God's will is a mystery revealed (Ephesians 1:9). How wonderful it is that a believer can know it!
I. KNOWING HIS WILL
Ephesians 1:10-12 tells us what the mystery of His will is. It says:
"... that, in the dispensation of the fullness of times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of HIS OWN WILL, that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ."
Think of it! God wills to "gather together in one all things." This means that God wills the restitution of "all things." Does this surprise you? It shouldn't. God also wills that "all men be saved." But this does not mean that all men will be saved, or that all things will be restored. Not at all! ONE AWESOME ASPECT OF THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL IS THAT GOD HAS LINKED HIS WILL TO THE WILL OF MAN. When man refuses what God wills, man can, and does, thwart the will of God.
But despite the fact that "all" do not respond, God will "gather together" a people "to the praise of His glory." He will accomplish His predestined purpose. He will work all things after the counsel of HIS OWN WILL!
Who, then, are the "we" who "have obtained an inheritance," and are "to the praise of His glory”? Who are the "us" that He blesses in Ephesians 1:3, that He chooses in verse 4, that He predestines in verse 5, that He makes accepted in verse 6, that He abounds toward in verse 8, and to whom He makes known the mystery of His will in verse 9?
The Jews looked at the Gentiles and said, "The 'us'... is us." The Gentiles looked at the Jews and said, "The 'us'... is them." BUT THE GLORIOUS REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY OF HIS WILL IS THAT THE "US" ... IS WHOSOEVER WILL! (Ephesians 3:6-9, Romans 10:13).
Participation in the great "gathering together" is by faith. It is for all who believe.
The mystery of His will was an intolerable teaching to the Jews who believed so strongly that they were God's chosen people, and that they alone were predestined to participate.
So, what does God will?
God wills to "gather together all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:10).
God wills to save "whosoever will" (Ephesians 3:6,9).
God wills that the "whosoever will" be His sons (Ephesians 1:5).
God wills that His sons be holy (Ephesians 1:4).
Knowing, then, that it is God's will to "gather together in one all things in Christ" ...
I must identify with His will, because:
HIS WILL FOR MY BEST
RELATES TO THE REST.
"The rest" in the above couplet refers to God's will for "all." The thing I must remember is that the will of God for me, as to the kind of house I live in, the type of work I do, or the girl I marry, is related to His will for "the rest" of mankind who have not heard the gospel. His will for me is related to the "gathering together of all things in Christ." Therefore His will for "all" must be the governing factor in my walk and my work. It must shape my lifestyle. It must guide me in the choice of a vocation. It must be my primary consideration in choosing a wife. Why? Because God's will for my best relates to the rest! I am part of the grand plan of God, and I can only be happy and fulfilled as I find His will for me in it.
How, then, does the will of God affect me now? How should it influence my actions? Let's take a look.
God wills to save "whosoever will" (Romans 10:13).
God's will for my best relates to the haunting questions of Romans 10:14,15. "How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?"
The clear implication of the above questions is that the onus for telling "the rest" is on "the us" who have already heard. This is why I dare not be a self-serving son. I dare not live to please myself. God has willed to save "whosoever will." It is imperative that I will it, too. My lifestyle must reflect my concern for the lost. My vocation must utilize my talents in fulfilling the Great Commission. I must marry a girl who will share my burden and be willing to go where God leads. God's will for my best relates to the rest ... to the "whosoever" who have not yet had a chance to "will" to be saved.
If God wills that the saved be His sons, it follows that He wills that all sons be my brothers. God does not want segregated sons. He wills to gather together all believers into one glorious family. He wills a "Father-family" relationship. Now, is this relationship only for the future? Must we wait for heaven to see it happen? Never! I must pray what Jesus taught His disciples to pray ... i.e., "Thy will be done on earth ... as it is in heaven ”! I must strive for harmony and fellowship with my brothers despite racial, national, social, and denominational differences. I am at "my best" when I have a right relationship to the whole family of God.
God wills that His sons be holy (Ephesians 1:4).
It is not His will that I be a sinning son. He wills that I be holy and without blame before Him in love. Permissiveness ... double standards ... carnality ... these are not God's will for me. If my house makes me proud, it is not "best" for me. If my job compromises my holiness, it is "best" that I abandon it. If that girl brings out the worst in me, then it is "best" for me that I have nothing to do with her. I must look squarely at God's will that I be holy, and then judge my lifestyle, my vocation, and my choice for marriage by whether they enable me to be the son God wants me to be.
II. WILLING HIS WILL
It is not enough to know the mystery of His will. I must "will" that His will be done. The first thing, then, to "come under" when praying for God's will, is my own will. It is an exercise called "submission." To some, Christian living is a struggle ... a struggle between God's will and their own. This kind of believer often agonizes in prayer, but his agony is due to his determination to have his own way. He seeks divine permission to follow his own will! The struggle only ceases when he gives up and "lets God have His way."
The trouble with this kind of "submission" is that it doesn't last. God "gets His way" only temporarily. Such a believer accepts God's will on a "one time only" basis, and repeats the struggle the next time around!
Blessed is the believer who makes a total commitment... who, for all time, lays aside his own will. That believer will have solved the problem of resistance to the will of God. This does not mean that his struggles are over ... not at all! He will still have to pray, but his praying will address itself to the problem of "finding" the will of God, rather than the problem of "submission" to it.
Total commitment to the will of God is more a matter of "willing" than of "wanting." Since the will of God often involves self-denial, suffering, and sacrifice, It is not "natural" to want it. This is where the obedience of faith comes in.
When Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane, He did not want the will of God, but He willed it. He abhorred the cup of sin. He prayed that it might be removed. He did not want to drink it... but He did. He willed to submit it to His Father's will.
To accept what we do not want is difficult. It requires help from the Holy Spirit. It also requires "will" power on our part. Some people think they have to enjoy doing the will of God. They talk about "fulfillment" ... they talk about "success" ... they talk about "happiness." They feel that if they don't experience these things they are out of the will of God. Now, doing the will of God is often fulfilling. It often brings success. It often brings happiness. But not always. Doing the will of God is not always rewarding, but it is always right, and that is what is important. There is no place you can go that is higher or better than the center of God's will... be it Calcutta or the Kalihari!
The person who wills to do the will of God should face the fact that he will possibly be poor, and will possibly have to suffer. Jesus became poor for our profit, and Paul suffered gladly in order that the heathen might hear. Few people can stand prosperity. It hinders them from being what God wants them to be ... from going where He wants them to go ... from being brother to the whole family of God ... from bringing praise to His name.
Don't get me wrong. God is not against riches. After all, the streets of the city of God are pure gold. It is only when the getting of gold thwarts the will of God that it becomes a curse. But more times than not, that is exactly what it does. That is why Paul said that they that would be rich fall into divers temptations (1 Timothy 6:9). What temptations? The temptation to seek gold more than God. The temptation to do our own will rather than His!
This explains, too, why God sometimes wills that I suffer. Now, can it be that God is "against" gold and "for" suffering? Not at all! God is "for" my holiness. God is "for" bringing many sons into His family. God is "for" the harmony and fellowship of His sons. God is "for" the praise and glory His sons bring to His name. These are the things God has predestined. These are the things that are for my "best." So, He wills them for me ... that I might be a better son. Will gold make me less like Christ? Then away with the gold, good as it is! Will suffering make me more like Christ? Then bring on the suffering, bad as it is! "Thy will be done," prayed Jesus, and went to the cross. "My will be done," determined Judas, and sold his Lord for thirty pieces of silver!
III. WANTING HIS WILL
Perhaps the reason God's will continues to be a mystery is that we seek the "best" for ourselves without regard for the "rest." We set our hearts on a certain lifestyle ... on a self-fulfilling vocation ... on a beautiful girl for a wife. We pray long and earnestly for these things ... and then, because we get what we want, we think the will of God has been done. Conversely, when we don't get what we want, we conclude that the devil has thwarted the will of God. It doesn't seem to occur to us that what we have willed may not be "best for the rest."
Now, praying for God's will concerning a house, a job, or a wife, is altogether right. God is interested in every detail of our lives, and takes great delight in giving us the desires of our hearts ... providing, of course, that our hearts desire His will! You see, He grants the desires of the heart to those who commit their way unto Him. It is a matter of subjecting our way to His way!
We hear much about faith that will get you what you want. "Name it and claim it," they say, because "you can have whatsoever you will if you have faith." Unfortunately, this kind of "claiming" emphasizes "my" will. It gives top priority to "what I want." "But," you say, "God wants me to have what I want." Wrong! God wants you to want what He wants!
If I say that God wants me to have what I want, it means that I expect God to act according to my will. It means that if I want a house, a job, or a wife, God is duty bound to give them to me. It means that my will is supreme ... that His will is secondary and servant to my will. If I say that God wants me to have what I want, I make God my "genie." My "faith" brings Him out of the bottle! This kind of "claiming" exalts the "sovereignty of self." It "uses" God. It expects God to jump to the tune of "faith."
It is far more important that God's will be done than it is that I get what I want. How wonderful it is, however, when I want what God wants! Careful now! I didn't say that it is wonderful when God wants what I want. I said that it is wonderful when I want what God wants ... which means that I bow to His will, and not He to mine.
There is joy ... real joy ... in wanting what God wants. Jesus experienced it. Take that day in Samaria, for instance. The disciples had gone into town to buy bread. They undoubtedly passed a woman with a water jug. She meant nothing to them, for they were preoccupied with the present. They were looking for meat to eat... something to satisfy inner craving.
Jesus was in need of meat, too, but His Father's plan took precedence over all else. Jesus was preoccupied with the future "gathering together" of all things in the "fullness of times." He was more concerned about doing His Father's will than He was with filling His stomach ... hungry as He was. So, when He saw the woman, Jesus saw her as part of that future "Father-family" scene. He saw her as a trophy of His own imminent travail. He ministered to her, and told her of the water of life. He told her that He was the Messiah, and she believed Him.
After the woman had returned to her village to tell her people that she had found the Messiah, the disciples urged Jesus to eat. His face radiant with joy, Jesus turned to His disciples and exclaimed, "I have eaten!"
In the days of Napoleon, there lived a mighty chief in southern Africa named Chaka Zulu.
He was a military genius. His armies were disciplined and trained in the art of warfare. His soldiers were not allowed to marry, and they lived for one thing only ... to fight and to kill. Their "meat" was to kill. They talked of killing ... they dreamed of killing ... and they were always eager for the next battle against their enemies. Chaka equipped them with a short sword called the "assegai," and taught them to whip back the enemy's shield with the edge of their own, and to plunge the "assegai" into the heart of the victim with the cry, "Ngadla"! ... meaning, in the Zulu language, "I have eaten!"
When Jesus ministered to the Samaritan woman that day at the well, He whipped back her defenses, and plunged the Sword of Truth into her hungry heart. When the disciples tried to alleviate His appetite with ordinary food, Jesus cried in triumph, "Ngadla ... I have eaten!"
Oh, that we would learn the mystery of His will! Oh, that we would "will" to do His will! Oh, that His will would become our "meat" ... that we would find our fulfillment and our joy in "doing the will of Him Who has sent us, and in finishing His work!
Knowing His will is understanding that only those who "will" to be part of His plan for "all" will participate, and that God holds the "us" who have willed responsible to tell the rest of the "all" who have not vet willed.
Willing His will is to submit to the cross of self-denial that those who have not yet willed, may will.
Wanting His will comes to those who "will" His will, and brings such joy, that those who do it shout in triumph,"Ngadla ... I have eaten!"