Hebrews 13.20-21 (2008)
Obeying God’s Will in Your Life
I once came across what is called, “The Lincoln-Kennedy Coincidence.” President Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860. President John Kennedy was elected in 1960. Both lost children while in the White House. Both men were shot in the head on a Friday in the presence of their wives. Both were replaced with Southern Democrat Senators named Johnson. Lincoln’s successor was Andrew Johnson, born in 1808. Kennedy’s successor was Lyndon Johnson, born in 1908. Booth, Lincoln’s assassin, was born in 1839. Oswald, Kennedy’s assassin, was born in 1939. Both assassins were themselves assassinated before their trials. Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy. Kennedy’s secretary was name Lincoln. Secretary Kennedy advised Lincoln not to go to the theater. Secretary Lincoln advised Kennedy not to go to Dallas. Booth shot Lincoln in a theatre and ran to a warehouse. Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and ran to a theatre.
You have to admit there is much coincidence between the events of Lincoln and Kennedy’s life. However, I remind you that when it comes to the Christian life, it is not a matter of coincidence, but providence. Our life is not governed by accidents, but by appointments. To put it another way, our life is governed by the will of God.
Each of us can live with the assurance that nothing happens in our life that has not been arranged, appointed, or allowed by God. Anything and everything that touches our life is filtered through God’s will for our life. Therefore, every Christian should be deeply conscious of God’s will for their life and committed to doing God’s will in their life.
George W. Truett who said, “To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge! To do the will of God is the greatest achievement!” If knowing the will of God is the greatest knowledge, then nothing could be any more important that finding and knowing God’s will for our life. If doing the will of God is the greatest achievement, then doing God’s will ought to be a passion and pursuit of our lives.
I want us to consider something that will change your life for the good and that is the decision to obey the will of God in our life. The Bible says of David in Acts 13:36 that he “served his own generation by the will of God.” Paul often identified himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” The Bible says in 1 John 2:17, “And the world passes away, and the lust also: but he that does the will of God abide for ever.”
David Livingstone once said, “I had rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God than on the throne of England out of the will of God.”
Anyone who has ever made the decision to obey God’s will in their life will tell you that it was a life-changing decision, and one that changed their life for the good.
We have this testimony of Moses in Hebrews 11:24-26:
By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)
Moses chose the riches of heaven over the riches over the riches of Egypt. He chose serving God instead of serving self. He made the choice to obey God’s will in his life. Have you made that choice today? If you have, then praise the Lord. If not, I pray that before you leave today you make the decision to obey God’s will.
I want us to at Hebrews 13:20-21, which is actually a prayer concerning God’s will in our life. Let’s take this prayer and lift from it three prayer petitions, three things that we should pray for as it relates to the will of God in our life.
1. The Enlightenment to Find God’s Will
· Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
The heart and soul of this prayer to the God of peace that raised Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, from the dead is an understanding of God’s will. It is a prayer about doing the will of God, doing the will of God that is known and understood.
In order to do the will of God, one must know the will of God. I think I am safe in saying that the majority of Christians will go through life and never know God’s will for their life. Oh, yes, God has a will for your life. He has a will for every Christian. How tragic that for most, they never know that will. It ought to be the prayer of every person that is saved, Lord enlighten me to find your will. Lord, help me to know what your will for my life is.
Let me say a couple of things about this matter of knowing God’s will for your life.
a) The possibility of knowing God’s will
· Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:17)
The word “unwise” speaks of being ignorant. In this case it is being ignorant of God’s will. Paul says that we are to be ignorant or without understanding when it comes to the will of God. We are to understand what the will of the Lord is.
Now, understand that Paul would have never told us to understand the will of God if it could not be understood. Yes, you can know God’s will. You don’t have to go through life wondering what God’s will for you is. The will of God can be understood.
The prayer that we find in Hebrews 13:20-21 reminds us that the will of God is something that the God of peace reveals. Note the words “make you” and “working in you” in verse 21. The writer of Hebrews is describing how God makes His will known to us.
It stands to reason that if God has a will for our life, He wants us to know that will. God would never command us to obey His will and then refuse to allow us to understand that will. No, He has a will for our life and He longs for us to know that will.
When we pray that God will show us His will, it ought to encourage your heart to know that God wants to make His will know to us. Yes, you can know God’s will.
That raises the question, “How can we find God’s will for our life?” To answer that question let me say a word about:
b) The prerequisite for knowing God’s will
Some view the will of God as some difficult thing to comprehend or know. It is like we know God has a will for our life, but we have great difficulty in finding what it is. But again, if God has a will for our life, He wants us to know His will and I don’t believe He is trying to make it hard to understand.
I believe there is one step that we must take in our life that is the key that unlocks the door to knowing God’s will. I
· If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. (John 7:17)
If you will notice carefully what Jesus said, He declared that the key to knowing is being willing to do His will. I believe and have found by experience that if I am willing to do whatever God would asked of me, He will make His will know.
I did not know God’s will for my life until I was willing to do His will. What many want is for God to show them His will so they can think about and then make a decision about doing it. It’s like they want to review His will before they make a commitment. Of course the real spiritual ones say, “Lord, show me your will and I will pray about it.” You will never know God’s will if that is your attitude. God will never reveal His will to you until you get to the place you are willing to do his will not matter what that will is.
When God revealed His will to me it was when I got to the place that I would do anything He wanted—no exceptions. If you want to know God’s will then get to the place in your life where you do anything. You will never know what it is that God wants you to do until you get to the place you will do anything. If you want Him to show you first so you can make a decision, you will never know God’s will.
If you are having trouble being willing to be willing look at Philippians 2:13.
· For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
Paul was saying that God works in our life to make us willing to do His will. The prayer that you may need to start with is, “Lord, make me willing to be willing to do your will.” If you sincerely pray that prayer, you can be sure God will work in you to bring you to a place where you will be willing.
2. The Equipping to Follow God’s Will
The prayer in Hebrews 13:20-21 asks that the “God of peace… make you complete in every good work to do His will.” The word “complete” does not mean what we think of when we talk about something being perfect. The word literally means to “repair” or “to adjust.” It speaks of something being prepared.
When the writer of Hebrews spoke of God making us perfect, He is talking about God preparing or equipping us to do His will. It has been well said that where God guides He provides. God equips us to do His will. Or to put it another way, God gives us the ability to do His will.
a) The ability to serve
What I mean by the ability to serve is that God gives you the ability to be and do what He calls you to do. God’s will for our life is never based on our ability, but on His ability. It is ability at work in us that equips us to do and be that He wants.
For example, if God calls you to preach, He will give you the ability to preach. I’ll be honest with you, if I were God; I probably wouldn’t call some that He has called. To be honest, I wouldn’t have called myself. God has this thing about calling the most unlikely candidates for the ministry and making preachers out of them.
Many a man that is being used of God to preach His Word, from a human perspective, was the last one would chose to be a preacher. However, those that God calls He prepares and equips them to be what He called them to do.
I have seen people who when they got saved they were as green as a gourd when it came to spiritual things. They thought there were 68 books in the Bible counting the maps and the concordance. They pronounced Job as job.
As I was saying, I have seen people who when they got saved didn’t know anything about the Bible or the Lord. But I have seen them began to grow in the Lord and watched as God worked in them and prepared them for His will. They become some of the best workers in the Church. I have watched as God used them in a special way.
Some people hesitate to obey God’s will because they fear or feel they can’t be or do what God wants. You need never fear being able to do God’s will because God always equip you to do whatever He asks you to do.
There is a second area that I think of in which God equips us to do His will. He not only equips us to serve, but He also gives:
b) The ability to sacrifice
In some cases the will of God places great demands on our life. For some the call of God requires that they leave houses and lands, family and friends to obey God’s will. Many a pastor has been required to leave a good job, forsake a career, sell their home and even move hundreds of miles away from their family to do God’s will.
Every missionary has been required to make numerous sacrifices. There is not only what they have to leave, but there is where they have to go. They have to abandon all they have ever known for a strange culture and a strange people. Many of the comforts they enjoyed at home are sacrificed. The cost of their obeying God’s will is often very high.
Not everyone is called upon to make such sacrifices, but for some obedience to God’s will exact a heavy price. You say, “I could leave my family. I couldn’t give up my home. I couldn’t leave everything behind and walk away from all that I have.”
In our self, I don’t think anyone can. However, when one is surrendered to the will of God, God gives one the ability to do His will even if there are great costs involved. Those that have made the greatest sacrifices will tell you that they never thought much about the sacrifices they made.
I guess if there is any reason why some many shrink from the will of God it is because of a sacrifice that has to be made. If one struggles with what they may have to give up or where they have to go, it is a good indication they have never really surrendered to the will of God. When a person is in God’s will, He will equip them to do that will, even equip them to make the sacrifices that are called for in doing God’s will.
When William Borden, son of the wealthy Borden’s, went to China as a missionary, many of his friends thought he was foolish to “waste his life,” as they put it, trying to convert a few heathens to Christianity. But William loved Christ and he loved the souls of men! He hadn’t been in China very long before he contracted an oriental disease and died. At his bedside they found a note that he had written while he was dying. It read, “No reserve, no retreat, and no regrets.”
There will be no regrets in doing the will of God, even if there are great sacrifices God will equip you to meet every demand placed upon your life.
A friend asked Mrs. Thomas A. Edison, “Have you ever asked your husband where he gets all the ideas that make him so famous?” Mrs. Edison replied, “Yes, I did ask him once. He didn’t say anything. He just pointed upward and smiled!”
Those who have obeyed God’s will all point upward because they know it is the Lord who equipped them to do His will.
3. The Enablement to Fulfill God’s Will
In the prayer of Hebrews 13:20-21 the “God of peace” is seen working in you what is well pleasing in His sight.”
The word “working” is often translated in the New Testament as “bringing forth” or “brought forth.” It is also often translated “did” and “done.” All of these suggest that which is accomplished or fulfilled.
God not shows us His will, equips us to do His will, but He also will enable us to fulfill His will. When the last mile of our race is run and when we take off our armor and lay down our sword, the greatest accomplishment of life is that we did God’s will and fulfilled His will in our life. To fulfill God’s will is to live:
a) A well-pleasing life
The prayer before us speaks of how doing and fulfilling the will of God is “well-pleasing in His sight.” The word “well-pleasing” means “agreeable.” It speaks of that which is acceptable. As we thought about in the decision to glorify God with our life, in all we do and all we are, we should desire to glorify God.
To do the will of God is well-pleasing to God. It brings great pleasure to His heart to see His children obeying His will. Like a parent whose heart swells with pride over some accomplishment of their children, God’s heart is filled with pride as He views those who do His will.
If it is well-pleasing to the Lord for someone to do His will, then it stands to reason that it is displeasing to the Lord for one not to do His will. In which category do you fall? Are you well-pleasing to the Lord or displeasing to the Lord?
b) A well-done life
In the parable of the talents, it was said to those who were faithful, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21, 23). Can there be a higher or greater achievement in life than to stand before the Lord one day and hear Him say, “Well-done, thou good and faithful servant?”
The Apostle Paul was able to say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). He had finished his course. The idea of a course is that a lane assignment. God had assigned Paul a lane to run in and he had run according to God’s will. When he came to the end of his life, he was able to say that He had fulfilled God’s will in his life. I have no doubt that when Paul was executed, that before his head ever hit the ground, he heard his Lord say, “Well-done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Our prayer ought to be, “Lord, show me your will. Help me to do your will and when my life is over, may I look back with joy knowing that I did your will.”
Someone has written:
I am not sent a pilgrim here,
My heart with earth to fill;
But I am here God’s grace to learn,
And serve God’s sovereign will.
He leads me on through smiles and tears,
Grief follows gladness still;
But let me welcome both alike,
Since both work out His will.
No service in itself is small,
None great, though earth it fill;
But that is small that seeks its own,
And great that seeks God’s will.
Then hold my hand, most gracious Lord,
Guide all my doings still;
And let this be my life’s one aim,
To do, or bear thy will.
Richard Baxter was the famous English Puritan divine, author of the celebrated work The Saints’ Everlasting Rest. The dying words of Baxter were: “Lord, what thou wilt, where thou wilt, and when thou wilt.”
Have you made the decision to obey God’s will in your life? It’s a decision if made will change your life.