Monday, May 27, 2024

Be Careful What You Pray For

Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. Psalm 143:10

A young man or woman decides that they want to enter the medical profession to become a doctor. This could apply to any profession but for the sake of illustration let’s narrow it down to preparing to be a doctor. The end goal they have chosen is to be a doctor. Everything they need to learn to accomplish that task is readily available to them in libraries in their own city or at least close. Much of it could be found on the internet as well. So, what do they do? They enroll in college. In essence, they commit themselves to twelve plus years of their lives, and countless thousands of hours of study and hard work.

What is even more amazing they pay or commit to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to others who are going to put them through the most grueling tasks imaginable. Think about it. They are paying someone else to “abuse” them and to force them to do many things they probably would not do on their own. They subject themselves to read books they would otherwise never read, write papers they would never choose on their own to write, and finish assignments they would never have thought of doing. They do this seemingly ridiculous action simply because they want to be a doctor.

Often, we come to God, rather flippantly with our generic prayer and ask God to lead is in His will with no thought to exactly what it is we are praying. The Psalmist most certainly understood the prayer and recognized that it was not to be taken lightly. When we ask God to lead us in His will what exactly are we asking of Him. We are asking Him to put us through things we would not put ourselves through and to give us tests we would never choose to take. We are asking him to pressure us and to condition us not just to inform us. The Psalmist did not ask for information. He asked to be taught a new trade, a new lifestyle, a new discipline. He asked to be taught TO DO not just to know.

The will of God is not knowledge. Jesus did not say he came to BE the will of the Father but to DO it. Doing requires discipline to accomplish a task that most of us know nothing about. How could we? We are fallible men seeking to do the will of an eternal Holy God. It is evident then that in order to do the will of God we must go to the school of our God and be taught. Let’s examine why we must be taught to do the will of God.

1. We do not understand God’s will.

Who can know the mind of God? Just as a 20-year-old cannot possibly understand the work of being a doctor even so we as Christians are incapable at the beginning to understand the will of God. What is God’s will for us? How can we understand His plan for us if we do not allow him to prepare us? MOST medical students enter the medical profession with little idea of what they will do once they graduate. There are many directions they could go and they do not fully understand what they will eventually do. Many an ear doctor entered college thinking of being a heart surgeon but as they labored through college they began to understand more what they would be best suited to practice.

We may think we know what God wants us to do but often God does not reveal it until we are ready. There is no work God has for us that we cannot accomplish but most of us would recoil with fear and doubt if we knew what God had in store for our lives. Slowly and patiently He will teach us to understand the ways of His will.

2. We do not know how to do God’s will.

Knowing and doing are two very different things. I may think I know the will of God but do I really know and am I really prepared to do what I know? A person is not a doctor because they know they are supposed to be one. Once we begin to know the will of God then we must go through the often arduous task of learning how to do it. That does not happen without serious work being done on us by God. He will allow us to go through many trials and tests to prepare us for the doing.

We know how to do things that seem to be a part of his will, but what is the will of God for you. Is it a single act of service or is it a constant dynamic of life? Being in His will is more than being in the right place. It is about constantly striving to grow in that place. Habit often deprives us from allowing God to work on us so we can go further in accomplishing His will in us. A will is more than a work. It is what we are becoming as we do His work.

3. We do not know what we need to learn in order to accomplish God’s will.

Lessons are not facts or even just truths. God does not reveal his will in words alone. As we study His textbook, the Bible, He allows us to experience assignments that teach us, by practice, the things we need to learn. None of us are good judges of our own character but our Heavenly Father knows what we need to learn, so He puts us through rigorous training to prepare us.

James makes it very clear that faith that does not manifest itself in works is not faith at all. We may ask to know the workout schedule to get into shape but we are not serious until we get a coach to “teach” us that schedule. They do not teach in the classroom. They teach it in the gym and much pain is usually involved. Do we enjoy the pain? It is not about whether or not we like pain. It is about doing the exercise so we can be in shape. The same is true about the will of God.

4. We are not yet ready to practice God’s will.

What do they call the work of a doctor? They refer to it as a practice. It is a practice because no doctor has first-hand experience in every given situation and every situation requires individual application of the facts that the doctor has studied. God’s will is the same. Every day I practice His will as I face new challenges and experiences in my Christian life. A doctor never truly arrives nor does a Christian. Many Christians are not disciplined enough to do His will. Self-discipline will not work because we are not capable of even knowing the character needed to do His will. He must discipline us thus we must be willing disciples.

Jesus made it clear that it would not be easy. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23. Have you ever considered what coming after Jesus entailed? Well, none of the twelve passed on their first exam. They had to go through much hardship and failure in order to do His will. Can we expect less from ourselves? Sometimes I think we do.

5. We may not be able to fulfill His will.

Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. (John 4:34) Jesus took the finishing of the will of His Father very seriously. Christianity has far too few finishers in relationship to those who start doing God’s will. The reason is that too many people think the will of God is a waltz rather than a war. They are not in continual growth mode until they finish so they skate through the end of their life has not finished strong.

Sustaining God’s will is a very misunderstood part of the will of God and not many of us ever grasp it. Too many of us climb a mountain or two in our walk but then we decide we have done our share and learned from the mountains we have climbed in the past. We stop seeking to grow in order to finish the will of God. We may die while still on the track but we quit running a long time ago. Complacency is the enemy of growth in any area of life. Finishing requires that we never stop being taught His will.

6. We may not be aware of the difference between our will and God’s will.

Any parent should be able to relate to this. Our children are good examples to us of how their will often causes them to be unable to follow our will. The goal is not to break their will but for them to submit their will to us. A good athlete must not lose their will. However, if they want to win, they must submit their will to the one who is there to coach them to excellence. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane He said, “nevertheless not my will.” Did Jesus have a will? Yes. Did He lose that will? No. He surrendered His Will to the Father.

In the Lord’s prayer, we were told to pray, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” The releasing of my will requires that I be broken so that I can be molded after His will. I see what I believe is right for me. God sees something entirely different. I come to him and ask Him to teach me to submit my will to Him. He then puts me through the things that break the bad habits of my making and soften me to the molding of His purpose. Some of the things are hardened so He may have to chisel away at those.

7. We may be doing the will of others instead of God’s will.

This is a bigger problem than we think. While a man may be able to teach me to preach, or teach me to win a soul to Christ, or even teach me how to have a good marriage, no man can know the will of God for who and what I am supposed to be. Often we become content because the applause of men creates in our sense that we are doing good. God’s will is very personal and intimate, therefore teaching His will to me may involve the influence of others but will require God’s individual molding of my life. Why do we think our God is too big to have a plan designed specifically for us? God can do anything except teaching ME to do HIS will???

Christian education is often misunderstood. Its purpose is not to teach me God’s will. You can teach me His Word, His truths, His precepts, His statutes, and His Law but you cannot teach me His will. That is personal. My tests are not learned in a classroom of many but in the private tutoring of my own specific trials and experiences. You may encourage me and instruct me but you cannot mold me. If you try you will only distort what God intended for me to be.

Imagine a great sculptor who hires one to assist him. The servant is to wipe off the dust from the work of the sculptor, to sweep the floor, and even to be an encourager to him. The job of the servant is NOT to take the chisel from the hand of the sculptor and try to accomplish His will in that piece of stone.

Pastor, teacher, parent quit trying to mold the lives of those entrusted to your care. That is not your responsibility. God put you here for the purpose of reproving, rebuking, and exhorting NOT chiseling. God may use you as the chisel but it is still HIS work NOT YOURS.

Be cautious Christian that in following the rules and standards set up in your church you are not believing that you are doing the will of God. That in no way means that you should not listen to them or allow them to teach you. In fact the more you desire to know the will of the Father the hungrier for teaching and guidance you will be, but the personal work of God in your life is a necessity for you to truly know HIS will.

Most Christians are too soft to be taught the will of the Father. It is not a calling for the weak or uncommitted. It is not a one-time lesson that has no CE (continuing education) involved. We pray, “Thy will be done,” then yelp when the teaching begins. We want to be in the will of God without going through the rigors of being trained to do it. so, the next time you pray for God to teach you His will make sure you know what you are asking. To learn His will just may cost you more than you are willing to pay.

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