Yesterday, we concluded by talking about the cloud that led the Israelites through the wilderness, noting that it would stop and then start at unknown intervals, and that the people were to follow its movements.
So we must imagine a family coming to a stop under the cloud’s guidance in the middle of a hot afternoon and immediately beginning to unpack their baggage. They take down their bedding and set up their tent. But no sooner has it all been arranged then someone cries out, “The cloud is moving!” And so they repack their baggage and they start to go on again. An hour later the cloud stops once more. They say, “Well, we’ll just leave our things packed this time and we’ll sleep on the ground.” And so they do. But the cloud stays that night and all the next day and all that week. As they are going into the second week, the mother says, “Well, we might as well get it over with.” And so they unpack. And as soon as they unpack, the cloud begins to move forward again.
Well, you see what I’m driving at. The people must have hated the moving of the cloud. But no matter how much they hated the cloud, they still had to follow its guidance. Because if someone had said, “I don’t care if the cloud is moving, I’m going to stay right here,” then the cloud would have gone on. And that person would have died in the heat of the desert, or he would have frozen at night. The people hated God’s leading. But it was by this means that God was molding a nation of rabble into a disciplined force that would one day be able to conquer the land of Canaan. He was teaching them absolute obedience.
Now it’s the same with us. Neither you nor I naturally want God’s will; we want our own will. And so we will always hate God’s way, at least in part–and particularly, we will hate His way of training us to be soldiers, because the way is hard and there are difficult days. Nevertheless, you see, we must go through with it. Because it’s through that training we learn to say, “Father, even though I do not naturally want your will, nevertheless, I know that it is the best thing for me; and it is necessary for my spiritual training. And so lead me in the way I should go.” You see, when we learn to pray that way, then God will do it. And so to know God’s will, we must first come to the point where we want to do it, and are willing to do it, even before we know what it is.
The second great principle for knowing the will of God is that nothing can be the will of God that is contrary to the Word of God. The God who is leading you now is the God who inspired the Bible, and He is not contradictory in His commandments. Consequently, nothing can be the will of God for you that is not in accordance with His Word.
In the Bible, God’s will is expressed in great principles. Take John 6:40, for instance. I call this verse the will of God for all unbelievers. It says, “And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone who seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” If you’re not a Christian, God generally is not at all interested in telling you whether you should accept a job with General Motors or DuPont or whether you should enlist in the army. He is interested in whether or not you will believe in Jesus Christ and receive Him as your personal Savior. God’s will for you starts there. That is His will if you are not a Christian. You must accept this demand before you can begin to go forward on any other level.
Another passage that expresses one of these great principles is Romans 12:1, 2. It is an expression of God’s will for the Christian. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” If you are a Christian, you can take it as an unchangeable principle that anything which contributes to your growth in holiness is His will. God is interested in having you become like his Son, the Lord Jesus.
Colossians 3:23 is an expression of God’s will for your work. It says, “And whatever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” This is especially applicable to young people. A member of my congregation once remarked that all too often young people interpret a difficulty in their work or schooling as being an indication that what they are doing is not God’s will for them, when actually it is probably God’s indication that they should work harder at their job. Well, this verse tells us that God wants us to do well everything we are given to do. A principle that’s closely related to this one is found in Ephesians 6:5, 6. “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” This principle is for you if you have a difficult boss or a difficult teacher. The Bible says it is God’s will that you should avoid gossiping about him or her, and instead work as well as you are able under his or her guidance. And you should do it not only when he is watching, but when he in not watching–as unto the Lord, and not unto men.
Well perhaps you’re saying, “These principles are good, but they don’t not touch the small things with which I am wrestling.” You want to know whether as a Christian you should go to the movies, join a bridge club, make friends with the people at work, join in social drinking, or some other thing. We’re going to talk about many of these doubtful things in detail later this week, but even now let me give you a final principle, a final verse of the Word that covers these. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). Here Paul says that you are to pursue the best things in life. If those things you are questioning are the best things for you, then do them. But if not, you are to go another way. Just be sure that you get your guidelines from Scripture.