Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Understanding What the Will of the Lord Is

I believe there are times of waiting.

There are times when the Lord does not want us to take action, but rather, would have us to be still and know that He is God.

Times when we must put aside our own plans and wait to hear a word from the Lord.

But I also believe there are times when we use this as an excuse.  Times when we know what the will of the Lord is, even if we haven't received a specific word from Him giving us detailed instructions about our next step.

I was thinking about the wait-staff at a restaurant.  They are supposed to wait on the customers, right?  They are supposed to be ready to take their orders and be watching for when they may need a refill or their check.  And yet, it would seem strange to us if we just saw them leaning against the wall, texting, or laying back on the lounge chairs, watching the game, or hovering around our table whistling.  Oftentimes, a good waiter will see when my water needs to be refilled before I'm even aware of it, and yet, they are not just waiting for me to snap my fingers.  The best waiters are those who are actively waiting.  In service and fetching things before I even realize I need them.

I know that seems like an odd preface to a post about understanding the will of the Lord.  But I believe that our concept of waiting on the Lord can sometimes get in the way of us doing the will of the Lord, which is why I began that way.  The will of the Lord so often seems like such a mysterious concept to us.  Sometimes it may be.  But it doesn't always have to be that way.

I used to think the command in Ephesians 5:17 was an odd one.  Look at it with me.

Ephesians 5:17  Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 

The ESV says: Ephesians 5:17  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

My initial thought was: Easy for you to say, Paul!  Don't you have a direct line to heaven?  With visions telling you to go to Macedonia and angels appearing to strengthen you and tell you to keep everybody on the ship with you so that nobody will be lost despite the storm?  How can you just cavalierly command us to understand God's will?  Aren't God's ways above our ways?  Aren't His thoughts above our thoughts?  Isn't He the one who chooses to reveal or hide His will from us?  Isn't the impetus on HIM to help us understand His will?  But Paul says, "Hey, don't be foolish.  Understand God's will."  Oh sure.  Don't be foolish.  Great.  Thanks.

My confusion with this verse came from the assumption that there was nothing we could do to facilitate an understanding of God's will.  You probably already realize this, but that isn't the case!  I realized that as we were studying the context of this chapter in our Bible study on Ephesians.

Paul has been explaining the way the members of the church of God ought to conduct themselves prior to this in Ephesians.  In chapter 5, he makes it very clear that no sexual immorality should be a part of our lives, because we are children of the light and should be exemplifying CHRIST'S love, as opposed to the world!  And at the tail end of this discussion, he instructs not to be unwise, but to understand what the will of the Lord is.  And that's when it dawned on me. He's not introducing a new thought, telling us to go try to figure out God's will. He's saying, "Hey, I'm telling you God's will right now.  Don't be foolish and ignore this.  Understand that God's will is for you to walk as children of light, and not to partake of the works of darkness!"  Don't be stupid and do the wrong thing.  Understand that this is GOD'S will. The will of the LORD.  Don't confuse that with your own will.  And with that little revelation, I realized that there are a lot of places where the Bible explicitly tells us what the will of the Lord is!  Let's look at a couple of them.

1st Thessalonians 4:3  For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 
1st Thessalonians 5:18  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 
1st Peter 2:15  For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 

There are some things we don't need to pray about!  We don't need to pray about whether or not we should move in with our girlfriend, even if we're unmarried!  We don't need to pray about whether we should give thanks to the Lord in this specific circumstance!  We don't need to pray about whether it's the will of God that we do well, even in the face of criticism and false accusations!

Let me give you a little more controversial, sensitive, personal example.

I've found recently, that as a Christian young man who is trying to figure out his career and future life situation, that it can be daunting and scary to step out and do something without having a specific word from God about something.  My temptation is to wait and take a very passive position to see how God works and what opportunities He opens up and what He drops in my lap.  Yet, I know from His Word (Proverbs 6 and 1 Timothy 5 and 2 Thessalonians 3, specifically) that it is His will that I be working.  That I'm diligent and saving for the future and preparing myself.  I can't see specifically where I'm supposed to go or what I need to be preparing for and I may not even be able to do anything right now that I really like, but I know that that's what I'm supposed to do, so I should take steps of faith to do what is honoring to God, even though I have fear and trepidation at the result.

Hopefully, this post is helpful for someone.  Please don't take this post in the wrong way, contrary to the spirit it was written in.  Some things you can't help and you have to wait on God for them.  Others, you can certainly do something about, and should have the integrity of character to act upon those things, even if it's uncomfortable.