Choosing God’s Will – Navigating God’s White Water
Sunday School, MBC October 20, 2013
Is there something in your life that poses a threat to your allegiance to Christ?
WHAT WAS HARD FOR YOU TO LET GO AS A CHILD: a blanket, a bottle, a fear, training wheels on a bike? Letting go of something secure is always difficult, not only for children, but for adults too! The real difficulty lies in letting go of our will and choosing to follow God’s will.
Letting go of our will is a choice. When we chose to follow after God, we chose to ride in His River. His river has a current that flows in one direction. When we come to a decision, we can choose to go with the river or fight and go “upstream”. How do we make easier choices? Choices are easier when we are committed from the beginning to do God’s will. Sometimes that river is like rafting in the white water of a rough stream. If you know anything about white water rafting, you should know to not fight the river during the rough times. Instead, you should steer and maneuver through the river, watching what the river does at each turn.
When we understand this analogy, our life becomes much easier. Jesus knew this and that is why we need to study His reactions and as He went through the rough parts. Knowing His reactions will help us to know how to steer through our rough times.
READ Philippians 2:1-5
READ Philippians 2:6-11
Have you ever been overwhelmed when dealing with the difficult questions of life? Jesus knew we would be overwhelmed at times. At one point, He addressed this with His disciples:
READ Matthew 10:19-20
He knew His disciples would encounter difficult times and that is why He encouraged them. He promised to never leave us or forget about us in the difficult times. He will give us the wisdom we need when we don’t have the words to speak.
A famous scientist was on his way to give another lecture when his chauffeur offered an idea. “Hey boss, I’ve heard your speech so many times, I bet I could deliver it and give you the night off.” “Sounds great!” the scientist said. When they got to the auditorium, the scientist put on the chauffeur’s hat and settled into the back row. The chauffeur walked to the lectern and delivered the speech. Afterward he asked if there any questions. “Yes”, said one of the professors. Then he launched into a high technical question. The chauffeur was panic-stricken for a moment, but quickly recovered. “That’s an easy one,” he replied. “So easy, I’m going to let my chauffeur answer it.”
There will be times that we do not have the words to say. It is then that we must choose to let God intervene.
There are also times when we face circumstances that leave us struggling with knowing how to pray. Paul gives us some encouraging words:
READ Romans 8:26
We can draw encouragement in knowing that God is eager to help us know what to SAY and what to PRAY. But, there is a condition to this: we must be willing and committed to following God’s will. If not, we will be like the man James talks about:
It is awesome to realize that at the end of our lives we will be the sum total of our responses to God’s answers to our prayers, for God has chosen to be limited in His next action by our response to His previous answer. The final outcome of our lives is decided by a life-long series of responses of God’s answers to our prayers. The way we respond to God and then He, in turn, to us actually determines the direction our lives will take.
Evelyn Christenson in My Heart Sings. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 17.
I mentioned to you that we need to model Jesus’ reactions to the river of life in order to learn and respond properly. Let me suggest to you three responses which will help us navigate through the river of tough times as well as the pool of calm water.
1. Jesus intended to do the will of God from the start.
Jesus was not incidental in obeying God’s will. He was intentional. No one just happens to do the will of God in their life. We must be intentional Christians by choosing to live in God’s will. Verse five tells us that we should have the same attitude as Jesus. That means to think and live like Jesus lived. Jesus did the Father’s will from the beginning. He didn’t complain or ask for another plan. He just did.
The receiving of the Word consist of two parts: attention of mind and intention of will.
— William Ames, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 3.
A student received an appointment from a bishop, and the student did not feel the placement exactly suited his abilities. He was heard complaining about it to another student, and then the other student said, “You know, the world’s a better place because Michelangelo did not say, ‘I don’t do ceilings.’ ” .
If you and I are going to be faithful to the ministry God is calling us to, then we had better understand that. Consider the attitudes of key people throughout the Scriptures and the history of the church.
The world’s a better place because a German monk named Martin Luther did not say, “I don’t do doors.”
The world’s a better place because an Oxford don named John Wesley didn’t say, “I don’t do preaching in fields.”
The world’s a better place because Moses didn’t say, “I don’t do Pharaohs or mass migrations.”
The world’s a better place because Noah didn’t say, “I don’t do arks and animals.”
The world’s a better place because Rahab didn’t say, “I don’t do enemy spies.”
The world’s a better place because Ruth didn’t say, “I don’t do mothers-in-law.”
The world’s a better place because Samuel didn’t say, “I don’t do mornings.”
The world’s a better place because David didn’t say, “I don’t do giants.”
The world’s a better place because Peter didn’t say, “I don’t do Gentiles.”
The world’s a better place because John didn’t say, “I don’t do deserts.”
The world’s a better place because Mary didn’t say, “I don’t do virgin births.”
The world’s a better place because Paul didn’t say, “I don’t do correspondence.”
The world’s a better place because Mary Magdalene didn’t say, “I don’t do feet.”
The world’s a better place because Jesus didn’t say, “I don’t do crosses.”
And the world will be a better place only if you and I don’t say, “I don’t do …”
— Leonard Sweet, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio. Leadership, Vol. 15, #2.
2. Jesus surrendered day by day.
The Bible tells us that Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross”. Let me give you three examples:
a. Jesus had just fed 5000+ people with a small boy’s lunch. The people were so impressed that they wanted to make Jesus their earthly king! Knowing that, Jesus responded in John 6:15 by withdrawing and going off by Himself. He CHOSE TO RESIST this offer of power and continue with God’s plan for His life.
b. In Mark 8, we find one of Jesus’ closest friends rebuking Him at the thought of His going to the cross. Instead of agreeing with Peter, Jesus told him to “get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Jesus knew that CHOOSING THE THINGS OF GOD were more important.
Never try to explain God until you have obeyed Him. The only bit of God we understand is the bit we have obeyed.
— Oswald Chambers in Run Today’s Race. Christianity Today, Vol. 35, no. 11.
c. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was struggling with the thought of death. His choice in this situation is over AGONY OR PHYSICAL SAFETY & WELL BEING. He said in Matthew 26 that He would rather not drink from the cup of agony. I think we would have the same thought. Jesus, however, would rather do the will of God, than what is convenient. He would have us to do the same also.
If we refuse to take the risk of being vulnerable, we are already half-dead. If you are half-dead, you don’t have to starve with the people of Ethiopia. You don’t have to share the terrible living conditions of old people struggling to exist on dwindling, inadequate social-security payments in our overcrowded, hostile cities. You don’t have to smell the stench of filth and disease and hunger in the slums and barrios.
We are not all called to go to El Salvador, or Moscow, or Calcutta, or even the slums of New York. But none of us will escape the moment when we have to decide whether to withdraw, to play it safe, or to act on what we prayerfully believe to be right.
— Madeleine L’Engle in A Stone for a Pillow. Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 2.
3. Jesus knew what the true treasure was.
If we truly choose to follow God’s will, there are some risks. We can be misunderstood. We can miss out on some earthly pleasures and material gain.
DO YOU MEASURE YOURSELF BY WHAT YOU HAVE?
At the end of World War I, Herbert Hoover, later to become President of the United States, led the allied relief efforts in Europe. He kept hundreds of thousands from starving, and a new word entered the Finnish language. In Finland, to hoover means to be kind, to help. If someone coined a word from your name, what would it be? Would it signify character? Helpfulness? Cheerfulness? Or would it be some mean and ugly word? Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
It is very difficult to live in the current of God’s will unless we live with the thought of eternity in all we do. We must realize that there is more to life than what we see. Jesus was always conscious of the heavenly prize before him.
READ Hebrews 12:2 – That’s FOCUS! Are you focused on the cross?
Jesus knew what He “lost” in terms of earth; He would gain in terms of heaven. When we decide from the start that our lives are committed to living in the will of God, great momentum is on our side for making wise decisions and gaining eternal rewards.
Making the right choices in life is much easier when you’ve settled in your spirit who has your allegiance. Let me suggest three steps to strengthen that allegiance:
1. Identify those things that pose a threat to your allegiance to Christ. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST THREAT OR OBSTACLE THAT YOU FACE? This will be different for each of us, but we all need to identify those obstacles Satan can use to hinder our relationship with God.
2. Write a mission statement. Every time you need to make a decision, go to that mission statement and determine to follow God’s plan in your life.
3. Pray that God would give you a discerning heart. As we navigate the rapids of life, we need to learn to respond to God’s current. That response is through a discerning heart. Allow Him to be the light of your path and the lamp to your way. The closer your relationship is with Him, the easier this will become. A discerning heart will act as your guide through the rapids.