November 26, 2020
How can we know that we are in God’s will? Before, we sought help in a study of David and Goliath.
It is possible to trace David’s internal consciousness of God’s will in the following manner:
The process began first with curiosity.
Curiosity asks the question, “What is being done?”
It is not likely that God will call us to a task we have no interest in.
Curiosity grows to concern.
Concern asks the question, “What should be done?”
Concern then grows to compulsion.
Compulsion asks the question, “What must be done?”
Compulsion may then arrive at commitment.
Commitment declares, “I will do it.”
In Acts 16 Paul, having completed a first journey, embarked upon the second. After the impasse with Barnabas, he recruited Silas and received a fresh commission from the great sending church at Antioch. The plan was to retrace the steps of the first journey in Asia Minor. But having returned to Lystra to recruit Timothy (vv. 1-3), the missionaries encountered wholly unanticipated difficulties. They were met by a succession of inexplicably closed doors (vv. 6-8).
It was in Troas, the port near Ephesus, that Paul received his famous Macedonian call.
The Apostles believed that God’s will lay in one direction. They subsequently discovered that the true direction was different from what they assumed.
What may we learn from their experience?
- They were attempting to do something.
It is instructive to note how Jesus only called disciples who were already busy at something else. The Galilean fishermen were mending their nets. Matthew was working in his office. Saul of Tarsus was en route to the next site of persecution. It is impossible to steer a drifting boat. Before we know everything God wants, we will know something which God wants. While we attend to the first thing, we will discover the next thing.
- Paul and Silas did not respond with resignation to a closed door.
They did not excuse themselves from the fray because their first plan was defeated. They concluded rather that God wanted something else. God may reveal that something else in a dramatic supernatural fashion. That’s what He did in Acts 16 by sending the Macedonian vision (v. 9). Some Christians insist on perpetual visitations of that sort. More often it is wiser to expect God’s leading in a quieter way.
- Paul received the call, but Paul sought the consensus.
He looked to like-minded colleagues who accompanied him in the work to affirm that this was the path God was calling them to.
- Sometimes God calls through a compulsion.
In 1 Corinthians 9:16 Paul admitted that he deserved no credit for preaching the Gospel. He did what he did because he could not help it. Luther expressed a kindred conviction when he declared at the Diet of Worms, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Holy compulsions, compulsions in a God-ward direction, compulsions which take us toward a biblically sanctioned task, constitute a call. They lead us into the will of God.
- God often reveals His will by degrees on the path.
We see this in the words of Proverbs 4:18. At first there may only be scant light. But if the light grows brighter, brighter by biblical corroboration, brighter by the affirmation of the godly, brighter by the subjective conviction of the Holy Spirit, brighter by the objective validation of fruitfulness, we may be sure that we are in the will of God. If the path grows darker, we must turn around. We are headed in the wrong direction.
The closed doors signaled the wrong direction. Then there was the vision. Then there was the consultation. Then there was the consensus that the Aegean must be crossed from the east to the west.
- God is not limited in His methodologies.
First Paul felt led by the positive experience of his first journey. Then he was sobered by the difficulties of the second journey. Then Paul was granted a vision. In some rare instances God may favor His servants with a vision today. Unlike some, we do not discount that possibility altogether. But after Luke recorded the vision, his record eventually became a part of the Bible. Far more often God leads, not through a vision, but through a verse.
- God reveals His will in His Word.
It is possible to misconstrue a verse. It is possible to take things out of context. It is possible that what we want Scripture to say may distort what the Scripture actually says. But in the main, the will of God is made explicit in the Word of God.
Read your Bibles.
Say your prayers.
And then attempt something.
William Carey was a missionary whose zeal was authentically Pauline.
Carey said, “Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.”
Let us heed it while there is still time.