WHAT A MIND-BOGGLING WONDER that God would “empty Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of man, and being found in appearance as a man . . .” And that “He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (Philippians 2:6-7 and 1Corinthians 5:21.) These are unfathomable truths — that God would incarnate Himself to save us from our sin — bespeaks of “what kind of love is this?”
This same infinite and personal God cares not only for our eternal destiny, but the here and now. He is not removed from our day-to-day existence, but is here to care and to guide. With that in mind, I prayerfully believe this week’s study will be great aid to you as you reflect on upcoming goals and how you will best invest all that God has given you for maximum impact on the maximum number of people for His glory! May God bless you as you study this lesson.
You have probably heard the “now-cliché-like” saying, “God has a wonderful plan for your life!” If you have not rejected Him as your Savior and Lord, I believe that to be a true statement. God is sovereign and has a purpose for all of His creation. He has a plan or “will” for each of us, gifting us and providing us with time, talent and treasure of varying degrees in order to achieve His specific purposes for our lives.
Having said that, we often make His will more difficult to respond to than it really is. For the obedient believer, I think it requires a great deal of prolonged gymnastics to get out of the center of His will. In this lesson we will explore God’s will and how we are guided into His will.
II. GOD’S WILL
A. THE MEANING OF GOD’S WILL
1. God’s sovereign will
God’s sovereign will involves His ultimate, complete control over everything. Nothing happens that was not in God’s plan. History is really the unfolding of God’s purposes, which happen exactly as He planned.
Read the following verses and write out the key thought about God’s sovereign will:
a. Isaiah 14:24
The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,
b. Ephesians 1:1b
Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.
Isaiah 46:9-10 states:
“Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’”
2. God’s commanded will
God’s commanded will is revealed throughout the Bible as laws or principles. It is that aspect of His will to which men are held accountable.
a. According to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:20), what are new believers to be taught?
“ . . . teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
b. God gave two great commandments. List them below:
(1) Matthew 22:37
And He said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’
(2) Matthew 22:39
The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
B. THE NATURE OF GOD’S WILL
God’s sovereign will and commanded will are better understood in light of their respective characteristics.
Study the table and be ready to test your understanding of God’s sovereign will and His commanded will. A teaser going in: Do you ever attribute something to “the sovereignty of God” that in essence is the responsibility of man?
Write out the part of the verse that conveys God’s will. Circle the appropriate letter. (key: S = Sovereign, C = Commanded)
1. Philippians 2:13; S C
. . . for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
2. I Thessalonians 4:3 S C
For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality.
3. 2 Corinthians 6:14 S C
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
4. Matthew 7:21 S C
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
5. Philippians 1:6 S C
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
6. Jeremiah 29:11 S C
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’
Christianity best defined is not a religion, rather it is a personal relationship with Christ. Incumbent in a personal relationship is just that — a personal relationship. If that understanding is correct, then it follows that one should presuppose that God has a special plan for his life and that He will guide him all the way. How does one best understand and discern that personalized guidance from above?
C. THE RESPONSE TO GOD’S WILL
1. How should we respond to God’s sovereign will?
a. Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
b. 1 Peter 4:19
Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
c. James 4:13-15
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.
2. How should we respond to God’s commanded will?
a. Ephesians 5:17
So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
b. Deuteronomy 29:29
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”
How does the above passage in particular summarize the differentiation of God’s sovereign will and God’s commanded will?
c. Deuteronomy 11:1
“You shall therefore love the LORD your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments.
III. GOD’S GUIDANCE
Because of His great love, God has predestined, called, justified, and will glorify all believers. He also guides day-byday; He is intimate with the upright!
A. MEANING OF GUIDANCE
Guidance is God’s active role in our lives, accomplishing His purposes. Note the following words used in the Bible to describe guidance. Write down how the verse conveys the meaning of each word:
1. Lead (to shepherd; to bear or carry)
a. Psalm 78:52
But He led forth His own people like sheep And guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
b. Psalm 139:24
And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.
2. Guide (to show, to help understand)
a. Psalm 23:3
He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
b. Psalm 73:24
With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.
3. Direct (to establish or prepare; to make straight)
a. Proverbs 16:9
The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
b. 2 Thessalonians 3:5
May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.
B. THE NATURE OF GUIDANCE
The chart below outlines ways in which God guides people directly or indirectly:
Direct guidance was experienced during the Old Testament and early New Testament time periods. Today, we see God primarily guiding indirectly. The Holy Spirit is active in all areas of indirect guidance as part of His ministry in the believer.
1. Guidance through God’s Word
How does the psalmist describe God’s Word (Psalm 119:105)?
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
2. Guidance through conviction
How was Paul stimulated to action in Athens (Acts 17:16)?
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols.
3. Guidance through God’s providence
What can the believer be confident about regardless of the circumstances (Romans 8:28)?
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
4. Guidance through God-given wisdom
a. Read Proverbs 2:1-11.
What four things will wisdom allow you to discern (verse 9)?
My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice. And equity and every good course. For wisdom will enter your heart And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you,
A. LIST ONE AREA IN WHICH YOU ARE WRESTLING WITH A DECISION AND NEED GUIDANCE IN THE COMING YEAR. RELATIVE TO THE FOUR AREAS/KINDS OF DIRECTION GOD HAS MADE AVAILABLE TO YOU PER THE ABOVE STUDY, EVALUATE YOUR THINKING AND DECISION BASED ON EACH FORM OF HIS INDIRECT GUIDANCE:
1. What are some applicable principles from God’s commanded will that come into play in terms of direction and guidance from scriptural passages?
2. Are the convictions of your conscience based on biblical principles? If so, what does your conscience inform you is the right thing to do?
3. What are the extenuating circumstances/the situation as it exists? Importantly, do the extenuating circumstance stem from another’s obedience or disobedience to the Word of God? Accordingly, does the decision you need to make stem from the sovereign will of God or the irresponsibility of man? (Don’t facetiously categorize something as “the sovereign will of God in my life” and take no action because of your misdiagnosis — spiritualizing the matter.)
4. How does God’s wisdom specifically increase and inform your discernment in relationship to your decision? What do your godly counselors think?
5. How long have you prayed about this and sought God’s guidance?
6. What is your decision based on the above?