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How to Know God’s Will? June 11, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Bible, Body of Christ, Holy Spirit, Paul's Life, Will of God.
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KNOWING GOD’S WILL
Acts 21:1-14

There is a story told of a successful retiring from a company being questioned by a young, up-and-coming employee. The young man asked the one about to retire, “What does it take to be successful?” The older man said, “Good decisions.” “But how do I learn to make good decisions?” the young man asked. The older man replied, “Bad decisions” (adapted from The Good Book of Leadership by Borek, Lovett, Towns, 2005).

This helps us to understand that the question implied in the sermon title is the wrong question. Haddon Robinson in Decision-Making by the Book (1991) frames a better question for us to ask, “How do we develop the skills necessary to make wise and prudent choices?” Paul exemplifies for us in his life three skills we need to develop in knowing God’s will.

A. In order to know God’s desires we should listen to the Holy Spirit (verses 4, 10-11). I am starting with what seems to be the hardest, guidance from the Holy Spirit.

1. The Holy Spirit never leads us astray. How do you try the spirits to know that it is the Holy Spirit speaking? First, you check it by the Word of God. The Holy Spirit breathed the Word of God into holy men of God. He will not contradict what he has already said. Second, if we think the Holy Spirit is guiding us, we had better be sure that it was the voice of God. Haddon Robinson tells about “Edgar Cayce, Cayce…known to his followers as the sleeping prophet,’ began as a Sunday school teacher. But over the years, his spiritist ‘readings’ on the truth of God began to seriously disagree with God’s revelation at all major points…the sleeping prophet had doubts about the heretical teachings that began to pop up in the readings, but his mother reassured him, saying, ‘The devil cannot speak through a righteous man’ ” (taken by Robinson from The Story of Edgar Cayce: There Is a River by Thomas Sugre, 1967).

2. The Holy Spirit does not always give us clear instructions. That is why we need not to ask, “How can I know the will of God in this decision?” but rather “How can I make a wise decision that honors God?” (adapted again from Haddon Robinson).

3. The Holy Spirit generally only leads those who will do all He demands. Are you willing to take responsibility for depending on the Holy Spirit in order to know what God wants? Prayerlessness is a characteristic of someone who does not want to know and do God’s will.

B. In order to know God’s desires we should listen to the body of Christ. Now there is a danger here. “Christians who have already made up their minds about their lifestyle seek out churches and pastors who approve of it” (Haddon Robinson). Yet it is clear that Paul listened at times to other believers (Cf. vs. 4, 12-14 with 17:10-15) and recommended even to a church like that in Corinth to exercise their own spiritual judgment in settling issues between other members.

1. In some situations the church has authority. There are many issues where we do not have authority and should not attempt to force our views on others but there are some areas where a congregation has authority. It is interesting that God commanded the church in Antioch to send out Paul and Barnabas as missionaries. It is the church that made doctrinal clarifications in Acts 13 concerning circumcision. It is the church that makes decisions about who is a member and who is not, that is church discipline.

2. In other situations the church has no authority but it may have wisdom (see Proverbs 11:14; 15:22). Henry and Richard Blackaby report (in Spiritual Leadership, 2001) tell about Warren Bennis’s suggestion “that the downfall of President Richard Nixon came after he surrounded himself with clones of himself. Observes Bennis, ‘They couldn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know and so were useless to him.’ The key to effective counselors is not that they agree with their leaders and always support their decisions but that they tell their leaders things they would not know or recognize otherwise.”

C. In order to know God’s desire we should understand His Word, the Bible (Cf. 20:25 with 14:21-23). How important is it to know God’s Word? It helps us to know where we are going in life. If you know that, you have won most of the battle.

Alice, while in Wonderland, comes to a crossroads and is trying to make a decision about which road to take. The Cheshire Cat asked, “Well, where are you going?” Alice says, “I don’t know!” “Well, if you don’t know where you’re going any road will do very nicely.”
Young person, if you know and believe your Bible, the decision to marry a believer and not an unbeliever is already made for you. Which believer to marry, you need to figure out for yourself. The best decision I have ever made in my life was which girl to marry, yet I must admit her good looks spoke to me a whole lot more than the Holy Spirit did. How did I keep from making a mistake (and I have made more than enough of those), by knowing the Word of God and following it to the best of my ability.

Richard and Henry Blackaby in 2001 wrote in Spiritual Leadership, Harry Truman has been called a great leader because he had the ability to decide. But more than that, he was willing to accept the consequences of his decisions. Truman’s famous dictum, ‘The buck stops here,’ encapsulated his belief that leaders cannot shirk their responsibility to make decisions or bear the consequences of their decisions. Truman repeatedly modeled this philosophy during his presidency.”

Next week: Leaving the Children Home (Acts 21:5)

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