Knowing God’s Will?

God's will 41

Q. I am facing a major decision and want to know God’s will on the issue. Friends told me to pray for God opening doors by removing all obstacles, and to see whether I have peace regarding my decision. What’s your opinion?

A. Those two are very common indicators Christians look for to assure themselves that they are in God’s will, but I’m afraid they are not fool-proof.

First, many Christians assume that “no obstacles” = “open door”, and “many obstacles” = “closed-door”, but that is not the biblical precedent:

Acts 14:27 When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
• 1 Co 16:9 for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

In Acts 14 God opened a door of faith to the Gentiles, but look at what happened to Paul and Barnabas:
Acts 14:2 But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles and embittered them against the brethren.
• Acts 14:5 And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them,
• Acts 14:19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.
• Acts 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

They encountered strong opposition in Iconium and Lystra, where Paul was even stoned and left for dead. Yet Paul encouraged the disciples by saying that we must enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations.

Again, 1 Co 16:9 states that a wide door for effective service had been opened, but there were many adversaries. So I’m afraid “no obstacles” = “open door” simply isn’t true. In fact, often it is the opposite. What we need to be sure of is whether we are called by God to the mission, not the absence of obstacles. If we are serving God, we can count on Satan causing all kinds of trouble to thwart us.

Secondly, many Christians look for peace in their heart to assure them that they are aligned with God’s will:

Php 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

While this is one response when we let our requests be made known to God by prayer and supplication, this is not the only response:

Lk 22:44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.
• 2 Co 1:8-9 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;

Our Lord was most certainly in God’s will when He prayed in Gethsemane, but He was in agony of spirit. Paul was definitely in God’s will as he carried out his mission, but he was burdened excessively and despaired even of life. He did not have the peace of God in his heart, because God wanted him not to trust in himself, but in God.

So beware of looking for “smooth sailing” and “peace of mind” as the assurance that you are in God’s will. It could be, but then again it might not. The only sure way is to know that it was God who called you to the assignment. You are not doing it for your own glory, and will stick to it despite obstacles and discouragement. Hope this helps.

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Flax Spiritual Lessons

We went to the Maritimes with our friends for a little rest and recreation after our short-term mission, which vacation turned out to be educational as well. For example, at King’s Landing, New Brunswick, we learned a bit of history about early settlers from the British Isles to Canada. The agricultural setting gave us some reminders of biblical truths. For instance, the yoke recalled Jesus’ yoke in Mt 11:29-30, or “unequally yoked” in 2 Co 6:14. And the muzzle brought to mind how we should look after our pastors in 1 Co 9:9 or 1 Tim 5:18.

But a very interesting lesson came from the flax plant. Farmers grow flax for both food and fiber. The plant is pretty with small bluish flowers. The seed is like brown sesame and rich in omega-3. The stem is long like that of rice or wheat. However, it is how the plant is turned into useful products that provided the object lesson. Going back to the old days when most jobs are manual, the mature plant is pulled up by the roots, sun-dried, and the grains removed by threshing. The straw is then retted for up to two months, during which time the sun and the rain produce an enzyme that breaks down the bond between the straw’s outer stalk and the inner fibers.

After retting the outer straw is broken into smaller pieces on a crusher, which is shaped like a paper-cutter except that the edge is not sharp. The “chopper” breaks the stalk but leaves the long fibers intact. The fibers look like long blond hair, and are drawn through a bed of long nails called a hackle or heckle to separate them into strands. The individual strands are then spun on a spindle into threads, which are 2-3 times stronger than cotton, and transferred onto a loom to be woven into cloth.

The preparation process is an analogy to the Christian life. To be useful in God’s hands, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph had to be uprooted for their training. Paul had to suffer beatings (2 Co 6:5; threshing). Retting is soaking flax or hemp in water to soften it and separate the fibers. It is removal of the woody tissues by partial rotting. In the same way, Joseph, Moses and David had to be put on the sideline and wait to learn humility. Heckling resembles afflictions. Paul knew about being afflicted in every way, but not crushed; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Co 4:8-9). Though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Co 4:16).

Most of us would shy away from any form of suffering, because we have not learned its value. But not Paul, who said in Rom 5:3-4 “but we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character”. If only we’ve truly learned the theology of suffering, we would have been much better Christians and the Church would have a much greater impact. Pray that all of us would learn to pay the cost of discipleship.

Top - horn yoke; bottom - neck yoke

Top – horn yoke; bottom – neck yoke

Muzzle

Muzzle

 

Flax plant

Flax plant

Flax chopper

Flax chopper

Heckling

Heckling

Spinning into yarn

Spinning into yarn

Weaving into cloth

Weaving into cloth