mold (Romans 12:2), but He desires a soft heart that conforms to the mold of likeness to His Son (Romans 8:29).

In considering these things, the writer feels his failure and shortcomings.

 

Concluding thoughts

Our spiritual life began with God working in our heart. We need to guard our heart from the evil without and have it cleansed from the defilement and deadness within. Our heart is the secret to spiritual blessing and honor before God. It is the determiner of our habits. Where it goes, our lives will follow.

A trusting heart is God’s delight.

“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. ” (Prov. 3:5-6)

An offered heart is what God deserves.

“My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” (Prov. 23:26)

A heart given to God is a heart God fills and satisfies. God will fill my heart in the measure that I give it to Him.

With a whole heart like David then, let us praise Him (Psalm 9:1), seek Him (Psalm 119:2), serve Him (Psalm 119:34), and pray to Him (Psalm 119:58,145). Let us with a whole heart return unto Him in repentence (Jer. 24:7) and love Him with our whole being (Deut. 6:5) until that day when we see Him face to face.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.  (Psalm 19:14)

“Change my heart, Oh God”

75. How’s my Heart? (Part III)

Part III. Life’s ending: the heart’s role in Reward

Reward depends upon the heart

The state of our heart is the secret to our usefulness for God, and it will determine the honor God places upon us in the future. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Cor. 4:5).

After God’s own heart

I am reminded of the man that is, after Christ, perhaps the most honored in the Scriptures. His name is David (found over 1100 times in the KJV). David is in the first verse of the New Testament and six verses from the end of the New Testament.

What is the secret to David’s honor? I would like to suggest that it was his heart.

God said of him, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22).

What a heart David had for God!  David’s heart was like God’s heart, and he loved to spend time with God. He longed to please God, and lived humbly, trustingly, thankfully before Him. One has only to hear his songs to feel the beat of his heart, a heart full of desire and devotion to his God. What a love he showed for communication from his God in Psalm 119! How he appreciated God’s care in Psalm 23! How he longed after God in Psalm 42! We could go on and on.

God’s choice of David for the one who would guide His people as a type of Christ was due to David’s heart. “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1Sam. 16:7).

David endured the ridicule of men, but he didn’t let others’ assessment of his heart affect his life for God. His own brother cut him down when David sought to refresh him (1Sam. 17:28). And then the trusting heart of David, one that desired God’s honor, went out to meet the giant, and the giant came down.

David endured the betrayal of men, but even this did not change his dedication to God. Instead, that heart that wept so often was made more true to his God as a result. His own son stole the hearts of those he loved and shepherded as king. His heart was pierced with grief. When Absalom’s heart was pierced through in death, reaping what he sowed, David mourned over him.

You can hardly find a man of God that failed more than David did. But it would be hard to find a man who loved God more than David did.

 

74. How’s my heart? (Part II cont.)

A. How do I know if I am in need of revival?

When someone wins my heart, that means they have won my

  • delight – respect & appreciation (Song of Songs 2:2-3)
    • You think of them highly (1 John 3:20)
  • devotion – love & affection (Song of Songs 2:4)
    • You think of them fondly (1 John 3:1)
    • You think of them singly (1 John 2:15)
  • desire – time & interest (Song of Songs 2:14; Is 26:8)
    • You think of them often (1 John 4:16)
    • You desire to spend time with them (1 John 3:2)
  • discipline – will & service, self-sacrifice (Song of Songs 2:16)
    • You think of them humbly (1 John 3:16-18; 1 John 4:10)

So the question I ask myself is, "Has the Lord won my heart, and does He still have it?"

B. What role do others in my life play in relation to bringing revival and restoration?

…What are your thoughts?