The apostle Paul's epistle to the Thessalonians contains clear and powerful exhortations concerning the will of God for believers. These exhortations express the specific will of God in relationships with others, with ourselves, and with the Lord. Packed into these short verses are patterns of life and behavior which receive His blessing in all these relationships.
As I continue this series of devotionals on "understanding the will of God", I'd like to talk about a story which is told in all the synoptic gospels, except that Luke's account gives a significant nuance. (Many skeptical Bible "critics" point out differences in the gospels to argue that they can't be reliable — yet it's actually the differences which support the validity of these accounts because they reveal that the events recorded were simply experienced and told from slightly different viewpoints, a very common circumstance when people are telling a story.)
Writing daily devotions throughout the years I've often been asked the question, "How do I find the will of God?" There are probably many good scriptural approaches to answering this question; but I want to offer something very basic as you think about understanding the will of God. That is, simply, that you'll know His will when you come to know the heart of God.
As some of you may know, a bomb exploded in a bus within blocks of our Jerusalem apartment when we first moved to Israel. That morning, my wife and I, along with our newborn baby, were heading to the city center to run a few errands when suddenly we heard the explosion. Within minutes, the sirens were screaming from every part of the city as officials quickly made their way to the scene. Later that month, the bus I was supposed to be on drove away as I watched it carry away the 50 or so people who would be critically injured and the 8 who would be dead seconds later, when that bus exploded before my very eyes. So, to put it mildly, we have seen firsthand how terrorism works and how it affects people.
Jonah preached his 8 word sermon and the Ninevites were struck with the fear of the Lord and moved to complete repentance.
The king stood up (a sign of his serious intent), removed his royal robes (a sign of humility)…read more
Jonah now acknowledges that God put him where he is, and he accepts His discipline. "Sheol" is the "grave", the "pit" or the "abode of the dead". Did Jonah die, or was he only nearly dead from three days of fish stomach acid, and little or no air? The text doesn't say; only that if he didn't actually leave his body, he came as close as a man can get to it; three days worth. In this nebulous and miserable place Jonah cried out, probably from the deepest depths of his agonized soul…he cried out to the Lord.
For the next week or so we'll be looking closely at the life of Jonah the prophet. Jonah was told to "preach against the city of Nineveh", that was in the ancient kingdom of Assyria. Nineveh was a major city on the banks of the Tigris River about 500 miles north and east of where Jonah was; located on a contemporary map in modern Iraq, about 300 miles north of Baghdad. Archaeologists have found the ruins of ancient Nineveh right outside the Iraqi city of Mosul. Yes, the same Mosul that was taken last week by jihadists!
There were times that Yeshua (Jesus) separated himself from the multitudes — and there are times when we need to separate ourselves from our lives and ministry, and spend some time with our Lord.
In the 4th century lived a Christian named Telemachus, in a remote village, tending his garden, and spending much time in prayer. One day, he believed he heard the voice of God telling him to go to Rome, so he obeyed, setting out on foot. Some weeks later, weary from his journey, he arrived in Rome about the time of a great festival.
I just came across this story through a friend and thought it significantly appropriate for us today. Maybe it is for you too?
An African king had a long time friend who always looked at everything positively, always saying "This is good!" even in the face of the most difficult situations. Hunting one day, he was preparing the king’s guns. When the king took his first shot, his thumb was blown off. Though the friend realized that it was his grave mistake for not properly setting the gun, and even in the face of this furious, bleeding king, he looked at him and said, "This is good!" The king was LIVID, and ordered that his friend be thrown in jail immediately.
When I was growing up in the 1980's we had a rotary dial phone. You put your finger in a numbered spot on a circular dialer which clicked as it returned to its place and registered the 7 or 10 numbers you selected. It took a full 10 to 20 seconds to complete a call and was really annoying if the number had a lot of 8s or 9s! Then came touch-tone phones…
These past few days, writing about the will of God, has reminded me of the prophet Jeremiah, and how the Lord knew him – even before he was in his mother's womb, and he was sanctified by God as a prophet to the nations. A similar foreknowledge and ordination of God belongs to us who are under the New Covenant. God's foreknowledge of His people is clearly stated in scripture. We were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless, and created in Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus) unto good works which He foreordained that we walk in them. It is clear that a life of holiness and good works is an integral part of our destiny in salvation, a fundamental aspect of His original plan for each one of us.
Over the past few days, I've been discussing the will of God and how to walk out His will daily in our lives. The Lord's general will involves the development of our character and the ways in which we relate to Him and to our fellow man. Much of this is the same for every believer. But each of us is unique, and each has a potential life vision unlike any other. God has an individual will for every soul that belongs to Him, an individually shaped destiny which varies according to our gifting and calling and purpose in His Body.