Whose Will is it Anyway?
Do you really want to know God’s will? And to do it?
For Jacob, it could be a foregone conclusion to move the family from a land of famine to a land of life and opportunity. That’s been the way of human migration for millennia. But most of all, his darling son Joseph is alive in Egypt! That, if anything, would have been enough for the old patriarch to pack up and go (Gen. 45:28). Even if it means living in a land where the natives just want to stay away from you, Jacob is prepared to put up with that.
But wait, Jacob does something unusual — He does a stopover at Beersheba, and offers sacrifices to God. That’s the place where his granddad Abraham called on the Lord once (Gen. 21:33), and so too did daddy Isaac (Gen. 26:25). Jacob does have reason to be concerned. His granddad went to Egypt once because of a famine, and got himself into trouble (see Gen. 12:10-20). And what about the Promised Land of Canaan? I can picture him saying to God, “God, what’s going on? Is this a good idea? What’s going to happen to your promises? I really want to know Your will on this matter.”
Then God responds in a special appearance (never to happen again until the Burning Bush incident 400+ years later). Jacob gets the assurance he needs. First, no change in plans. The God of his father still means to keep His covenant promises. In fact, the going-to-Egypt idea is part and parcel of God’s great big plan (Gen. 46:3). Second, EMMANUEL — God will be with him, even in Egypt.
That’s all he needed to know, so to Egypt he would go.
What about us? How do we come to know God’s will? That was the big question raised during the sermon.
Jacob relied on God’s history of special appearances. Once he knew his plans fit into God’s big plan, everything was good to go. Today we don’t have such special appearances. God could ‘show up’ if He wanted to, but in a sense we don’t need that, because His big plan has already been revealed in His Word! God’s will is centred on His Son, and it is perfectly obeyed by Him (John 5:30, Heb. 10:7). So, if you want to know what God’s will is, and what obedience would look like, look to Jesus.
Very often I suspect the real problem for us is whether or not we want to do His will. The apostle Paul once asked, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?” (Gal. 1:10). If we are honest, we could catch ourselves many times trying to please man and persuade God! We may be prone to praying, “Hear, Lord, your servant is speaking”, rather than, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” (1 Sam. 3:10).
Let’s be prepared to examine ourselves and ask the hard question: “Going by the way I live my life and make my decisions, whose will is it anyway?”
It is our calling to live no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:2). What’s more, the true family of God, the ones Jesus will call brother and sister, are those who do His will. (Matt. 12:50)
The interesting thing is this: if you sincerely wonder what God’s will is, well, desiring to do God’s will will lead to insight into what it is (John 7:17). As we turn away from what this world trumpets as being good and worthy, and allow the Spirit of God to renew our minds and transform our view of things, we will come to better discern the will of God (Rom. 12:2), which is truly good. As we yield to the Spirit (who knows God’s will inside out), we will learn to pray in ways that are in line with God’s will, with His great big plan. Just as Jesus did.
As practice, here are some suggested ways to begin praying:
“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Start with me.”
“Send revival, Lord, and transform this world. Start with me.”
“Arouse this church to reach out to the Bishan neighbourhood. Start with me.”
“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
And, dear brother and sister, be fully assured of this (from Rom. 8:28): that for you, His beloved child, God’s will is GOOD.