The Vision of True Success
Dr. Jim Denison
Someone has observed, “Change is good unless it happens.” Well, it has happened. Sociologists say that 90% of all the change in human history has occurred in the last hundred years.
Much has been good. Life expectancy has increased from 46 to 74 years for men, and 48 to 79 for women. Deaths from tuberculosis and pneumonia, once common, are now rare. And in the future, our clothes will electronically monitor our health; appliances will notify repairmen of problems before they occur; we will touch the television screen to order the clothes the actor is wearing.
The future fascinates us. But it frightens us as well.
Will we have to fight terrorism for the next generation? Will conflict in the Middle East ever end? Will your job be phased out? Will your health be good? Will your children turn out well? Your grandchildren?
Our graduates wonder what their future holds. Will you attend the right school? Choose the right major? Develop the right relationships? Will your dreams be fulfilled? What should your dreams be?
My greatest personal fear is that I will not fulfill God’s purpose for my life. You share that fear. The most common question I’m ever asked is this: how can I know the will of God? This was the subject of my first sermon, 26 years ago. I could preach on this nearly every week and never exhaust either the issue or God’s answers.
Where in your life do you most need to know God’s will this morning? Let’s find God’s answer to that question, together.
Does God have a will for your life? (6-8)
First let’s ask, does God have a specific will for your life? Does he really care what we do with our days, our decisions, our problems?
We know that God has a general will for our lives. He wants us to make Christ our Savior, to receive eternal life. He wants us to obey his word, to live by his truth. Not to earn his love, for we have it already, but because his word is the best way to live. Most of us know this already.
But does God’s will extend to the specific issues and decisions we face every day? Does he have a plan for this sermon? For your response to it? For the way you’ll spend the rest of this day? For your day tomorrow? Let’s see.
In verse 6 we find Paul traveling through Asia Minor, returning to the same region where he had established the churches of Galatia during his first missionary journey. But this time the Holy Spirit will not let him evangelize further in the area, or plant new churches; he is “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.”
So in verse 7 Paul and his ministry team try to turn to the north and the east, to enter Bithynia on the northern coast of Turkey against the Black Sea, but “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.” They have traveled more than 300 miles, most of it on foot, without having opportunity to do what God called them to do. Imagine their confusion.
So in verse 8 they go “down to Troas,” to the sea coast, to this port city ten miles from ancient Troy, where the Trojan War was fought. And here God speaks to them. Here God calls them west to Macedonia and Europe. Here God reveals his will, a plan which would change forever the course of human history, as we’ll see. He had a will for them back in Asia, in Mysia, Bithynia, and now in Troas.
God had a specific will for their lives. He has one for ours.
Jesus summarized his life this way: “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38).
God has a will for us, and it is “good, acceptable, and perfect” (Romans 12:2). He knows the plans he has for us—plans to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).
He wants us to know his will for our lives: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” (Psalm 32:8); “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it'” (Isaiah 30:21); “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go” (Isaiah 48:17).
And God’s will is the best, most satisfying, most joyful way we can live: “Since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light” (Colossians 1:9-12).
When we live in God’s will, we live as we were meant to live. The most important thing a believer can do is to discover and live in God’s daily will. The only things you and I do which will stand for eternity are those things we do in the will of God. The only things we do which give our lives joy and meaning are those things we do in the will of God.
So, how do we know God’s will?
How do we know God’s will? (9-10)