April 5, 2012

Am I in God’s will?

In Randy Alcorn’s book, “The Treasure Principle,” he draws a dot with an arrow coming out from it. The dot represents this life, small with an end to it. The arrow represents eternity, never-ending and enormous. He challenges his readers to focus on laying up eternal treasure by obedience to God. Anyone who fills their life with things only in the dot will find that all of it eventually winds up in the dump.
His book, my age, and the lack of time to do all that my ambition imagines make me think about the value of those items on my daily to-do list. How important is it to have a clean house, finish a quilt, rewrite an old article, or publish the Bible studies I’ve written? In terms of eternity, these things might not matter at all — or they could be part of the plan of God. 

Sometimes this is an easy question to answer. In the case of the disciples, after Jesus was crucified and had risen and appeared to them, for some reason Peter figured it was all over and he should go back to his old life.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (John 21:3)
The result was zilch. The author of today’s devotional reading says, “God may let the sinful world succeed in their forbidden schemes, but, blessed be His name, He does not allow His chosen ones to prosper in the path which leads them out of His holy will! He has a storm to send after every Jonah, and an empty net for every unbelieving and inconsistent Simon.”

This is true, yet God can guide His people in many ways, such as putting brick walls in our path or, as He did here, and make our wrong efforts totally fruitless. But if nothing comes from what I do, does that mean I am out of the will of God? Paul was careful about making such determinations.
Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:2–5)
The problem with checking for results from my efforts is that some of them will not be seen in the dot. For instance, I might give testimony to the grace of God to someone and they do not respond at all. Yet God uses what I said to bring them closer to Him on their spiritual journey. I may never see that here in the dot, but will know about it in eternity. 

The other problem that I have with results is this; if there are none, I become easily discouraged. Being results-orientated makes it easier to clean house and make quilts than it does to record my devotions in this blog and pray every day, often for people I’ve never met. I can see the shine in my sinks and enjoy the colors in my quilts, yet usually have no idea if God is using my prayers to change lives. In this, I must live by faith. Without faith,  I would quit praying.

Deciding what to do each day is always a matter of the heart. Why am I doing it? Is it for my glory? To impress others? To make my life easier or more enjoyable? If so, then I might be out of the will of God. However, if I am doing a thing for God’s glory, or to help someone else, or simply because He put it on my heart to do it, then instead of looking for results, I need to trust Him that I am doing the right things.

Lord, walking by faith is never as easy as evaluating what I do by the results, or it seems that way. Actually, much of what You ask of me can have visible results or not, yet Your Word clearly describes what is in Your will and what is not. Besides this clear direction from the Bible, You often give me a sense of Your presence and pleasure to affirm that I’m on the right path. That is a result of sorts, and one that gives me assurance. For life in this dot, knowing You are with me is all that I need.

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