What Does God Want?

Often pastors are asked the question from a sincere Christian:
"What does God want me to do, and what is His will for my life.
I want to do whatever He wants me to do, if He will just tell me
."

One young man came to his pastor with this question, and the pastor answered him:
"You know what He wants you to do."
Puzzled, he looked at pastor and said, "No, I don't."

The pastor was persistent as he responded: "Yes, you do."

The young man being slightly impatient with the pastor, said: "No, I really don't."
The pastor calmed him down when he asked: "Does God want you to study His Word?"
The young man immediately said, "Sure He does."

The pastor then asked, "Does God want you to attend church?"
"Certainly!" The young man responded.

The pastor continued to ask him a number of obvious questions concerning God's will.
Then the pastor said, "Well, it looks to me like you do know God's will."
The funny look came over his face as he smiled and said, "Yeah, I guess I do."

So I ask you who are here today, what are you doing with what you know?

Clearly that young man was trying to get at was the concealed will of God for his life.
Where did God want him to go to college?
Who did God want him to marry?
Where did God want him to live?
What was God special purpose for his life?

These are the hidden things of God's will – the sacred things, and these are of the utmost interest.
Sometimes, we all too casually say, "I'm willing to do whatever God wants me to do,
if only God would tell me what it is
."

After listing a number of the things revealed by God about His will, it became apparent to this young man
that he wasn't even doing those things.
So by his own example, he was proving that he wasn't really willing to do whatever God wanted him to do,
if only God would tell him.

Most of us have a desire to be led by the supernatural, by the burning bush,
by the cloud by day and the fire by night.
We want to know what's around the next corner because we don't like surprises.
Maybe you have said within yourself, "If only God would tell me what He wants me to do, I'd do it."

It seems that many have developed the idea that God is more interested in hiding His will from us
than revealing it to us.
Yet, the Bible clearly teaches the opposite.

For instance in Colossians 1:9-10: "For this reason also, since the we heard of it,
we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will
in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God
."

Now, does that sound like God is interested in keeping His will from us?
God wants us to be "filled" with the knowledge of His will.
Our trouble is that we are often looking for directional information, "secret", information.
The Bible may have some interesting information in it, you may say, but it doesn't tell you
where you should attend that university or whether to marry Betty or June, or take this job or that other one.

These are the things that capture our attention, we don't question the known, we are interested in the unknown.
It is interesting to note that Colossians was a book to counter the Gnostic heresy
that there was some kind of "secret knowledge" that only the spiritual elite could know.

Also in the book of Colossians, Paul said, "Epaphras, who is one of your number,
a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers,
that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God
." (Colossians 4:12)

It is clear from this verse, and many others, that God's will is not to keep information from us.
But it does seem that His method for delivering that information is different from what we expect.
We want to be led by God releasing the "secret" information, while He often intends on leading us
in an entirely different way.
We want to step out by discovering the "unrevealed" information, while God wants us
to put the right foot forward, by stepping out in obedience to His revealed will.

We see this in Proverbs 3:5-6, where we read, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight
."

What part does the revealed will of God play in leading us directly into the concealed will of God for our lives?
How many times have we been on highway going someplace and we didn't know how to get to it,
and all of a sudden look around and realize that nothing looks familiar.

I remember driving through Baltimore, Maryland one night.
The traffic had backed up on the Interstate and we would be sitting there for several hours.
So I saw some cars driving off on the shoulder.
So I decided to follow them and drive through Baltimore thinking that I would just keep going south
through the city streets.

So, I decided I would just drive south, and then, determine how to get back on the Interstate.
I thought I didn't need to ask for directions – so instead, I trusted my instincts.

Then I came to a neighborhood where dozens of men were laying on the sidewalk in front of deserted buildings.
It was a little frightening.
I should have stopped earlier, and got the right directions, but I trusted my instincts.

In discovering God's will, we must learn to trust our directions instead of our instincts.
After that experience in Baltimore, I have learned not to trust my instincts.

When I acknowledge my directions, my path was made straight again.
I knew that I was heading in the right direction.

In Psalm 37:23 David says, "The steps of a man are established by the Lord; and He delights in his way."
He continues in verse 31 to say, "The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip."
What keeps him from mis-stepping?
The answer is the directions that he already has.

God's Word puts us in the right lane in life.
It takes an intentional detour from our directions to get back off the royal highway, and follow the next principle.

That principle is that we must admit that we can't get there from here.

When we get lost, we don't usually try to go back to were we took a wrong turn and correct it.
We tried to find some way to "get there from here."

We don't want to go back and undo our wrong turn, and take the right turn instead of the left.
That's too much work, and we prefer shortcuts.
And with interstate traffic, it is sometimes possible to take shortcuts, but with God's will, it is not.

There is a fascinating story in the book of Joshua, where Joshua was leading the people of Israel
into the Promise Land.
They had just conquered the mighty city of Jericho with its formidable defenses and mighty men.

However, God had placed a ban on the items taken in battle in Jericho.
They were not to take any of them for themselves.

Unknown to Joshua, one man, Achan, took some of the things that were banned
– which God had forbidden them to take.
The next battle for the Hebrews was to take Ai, and it was reported to be a little insignificant area.
In fact they were advised not to take the whole army because a few thousand should do the job.

So they went to battle, and got beaten good by little Ai.
And this wasn't the case of little train who thought he could make it over the great big hill,
but it was something far more serious, as we are going to see.
Poor Joshua couldn't understand it.

"Joshua said, Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan,
to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content,
and dwelt on the other side Jordan!
Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!
For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round,
cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?
And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?" (Joshua 7:7-10)

While Joshua was busy moaning about how terrible this defeat looked and of the tremendous impact
it would have on their enemies' morale, God said, "Joshua, there is only one reason
why you would not be given victory, victory that I had promised to give to you.
Don't act surprised.
Sin is the culprit
."

God expected Joshua to know precisely why they had been defeated.
Someone had ignored the instructions.

Maybe Achan had a habit of stealing, or he felt that with all the people fighting and running around,
no one would notice his one little disobedience.
But that one little disobedience did really matter.

In fact, in verse 12 we read God saying, "I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things
under the ban from your midst
."

We can come to church every Sunday, lead Bible studies, worship like angels,
and be involved in every good work that comes to us.
But if we have ignored God redirections in some area of life, and instead trusted our own instincts,
we are removing ourselves from the path of His will for us.

So Joshua needed to reread God's directions.

So, when the stolen, banned item was uncovered, confessed and dealt with,
God gave Ai into their hands easily.
Then we read of Joshua doing a very interesting and noteworthy thing.

  1. afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings,
  2. according to all that is written in the book of the law.
There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before
all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers
that were conversant among them."
(Joshua 8:34-35)

They went back and reread the instructions, so it wouldn't happen again!
That is the problem with our instincts.
We think we can take a wrong turn, but that it won't matter, because we think we can still get where we're going.

So, our instincts say, "There's got to be a shortcut."

We look for a shortcut to respect, to maturity, to success, to love, and to acceptance.
So we put the instructions somewhere out of sight, and head out.
Our instincts say, "I can get there from here.
I can disregard this one little instruction, and it won't make any difference in God's will for me.
I'll still end up where God wants me
."

There have been those who have said: "I may not be loving my spouse as I should,
but I think I'm still in the will of God.
One wrong turn won't matter.
I can get to His perfect will for my life from here
."

Or some might be saying, "I may not be keeping my word, but I think God will still guide me
in His perfect will.
I can get where I need to be
."

Another may be saying, "I may not be reading the Bible, but my instincts are pretty good,
because I am a decent person.
God will still lead me where He wants me to go. I can still get where I need to be
."

Then there is the person who might say, "I've tried to follow God's instructions,
except for this one area, but I am mostly in His will.
That's close enough for I can get where I need to be
."

Someone has suggested the words that should be put on Achan's tombstone:
"He thought he could get there from here."

But after we have admitted that we can't get there from here,
the next principle to putting the right foot forward is that we must be willing to retrace our steps.

Ironically, it is often true that we are most interested in God's concealed will
when we are constantly ignoring His revealed will.
But to discover God's perfect will for our lives from that place is impossible, we must retrace our steps.

And after the first wrong turn, each ensuring wrong turn is all the easier to make.
Each time we fail to "acknowledge Him in all our ways," we go a little farther down the wrong road.

Let's say someone gives me directions to go from one place to another.
But instead of taking the route I was given, I take the scenic route which is a much nicer drive,
and the scenery is so much better.

Now I promise to obey all the other directions, but just this one little change.
It won't make much of a difference anyway.
And so, when I come to where I was to be, I am many miles from my destination.

God has given us the right directions for our lives, and we ignore them and realize how lost
and vulnerable we are, and that we are in dangerous territory.
We seem to want to change Proverbs 3:6 to read,
"In a few of my ways I acknowledge Him, and therefore He ought to have made my paths straight."
The problem is that we are leading in the wrong directions, and we will not be where we ought to be.

We must trust God to deal with the obstacles.

A more careful reading of the Hebrew word in Proverbs 3:6, indicates that "making your paths straight"
means more than just guidance.
It literally means that God will remove the obstacles and smooth the way before us.

We often try to move the obstacles, ourselves.
We come across an obstacle to trusting in the Lord with all our hearts, and in all our ways to acknowledge Him.
Inevitably, something will pop up and try to convince us that continuing on this road is impossible.

So we spend a great deal of spiritual energy explaining to God why we need to take a left turn
when He clearly told us to make a right turn.
What we point to are the obstacles in the way of our obedience to His will.

"But Lord, if I do what you tell me to do, I'll lose money."
God says, "Do what I say anyway, and I'll deal with that obstacle."

"But Lord, if I do what you say, I might lose that friendship."
God replies, "Do what I say anyway, and I'll deal with that obstacle."

"But Lord, if I do what you say, I might lose my job."
God says, "Do what I say anyway, and I'll deal with that obstacle."

We don't have to remove the obstacles – God will do that!

How God chooses to deal with the obstacle is His responsibility.
He may choose to do it in a way that makes us smile, or in a way that makes us sad,
but our responsibility is to go where He tells us.

We are to put the right foot forward and obey His revealed will.
Remember the goal – remember the destination!
Colossians 1:9-10 reminds us that God wants us to be "filled with the knowledge of His will."

Which will?
His revealed will or His concealed will?
His will has already been made known to us, or His "secret" will for our lives containing
all the future information that we so cherish.
Eventually, the answer is "both."
For one leads into the other.

I found God's concealed will His revealed will.

The truth is that we all make wrong turns, and get off on the wrong foot,
and then, we find ourselves in a position where we don't know God's will for our lives.

The first thing we need to do when that happens is to read the instructions again.
Then we must admit that we cannot find the will of God from where we are.
Something needs to change.
So we need to retrace our steps, and let God deal with any obstacles that arise from our disobedience.
We need to admit that we cannot get where we need to be from our present position.

It is so easy to get headed in the wrong direction in life.
And many times, we compound the issue from seeking the help of people who are willing to give us directions.
but many don't know what to do with their lives, why do we think they would help us?
Some of them are reliable, but many are not.

So, we need to examine our thoughts and see if God has been attempting to tell us His will,
but we have not been listening.
Maybe, God has revealed His will to us, but we haven't taken any action on it.

Sometimes our instincts and God's clear directions are at odds.
What makes it so difficult to do what God has clearly told us to do?

If I am going to trust my directions and my instincts, then I need to assess how well I know
where God is leading me.
Psalm 37:31 says: "The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip."
The answers to some of our questions are already revealed in God's Word.

Can you think of a time in your life when you have taken a shortcut, feeling that this one little spiritual detour
won't have much effect on the ultimate outcome of the directions of your life.
What effect did it have?
Has its total effect had time enough to be felt?

What area is there in my life where I am currently on a detour, and I need to retrace my steps
and get back on the road of obedience.
We must be willing to "retrace our steps" if we have taken a wrong turn in life.
We must ask God to remind us again of His will.

This sermon has been adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White