by Tim Howington
…but is He Willing?
It is Mother Day weekend in Rogers and I just spent an hour or so with my Mother-in-law in the rest home. She has a bad case of Alzheimer’s and she remembers me most of the time. Betty and I have been friends from the first time I met her over 28 years ago. The first time Terri took me home to meet her parents; Betty killed the fatted calf as they say. In her case, she prepared Betty’s Spaghetti and German chocolate cake. We have tried to copy her recipe over the years, but nobody does spaghetti like her. And her German chocolate cake is to die for. Well, 2 plates in and 2 pieces of cake and I am stuffed to say the least. And then it hits me: I need a nap in the worst way. But, I am there to impress them. Betty reads the look on my face and tells me to go take a nap on the couch. This is right down my alley: genuine hospitality. To Terri’s horror I take her up on her offer and the rest is history.
But, this Lady that I love dearly has a degenerative disease that has rendered her in a very lovely childlike state where my Father-in-law feeds her dinner twice a day. And she walks incessantly down a short locked hallway with 8 of her closest friends who also have forgotten most of their lives and families. Is that God’s will for her life?
Another woman who I love dearly: my own Mother Charlotte spent the last year of her life dying slowly and painfully with her weak heart not being able to keep up with her vital organs need for blood and in the end just shutting down. Was that God’s will for her life?
And while we are being transparent let me share my most disturbing thought on the topic of God’s will. While I am so very confident that God is ABLE to handle any issues I face, I am not sure that He is WILLING to step into my problems and solve them for me in the way I want Him to. How else would you explain the late house payment, the job search that won’t end, the husband who is not coming back, the reputation that will never to be repaired or the baby who is not going to come. You can go to the mailbox all you want but the manna is not coming. Or so it would seem. God’s will is not our will and His ways are not our ways. He will not be put in a box and He will not be controlled by our desires.
What is God’s will for our life?
God’s will for us includes agony
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:22-23
My wife and I never had children of our own so I never got a front row seat to birth pains, which by the way is fine with me because I am more of the hang-in-the-waiting-room-with-cigars kind of guy anyway. Even though we never faced physical childbirth pains we did experience heart pangs of longing for a family of our own. We eventually adopted our son who has been our pride and joy but we languished in our desire for him for over 12 years.
The passage above speaks to that kind of longing. Creation groans to be complete again. You see when Adam sinned not only did he cause man to deal with being separated from God, but creation also experienced a fallen state. And now we both desire to be whole. We long to experience Eden again. And for a short while God’s will for us includes an agony of waiting to be restored.
In the area of finances this means that some of us will experience some difficult times and be completely in the center of God’s will, no matter what prosperity theology says.
God’s will for us includes abundance
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10
And just about the time that we wonder if we are trapped in the abyss, God shines a light into our darkness in the person of Jesus Christ. Though Satan is god of this world and has temporary dominion. Christ came to give us life and give it to the full. We have overcome the world because of His intervention.
In the world of finances this means that we will experience times of plenty.
Paul talks about this in Philippians when he says that he had learned to be content in both time of plenty and times of suffering need. In both cases we look to God as our provider. But in the midst of need we wonder how to determine what God’s will is for us.
God will for us includes Him working everything for our good
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. Roman 8:28
Even though I know that all things work together for good not all things we experience in this life are good. We seem to live somewhere between agony and abundance. After the fall of mankind in the garden, man lives in a frustrated system that causes God to be in constant fix-it mode. Between our flesh, the world system around us and the evil one we are constantly in scrapes that requires intervention from our Heavenly Father. We long for the day when we will not need Him to cause all things to work together for good, but rather everything will be good. But that is in the next world. In this world we move from good to bad and need the Lord’s help to sustain us.
In Isaiah we get a glimpse of the Lord’s desire to help us when He says, “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. Surely, I will help you. Surely, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
How can we determine God’s will?
“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15).
Years ago I was exposed to a simple model from one of my mentors, H.D. McCarty that speaks to how God communicates His will to us. He communicates in 5 simple ways.
- God communicates His will through the Word of God. He will never lead us contrary to what He has communicated in His Word.
- God communicates His will through the Counsel of Others. When you are navigating tough time, godly counselors are invaluable to help you.
- God communicates His will through our Mind. He has given us the ability to think through the pros and cons of a decision and move with wisdom. In fact in James we are instructed to ask God for wisdom and He will give it to us.
- God communicates His will through our Past Experience Our experiences, both good and bad, give us some insight into how to handle current decisions.
- God communicates His will through the small still voice of the Holy Spirit. Sometime we work through all these previous ways and we are stuck. And there is only an impression in our spirits that we are to move in a certain direction. Though not audible, our hearts hear a word from Him that says this is the way walk in it.
One of our college friends exposed me to a verse that is relevant in this discussion of God’s will for our life. Especially, since at times it appears that He is very comfortable with allowing us to struggle through things. In Psalms 139 the psalmist writes, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you“. This passage describes a God whose thoughts of us outnumber the grains of sand. He has not forgotten us. He thinks about us all the time. We are not alone. He is with us even when it may not feel like it.