Seeking God’s Will: Open Minds & Hearts

July 11, 2017

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly…”  (James 4:3)

At the heart of a counseling session, a woman once said, “Don’t confuse me with Scriptures, Pastor. My mind is made up!” Seeking God’s will for our lives is often out of reach because we have our agendas in place when we come before God. If our minds are set like concrete before we converse with God, we are actually asking God to bless our will, our agenda and the way we have decided to go.

James tells us that when we pray, we ask and do not receive because our asking is flawed by our self-willed agendas. To seek and know the will of God we must be completely open to whatever the will of God may be. Our prayer and commitment must be in the spirit of the familiar metaphor, “You are the Sculptor, I am the clay. Mold me and make me according to Your will.  I am ready to accept Your will as passively as clay in the hands of a Sculptor.”

There are two reasons to be open and unbiased as you seek to know God’s will. The first we learn from Isaiah 55: the ways and thoughts of God are as different from our ways and thoughts as the heavens are high above the earth. Another is that we become a totally new creation when we are born again.

It is tragically possible to miss the will of God for your life because you do not have the faith to believe that God can make you a new creation in Christ: a new creation with extraordinary potential.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Guidance


God’s Guidance: Light for the Journey

March 28, 2017

“Only let us live up to the truth we now have.” (Philippians 3:16 LB)

The Apostle Paul had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus. He often shared the details of that experience as we find in the third chapter of his letter to the Church at Philippi. It was as if his accounting books were turned upside down: what had been in his gain column was now in his loss column and vice versa.

After his accounting books had been turned upside down (or we might say right side up), his ambitions totally changed in the gain column. He wanted to tackle the purposes for which the risen Christ had tackled him. Now he only wanted to know Christ and the high calling of God to which Christ was leading him.

Paul claims he has not attained all these things in his new gain column, but he has learned a principle about knowing the will of God: if we want to know the will of God we must live up to the light and truth God has given us at any given time on our faith journey.

We can take away from this a prescription for guidance. If we want to see further ahead into the will of God for our lives, we should move ahead into the will of God just as far as we can see. Like driving at night across country we can move ahead into the 100 yards of light our headlights give us, that leads us from coast to coast one mile at a time.

When we live up to the light we have, God gives us more light.

Dick Woodward, 08 January 2011


Nourishing the Spirit

July 21, 2015

“If any man wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the teaching whether it is from God…” (John 7:17)

Jesus gave us a principle that shows us how we can know His teaching is the teaching of God. The principle is this: If any man wills to do, he will know.  For millennia those who approach the proposition of faith intellectually have said, “When I know, then I will do.”  Their premise has been and remains: “the knowing leads to the doing.”  Pointing to their temples they say, “Reach me here.” Then, pointing to their heart, they say, “Then I will follow through here.”  They are essentially saying, “Reach me intellectually and then I will commit volitionally.”

Jesus cut through that when He proclaimed this principle:  the knowing does not lead to the doing.  The doing leads to the knowing.  When you commit your will to doing what Jesus teaches then the intellectual affirmation will follow.  It is only then that you will know the teaching of Jesus is the Word of God and not just the ideas of another Rabbi coming down the pike.

When people followed Jesus on His terms He called them ‘disciples.’  A synonym for that word is “apprentice.”  An apprentice and a disciple are learning what they’re doing and doing what they’re learning.

As Jesus apprenticed His disciples they discovered that the doing leads to the knowing.  Are we applying this principle to our faith as followers of Jesus Christ?

Dick Woodward, Lackey Free Clinic Health Beat, Summer 2009


Seeking GOD’S Will (vs. our own!)

September 30, 2014

“…You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly…”  (James 4:3)

A consultant told me that much of the time, even though he is paid large fees, his clients do not want his consultation. They simply want him to affirm what they have already decided to do. At the heart of counseling session, a woman once said, “Don’t confuse me with Scriptures, Pastor.  My mind is made up!”  Knowing the will of God is often made difficult by our own wills.  It’s out of reach because we have our agendas in place when we come to God seeking His will.  If our minds are set like concrete before we converse with God regarding His will for our lives, we are not really seeking His will when we pray and open His Word. We are actually asking God to bless our will, our agenda and the way we have decided to go.

James tells us that when we pray, we ask and do not receive because our asking is flawed by our self-willed agendas.  To seek and know the will of God we must be completely open to whatever the will of God may be.  Our prayer and commitment must be in the spirit of the familiar metaphor, “You are the Sculptor, I am the clay. Mold me and make me according to Your will.  I am ready to accept Your will as passively as clay in the hands of a Sculptor.”

There are at least two reasons why you must be open and unbiased as you seek to know God’s will.  One reason we learn from Isaiah: the ways and thoughts of God are as different from our ways and thoughts as the heavens are high above the earth.  Another is that we become a totally new creation when we are born again.

It is tragically possible for you to miss the will of God for your life because you do not have the faith to believe that God can make you a new creation in Christ.  Your extraordinary potential as a new creation is one reason why you must be completely open and unbiased.  Seeking the will of God with your mind already made up could rob you of the will of God for your life… God loves you too much to let you live a life that is only a fragment of the life He has planned for you.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Guidance


Confirmation

June 8, 2013

“A person’s steps are confirmed by the Lord.”  (Psalm 37:23 Berkeley)

THE NINTH STEP:  Look for confirmation as you seek God’s will.

At times on our journeys of faith when we come to a fork in the road there is no verse of Scripture that tells us to go to the right or to the left and we have no prompting or leading of the Spirit.  We do our best to make the proper choice, while acknowledging the hard reality that we simply do not know which direction is the will of the Lord.  Having done everything we can to discern the will of God, we journey down one side or the other of that road.

The verse quoted above means we should sometimes move forward into what we perceive to be the will of God, praying and looking for a confirmation.  That confirmation may be positive or negative.  If everything works out and the direction we have chosen obviously has God’s stamp of approval on it, we can say God has given us a confirmation of His will.  We have the conviction of God saying to us, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)  We see evidence of the reality Jesus described, that when He calls His sheep to follow Him, He goes before them. (John 10:1-4)  After we commit to a direction, we see evidence that the Living Christ has gone before us and prepared the way for us.

Sometimes, the confirmation is negative and the results are the opposite of those just described.  When that happens, we should be humble enough to go back to that fork in the road and choose the other direction.  We see an example of this in Acts chapter 16 when Paul wanted to go into Asia and was directed instead by illness into Philippi.


Patterns of Providence

June 6, 2013

“I see very clearly clearly that God doesn’t show partiality.  In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.” (Acts 10: 34-35 NLT)

THE EIGHTH STEP: Look for a pattern in the way God reveals His will.

In chapter 10 of Acts we read that the Apostle Peter had a vision of a sheet with animals on it, animals which the Law of Moses would not permit a devout Jew to eat.  Peter was told three times to kill and eat those animals.   He refused each time.  Then, he heard knocking on the door.  The Spirit told him to go with the men who were knocking, asking no questions about why they came looking for him.  Peter soon learned they were not only Gentiles, but the servants of his enemy, a Roman Centurion.  When he arrived at the home of this Roman army officer, he was asked to speak to the Centurion’s entire household.  The first thing Peter told them was that God had shown him not to call any man common or unclean.

Peter did not think this series of events was a coincidence, but saw these happenings as a pattern of divine guidance.  These events depict the way the Great Commission of Jesus, to preach the Gospel, crossed over a tremendous barrier of prejudice.  Peter’s experience ultimately revealed the glorious reality that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was not for the Jew only, but for every person in every nation on earth.

Since our God is a God of order and the “thumbprint” of God can be seen in the extraordinary design of His creation, we should expect to see order and design in the way God reveals His will for our lives.


How Can I Know the Will of God?

May 18, 2013

“Prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of spiritual maturity.” (Romans 12:2 JB Phillips)

When someone questions me, a pastor, about the will of God, they might be referring to a fork-in-the-road decision or sometimes the issue has been the broader question, “How can I know the will of God for my life?”  While answering that question many times over many years, I have come up with twelve steps I believe you should take when you are seeking divine guidance.  These twelve steps are not a precise formula that will immediately and clearly lead you to the specific will of God, but they do focus some issues that should be visited, or bases you should touch, when you are trying to establish an alignment between your will and the will of God.

THE FIRST STEP:  Believe there is such a thing as the will of God for your life.

“Every time a tiny sparrow falls dead from a tree, God goes to the funeral!”  Observed a preacher from another generation, referring to the teaching of Jesus that not one tiny sparrow falls dead from a tree apart from the Father’s plan.  The application Jesus makes is that since two sparrows are sold for a penny and we are of far greater value to God than a sparrow, if God has a will regarding the details of the life and death of a sparrow, then we can be sure He has a will regarding every detail of our lives (Matthew 10: 29-31).

According to the Bible, God is our Shepherd and our Father.   God is personal and has a plan for our life we can know and experience.