The Will of God, Part 1
by Rev. Randy Brown
The Scripture this morning is taken from 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 beginning with verse 16. And out of reverence and respect for our Lord and in accordance with the first chapter the book of 1 Thessalonians, would you stand for the reading of God’s word.
16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you, 19and do not quench the Spirit.
This is the word of God for the people of God. We will pray together. Would you be seated as we pray.
Father we thank you for the good time in your house this morning. We have laughed together. We have sung the hymns of the church and Father it comes time now for us to read and look at your word. I pray once again for you to come and rescue me from me. That you hide me behind your cross , that the words spoken would be your words and not mine. The one who is seen would be you and not me, above all else may we hear the quiet shuffling of sandaled feet and know that it is Jesus the Christ comes to walk in our midst. It’s in his name and for his glory that I pray. Amen.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of back in World War II. There was a young soldier and his commanding officer that got on a train. As they found their seat on the train for a day’s journey sitting across from them was a beautiful, young, French girl and her grandmother. Well as they began the train ride it was something magical that began to happen between this young soldier and this French girl. They would catch each other looking at each other and then look away and all of a sudden they knew that both of them wanted to pursue this relationship. Then as the train was making its way, the train goes through this tunnel and it becomes pitch dark throughout the whole train .All of a sudden all you could hear was giggling. When it came out from under the tunnel the girl’s grandmother said, “I can’t believe he kissed her. He kissed her and I sure am glad she slapped him”. The commanding officer said, “I gotta admire that boy’s spunk! He kissed a French girl and she slapped me by mistake.”. But the soldier said, “What a day this has been, I kissed a French girl and slapped my commanding officer and nobody knows the difference”. That’s what you call seizing the moment and making the most of today and hope that today is when we look at God’s word together. That you will seize the moment and that you will allow God to speak to your heart out of the Scriptures that we look at.
Today’s word, beginning this morning, is a three-part series on the will of God. Matter of fact we talk about the will of God all the time. As a matter of fact we even prayed about it this morning. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. We pray about it and we say those words all the time but I have to ask this morning. Do you mean what you pray or is it just words that we have in our vocabulary for Sunday morning? Do you mean what you pray or is it just a phrase for Sunday. Does it interact in your life the rest of the week? We should never be praying a prayer that we are not part of or we are not willing to be part of the answer to. So when we pray, “Thy will be done”, we need it to not just be a part of Sunday ritual, but to a part of our hearts. When we pray, “Thy will be done”, and think about it later, do we turn our backs on those in need? Do we bear false witness against thy neighbor? How do we treat those very ones that Jesus came to redeem?
We confuse the will of God with our own prejudices because if we think it’s one way, then surely that’s the way God thinks it is. Are we open to allow God to change our hearts and our minds so that we seek His will? Are we just hoping that He will see it our way? On the other hand, we often blame God for things. To blame God when things are bad and bad things happen is us just passing it off as God’s will. I want to say something from the bottom of my heart. I do not believe that 9/11 was God’s will. I do not believe that the bombing at the Boston Marathon a few months ago was God’s will. I do not believe that that night in Aurora, Colorado when they went to watch a premier movie and somebody went in and shot bullets at random. I don’t that that was God’s will. I do not believe that it was God’s will for Newtown Connecticut to happen in an elementary school.
Many things we want to blame on God’s will, but it’s not. Gods will not force himself or His will on us. But sometimes when we force our will on other people, tragedy happens, and hurt happens, and brokenness happens, and fatalities and pain. Don’t blame that on God’s will .God knows about our brokenness and God can – and will and wants to – heal our brokenness and to ease our pain and dry our tears. We can’t blame everything on God’s will. God gives us the freedom to follow his will. When we inflict our will on others, often times we bring about pain and suffering. Today, and the next two Sundays. we will be talking about God’s will and from different perspectives of the Scripture.
Now I want to confess to you something. I’ve been here three weeks already. I want to confess something, I hope that’s okay. I want confess to you that this morning when I started preparing for what we would talk about today, I looked at the Scripture that we just read a moment ago. I thought this was easy to preach. Every preacher has three points and a poem, and I thought this was going to be easy and preach itself. But the more I got into it, the more I realized this is a whole lot more than that. There are other times in my life when I’ve looked at the Scripture. I was having a particularly bad day and I thought okay, here’s what it says “rejoice, always pray, give thanks”, say that three times fast and everything will be fine. But my confession to you is, it doesn’t work that way. It’s hard business. It’s much more difficult to follow than what we want it to be. We want fast food and and fast fix and fast answers to our questions. But there is no fast fix. And no fast answers to our questions – especially in trying to discern God’s will.
There’s a phrase in this passage of Scripture that it all hinges on and it’s verse 18. The phrase in verse 18 says, “And this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Now, there are more Scriptures more verses than what I read this morning. So, after this, look before verse 18 after verse 18. I want to do that very quickly. It says, “Be at peace among yourselves.” Everything hinges on verse 18. It tells us that to be at peace among yourselves is also part of the will of God for us. But it tells us to admonish those who are over us – whether that’s the President or the Pope or the Bishop or whoever. Now, we have a new Bishop. Many of you know that, and he’s getting bashed all over the place. But, we are to admonish those who are over us. Then He tells us, “Warn those who are unruly”. And, we are not to be a stumbling block. If you see somebody who’s being a stumbling block for someone else in their faith, gently and lovingly pray for them. If you get a chance to encourage them do that .Comfort those who are fainthearted. We live in a world where the hurts are too deep for words. All of this is a part of the will of God for us.
Uphold the weak. What is our attitude about somebody who we think doesn’t quite measure up to us? With our attitude do we walk around with superiority? Will we do what the Scripture says and uphold them? Will we try to befriend them .There are no superior folks in the faith .There are no superstars. The Scripture tells us that true religion is to care for the widows and the orphans, uphold the weak. That’s part of the will of God for you, and it says be patient with all. Now, that’s a troubling one. Pray for patience. I don’t do that because I don’t like the way God answers that prayer sometimes. Because, It’s a hard lesson to learn. But He says, “Be patient with all”.
The story is told of Susanna Wesley, John Wesley’s mother, One time she had to tell John Wesley, our spiritual forefather, she had to tell him nineteen times to do something, the same thing. She told him nineteen times before he ever did it. Well his daddy got home one night and she was telling him about it and he said, “Why in the world did you tell that knucklehead that nineteen times?” He called the founder of the Methodist church a knucklehead. She looked at him she said, “Honey, if I had only told him eighteen, It wouldn’t have happened.” Sometimes, we have to be patient with others. That is the will of God for us. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Hold fast to what is good and have convictions. We have to hold to those convictions and we have to live by them.
And then it says to sustain from all evil. Using all of those things that I just listed is a part of it. I quickly learned that the sermon was more than three points and poem. Because all of those things; To admonish those over you, to live in peace among yourselves, to warn those who are unruly, to comfort the fainthearted, to be patient, to pursue good, all of these things are the will of God in Christ Jesus for us. Right in the middle of the list is verse 18. All hinges on that. For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Want to know what God’s will is? There it is, plainly spelled out.
God’s will is not for us to just warm the pew on Sunday morning and tip God when the offering plate comes by. That’s not in the book. Not just to sit there and warm pew. He calls us to action. He calls us and his will is for us to be an active participant in what he wants us to do. Gods will, and this may shock some of you, but hear me, God’s will is not for you to be a believer. God’s will is for you to be a disciple and there’s a difference between thinking the right thoughts and carrying out a disciplined life. Or, to put it another way, His will is not for you to be a tourist but a traveler. Tourists go and hit the night spots. Travelers go kind of off the beaten path where people are hurting and where the Chamber of Commerce doesn’t tell you to go .Travelers go there and they see how people really live. God doesn’t call us to be a believer; He calls us to be a disciple. He doesn’t call us to be a Tourist. He calls us to be a Traveler. That’s His will for us. Being a Christian is not just thinking the right thoughts, but it’s living out the convictions that we have in our hearts. If you want to see God’s will? And if you want to experience it in you, then you want to follow it. Read the entire fifth chapter but don’t forget that, in the middle of it, all hinges on verse 18. This is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
When I was young, I thought the will of God consisted of three things. My questions about the will of God were threefold .Where would I go to college? Who would I marry? Where would I live? I thought that’s all that was to God’s will and sometimes we still think that. But if you read the Scripture, God’s will is much more than that. He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always”. You see I am going to get to the three points that I started out with. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Rejoice if the glass is half-empty because it’s still half full. Rejoice and remember that life is temporary and that when you are going through a hard time, that is part of your testimony. And many times when we are working on our testimony, and we are complaining about it, but when we come out the other side of it, we realize that God has just added that to our testimony.
We sang this morning, “come thou fount of every Blessing”. I asked us to sing that for one reason. The second verse it says, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer”. If you go through the Old Testament story, they were traveling and they were journeying and they were in the wilderness and they wanted to do something to remind themselves that God had seen them this far and so God would see them on. So they built what they called an Ebenezer because every time they looked, they knew that God had brought them this far and that he would take them safely all the way. In Sunday school class a while ago we talked about those special places. Those are Ebenezer places and we realize that God has brought us this far and God will see us on. We can rejoice because of that. We can rejoice because of God’s power when it is the darkest in your life and my life, the stars will shine the brightest. So we can rejoice. We may not like the situation but we can rejoice in it because God will work in it. God has not left us alone.
The second thing that I was going to originally bring up was this “pray without ceasing”. We should always be in a spirit and an attitude of prayer. That doesn’t mean that you go down the road with your eyes closed when you are driving. Don’t do that. But it does mean that you can be in a spirit and an attitude of prayer. That when somebody flies past you and cuts you off, instead of doing what you are naturally inclined to do, just say, “God please help them get where they are going safely.” When an ambulance goes past, or fire engine goes past that means probably somebody’s having trouble. God, I don’t know what the situation is. But, Lord somebody’s hurting, somebody’s in trouble, would you please be present in that situation.” Pray without ceasing? We should always have a prayerful attitude.
I heard the story not long ago about a little girl who sat at the supper table one night, and usually at the supper table it’s all happy smiles, laughter, family time, everybody close. This particular night, for no apparent reason, Mom and Dad weren’t speaking to each other. The little girl picked up on it very quickly. Mom and Dad were so both so mad that they wouldn’t pray. So finally, the little girl said, “I’m going to ask the blessing” and here’s what she prayed. “God help Mom and Dad not to be mad at each other because if you don’t, you and I will be the only ones that have a good evening”. That prayer was answered before it was prayed.
Prayer is honest communication with God .You think God is impressed with all the fluff. I think the strongest prayer in Scripture was the short prayer that Simon Peter prayed when he was going down. “Lord, Lord save me.” If he had gone into some preacher-prayer, he would have drowned to death. But he just got right to the point. Lord save me, and Jesus reached out his hand and lifted him up. I don’t think God is impressed with all the fluff. Just get to the point. Before anybody asks, I’ll tell you what I think about prayer in schools. As long as there are tests given by teachers, there will be prayer in schools. And as long as there are ballgames on Friday nights, and there are parents of players and cheerleaders that sit in the stands, there will be public prayer at athletic events. They may not be out loud, but they will be there. But I don’t want schools teaching my kids how to pray. That’s my job. That’s your job. Pray without ceasing. This is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Lastly, in everything give thanks. I asked you earlier, “Do you mean what you pray?” If you mean what you pray, when you get an answer, give thanks to God for that answer. A friend of mine, Roy Carter, was a coach at Stratford High School in Nashville years ago. And, Roy would always tell the story about a young baseball player who would come to him every week, and every time he came he would say, “Coach, can I borrow some money”. “Coach, could I get a ride home”. “Coach, can I have this.” “Coach, can I do this”. The only time he went to Coach was when he needed something. Every time Coach Carter saw him coming, he knew that he was going to ask for something. Roy said he never came just to say, “Coach how are you doing”. He never came to say, “Thanks Coach for being here”. Every time he came, it was wanting something. And it bothered Roy. So, Roy prayed about it. “God, what should I do”? And suddenly Roy got this answer, “Roy, now you know how I feel when you pray, because you are always asking. You don’t ever thank me”. It changed Roy’s life. Give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus. Pray without ceasing. Rejoice in the Lord always and give thanks. That’s what the Book says and the Book never lies. Let us pray.
Father in these moments together we’ve been blessed by you, have felt your presence, we have seen your will - at least in part - but write it upon our hearts, Father, that this week we would rejoice in all situations. That somehow in the midst of struggle and turmoil we would find something to rejoice about, that we can constantly be in communication with you. And that we would have a thankful attitude. That your will for us –for some it will be a total life changing way to live and others will struggle with It - but Lord we want to follow your will. So teach us. Be gentle with us. For we pray in Jesus name. Amen