Newsletter for March 2008
As you well know, God has a specific plan and calling for every Christian. His desire is to work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). Another way to state this is that God desires to work in us to bring about His perfect will in our lives. Read what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:2,
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
One way to accurately restate this verse is, “Do not remain conformed to the world’s way of thinking, which is how you lived before you knew Christ; but experience a transformation in your life by developing a new way of thinking which parallels and corresponds to the new nature of your born again spirit, the life of God in you. When you do, you will be able to discern and understand the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God that He has personally designed for you.”
No doubt you have heard ministers use this verse and teach that we can live in the good, or the acceptable, or the perfect will of God, and that we are to strive for the perfect. Considering it from that perspective, there are three things we should establish as a foundation concerning what we know about God:
Additionally, we know that God lives outside the realm of our creation. He knows the beginning from the end of what we call “time” (Revelation 21:5-6, 22:13). Therefore, God already knows everything that will happen and every decision we will make. This does not mean everything that happens and every decision we make is His will; it just means He has foreknowledge of what will take place.
In Amos 3:7, God has declared, Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. To paraphrase this verse relative to each Christian we could say, “Surely the Lord will do nothing, but He reveals His perfect will to His children.” The point I’m making is that God will always reveal to us His perfect will; He will not reveal anything less than His perfect plan for our lives.
However, God does not reveal the totality of His plan to Believers, no matter how spiritually mature they may be. He reveals everything we need to know right now, and as we fulfill what He has revealed He will give us more of His plan. I call this “progressive revelation,” meaning that God progressively reveals His perfect will for our lives as we walk in what He has already revealed; in other words, one step at a time. The Apostle Paul is an excellent example of a Believer receiving and obeying God’s instructions.
Now when they (Paul and those traveling with him) had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. (Acts 16:6-10)
We know from scripture that it is God’s will for people to hear about Jesus and accept Him as Savior. No doubt there were multitudes of people in Asia and Bithynia who were lost and needed Jesus. Yet God’s perfect will for Paul was to go to Macedonia.
What if Paul had felt like he hadn’t clearly heard God and made a decision to go on into Asia? Would people have been saved? I believe so. Would people have gotten healed? Yes, I believe healing would have taken place. Would those salvations and healings have fulfilled God’s will for people to be delivered and born again? Absolutely. Would Paul’s work in Asia have been a good thing? Yes, but he would not have been in God’s perfect will.
If some of the other Apostles and Christians in other regions heard of Paul’s success in Asia, and that so many people were saved and healed, would they have thought Paul was in God’s perfect will? I’m sure they would have thought so. And if the Christian media of today had been around back then, no doubt the results of Paul’s “Asia Campaign for Christ” would have received great coverage. But he still would not have been in God’s perfect will.
God’s perfect will for Paul was to go to Macedonia. God then led him to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). From there it was on to Berea, Athens, Corinth, and Syria. Eventually, he ended up in Ephesus. And where is Ephesus? In Asia,
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus… (Acts 19:1)
And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:8-10)
So Paul did end up preaching in Asia, but it was at a time much later than the events of Acts 16. If he had gone to Asia when he had originally planned, he would have most likely have been in the “good” category of God’s will. But by following the step-by-step instructions of the Lord, going into Asia one day became His perfect will.
What seems confusing to most Christians is this: “If I am getting good ‘spiritual’ results, then I must be in God’s perfect will.” But incredibly, you cannot determine if you are in God’s perfect will when judging only by results!
Think about the life of Jesus. He went from town to town and region to region, healing and preaching the Kingdom of God. At times He was only in a place for a day. Does this mean that every sick person in that city or region was healed in that one day? It would be foolish to think so. Thus, there were plenty more people who would have benefited from God’s power flowing through Jesus.
However, Jesus lived in the perfect will of God. Even though there were more people who could have been healed and more people who needed to hear about the Kingdom of God, the Father led Jesus to His next assignment. If Jesus had stayed an extra day or two in a city, there is no question as to whether or not more of the sick and diseased would have been healed, but Jesus would not have been in the Father’s perfect will!
When God told Jesus or Paul to go to City #1, that was His perfect will. But when He said to go to City #2 it meant that His perfect will was for them to leave City #1 and be in City #2. At one time, being in City #1 had been God’s perfect will; but the “perfect” became the “good” once God revealed the next step of His plan for their lives.
I am firmly convinced that a great number of Christians were at one time obeying God’s perfect will but are now living in the “good”. They were getting results and the inner-peace from operating in His perfect will was very strong. But eventually, God desired that they take the next step. What had been perfect has become good, but because they are still getting results they do not realize that there has been a shift in God’s direction for their lives. Instead of hearing from Him, they allow the emotions of the positive results to create a false sense of God’s peace.
Here is an example from my own life and ministry. The church I pastor, Grace Christian Center, had once been known as Harvest Church. When I first went there the people had been holding a Vacation Bible School every summer at a local park. My first summer at the church I knew it was the right thing, the perfect will of God. But when the VBS was over that year, I knew in my spirit that the “perfect” had become the “good.”
I didn’t say anything, in part, because so many of the people were still learning to trust me (I had only been there about five months). The following year we once again had VBS at the same park. But when it was over, some in the church came to me and commented that for the first time, it just didn’t seem to have been the right thing to do. We no longer have VBS; we could, but it would not be God’s perfect will. This isn’t to say that VBS is wrong in and of itself; but if a church has not been told by God to do it, then that church is out of God’s perfect will.
Here is another example. Over the last several years I have heard of churches eliminating their Sunday night services. The reasons given are that the attendance was low, or they were setting Sunday night aside for family time, or that it is nice to have a night off. But out of all of the pastors or church members who have shared with me that they ceased having Sunday night services, not one of them has ever said that the decision to cancel was a result of prayer and a specific directive from God! Is it possible they prayed about it? Sure it is, but I have never heard any of them mention prayer when explaining their reason for canceling.
I realize that there is nothing in the Bible instructing Believers that they must have Sunday night church services. But if God has not clearly and definitively told a pastor to cancel Sunday nights, then it is not God’s will for them to be canceled. Is encouraging families in the church to have family time on Sunday nights a good thing? It most assuredly is…but not at the sake of being out of God’s perfect will. Also, what difference does it make if only 10 people show up as long as you are doing what the Lord desires? After all, if it’s His church, shouldn’t He be the one making the decisions?
Read closely what David wrote,
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
If the Lord is our shepherd we will truly follow Him no matter what, even if we do not fully understand where He is leading us. As we follow Him, He will lead us to “green pastures” (places where we will be fed the genuine spiritual nourishment of doctrinal truth). We will be led beside “still waters” (we will drink from His pure rivers of living water). He will restore our soul (we will live each moment in the peace that passes all understanding). We will be led in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (we will grow and mature spiritually, living by His righteousness in us, fulfilling His perfect will, all while representing Him to the world).
I am further convinced that most Christians have become so familiar with living in the “good” of God’s will that they fail to realize He is calling them to a higher level. Again, when we judge our level of obedience to God by our external circumstances and any positive results, it can be easy to dwell in the Land of the Good when the Land of the Perfect is just a prayer away.
Stating it differently, if things are going okay now, why should I ask God if I’m still in His perfect will? If I’m still getting results, why should I ask if the perfect has become good? But if I come to grips with the knowledge that God’s perfect will may be “City #1 for just one day,” then it means that I need to daily ask God for an update regarding His perfect will for me.
Sadly, I must admit that I have failed to do this consistently. It is so easy to get caught up in doing good things and then mistake apparent progress as evidence of being in God’s perfect will. How much more progress could I make if I asked the Lord for a “perfect will report” each day? Better still, how many “perfect will blessings” am I missing by remaining in the “good”?
Living in God’s perfect will includes operating in His wisdom. In Proverbs 8:34-35 He gives us a powerful reminder of why we should daily seek both His divine wisdom and perfect will,
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.
God’s perfect will for your life six months ago may now be the good. Yes, we can be blessed in the good; but there are greater blessings for living in the perfect. I want to encourage you to go to God every day of your life and ask Him to reveal His ongoing perfect will. Make a decision to follow Him as your Shepherd and He will lead you down the path of all He desires to accomplish through you!
Your servant in Him!