Trust in God's Will

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Responding to God's Will
There are four ways that we can choose to respond to God's will. First, we say a flat-out no. God instructs us to go left, but we willingly choose to go right. The word for this is rebellion. Many of us have a season of life (or two) that could be described this way. Some of you might even be writing that chapter of your life right now. Number two is halfway. This is where we pray for God's will, as long as it's convenient and comfortable. You want God's will for some areas of your life, but you also want to do things your way in other areas. For example, you pray for God's will in your home, but you still want to do things your way at work. Or you want the will of God when you’re at church, but not when you’re on the date. You are only halfway committed to God’s will. Another way we respond to God's will is by saying, “my way”. This is what we see with Abraham and Sarah. They wanted God's will, but they wanted it to happen on their timetable. They wanted it to be on their terms. It was conditional.  Then the last option is saying that you are fully committed to God's way. You say, “God, I want your will and I want your way.” That way of living requires both surrender and submission, and there's something within our human nature that resists it though. However, when we pray and think about it, we eventually realize our only real option is to surrender. We want to pray the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane before he went to the cross to sacrifice his life: “Not my will, but yours be done.”  Reflection/Discussion Questions: Which of the four options listed above is your first resort? What do you think needs to change so that the last option is your natural response?
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God's Timetable
We read in Genesis that Joseph struggled with waiting for God’s will to take shape and for things to start to move in a direction that made sense. In the same way, a lot of us struggle with waiting on God and his timetable. As we continue to read Joseph's story in Genesis, we see that Joseph is going to have to wait a long time for God's will to unfold in some different ways. But Joseph's great-grandfather had shown Joseph how south things can go when you try to do God's will your own way.  God had promised Joseph's great-grandfather, Abraham, that he was going be a father of the great nation. Genesis 15:5 says, “He took him [Abraham] outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” Abraham and his wife Sarah had been unable to have children to this point and were very old. Yet, it was God's will that he was going to start this nation, and, out of this nation, 42 generations later, his son Jesus would be born. God chooses the elderly barren couple to accomplish his will through them. God's will almost never unfolds our way or a way we would expect. In Genesis 16, Abraham’s wife Sarah decides God needs a little bit of help to speed things along. She's going to do God's will, but she's going to try to do it her way. She decides that her husband should sleep with someone younger for God’s will to unfold. So, she wants God's will, but on her timetable. Abraham sleeps with Sarah's maid servant Hagar. She conceives gives birth to a son named Ishmael, but then Sarah conceives as well, because that was God's promise. Sarah gives birth to a son named Isaac. Ishmael would become the father of Arab nations, whereas Jacob would become the father of Jewish nations. Now, for more than 4,000 years, they have waged war against one another.  When we want God's will, but we want to do it our way, things get messy. The waiting can be the hardest part of following God's will for many of us.  Reflection/Discussion Question: When have you attempted to "help" God when his timetable was not looking like you thought it would?
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Overcome a Messy Reality
Some people, maybe including yourself, might be convinced that a broken and dysfunctional family or life has made it impossible to experience God's will. We feel like we shouldn't live in God's will because our mess, our challenges, or our struggles. But that's not how God's will works. Throughout Scripture, we see that God's will overcomes your messy reality, no matter who made the mess.  In Genesis 37, when Joseph was 17 years old, it says he worked for his half-brothers, the sons of his father's wives. His father, Jacob, had four wives, creating a lot of dysfunction for Joseph to grow up in.  We read in the Old Testament that polygamy was never the will of God, because every time that we read about it, it is a case study of what happens when you don't align your life with the will of God. God had made his will very clear when it came to marriage; to be between one man and one woman. And because Jacob didn't walk in God's will, there were all kinds of issues and all kinds of messiness that Joseph grew up in.  By pointing this out, we see that God's will can overcome your imperfect parents or family. So, you have to stop being a victim and stop blaming them for why you missed out on God's will for your life. God's will can overcome your manipulative stepmom or your abusive stepdad. God's will can overcome your vengeful ex-wife or your passive aggressive ex-husband. God's will can overcome your messy reality. Your messy past doesn't disqualify you from God's will for your future. There are all kinds of stories in the Old Testament where God works his will through difficult challenges and struggles. God's will finds a way. And so, you can have confidence in the midst of the mess that God is sovereign. When things around you seem to be falling apart, God is still at work. Discussion/Reflection Question: Is there any messiness or dysfunction in your life that causes you to think you cannot experience God's will?
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Blurry Picture
It’s important for us to recognize that there is a difference between God's specific will and God's revealed will. Most of the questions that we have about the will of God revolve around his specific will, meaning what's God's personal will for my life? Who does God want me to marry? Should I break up with him? Should I ask her out? Where should I go to college? Where should we live? Should we make this move? We make it very personal. So, God’s specific will is a reference to his will for your personal life. But in Scripture, we also read about what we would call the revealed will of God, meaning that there is a lot in the Bible where God is very clear and very specific about his revealed will.  For example, it’s God's will for you that you pray for your enemies. So, when you have someone who has done you wrong, has mistreated you, has been disrespectful to you, seems to have it out for you, or has gossiped about you behind your back, and you ask God, “What's your will for me to do to this person? How should I get even? What kind of vengeance should I take?” God's will is that you would pray for them. He's already made that clear through his revealed will.  As we study the life of Joseph, we clearly see this relationship between God’s revealed will and his specific will. Joseph demonstrates this beautifully, because he walks in God's revealed will, and as he does, he lives out God's specific will. Joseph shows us that if you first align yourself with God’s revealed will, and then you will begin to experience his specific will more clearly. Discussion/Reflection Question: What area in your life are you asking God for his specific will although you might not be aligned with this revealed will?