The Will of God (Part 3)
When is Gods will activated in a person’s life? God inhabits eternity and knows the beginning from the end. He knows how our lives will end in this world unless we are still alive when He returns. Even though He knows the choices we will make in life He cannot violate the human will. However, having said this does not override the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God and the free will of man meet in the eternal mind of God as the Bible teaches both truths. On one side we read “whosoever will may come” but then we read “You did not choose Me but I have chosen you.” This is a mystery as to why some who are living in sin without any regard for God, eventually get saved because God has relentlessly pursued them. On the other hand there are those who hear the gospel once and reject it and God never bothers them again.
A story has been told of a very rich man who was a believer and had two sons who were not saved. He had a very close friend who was a well-known evangelist and he asked his friend to preach the gospel at his funeral should he die before the evangelist died. Of course the two sons would be at the funeral. The evangelist agreed to do this. The day came when the rich man died. The evangelist preached the sermon and gave the invitation.
One of the sons responded to the altar call but the other didn’t. When they opened the will of the rich man who had died the bulk of his inheritance had been willed to the son who had believed. In his foreknowledge of his two sons that rich man gave the bulk of the inheritance to the son he knew would respond one day to the gospel. Scripturally all things are foreknown to God but the choice is still given.
1. God’s will is activated in a persons life when they believe on Him whom God has sent.
(John 6:28-29) “Then they inquired, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus replied, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”
Now it needs to be said that God in His sovereign purposes will work in a person’s life before they are saved. Many who come to faith in Messiah our Lord Jesus look back over their life and see that certain events and circumstances that happened to them were no accident but part of God bringing them to find salvation in the Lord Jesus. They come to realise that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). While this applies to those who have believed it does not negate the fact that the Holy Spirit can and does work on a person before they are saved and brings them to the point where He can convict them of their sin of unbelief in Jesus, their need of God’s righteousness received by faith, and of the judgement to come, and that their adversary Satan has already been judged and defeated at the cross (John 16:8-11).
You and I who are believers did not wake up one morning and decide to get saved. It was a process that came to that point where we believed and were saved. In His convicting and converting work the Holy Spirit gives an unsaved person just enough light to respond but they themselves must still respond. The Holy Spirit will not overrule the human will in the matter of salvation.
All of us are born into this world as spiritual corpses. A corpse has no capacity to make it alive again unless a power from outside of it gives it life. We see this when the Lord Jesus raised Lazarus and others from the dead. They did not raise themselves. It was the word of Messiah our Lord Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit that raised those who were physically dead to life again.
In the work of salvation God takes the initiative and gives that person the capacity to respond but they still have to make the choice whether to respond or not. There is a mystery as to where God’s sovereignty and man’s free will meet and we will only understand this when we are in eternity and know as we are known by God (1 Corinthians 13:12). Both God’s sovereignty and man’s free will are taught in scripture and like parallel lines they run side by side and meet somewhere at the vanishing point where they merge beyond human sight.
As it is written; “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through the cross” (Colossians 2:12-15).
While saving faith is the gift of God and not of the works or effort of man and a result of God’s unmerited favour, the will is still involved (Ephesians 2:8-10). A person can be convicted of their sin yet resist that conviction (Matthew 10:14-15) (Luke 13:34) (Acts 7:51). God does not arbitrarily choose some for heaven and others for hell. This is an erroneous man-made un-Biblical doctrine. While God’s desire is to see all men saved and come to the knowledge of the truth He still allows for people to make that choice. His desire to see men and woman boys and girls saved is clearly revealed in His Word as well as the freedom to choose (1 Timothy 2:4) (2 Peter 3:9) (John 3:16) (Joshua 24:15) (Deuteronomy 30:19) (Isaiah 55:6-8).
While God commands men everywhere to repent as He spoke through the prophets, through the Lord Jesus and through the apostles, He will not do the repenting for them as they must do the repenting for themselves (Acts 17:30). God’s choosing is based on His foreknowledge (Genesis 18:19). So then when a person repents and turns to the Lord Jesus to save them from the power and penalty of sin, and as an action of their will surrender their whole life and future to Him unreservedly, then God’s will is activated personally in their life. They have become a brand new spiritual creation deep down on the inside and the old manner of a sinful life has gone and the new life has begun in Messiah our Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God knows the plans He has for all of us and that is to prosper us and not to harm us and plans to give us a hope and a future but this can only happen when we come to Him in prayer and seek Him with our whole heart, and when we do, He will reveal Himself to us and we will find Him and experience His power and provision beyond anything we can even imagine or think by that same indestructible divine life and power at work within us (Jeremiah 19:11-13) (Ephesians 3:20) (2 Peter 1:2-4). So then the work or will of God is to believe in the One He has sent.
2. God’s will for us as New Covenant believers in Messiah, is to rejoice at all times, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all of the circumstances we face in life.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Messiah Jesus.”
There are three things we are told that are God’s will for us and these are not always easy to apply to our daily lives especially in times of adversity, depression, sickness, anxiety and the cares of this life. While we know that God uses everything that happens to us and works them all together for our spiritual and physical wellbeing we still have our flesh to deal with. C.H. Spurgeon likened it to being chained to a corpse. When we are born again we initially rejoice in the fact that we have been saved from the power and penalty of sin. We rejoice that we have redemption through Messiah Jesus’ blood and have been forgiven all of our sins and that one day we will be saved completely from the very presence of sin, and this gives us spiritual comfort and a hope for the future.
However, it also needs to be said that as we start the journey of our new life with Messiah Jesus we become aware of another dark and sinister presence that has lurked undetected in the deep recesses of our soul that surfaces and starts to work against that joy and peace we are experiencing, and this is our old man or the sinful nature which starts to fight against the new nature inside of us (Galatians 5:16-18). This is a conflict that we all must have until the day we go to be with the Lord or are raptured and resurrected to receive our immortal and glorified bodies without sin (1 Corinthians 15:50-56).
Having said this in Messiah Jesus we have the spiritual resources to keep that old man down and to not give into his dark desires that run contrary to the will and to the Word of God. Only by the power of the Spirit can we put to death those desires and deeds that lead us away from God (Romans 8:12-14). Let’s now look at these three things that are God’s will for us to experience as we seek to wend our way through this world that lies in the power of the evil one.
a) “Rejoice always;”
We are told in the prophet Nehemiah that “the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy is also a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). This joy is not based on any outward situation or circumstance but is a supernatural joy that is wrought deep down on the inside of us that cannot be erased by our outward circumstances which will change from day to day. This joy springs out from the shalom (peace) of God that also lies deep within our spiritually regenerated spirit that constantly sustains us and that transcends all human understanding and that garrisons our hearts and minds in Messiah Jesus (Philippians 4:7). The deep and satisfying joy of the Lord is released by the action of our will. In Psalm Chapter 34 we read what David did when he had escaped from a very precarious and dangerous situation that could have cost him his life.
He declared; “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:1-3). Notice he says “I will.” The emphasis is not on the emotions but on the action of the will. When he decided to praise and worship the Lord the emotional release that empowered him to extol and glorify the Lord followed. He already felt a sense of relief having escaped from Abimelech but when David praised God he was totally filled with the joy of the Lord. In fact right through the psalms we read where not only David but all those who wrote the psalms often said “I will.” It is an act of faith and confidence in God which brings the release of the emotions to praise the Lord.
The English word worship itself is an old English word which is pronounced “Worth ship” or ascribing worth to one who is worthy of worship and honour. From the time the psalms were in print down through history to the present day the tried and troubled and tempted saints of God have found comfort, security, provision and protection from praying the Psalms.
It is not always a natural response to rejoice especially when the dark cloud of depression, mental affliction, hostile opposition, a seemingly hopeless situation or a prolonged time of waiting on God when our prayers have not been answered. At such times we need to as an act of our will and by faith start to praise God using the promises of the Word of God which He Himself cannot deny. This kind of faith pleases Him and He rewards it in His time and in his way (Hebrews 11:6).
One thing to think about is that when we use God’s Word and reflect back to Him His promises in our prayers we must make sure they are in context and that many of God’s promises have conditions attached. Sometimes God does not answer, not because we have sinned, but because we are asking and using His promises out of their textual context. However, we can be confident of this one thing that in Messiah Jesus God’s promises are always “yes” and “Amen” when used aright.
As Paul writes; “For the Son of God, Jesus Messiah, who was proclaimed among you by me and Silvanus and Timothy, was not “Yes” and “No,” but in Him it has always been “Yes.” For all the promises of God are “Yes” in Messiah. And so through Him, our “Amen” is spoken to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:19-20). Sometimes there will be a waiting period between the “yes” and the “amen” and at such times our wills need to be constantly engaged in worshipping the Lord, and that by faith and not by sight.
b) “Pray without ceasing;”
When Jude wrote his epistle he said; “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,” (Jude 1:20). We are also told that we are to pray about everything in our lives especially when we have to make difficult decisions. There will be times when we do not know how to pray or what to pray for, but the blessed Holy Spirit prays for us, with us and in place of us when words fail us, and all we can do is groan inwardly in our regenerated spirit man. Praying in a tongue is one way of releasing our desires and emotions but we must make sure we have yielded our tongues completely to the Holy Spirit. It also needs to be said that one can pray in their own language when words are given by the Holy Spirit just as powerfully as one speaking in an unknown tongue.
The blessed Holy Spirit Himself knows the solution to every situation we will ever face and what should be said and done, and He prays for us, and with us and in place of us and that according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27). No situation we face is beyond his control. What a wonderful loving, sensitive and divine person we have in the Holy Spirit who shares in our burdens. It has been said that “instead of praying in the context of life, we should live in the context of prayer!”
c) “Give thanks in everything;”
A thankful heart is one that pleases God beyond measure. It honours Him and affirms our confidence in Him as our all sufficient provider and this thankfulness is an act of the will primarily and not the emotions, even though the emotions will often be released when the will is activated by faith. It is hard to give God thanks for everything that happens to us especially when we have, or are passing through suffering or adversity, or a season of severe and relentless temptation. Sometimes things can be so intense that one must as an act of their will praise and thank God. We know that praise and thankfulness will drive the devil and his cohorts from hades out of our affairs.
David understood this when he wrote; “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength (praise), Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2). Satan hates it when in childlike confidence and trust we praise God drawing out strength from Him.
A spirit of praise and thankfulness even when there is no outward evidence that anything has changed in the natural, will always shut the devil’s mouth! He is our arch enemy and he is after our blood but a thankful disposition of heart and mind and released in confession of God’s promises stops him in his tracks! As we resist him he will flee! As the apostle James writes; “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8).
Whatever situation we face if our will is surrendered to God, then, when Satan is having a go at us, we will be able to resist him and once he flees we need to draw near to God to be strengthened spiritually and keep walking by faith and with a surrendered will to the Word of God, because Satan will attack us again.
Resistance takes time and sometimes Satan gets the better of us because we have not resisted enough. May we always be empowered to stand, clothed with the full armour of God, by relying upon the power of the blood, the power of the Word and by the power of the Holy Spirit undergirded by ceaseless prayer in the Holy Spirit. So then God’s will for every blood brought, blood redeemed, Spirit sealed child of the Living God is to rejoice always; pray without ceasing and in everything to be thankful!