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Posts Tagged ‘God’s Will’

 QE2-South_Queensferry

Pretend you’re on an ocean liner that has embarked from New York City and is sailing to England.   You and several thousand other passengers enjoy your days at sea, free to choose from dozens of activities—games, shopping, shows, sports, crafts, and more. You can eat anytime you like, sleep whenever you feel drowsy, make friends among the other passengers, or remain solitary. In other words, you make many choices during the voyage, but all the while the ship is headed towards its predetermined destination.

A.W. Tozer gave us this illustration in his classic, The Knowledge of the Holy (Harper & Brothers, 1961), to help us understand God’s sovereignty: 1) Our all-powerful God has total authority in the universe, just as the shipping authorities exercise sovereignty over the course of a ship. 2) We have been given much freedom, within the confines of God’s sovereignty, to move about and make choices.

Now some folks take issue with God’s control. They want to direct the course of their life-ships.  I, for one, find great comfort in the numerous, reassuring scriptures about God’s sovereignty.

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For example, everything in heaven and earth belongs to Him. He is the glorious head over all, the ruler of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). That includes us–those who know Jesus and belong to the family of God. As our Heavenly Father, he provides for our needs, guides us through decisions, bestows many blessings, and more. What encouraging truth! The Almighty God of the universe is in charge of our lives, as we submit to him. We don’t have to navigate alone.

The key, however, is submission. God is a gentleman and will not force himself upon us. He has chosen to limit his sovereignty, to allow man free choice.

Another reassuring truth: God is totally competent. We’ve all known inept leaders who could not fulfill their responsibilities. But our Ruler is supremely capable.  Nothing is too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17).  As we focus on his complete sufficiency, our worries shrink in significance.

In addition, no plan of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2).   What God says, happens.

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His sovereign plan is efficient and goal-oriented. He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his perfect plan (Ephesians 1:11).

God’s sovereignty is also employed with infinite wisdom (Job 12:13).  No foolish decisions come from God’s throne!

And contrary to appearances, he does maintain over-arching rule on mankind (Jeremiah 32:27). That would include the barbaric Babylonians of Jeremiah’s day, who destroyed Jerusalem, murdered the nobles of Judah, and took thousands of Jewish captives to Babylon.  God’s over-arching rule also applies to the wicked forces creating havoc in our day.

Good people are often hurt in the process, and it breaks our hearts.   Every century has had its martyrs for the faith. And our questions of why God allows bad things to happen to good people don’t always get answered. We’re not privy to everything God knows or to all the reasons behind his decisions (Romans 11:33-36).

What we do know is this: Evil never wins in the end. Every evil empire of history that rose in prominence and power eventually fell in ruin. Our sovereign God knows what he is doing. He will have the last word.

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So when the squeaky wheels of worry, doubt, or fear begin to spin in your head, and you wonder, Is God in control?, apply the oil of gladness in who God is—our all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, and yes, in-control God!

Take joy in the knowledge that “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?

And rest in the affirmation that “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36, emphasis added).

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Sovereign Lord of the universe, we bow in worshipful wonder of your magnificence. Your greatness shatters all boundaries! We stand in awe of your vast power and infinite wisdom, always at work in the world.

“And when I cannot understand” [your plan or your ways], “help me just to stand” (Selwyn Hughes).

(Art & photo credits:  www.en.wikipedia.org; http://www.verseoftheday.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.spiritualinpsiration.tumblr.com.)

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Women's Bible Study

“I know we have to persevere and not give up on what we sense God wants us to do,”  S. shared at Bible study.  “And from the lives of Joseph, Moses, Daniel, and others in the Bible, I know God rarely smooths the path perfectly and makes every door open without me even turning the knob.  But what I want to know is how to proceed.  I’d like steps to follow!”

Heads nodded around the table, mine included.  Wouldn’t it be nice if God laid out step one, step two, and so on toward his perfect plan?

That idea has been circulating in my brain for nearly a week now.  Here are some observations.

1. God values our growth in faith more than our comfort in a predetermined plan.   

If it was best for us to know his plan in advance, then that’s what God would provide.  Instead, he allows our faith to be tested, in order to build our character.  That is important to him:

“The Lord detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (Proverbs 11:20).

2.  God values the process of spiritual growth, not just the final outcome of a purpose fulfilled.

Times of challenge give us opportunity to develop maturity  more readily than times of ease.  What might that development include?

  • Self-discipline–when we tackle difficult tasks.  Granted, the Holy Spirit empowers us (Galatians 5:22-23), but we must give ourselves over to him.  How?  Through frequent prayer, offered throughout the day, consistently asking for his guidance and help.
  • Self-denial–by doing without.  However, the attentive person will soon discover much to celebrate that may have been missed otherwise:  the stunning display of God’s creation, the joy of love and laughter with family and friends, the peace and strength from frequent communion with God.  Suddenly, gratitude flourishes in the heart, and what has been given up doesn’t seem so important anymore.
  • The full meaning of love–when given opportunity to respond in kind ways to difficult people.

None of these valuable traits of discipline, selflessness, and love would fully develop without lessons of experience.

3.  God values the development of our prayer lives–not for his benefit, but for ours.

Jean Nicolas Grou, a Jesuit priest of the 1700s, described healthy prayer as humble, reverent, loving, confident, and persevering.  As we practice those traits in our prayer lives, surely they will overflow into our character, in our actions and reactions.

Patient pursuit, then, is best applied to God’s ways, and then to God’s plan.

(photo credit:  http://www.st-tims-church.org )

 

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Last Thursday I shared with you a decision-making discovery God brought to my attention while studying Acts 10:1-11:18. In that passage we read the story of Peter’s encounter with Cornelius (a non-Jew). As a result of the apostle’s visit to this Roman centurion’s home, his entire family and many friends became Christians. (For a summary of those events, click on the link above to Part One.)

In review…

God doesn’t always connect all the dots when guiding our decisions.

Peter experienced a strange vision, and received brief instructions from the Holy Spirit. But a number of important questions were left unanswered. It appears Peter was left to connect the dots on his own.

The lesson for us seems to be: act upon what you know (from scripture), heed the inner impressions from the Spirit, and step out in faith.

And now…

Decision-Making Discovery—Part Two:

Peter received confirmation from others that a visit to Cornelius was the right choice. (Remember, according to Jewish law, it was the wrong thing to do.)

Affirmation #1: The entourage from Cornelius knew exactly where to find him.

Peter was traveling about the country (9:32). There was no way for those messengers from Cornelius to know he was in Joppa, staying at Simon the tanner’s seaside home—except by divine intervention (v. 5).

Surely this extraordinary revelation was not lost on Peter. Events were lining up in a miraculous way. God was about to do something extraordinary.

Affirmation #2: Six Christian brothers from Joppa accompanied Peter to Cornelius’ home (10:23, 11:12).

There is no record that Peter had to cajole them. Scripture simply says, “Some of the brothers from Joppa went along.” Remember, Cornelius’ home in Caesarea was thirty miles away. This was no quick trip across town. By volunteering their time and effort, these six friends offered valuable encouragement and support.

Lessons #1 for us:  Affirmation of others can be important evidence of God’s approval.

I say can be because if we try to manipulate people’s response, if we shamelessly seek after it, that affirmation may not be reliable.

But let’s consider what happened to Peter, and learn from his experience.

Lesson #2: Step out in faith and accept the affirmation, especially if there’s any hint of God’s miracle-working ways involved. Peter’s encounter with the three messengers is our example.

Lesson #3: When a number of people tell us the same thing, it’s probable the message is accurate. Six men showed their support of Peter’s decision to visit Cornelius by going with him to Joppa. There may have been others who gave encouragement also. Scripture includes no record of opposition.

Are you puzzling over a course of action?

 

 

Do you have supporters coming alongside to offer encouragement, verification and support for a particular choice? Count them. You may be surprised how much confirmation God is presenting!

Thank you, Father, for the encouragers in my life. They have created uplift in my soul when circumstances have weighed me down.

May I remain faithful to renew my mind with the wisdom and guidance of your word. May I step out in faith each day, ready to embrace any surprises you have for me–like a spur-of-the-moment trip to Joppa! And may I rest in the confirmation you have already given. Equip me, I pray, to be a wise, encouraging support for others.

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What affirmation have you received as you faced uncertainty or a tough decision? Please share your experience and be a voice of encouragement for someone else!

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