Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Knowing God's Will: A Peace that Passes Understanding

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3

We are slowly working through the question, "How do I know God's will for my life?" We have talked generally about the fact that discerning God's will begins with laying a firm foundation of knowing Scripture, knowing God, and practicing the skill/spiritual gift of listening prayer. Currently we are looking at some of the more practical guidance God sometimes uses to reveal His will to us. Namely, we have looked at how He uses open and closed doors and advice from wise counselors. This week we turn to consider a sign that helps confirm that we have in fact heard God's will correctly.

All throughout Scripture we find that whenever and however God reveals His will to His people they always know what He is telling them. Nowhere in Scripture do we find stories of believers doubting what God has commanded them to do. I believe that God works the same way today. Though He may make us wait for weeks on end before He reveals His will, once He has told us what to do we know in our hearts what He has commanded. We are often like Gideon however, who, though he never doubted what God asked him to do, did doubt the sanity of God's plan and His ability to accomplish it. So too with us, it is often the case that we know God's will in our hearts but our minds are slow to trust and obey this knowledge.

When you are caught in this cycle of knowing but not trusting, one sure sign that your heart has in fact rightly discerned God's will is that the more you pray about it and surrender yourself to obey it, the more at peace with it you will be. Consider the verse above. It says that God keeps in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on Him. The verse makes clear that "staying" your mind on God means to trust Him. Looking at other translations of the Bible we see that this trust is steadfast in nature, for other translations render this verse as saying that God keeps in perfect peace he whose mind is "steadfast." So we know that when our mind is steadfastly trusting God that He will keep us in perfect peace, but what does that have to do with discerning God's will?

When you know God's will and you fix your heart and mind on doing that which He has told you to do then you are really fixing your heart and mind on God Himself in steadfast trust, thus the peace of God will follow close behind. If you have a wrong idea about what God has called you to do and you fix your heart and mind on that, then your mind is not fixed on God but on some other plan and the peace of God will not attend it.

Simply put, peace often acts as a confirmation that we are on the right track in responding to what we believe God's revealed will to be. This confirmation is made even more certain when there is no logical reason for us to be filled with such peace. Philippians 4:7 describes God's peace as passing all understanding. So when you have peace that passes all understanding it should be clear that you received it from God. For example, consider a missionary who feels called to minister in a dangerous area. Though they have a healthy concern for their own wellfare, those who are truly called will minister in that area while filled with an inexpressible peace. For Christians the most dangerous situation that is in God's will holds more peace than the most comfortable station outside of it.

Consider now the biblical example of Gideon which we have already looked at in recent weeks. Scripture records that Gideon lacked faith initially. He asked God for several proofs before he chose to trust. He knew in his heart what God's will was but his mind was unwilling to trust and obey that will. One can understand why Gideon struggled though. Scripture records that the Midianite army God sent him to fight consisted of 135,000 soldiers. Once Gideon chose to obey God, he had 32,000. He was outnumbered by more than 4 to 1. Then the Lord pared Gideon's army down to 10,000 which meant he was outnumbered by more than 13 to 1. Finally God removes even more men from Gideon's army until Gideon has only 300 men left. Amazingly God is sending Gideon into battle outnumbered by 450 to 1! Knowing that Gideon would be scared the Lord gives him one last encouraging proof that it is in fact His will for him to fight (see Judges 7:9-14). After that last encouragement we don't find Gideon wringing his hands and worrying about what He should do, because he is finally convinced that this is God's will and that God will give him the victory. Notice Gideon's boldness as he heads to the battle lines.
"When Gideon heard the dream and its interpretation, he bowed down and worshipped. He returned to the camp of Israel and called out, 'Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your hands.' Dividing the three hundred men into three companies, he placed trumpets and empty jars in the hands of all of them, with torches inside." (Judges 7:15-16) 

In spite of overwhelming odds and a battle plan that must have seemed ridiculous, we see Gideon (who up to this point has been really lacking in both courage and faith) now fully convinced of God's will and moving to the battle line with great peace and courage. His mind was fixed on God, and God was keeping Him in perfect peace. This same peace works as a confirmation in our lives as well. This doesn't mean that obeying God's will should be easy for you or even that you will have no fear. It simply means that you will be filled with a peace concerning it that passes your understanding.

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