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"This Is the Will of God"

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"This Is the Will of God"

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"Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is," the apostle Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 5:17. It should encourage us that Paul said we can know the will of God!
Of course, God gave us the entire Bible as a written expression of His will. Just as an individual prepares his "last will and testament" to dictate to any beneficiaries what their inheritance will be, so God bequeathed us His Old and New Testaments explaining how we can inherit His Kingdom.

An old joke goes, "Where there's a will, there's a relative." With God's will, the result will be glorified sons and daughters in His family! "The reading of the will"—rather than taking place at a special meeting where potential inheritors find out from a lawyer whether they received anything—needs to be something we do daily. In fact, more than just reading the Old and New Testaments, the Bible makes clear we need to study them thoroughly and live them.

For example, let's focus now on three verses in the New Testament that contain the words, "this is the will of God." It's as if God was thinking, "How can I make this so plain they can't possibly miss it!"

All three verses express powerful concepts about God's mind-set, purposes and desires that are vital for a son or daughter of God to practice at all times. All three require diligent and zealous action.

Give Thanks

"In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you," instructed Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

The lifelong challenge here is to give thanks in all circumstances. Are we really ready for that?

I thought I was prepared when my family returned from enjoying a week of sermons and fellowship celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in late September, basking in a soaring attitude of gratitude, pumped from the messages and full of optimism.

But arriving home, we learned that one of our renters had moved out while we were away, still owing us rent. That hurt, but we dutifully went about the business of looking for a new renter, which usually took one to two weeks. Since it was at the prime rental time of the end of the month, we confidently expected a new and better renter soon.

But quickly September breezed by and then October slipped away with nobody closing a deal. In fact, we only received about three calls the entire month. Nothing like that had ever happened before.

November started off the same numbing way, and we could only joke about how we shouldn't have asked specifically for a "good" renter!

Since I was already preparing this article, I began to surmise that one of the reasons for the trial might be to learn something worth sharing with the entire readership. You'll have to judge but I think it's a doozy:

One day Isaiah 58:11 jumped out at me with a comforting promise: "The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought."

Wait a minute! Fire up the flagging faith! This promise was for God's beloved children in drought. And God wasn't frantic to get them out of it! After all, He inspired Peter to state that the "genuineness of your faith," though "tested by fire," is more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:7)—in this case, rental income!

While I had slipped into thinking God wasn't close and involved because there was no renter in sight, actually God was intimately near all along. Can He get any closer than living in us?

And just as Isaiah promised, God was guiding us continually while the house remained unoccupied. When the three prospective renters had applied, I had seen His hand in circumstances and discernment, leading us to turn them away. Somehow we were still paying our bills. In sum, we were still living a very abundantly blessed life! Now, though still no renter in sight, my soul felt the satisfaction God always has available for us whether unemployed, unable to find a mate, battling a disease or whatever might threaten to "separate us from the love of Christ" (Romans 8:35-39).

After learning this important perspective, I "knew" the trial was soon to end, and sure enough, on the night before Thanksgiving we were blessed with some renters. They appear to be good ones!

Actually it's in the good times that we are paradoxically most likely to neglect giving thanks and forget God. He warns in Deuteronomy 8:11-17 that when we have "eaten and are full," we are more likely to "say in [our] heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.'"

In the model prayer Christ gave, we are taught to start our prayers by hallowing God's name (Matthew 6:9). The next big section asks for God's Kingdom to come and His will to be done, on earth as in heaven (verse 10). If we have started our prayers with praising God's name, we have made a good start at being in harmony with God's will.

Men especially should note that the instruction here is more than just being thankful but actually progressing to the point of vocalizing it. We believe we are thankful for our wives and other women in our life and think, since they are noted for their powers of observation, surely they see how thankful we are without us saying anything syrupy, sloppy or downright mushy! Thankfully we know from helpful lectures, sermons and our women telling us that they need to hear our words of thankfulness. Truly, when thanks are spoken, they are experienced more fully by both recipient and giver.

When I asked my daughter, Heather, age 11, what she thought of fulfilling God's will by giving thanks, she bubbled, "I always start out my prayers with thanks to God!" That gives a grateful dad something else to be thankful for!

Abstain From Sexual Immorality

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality," Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

Why abstain? Sexual immorality leaves physical, mental, emotional and spiritual stains that we want to avoid. Even though the carnal (fleshly) mind is enmity against God (Romans 8:7) and especially doesn't want anybody telling it what to do regarding sex (Romans 1:28), it still strives to avoid the bad effects that naturally follow from wrong choices.

Even more than being sexually moral to enjoy good results, Paul says we should do it for the privilege of being sanctified—set apart—as a son or daughter of God with a breathtaking future in the family and Kingdom of God.

He adds that we must know how to possess our own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5). How do we acquire this know-how? Godly educational materials motivate us to rededicate ourselves to the highest standards of God, which bring fulfilling results.

Self-control also comes through spiritual action—choosing to deny the selfish urges. Though we get tired of hearing it, we must choose daily to avoid TV and movies that promote sexual immorality. And now, the powerful evils on the Internet, no longer content just to lurk in the shadows, invade our inbox and sometimes jump right into our faces. Inheriting God's Kingdom is serious business, not to be toyed with or compromised.

As Glen White, United Church of God pastor of Calgary, Alberta, put it so well during a recent sermon in Denver, Colorado, "What a waste of time sin is!"

Doing Good

"For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men," says 1 Peter 2:15. In verse 12 Peter explains that we must conduct ourselves honorably among unbelievers, despite knowing they are prone to speak against us as evildoers. Why bother? Peter says because of our good works they observe, they will "glorify God in the day of visitation." If we fulfill God's will now by doing good, many will make up the "great multitude which no one could number" (Revelation 7:9) and fulfill His will by giving thanks!

The great worldwide work God has called His Church to do is really done one person at a time. You, helping someone else. Are we waiting for big deeds when many just need a cup of water (Mark 9:41)? Are we really doing anything to help the hungry, thirsty, naked and those in prison (Matthew 25:35)?

Stop reading right now and ask God to help you do something good for somebody. Because somebody you know needs your help now.

In 2 Corinthians 8, the apostle Paul stirred up the members in Corinth by spotlighting the tremendous example of the Macedonians in supplying relief for those in famine in Jerusalem. He pinpoints some key components of the doing-good process. We flesh them out by applying them:

Despite "great trial of affliction" and "deep poverty," the Macedonians "abounded in the riches of their liberality" (verse 2). Do we have it that tough? Do we go above and beyond?

The Macedonians did! "Beyond their ability, they were freely willing" (verse 3).

"With much urgency" (verse 4).

What was the foundation of their generosity? "They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God" (verse 5).

Just as we must actually progress from being thankful to actually giving thanks, so we must proceed from wanting to do good to actually doing it. "But now you also must complete the doing of it: that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have" (verse 11).

For the privilege of being called now and set apart as God's children, we rededicate ourselves to choose each day to fulfill God's will by giving thanks, abstaining from sexual immorality and doing good. Freely willing and urgent about it, we appreciate the blessings that come now but especially later when we inherit the Kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34). UN