Knowing the will and plan of God

I have been compelled lately to know and understand God’s will and plan more. Many times throughout my life I have done things outside of God’s will and plan. Going through such times has taught my many valuable lessons. One thing we need to understand is the difference between God’s will and God’s plan. I believe that God’s will is the same for everyone. However, God also has a divine plan for each of our lives. Sadly, most of us never see that plan come to fruition due to our own pride and sin. The will of God for all us is very simple:

1. It is God’s will that you are saved.

It is God’s desire that every single person on the face of the planet come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Jesus Christ died for the sins of the whole world. He did not die for a select group of people. He died for everyone. God desires for every single person person to receive the gift of salvation that He has given. However, not everyone chooses to receive His gift. God has offered and given to you the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. It is up to you to accept it. It is God’s will for you to be saved.

2. It is God’s will for all believers to be conformed into the image of Jesus. 

God has predestined that every person who comes to faith in Christ will be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son….” It is God’s desire for every believer to be like Jesus. God is working on us through the power of the Holy Spirit to mold us and make us to be like Jesus. He uses the various circumstances of life to shape us into the image of Jesus.

There are many other things in scripture that we can point out as the will of God. Some of those things include: living in obedience to His Word, glorifying Him, giving, serving, being a part of a local church, etc. All of these things and more is God’s will for us all.

But, what about God’s plan? What does God want me to do with my life? Just as the fulfillment of God’s will is left to our own choosing, so is His plan. God has a perfect plan for you and me, but so often we fail to realize that plan because of our own poor choices. Sin is the greatest hindrance to knowing God’s plan for your life. I know this has been true for me. There is one particular sin that took me off of God’s course for my life and that was the sin of Pride. There was a decision that I made years ago that took me out of God’s plan. The funny thing is that I knew all along that it was wrong. However, in my pride, I ignored God and went my own way. I have regretted that decision ever since. However, God still did not give up on me. He used my choice and my sin and turned it around for good. God did not cause me to make the choice that I did. God was not the author of my sin, my pride. However, in His love for me, He has taught me, molded me, prepared me, and is using me for His glory. It’s an awesome thing to know that God is still at work and will continue to work to fulfill His ultimate plan for may life.

Perhaps you may have a similar story. I did not share the details of my story but I’m sure you get the drift. The point is that God has a specific plan for us all. However, we must choose to walk in that plan. God will use the circumstances of our lives to bring us back to where He wants us to be, if we will obey. That’s where God has me right now. God has brought me around over the years and now all I want to do is obey and be in the center of His plan for my life. Perhaps that’s where you are. Or perhaps you are in the middle of sin and rebellion against God’s plan. Or perhaps you are faced with a choice that could take you out of God’s plan. Whatever it may be, God loves you and He will never give up on those who believe and trust in Him.

The other day, I heard Charles Stanley preach on knowing God’s will. (when he says God’s will, he sometimes mean God’s plan) I am not the biggest Charles Stanley fan, but his message did speak to me and I would like to share it with you: (i have placed in parenthesis my own thoughts)

The Father always wants the best for His children. So when we begin to wander from the center of His will, He acts to recapture our attention and protect us from harm. If necessary, God will move heaven and earth to show us His will (Life Principle #10)He speaks directly to our hearts through the Holy Spirit,but also has other ways to get our attention:

1. A restless spirit

  • Read Esther 6:1-10. How did God direct the king to honor Mordecai?

If you experience inner restlessness—connected to dissatisfaction with the status quo—first make sure you aren’t ignoring an area of sin. Then ask the Lord if He’s trying to say something to you.

  • Think about the last time you experienced a major life change—for instance, changing jobs, moving to a new area of Christian service, or entering a season of rest. Did God speak to you through restlessness?(In my past the restlessness came from the sin of pride and not from the Lord)  

2. A spoken word

God also gets our attention through the wisdom of others.

  • From what two sources did Eli learn that his sons would die (1 Sam. 2:22-36; 3:1-18)? Why were they cut down in the prime of life?

If several people in a short span of time tell you the same thing, ask the Lord if He’s speaking through them. For example, sometimes a message at church, a radio sermon, and a friend’s advice will be similar.

  • Why do you think God often gives the same message in multiple ways?
  • What has He been saying to you lately? (This happens many times in my life, as I am sure yours. I’ve told people at our church before that If the same thing or issue keeps coming up, then maybe God is trying to tell us something.We need to learn to listen.) 

3. An unusual blessing

To get our attention, God may show His favor in unexpected ways.

  • What prompted one Roman jailer to ask how he could be saved (Acts 16:16-34)?

The jailer recognized that supernatural power was at work, and his experience prepared him to become a follower of Christ. God can also use things such as financial provision, the beauty of nature, or the birth of a child to awaken people spiritually.

  • What types of blessings renew your desire to seek the Lord wholeheartedly?(I know there has been times in my life when God would provide for our family and it would wake me up to the fact that He is in control and I learn to trust Him more. What about you?)  

4. Unanswered prayer

Sometimes God will answer a prayer with “No.” He may want to deal with sin or misplaced priorities. Or He may have something more important in store for us.

  • What did the Lord eventually reveal to Paul about why God did not remove his “thorn” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)?
  • Think of an unanswered prayer from your life—either one that was eventually fulfilled or one that remains unanswered. What has the Father done in you as a result?(I have learned that when it seems that God says ‘no’ to something I pray for then perhaps God has something greater in store. Has there ever been a time for you when God said ‘no’ only to reveal something better and greater?)  

5. Disappointment

When the nation of Israel refused God’s command to take possession of the Promised Land, they were judged for unbelief. Through disappointment, the Lord got their attention.

  • How were they punished for failing to trust God (Num. 14:27-32)?
  • Describe the people’s reaction when they heard what their punishment would be (Num. 14:39-40).

In a similar way, God may use setbacks to keep us from charting our own course.

  • Give an example of how the Father has used a disappointment to draw you closer to Himself. (I do know that God has used my poor decisions of the past, that came from my sinful pride, in order to draw me closer to Him. It reminds me of how the scripture says that, ‘all things work together for good to them who love God.’) 

6. Extraordinary circumstances

The Creator can use unusual phenomena to get our attention.

  • To attract Moses, God used a burning bush that was not consumed by fire (Ex. 3:1-22). Based on the future leader’s reaction to the Lord’s command, why do you think God chose to get his attention this way instead of simply speaking to him (Ex. 4:1-16)?

We must learn to look for the presence of God in our daily lives. He leaves his footprints and handiwork all around us.

  • What types of extraordinary circumstances has the Lord used in your life? (God used some extraordinary circumstances to bring me to the place He has me today. I often wonder what extraordinary circumstances has He been using to continue to bring me into His perfect plan. What about you?) 

7. Defeat

God may use defeat to show us the truth.

  • Why did the Israelite army lose the battle at Ai (Josh. 7:7-12)?

Even defeat can be a steppingstone to success when we pray, “Lord, what are You saying? Help me see where I have taken a wrong turn.” (See Romans 8:28-29.)

  • Choose a time when you failed—lost a job, made a mistake, ruined a relationship, etc. How did the Father use that experience for your spiritual growth? (I know God has certainly spoken to me in times of defeat. Every mistake I have made, God has used to teach me.) 

8. Tragedy, sickness, and financial troubles

We should regard our afflictions as reasons to ask the Lord, “What are You trying to tell me?”

  • What was God’s purpose in Hezekiah’s illness (2 Chron. 32:24)?
  • Why did the Father allow the Midianites to devastate His people’s land (Judg. 6:3-6)?

God wants to speak to us in the midst of hardship—even if our troubles have no connection to sin. He will impart new wisdom, show how to overcome despite suffering, or give fresh revelations about Himself.

  • If you are facing adversity right now, ask the Lord what He wants you to learn in this season. (Adversity makes us stronger. God has certainly used the adversity in my life to teach me to trust Him more and to dig deeper into His Word. What adversity has God been using to teach you?) 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You much for capturing my attention when my devotion wanders from You or when I need to change direction. Help me to be sensitive to the various ways You speak to me—and obedient to follow what You reveal. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. -www.intouch,org

God has a plan for you and for me. How is God speaking to you today? Take time to listen. See how God is using the circumstances of your life to bring or keep you in His plan.

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