I grew up on the Saskatchewan prairies but when we went to the city we usually went to Calgary, at that time about a 5-hour drive away where we had relatives, and where my parents had both worked in their youth. When I ﬁnished High school, I went to Bible School in Calgary.
It was the Berean Bible school, which had developed from the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute founded by William Aberhart, who went on to become the premier of Alberta. The ﬁrst graduate from that original school was Ernest Manning, who also went on to the premiership of Alberta, and then to become Senator Manning, and then more recent history has names like Preston Manning, the Reform Party, and now the new conservative party. Etc Etc
It was a good school, and I later would come to greatly appreciate the value of the Bible education I received there.
I am mentioning Bible School, because there especially, one topic that was much discussed was ﬁnding the will of God for your life. Of course a Bible school is there to train future missionaries, pastors and music leaders etc, so there was great attention directed to fnding where one fit in. I recall some agonizing times, seeking God and waiting for a heavenly revelation of exactly how my life should be spent. An aunt and uncle lived in Calgary, and often on weekends I would visit for a while. This topic often came up for discussion, as I suppose I hoped that maybe someone (other than myself) might have some sort of insight into how I was to continue my life “in God’s service” so to speak. And then of course, armed with this new directive, I would head out, and all would be set. Simple really, right? Well I never did get that ﬂash of light from Heaven, nor dream that special dream of needy children in Africa, or hear the voice calling me to certain works with clear directions for my future.
But I did learn more about knowing the will of God. For a Christian who is convinced God’s way is the best way, and who wishes to live a life pleasing to God, this is an important topic. We have one life to live and we want to live it in a way that is not merely acceptable to God, but also honouring Him, and furthering His work on this Earth.
We can always simply follow the directive of Paul, who in Romans 12:1-2 wrote that we would easily be able to ﬁnd what the will of God is for our lives by offering ourselves as living sacriﬁces, not conforming to the pattern of this world, and renewing our minds. He says that’s the way to know the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Well that sounds very spiritual and only slightly daunting for that young person wondering what kind of career or life’s work one should seek, which direction to take to know the perfect will of God for one’s life. How to be a living sacriﬁce? How to renew your mind? It’s a jungle out there!
Here on the ground my thoughts are: should I study accounting, should I take over the family farm, should I follow my heart and become an artist, what does God want me to do?? How can I ﬁnd His plan for my life?
Life is absolutely full of decisions, big ones and small ones. One of the most exhausting things to do is to move house. It’s not so much the packing of boxes and wrapping of china etc, it’s more the making a decision about every little thing in the house: what to pack, what is “not worth it” what has nostalgic value, what is junk. etc etc. . When I packed to leave Switzerland I remember wondering if I should pack the coat hangers, or would the space they take up be more effectively used by something more valuable. Would it cost more to ship them, or just buy
new ones in Canada?? Gosh! Coat hangers! Decision making is tiring. We want to do the right, the best thing.
However we know that even a small decision could change the direction of a person’s life.
That’s not an easy responsibility to carry!
We hear and learn that a ﬁrst step leads to the second step, and ultimately takes us down the path that we have knowingly or unknowingly chosen.
George and I have 5 children. The first 4 were pretty close in age, so we had a house full of teenagers. It was a busy time, intense, as many of you can perhaps identify with. We believed in keeping communication as open as possible with our kids, to help them make some of those big
and small decisions.
One of our daughters once said (at the age of around 15 or 16) that she wished her life wasn’t so “sheltered”. I still don’t know exactly what she wanted to change but anyway I said, okay, but what you need to know is, girls whose lives aren’t sheltered often end up pregnant and boys often end up in car accidents. To say nothing of the drug scourge currently plaguing our society. Am I right?
The problem is, one decision, one step, leads you down a path. And quite often there is no going back. I have in fact a niece who decided the life of a pastor’s daughter was way too sheltered for her, took off from home as soon as she ﬁnished high school, met a guy who turned out to be a meth-head, became pregnant. Now she’s a single mom with a deadbeat for a dad to her 10-year-old son. When he’s not in jail, he’s in recovery.
The good news is, her parents and family, rather than reject her for her waywardness, surrounded her with love and support and are doing a huge part in inﬂuencing the boy for a different life. That ﬁrst decision leads to the second decision, and all too often the next one can be taken from us, is no longer ours to make.
Often there’s no going back.
But I digress.
How do we know what is the right decision to make for our lives? Is that really the question we should be asking ourselves?
Let’s look at the words of Jesus for help here. What does He say is His will for our lives, His commands.
- Matt 28:19 go ye therefore into all the world and preach the gospel
- Matt 5:16 let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.
- Matt 22:37-39 love the lord your God with all your mind heart and soul, and your neighbour as yourself
- Mark 9:35-37 If anyone wants to be the ﬁrst, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.
He took a little child in his arms, and said, Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me, but the One who sent me, In other words, serving others is serving God, welcoming Him into your life.
- Acts 17:30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent
- 1 Thess 5:18 Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this isGod’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
- 1 John 3:23 And this is His command, to believe in the name of his son Jesus Christ and to love one another as he commanded us
- 2 John 6 And this is love, that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heardfrom the beginning, His command is that we walk in love
So far I am not finding anything about a specific job or career, or help with a decision for a big purchase or change of direction in life. Except for the disciples who were called to follow Jesus and be fishers of men, and for Saul, later Paul, who experienced a vision on the road to Damascus telling him to go do a specific work, and a couple of special people who had a role to play in God’s kingdom, it is not recorded that God told many to go do a certain job. He does however mention using people in many walks of life for His work. It would seem therefore that Jesus isn’t so concerned about what we decide to do for a living, but rather concerned about how we live our lives while we are doing our chosen jobs, or leading the life we are in at themoment. We can be a lawyer, and live by God’s rules. We can be a farmer, and treat our land and animals with the respect they deserve as a creation of God; we can consciously foster good relationships with our neighbours, families and colleagues.
In fact in the passage we read in Romans 12:6-8, Paul outlines that we all have different strengths and abilities, and he advises us to use our innate abilities. So he’s saying, “go do what you're good at, just honour God in all you do, and remember you are no more nor less important than the next person”.
Still, all those decisions, big and small, can feel quite onerous. When it came time to decide whether to remain in Switzerland or return to Canada (where I had not lived for at least 10 years) I didn’t really know what I should do, stay or move back to Canada. We lived in a small village, there was a good village school, just 10 kids from Grade 1-9, I could speak the language and felt integrated in the community and our church. My sister came to stay with me at the time, and she said, in true sister-fashion, “don’t be stupid, you are coming back to Canada”.
I ended up agreeing with her, especially after I got a phone call from a village farm woman whose son had lost his wife, and who had a 2-year old baby that had been sent to live with relatives. She basically told me I should marry her son, so her grandchild could come back to live with them, and my girls would have a father! An intriguing proposition.
So my 2 young daughters and I returned to Canada and moved to BC to the same town as my sister and family. We set up a home and all was well, until we had been there about 9 months.
Then my daughters started to get homesick for Switzerland. They would cry and moan, and blame me for taking them away. I became very distressed and began to worry that my decision had been the wrong one. Life turned quite bleak, and quickly.
Around that time, another of my aunts, who with her husband and family had been missionaries in Ethiopia for over 20 years, came to visit on her way to a speaking engagement. I told her ofmy concerns and that I was really worried I had not done what was God’s will, not only for my life but for my daughters. I felt the responsibility for their future keenly.
First of all she told me it was very common, in her context as a missionary, that the 9-month mark is when things get difﬁcult, doubts set in and homesickness is a big problem.
And then she said the life-changing words: Do you want to be in God’s will? I said yes, I do. She said, “Then you're in it”. Just like that. She said God is big enough to hear your heart and watch over you.
I couldn't believe it, it was so simple. Basically, to get this straight, by doubting I was in God’s will, I was actually not believing God is God, and really, in so doing, I made myself God. By not believing what He said, I was essentially saying, I know better than God. Let’s let that sink in.
This is essentially the original sin, all the way back to Adam and Eve, who said we don’t believe you that the fruit isn’t good to eat, so we are going to eat it.
Because what does His word say?: that when we surrender our will to His will, He keeps His side of the bargain. God is far far bigger than we can imagine and than we can actually believe.
We can’t comprehend Him. We can’t comprehend that we can leave ourselves in His hands and he will look after us. Prov 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He SHALL direct thy paths. The word SHALL is signiﬁcant. It means it is going to happen, not that He wants it to happen, it means it is going to happen. Basically it has to do with believing how big God is. He will be the director of our paths. We just have to trust Him completely.
Signiﬁcantly, it does not say Trust in Lord with all your heart and he will tell you to become an accountant. Maybe it IS your path to become an accountant, but I think more what the Bible is telling us here is that our God wants us to live lives surrendered to Him, so that He can be our guide, through all the daily decision making, always there with us, being our shepherd. We can call on Him, and know he hears us, and we can hear His voice. That is the way we in our turn can be the light he calls us to be, we can be the one whom our neighbours when they see us living our daily lives, see God the Father.
I like to think of God in the parent role. He does tell us so often that He is our Father. He tells us we can trust Him. We ask for His guidance, we believe He is there guiding us. We make the ecision which is facing us. Whether it turns out that it is a “wrong” decision, or a “right” decision
doesn’t matter, unless we are knowingly disobeying God’s law, or the law of our land in our action. Ultimately and wonderfully, if nothing else, our so-called “wrong” decisions can drive us into God’s arms, and turn out for that reason to have been the “right” ones.
We are in God’s will because we have told Him we want to be there. We have confessed to Him our need for Him, our reliance and trust, and we can then let Him worry about it.
How can we be sure we are living the surrendered life? The Bible passages we have looked at this morning, and many many more teach us how to do that. One thing we humans are good at though is taking back the authority that we have just given to God. We can be pretty hopeless at meaning and doing what we say.
I think it is helpful every morning when one wakes up to simply and honestly say “Good morning God, today i surrender myself to you. May your will be done in my life today”. Then simply trust that he takes you at your word, and you ﬁnd yourself in that peaceful joyful place, in the centre of His will.
MAY GOD HIMSELF, THE GOD OF PEACE, SANCTIFY YOU THROUGH AND THROUGH.
MAY YOUR WHOLE SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY BE KEPT BLAMELESS AT THE COMING OF
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. THE ONE WHO CALLS YOU IS FAITHFUL AND HE WILL DO IT
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