God is always working around you and in your life. Sometimes we don’t even know it. He is still at work. He is still orchestrating “all things for our good” (Romans 8:28). That is His mind for us – things that are good, things that happen that He is trying to bring us towards. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Success in the Christian Life
Bible scholar Rick Renner has said, “Knowing the will of God. Doing the will of God. That is the key to success.” For us as believers, success is knowing the will of God and doing it.
God is constantly at work and calling us into a deeper love relationship with Him. He ascribes the attribute of father to us so that we can begin to ascertain what that relationship looks like. It’s a father and a daughter or son relationship. We know that not everybody has had a great earthly father and son or daughter relationship but our heavenly Father is different. He loves us with a love that is unconditional and so this love relationship is something that He is constantly inviting us into. Inside of that love relationship is where He is going to reveal what He is doing – where He is working. In last week’s podcast, we pointed out that when our spiritual eyes are open to what God is doing, that is His invitation to join Him in what He is doing.
The Big Questions
For over 15 years I worked for a missions organization focusing on the former Soviet Union. That mission work continues today and it is amazing what God continues to do in Russia and the surrounding nations. It is awesome what God has done – what He has established. My wife and I had a period of time where we were praying about our next step into the local church. At that time, we got a request from that organization to move our family to Moscow, Russia. That was a pretty big request for us that would have required some major adjustments and change in our life. Our daughters were very small and we wondered how we would raise our kids. If we were to become missionaries, we didn’t know where we would live, where they would go to school, or how would we have enough money to do all of this.
My wife is really gifted in administration and organization. She has all of her degrees. She has worked in the oil and gas industry for years. We were trying to figure the whole thing out. We were looking online for schools, where we would want to live. We were in that mode. We were even still trying to figure out if this was what God really wanted us to do. Are we supposed to take our entire family and uproot everything we know? All of our family lives here. We all live in the same town. If we move, what is that going to be like? We walked through that process for about six weeks. We had an interesting experience where God was really testing the reigns of our heart. Are you willing to do what I’m asking you to do? Are you willing to make the hard adjustments to begin to change your life to what my will is? Those were big questions.
Crisis of Belief
That really becomes the question for us in knowing and doing the will of God. Once I start to see God at work and I know that He’s asking me to join Him, what do I do? Normally it brings me into a crisis or challenge of belief. First, I have to believe that this is coming from God. Second, I have to have faith to believe that He is asking me to do this. Then I’m going to have to have faith to make the necessary adjustments and be willing to literally step out, sometimes on nothing but the word of God, to go out and do that. How do we do that? Sometimes we get caught right there in the adjustments.
We see from Jesus’ life in John 5, “the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19). That seems really simple and I’m glad that Jesus is our example. But it hasn’t always been that easy for me. At times I have seen very easily, yeah God is at work here and I can join Him in that and I hear the Father speaking things to me. Sometimes making those adjustments is really hard because it causes us to switch our dependency from ourselves – all the work, the gifts, the talents the things that I know that I feel very, very comfortable in, to leaving that and stepping into a realm of faith where I’m really going to do the will of God.
Unfortunately, over the many years of ministry now I’ve watched that transition for a lot of different people. I could tell you success story after success story of people who have found the will of God – they saw what God was doing, they joined him in what He was doing, they made the adjustments and wow, look at what God has done. It’s incredible.
Equally, and maybe more so, I could share with you the stories of those that begin to find and understand and yet they were not able to make the adjustment. They then begin to flounder and really take a step back. They’ve never seen the real success they were hoping for in trying to follow God. This portion of adjustment is really key because if don’t make the adjustment or we’re not willing to allow the Spirit of God to make changes in us then what does God have to work with? He’s the one inviting you into His work with you but if you won’t work with Him? How does that work? It doesn’t work! We have to be willing to allow Him to work in us.
There was a period of time in my life where I had been in a church that God was really moving in. In fact, there for a while we were in a state of revival. It was just incredible. We saw people coming to Christ and lives being changed. We even say physical healing. It was like the power of God was really working. At the same time, as God was calling us as church to begin to continue to make adjustments, one of the things that really crept into the church was a critical and judgmental spirit. I would love to be able to tell you that I didn’t get involved in that but I did. I allowed criticism and judgmentalism to take root in my heart.
As the years went on, I had a lot of problems with a lot of people and a lot of ways that they did stuff. Almost to the point that you could say a root of bitterness caught hold of my heart concerning other denominations, other things that I saw as excesses in the body of Christ and it really put such a bad taste in my heart and in my mouth. It caused a stronghold to be erected to where it was like, “God, you can’t use people like that. You’re not moving. You’re not working in something like that.” I had allowed that to take such root that when God began to say I need you to step away from here and I need you to come over here and do something else, that criticism, that judgmentalism was a major barrier for me to be able to follow God and do the will of God in what He was asking me to do. In the middle of that, as God was moving over here and He was asking me to join Him, the Spirit of God began to put His finger upon my heart and said, “Listen, you have got to get rid of this judgmental and critical spirit that you have allowed to rule in your heart.”
One of the ways He did that was He had put it on my heart to have nights of worship. As a worship leader, I love that. One of the things He said was to invite all kinds of people from all kinds of denominations. Don’t put a limit on it – make it open. The moment He said that it was like, wait a minute God. These people have problems, we don’t believe exactly the same way. God began to bring people into my life that challenged that criticism. I am so thankful that through His mercy and His grace the way that He in His loving way, in a loving relationship, kept challenging me in that area to make adjustments to get rid of this critical spirit that I had. Finally, that wall began to come down and I could start seeing people again the way He sees them. As long as I held on to that, I was not fulfilling what God had for me. I had to make the adjustment. I had to change the way I saw people and the way that I was viewing this in order to line myself up correctly with God was doing and what He saw and what He was doing.
Remember again what Jesus said, “what I see my father do, that’s what I do.” The father is not sitting here with all this judgmental and critical spirit against somebody else. In fact, all He sees us in is the eyes of love. He has grace. Does He permit sin? No, He does not. He is still a very holy and just God. As he looks upon His church and other people He looks through eyes of love.
When I finally began to make the change, then I began to see God do some pretty incredible things. That adjustment allowed me to then develop relationships that I would have never had. If that adjustment had not been made, I would have been all the way back there still living in that state and never seeing the will of God being done in my life.
Count the Cost
There has to be an adjustment to the will of God. It’s going to cost you something. Jesus said, to follow Him we must count the cost (Luke 14:25-34). What is it going to take to fulfill what God is asking of us? What is He calling you to do? If it is in business, He may be asking you to make a stand of integrity because you’re no longer going to compromise your ethics or do something that is outside the realm of integrity. That sometimes makes it a very hard adjustment especially if you’re dealing in an industry that is constantly compromised with lack of integrity. You as a business person have got to step up and say, “No, I’ve got to do what’s right here.” That takes a major adjustment. For some it is easy – for others it is hard. A lot of things in life are hard. Those hard decisions are what lead us to follow God.
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He says to love your enemies, do good to those who hurt you, pray for those that despitefully use you. There are all kinds of things that Jesus does that is counter-culture to what everybody else does. Those are the adjustments that God is asking us to make in order to do His will. We are His children. He wants us to be Christ-like. He wants us to emulate Himself to a world that is desperately needing to see Him. He didn’t leave us here without help.
That is where the Holy Spirit steps in. When you and I were born again (John 3) His spirit came inside of us. He dwells in us. Jesus called Him our helper. He’s the one who helps us to not only find the will of God or see where God is working and join Him but also empowers us to do the will of God. Jesus said in John 16:13, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” He is here to help you move into the will of God and to actually do it. He’s not asking us to make adjustments without Him also giving us the help that we need through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to make the changes that are necessary.
There may be changes that you need to make in your thinking like I did. The way that I thought and felt about other people. There may be other adjustments.
The Story of Us
We were trying to make that decision of whether we were going to Moscow. A major adjustment. What we found is that God was really trying our hearts. Were we really willing give it all. Were we willing to give up all that we knew, all of our comfort, all of the things of an American life to be missionaries. In the course of that time, God began to reveal that this was an opportunity that He was testing us but not actually His will. Later He told me, “There’s a reason you can’t go to Moscow now. You have a work to do here that I have for you. Be patient because it’s going to open.” That helped me in that transition. Obviously, we didn’t go to Moscow which I’m thankful for because that wasn’t the will of God. If I had gone over there that would have been tough for my family. God was asking us, “Are you willing to make the adjustment? Are you willing to do whatever is necessary to do the will of God?”
He’s inviting you to join Him in His work. The revelation of that is His invitation. To join Him means I’m going to have to make some significant changes to do that. This is all done inside of a love relationship. When we make the changes and we become obedient we truly get to experience God and doing the will of God.
Transformed by Christ
Whatever adjustments you need to make, please make them. Do what is necessary.
Paul said, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). This transformation process is what he’s talking about. Sometimes there’s thinking that has to change but all of it is presenting our bodies before God saying this is not my life, it’s yours. Just like Jesus did.
Will you make those changes today? I hope that you will and see God explode in your lives with so many great things as His will is accomplished in you.