Will God Always Provide for You to Accomplish His Will?

I was hoping to take my oldest children with me on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic this summer. But three weeks ago I called the leader of the trip to tell him we could not go because we did not have the necessary funds. The kids and I were operating in faith that if God wanted us to go, he would provide. So we came to the conclusion he wasn't leading us to go.

A little over a week after I called, someone expressed interest in contributing to our trip. Then within a week and half we had received enough support for at least three of us to go! God's provision was the final confirmation we needed to help us see how he is leading us to go on this mission trip.

In the past few blog posts, we have been exploring important principles for understanding God’s will for our lives. These are separated into five foundations for discerning God’s will and four avenues for discerning God’s will. I have already mentioned the first five.

  1. We can discern God's will by surrendering our lives to him.
  2. We can discern God’s will by studying Scripture (Psalm 19:7–11; 1 Thessalonians 4:1–6; 2 Timothy 3:16–17).
  3. We can discern God’s will by seeking him in prayer (Philippians 4:6–7; Jeremiah 29:11–13; James 4:2b).
  4. We can discern God’s will by waiting for him to lead us (Psalm 25:4–5; 106:13).
  5. We can discern God’s will by listening to the testimony of the Holy Spirit.

Now, here are the first two of the four avenues for discerning God’s will.

1. We can discern God’s will by observing our personal desires, convictions, and abilities (1 Cor. 7:8–9, 36–38; Exod. 25:2; 2 Thess. 3:5; 1 Cor. 12:4–7, 11).

Although we have sinful desires that tempt us to disobey, God also gives us good desires that help direct our lives. It is not difficult to identify sinful desires (Gal. 5:19–21). Any desires that we have that are not sinful ought to be taken into consideration as we seek God’s direction. We should observe the things we feel strongly about, the strengths of our personalities, and the natural talents and spiritual gifts that God has given us. All of these have been given to us by God as a part of his design for accomplishing his mission for us. Observing how God has made us is an important part of understanding his will for our lives. Now, we should not conclude that we know God’s will just because we want to do something. These desires, convictions, and abilities must be understood in light of the other eight ways we can discern God’s will.

2. We can discern God’s will by observing God’s work in our circumstances (James 4:13–17; 1 Kings 12:15; 1 Cor. 16:8–9; 1 Pet. 3:17; 4:19).

God causes and allows particular circumstances to take place in order to direct our lives. This does not mean that everything that happens is God’s will or is caused by God. For example, God may allow, but does not cause, the enemy to set our circumstances against us in order to deter us from doing God’s will (Job 1:6–10; Eph. 6:11). And we know that temptations are not caused by God (James 1:13). This is why we can never determine God’s will by circumstances alone.

At the same time, we know that God will open and close doors as a way of leading us. We also know that God will provide everything necessary for the completion of his will. Whatever wisdom, strength, ability, or resources we need to do what God wants us to do, he will provide. God’s provisions as we obey are confirmations of his direction.

Another way we can discern God’s will through our circumstances is by observing how he has worked in our lives in the past. Sometimes these are called “spiritual markers.” Henry Blackaby and Claude King explain: “Each time I have encountered God’s call or direction for my life, I have mentally built a spiritual marker at that point. A spiritual marker identifies a time of transition, decision, or direction when I clearly know that God has guided me…When I face a decision about God’s direction…I look to see which one of the options seems to be most consistent with what God has been doing in my life.”*

This is the the fifth post in a series. The first four are:

*Henry T. Blackaby and Claude V. King, Experiencing God: Student Edition (Nashville: LifeWay Press, 2005), 170.


The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Know or Believe

“Give Grandma a hug!” The toddler refuses, hiding behind mom’s legs. Now what?! Mom is embarrassed of her child’s behavior and feels bad for Grandma. Even worse, the little one has disobeyed her Mom. Some parents proceed to give awkward public lectures or vain threats and bribes. Others swoop their kids off to another room for discipline. The tear streaked grandchild returns to give a reluctant hug.

How does Grandma feel about all this? “Leave her alone,” she says, “It is alright. She’ll give me a hug when she’s ready.” Does Grandma want a forced hug? Of course not. Grandma wants love, not just a hug. True love is freely given; you cannot force someone to love.  

Since God created us to love him, he also created us with freedom of choice. We can choose to love and relate to God, or we can choose not to. When God created the first two humans, Adam and Eve, he gave them a choice. Since God wanted a love relationship with them, he gave them the choice to trust and obey him, or to do things their own way. Adam and Eve made the wrong choice. The Bible calls this failure to love and obey God sin. Sin has been a part of human life ever since.

Sin is the rejection of God and all that is good and right. God loves us and what he tells us to do, or not to do, is good for us. God is beauty and goodness and love. When he tells us to trust and love him only, he is doing what is best for us. He is giving us himself. And what God tells us to do, or not to do, is not only good for us, it is right. He tells us to love others, which means that we do not lie to, steal from, or harm them. Everyone knows this is right behavior.

All of us have failed to love God and obey him. All of us have failed to love others as God has said. All of us have sinned.

“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way”

Isaiah 53:6

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 3:23

What do we do with people who steal from or harm others? Even people who don’t believe in God believe in justice. This is why we have justice systems that punish people who commit crimes. Because of this, it is not difficult for us to understand God’s standard that those who disobey his law must be punished. Much more than human laws, God’s laws are good and right. And so we may expect consequences and punishment for our sin. The Bible teaches that punishment for sin is eternal separation from God in hell.

Now, let’s see where we stand. God created us to love him. He gave us a choice to love and obey him so that we might enjoy his life and goodness. However, all of us have chosen to disobey instead of love God. We are therefore guilty of sin and deserve to be punished.

This is where the good news (the Gospel) comes in! God loved us so much that over 2000 years ago he became a man, Jesus Christ, and died on a Roman cross to take the punishment for our sin. Then he came back to life and went back to heaven.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;  
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;    
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.  

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” 

Isaiah 53:4-6

We were hopelessly separated from God and heading for eternal punishment. But God wouldn’t have it. God is able to fulfill his purposes. He is able to fulfill both love and justice. There is now a way to know and love God again. We must confess and repent of our sin, believe that Jesus Christ took the punishment for our sin, and receive by faith his forgiveness. Our choice remains. We turn back to God and receive Christ’s payment for our sin or we must pay for our own sin in hell, separated from God forever.

“But [God] is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish,
but that all should reach repentance.”

2 Peter 3:9

            Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation? Have you restored your relationship with God through Christ and determined to love him? If you have not, do it now. Talk to God and confess your sin to him. Express your faith that Christ paid for your sins on the cross. Express your desire to love and obey him with the rest of your life! Receive his forgiveness and rejoice in his love!

Are You Afraid to Think Big?

I have been afraid to think big. I see this as a common ailment of the mediocre. We fear sacrifice. We fear the cost. We fear discomfort. We fear failure.

I am reading The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller. Chapter 9 claims that the idea that "big is bad" is a lie.

This book is not from a biblical perspective, but (as usual) anyone who hits on something true hits on God's truth. The main idea is that our mindset (the bigness of our thoughts) determines our actions, which determine our outcome.

Everyone has the same amount of time, and hard work is simply hard work. As a result, what you do in the time you work determines what you achieve. And since what you do is determined by what you think, how big you think becomes the launching pad for how high you achieve.
— Gary Keller, The One Thing, 88.

Our limits are the ones we place on ourselves. Aside from the reality of my physical and mental limitations, this principle works in the natural word. But it is even more potent in light of God's promises!

God is able to make all grace abound to you,
so that having all sufficiency in all things at all time,
you may abound in every good work.
— 2 Corinthians 9:8

The connector to this mindset is faith. Do I believe that I really have access to the abundant grace of God that empowers me in all things at all times to succeed in what he wants me to do? If we believe this, we will BOLDLY OBEY ALL that God has said. And then there will be AMAZING results.

Don’t fear big. Fear mediocrity. Fear waste. Fear the lack of living to your fullest. . . . Don’t fear failure. . . . We fail our way to success. When we fail, we stop, ask what we need to do to succeed, learn from our mistakes, and grow.
— Gary Keller, The One Thing, 92-94

Why Are There More Miracles in Africa Than America?

When I hear about God doing miracles in other places, I have often wondered why we do not experience that as much here in America. Here is an explanation worth considering from an African pastor and church planter.

I have often been asked why so many miracles occur in Africa while they seem to be so rare in America and Europe. I believe it is because the African people have a simple faith, and that pleases God. When they hear His Word, they believe it, and then God blesses them.

In the West many people think they are too smart and too sophisticated to simply believe and accept God’s Word. Instead, they question everything, including the Bible, and that displeases God. When simple people accept and believe what the Bible says without question, God blesses them. If we do not accept the Gospel the way a little child accepts what his parents tell him, then we miss much of God, because He reveals His mysteries to the simple-hearted. As Jesus said in Matthew 11:25-26, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have given these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”

When we accept His Word simply, without criticizing and doubting, God blesses us and we are able to see even more of His truths. I am not saying that we should stop going to school, learning or getting degrees. God created the universe and everything in it, and I believe that He is pleased when His people pursue knowledge and wisdom. But we must not get so caught up in that pursuit that we forget the simple truths of God.
— Surprise Sithole, Voice in the NIght, 63-64.