The Will of God For My Life
A A It's not an overstatement to say I've tortured myself over what the will of God was for my life.A In high school, I would open up the Bible with my eyes closed, plop down my finger at random, and read thinking this is how I found out what God willed for my life.A In college, Campus Crusade for Christ Christians convinced me that God did have a plan for my life.A All I had to do is seek real hard and then it would be made clear to me what that plan was.A How I ached for God to just tell me.A How I wanted to be certain like they were that God wanted me to take this class, do this thing, go to this place.A But then a funny thing happened.A It's called "life." I left the active Army, went to seminary, married, was called to various churches across the country, and had kids, all without ever hearing a still small voice saying, "I want you to this or that."
A A And even funnier thing is that while I still can't tell you if God wills this or that particular thing for me, I can tell you with certainty what He wills for you.A And what I have to tell you will be the only thing that matters to you on your deathbed.A Travel where you may; do what you will; decide what you might; you will all end up at death's door, and there will be no comfort then in knowing God willed for you to do this, to marry that person, to move here or there.A There will only be comfort in what I'm about to tell you.
A A The Book of Ephesians is a masterpiece. Every time I read this Book, I wonder that I have never taught a Bible class on it.A In the opening verses, Paul takes on the weighty question of what the will of God is for my life.A A He opens with treating the pleasure of His will. The pleasure of God's will is to bless us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
A A The good and gracious pleasure of God's will is not to bless you in the earthly realms with physical blessings.A God did not set out from all eternity to give you earthly riches, physical beauty, worldly success.A These may have come or will come your way, but you cannot depend on either getting such or keeping such.A Therefore, God's plan for your life, His will, is not being frustrated when you get cancer, lose your job, or your earthly life implodes.A God is not in a panic when earthly blessings like a happy marriage, wonderful kids, and a successful career don't materialize in your life.A Something has not gone wrong; God has not forgotten to be gracious to you.A He has had His sights set on something far more higher, richer and more wonderful than physical blessings in this earthly realm.
A A The pleasure of God the Father's will is to see us as holy and blameless.A I don't care who you are.A I don't care where you walked into this Church from today.A I am commissioned by God Almighty to tell you that He is pleased to see you as holy and blameless.A This is what happened to Noah and Abraham.A When Scripture says that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord and that the Lord blessed Abraham by preaching the Gospel to him, we mistakenly think it means that among the fallen pre-Flood world Noah was the only good guy and among the idolaters in Ur of the Chaldees Abraham was the only one who wasn't.A But this is not the case.A Scripture tells us in fact that Noah was part of the terrible wickedness on earth in those days and that Abraham was also an idol worshiper in Ur.A
A A Then something wonderful happened.A God almighty came to wicked Noah and idolatrous Abraham and said, "I've decided to see you as holy and blameless."A And so it is with you who hear my voice.A You are holy and blameless in the sight of God.A Though you might have came in here from committing the worse sin imaginable, even that of self-righteousness or pride, God has decided to see you as holy and blameless.A Yea, more than that, the pleasure of His will is to see you as adopted sons.
A A Now before you ladies get bothered over it not saying "adopted as sons and daughters" please realize when St. Paul writes.A In first century Roman society, no one adopted girls.A Property went to males not females.A Check out the Old Testament, the daughters of Zelophehad, and see this is not how it was among God's people.A Paul uses the Roman understanding of adoption to show men and women that God wills to claim them totally as His own, to make no distinction between them and His very own Son.
A A When you think of the will of God for your life, first think of the pleasure of His will.A Next think of the mystery of His will.A The usual understanding of the mystery of God's will is that it has to do with what I should or should not do with my life.A God is like the tyrant in "The Lady and the Tiger" who placed a beautiful lady behind one closed door and ferocious tigers behind the other 2 commanding a young man to choose 1.A But in God's game, there are 1,000 doors with tigers behind them and still only 1 with a beautiful woman.A That's what it means to say God has a plan, only 1 divine will for your life.A Very many tigers only 1 beautiful woman.
A A This is not the mystery of God's will spoken of by Paul.A He speaks of God redeeming us orphaned sons and daughters by bleeding His only beloved Son.A The reason God the Father can adopt us as sons and see us as totally holy and blameless is because He gave up His only Son and saw Him as totally unholy and wretched.A This is the great mystery. That God the Father should, as Isaiah says, "be pleased to crush His only holy Son, putting His dearly loved Son to grief."A Who would do such a thing?
A A Think of your wretchedness, your unrelenting wickedness, your absolute depravity, and think of God saying, "I choose him; I choose her rather than my holy, beloved Son."A No matter who you are you, even if you have come here fresh from some wickedness in thought, word, or deed, rather than have you suffer, die in agony, be damned for eternity, God the Father did that to His Son instead.
A A This is a mystery;A neither you nor I could've figured it out unless God had made it known to us.A The best we can reason is that if we try hard, do our best, be better than most people God will be kind to us.A The best we can reason is that if we're real sorry, promise not to do it again, and suffer for what we've done wrong we can make things right with God.A This is what all paganism teaches: that man can somehow appease a wrathful God by good works, by promising to do better, by suffering.A Only God reveals that He has satisfied His wrath completely by punishing His holy Son in our place.A Only God reveals that rather than choosing His Son who deserved it He chose us fallen, miserable sinners who haven't, didn't, won't.
A A When you think of the will of God for your life, think on the pleasure of His will, the mystery of His will, and think on the purpose of His will.A When we get to the purpose of God's will, we immediately start thinking of what we can do for God.A The error here is in thinking God needs us.A This is the error God's Old Testament Church fell into.A God puts the kibosh on that error by saying such things as, "The cattle on a 1,000 hills are mine what do I need yours for."A "If I needed something I wouldn't tell you."A No dear friend, God Almighty can get along just fine without you doing anything for Him or giving anything to Him.A In Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel one of the big distinctions God makes between Himself and idols is that idols need to have their worshipers do things for them.A The true God does not.
A A The purpose of God's will from before the foundation of the world is to bring us to faith in Him.A Once Adam and Eve fell fear, distrust, hatred of God blossomed in their hearts.A Where before they had walked with God in the cool of the evening, they now ran and hid from Him. Where before they had expected only good things from God, now they expected only punishment, commands, and impossible demands.A This fear and distrust appear in our hearts whenever we think things like, "Life is going so good something bad must be about to happen;" or, "Unless I do exactly what God wants He will give me cancer;" or, "If I don't try my best God won't help me."A Dear friend, would you ever want one of your kids to have such terrible thoughts about you?A Can you see how fallen we are to have such thoughts about the God who saved us by giving up His only beloved Son in our place?A As Paul says, "How will He not with Him give us every thing?"
A A The purpose of God's will is that you believe the unbelievable, trust what is "too good to be true", rely on what is foolish to fallen human reason.A The purpose of God's will is that you leave here expecting only good things from God for the sake of His Son.A Even if those "good" things come in packages marked "cancer," "family troubles," or "job problems," you are to conclude that these are far better than you ask or even think.A You are to go forth in life with the firm certainty that God is on your side for the sake of Christ.A He won't leave you or forsake you.A If when given the choice between your sins and His Son's holiness, He took the side of your sins, then you can rest assured nothing in life, in death, in heaven, in hell, in earth, sky, or sea could ever induce, seduce, or deduce Him to side against you.
A A The purpose of God's will is to bring you to happy, holy, hopeful faith in Him against all odds, in every situation, even on your very death bed.A To achieve this purpose He has given you His Holy Spirit.A In Baptism He filled you with Him.A In Absolution, His Spirit tells you that there is nothing between you and Him that is not forgiven.A In Holy Communion, His Spirit comes in the Body and Blood of Christ to seal you for eternal life.A In the depths of guilt, of suffering, of despair, of dying, His Holy Spirit in your body cries out in a faith, in a hope, and in a certainty that you don't even feel but is nevertheless there.
A A The purpose of the will of God is to bring you to faith and to seal you with the Holy Spirit "for the praise of His glory," says Paul.A Well, then aren't we back then to the purpose of God's will being to get something from us?A O how ingrained this is in fallen sinners! No, no a thousand times no!A The point is that God is praised and glorified by redeeming freely and graciously us sinners who don't deserve it one bit.A God is not praised or glorified when we sinners think we can deserve to be redeemed or when we think there is something in us that caused God to redeem us.A No, God is praised and glorified when God gets all the credit for redeeming the unredeemable, for saving the ungodly, for making peace with His enemies.
A A God is praised and glorified when sinners like us take comfort in what Jesus did for us.A When we lie on our deathbed feeling our life slip away from us, when everything in us and about us testifies that we're going to die, yet we know that for Jesus' sake God wills us to live forever, God is praised and glorified.A God wills, for His praise and glory, that you believe He has redeemed you by Christ so you won't die even in death.A Not one of you need doubt that this is the will of God for your life.A And that's the one thing you'll want to know about God's will on your deathbed.A Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Pentecost VIII (8-3-03); Ephesians 1:3-14