Saturday, January 17, 2015

Discovering God's Will

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.  
It's not easy for any of us trudging through life trying to figure things out as we go along.  Life's ambiguities don't offer easy choices.  We want to make the right choices so we can have happy and fulfilling lives, but somehow things don't always work out the way we planned.  Life surprises us. 

When we’re young, we all dream of bright futures.  We decide what we'd like to do for a living and hope we'll meet the right person along the way to share our lives with and maybe raise a family.  But as we all know, not everyone is dealt the same proverbial poker hand.  Some start out in life with huge advantages, while others have distinct disadvantages.  But we each do our best to play the hand we're dealt.  

By the time we reach middle age we look back on our lives and often wish we'd made different choices along the way; we wish life had given us that golden opportunity we’d hoped for; or we wish we had found true and lasting love; the list could go on and on.  Maybe we'll even make a course correction or two if we're not happy with the results.  And by the time we reach our golden years we’re either filled with regrets or satisfied we’ve made the best possible choices along the way.

There’s a better way to live your life.  

But you know there is a better way to approach life and it doesn't have to be ruled by our random choices or what life has given us but rather by the Will of God.  Discovering God's Will for your life can give you the peace-of-mind and contentment you've been looking for knowing that the choices you make in life will be for the best and result in your greatest good.  

Ninety percent of God’s Will for you is found through Conversion, Prayer, God’s Word, and in Christ’s Church.  By daily prayer and regularly reading the Bible and attending Church, you’ll discover ninety percent of God’s general Will for your life.  Being a Christian is actually quite simple: Love God and your neighbor!  This seems so simple, but it’s quite true.  By doing these things, you'll slowly develop a personal relationship with God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  


St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans chapter 10: 14-17, “But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?  And how can men preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!’  But they have not all heeded the gospel; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.”

God loves you, cares about you, has a plan for you, and wants you to have an abundant life.  
Jesus said in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” 

God, speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, in chapter 29:11 says, “F0r I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


Jesus said in John 10:10, "I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly."  That doesn’t mean you’ll become comfortably rich and successful or you’ll never have problems or setbacks.  It means to have a life overflowing with faith, hope, love, joy, and peace-of-mind.

God wants to save you and give you eternal life.  
As Christians, the concept of original sin is a dogma of our faith and it explains why there's good and evil in the world.  Our first parents (Adam and Eve) perfectly lived in God's Will.  They were free from suffering and death and were given the freedom to make their own choices in life.  By obeying God's Will they could remain in that wonderful state of perfection, but God warned them that if they disobeyed then suffering and death would come upon them and their descendants.  Unfortunately for us, they disobeyed God and this is what brought suffering and death into the world.  As a result of this original sin we're all born into a fallen, sinful state (Genesis3Romans5:12-21). 

It was God's Will to save humanity, so He sent His dearly beloved Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to redeem and save it (
John3:16-21).  This is the Good News of our salvation: God offers this free gift of redemption and salvation to anyone who will believe and have faith in Him, is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19), and then perseveres in a life of love for God and their neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40James 1:19-272:14-26).  St. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9, "The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."

Jesus said in John 6:40, "For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day."  But Jesus also cautioned in Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."  So doing God's will is up to each of us.  It's a free choice.  If we cooperate with God's Will we'll spend eternity with Him in heaven, but if we don't we won't  (Matthew25:31-46).  Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

God’s ways are superior to your ways.  
Proverbs 14:12 reads, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”   And Isaiah 55:6-9 reads, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

God wants you to persevere in love for Him and for others and to live a morally good life.  
Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."   This is the law of love that Jesus commanded for those who want to cooperate with God's Will.  This law of love is described in detail in Matthew 5, 6, and 7, and it makes the practical connection between the written moral law or the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17Deuteronomy 5:6-21Deuteronomy 11:26-28) and loving God and others. 

The Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 13 explained this law of love further by writing, "Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails."

Matthew 19:16-22 reads, “And behold, one came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?’  And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?  One there is who is good.  If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”  He said to him, ‘Which?’  And Jesus said, ‘You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  The young man said to him, ‘All these I have observed; what do I still lack?’  Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’  When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.”

Deuteronomy 11:26-28 reads, “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods which you have not known.”

God wants you to use your natural reason to help solve your problems and make wise and prudent decisions.  
Proverbs 9:10 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy one is understanding.”  And James 1:5 reads, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Proverbs 2:1-11 reads, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.  He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.  Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.  For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.  Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”

James 3:13-18 reads, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

Life is what happens to you when God is making other plans.  
Romans 8:28 reads, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  There’s a reason for everything that happens.  Life may appear to be a chain of random events, but it’s really not.  God is in control of everything.  Nothing happens in life apart from His will.  It’s a great mystery how God works in our lives.

James 4:13-17 reads, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain’; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.’  As it is, you boast in your arrogance.  All such boasting is evil.  Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Psalms 37:4 reads, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  And Proverbs 3:5-6 reads, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths strait."

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 reads, "Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil."

  
Discovering God's will for your life is based on developing a personal relationship with God through conversion, baptism, daily prayer, regularly reading His Word, regularly attending Christ's Church, and persevering in a life of love for God and others.  You can discover ninety percent of God's general will for your life by doing these things.  Being a Christian is really quite simple: Love God and your neighbor!  

So how do you discover the remaining ten percent of God's specific will for your life?  That's a great mystery that each of us have to discover on our own.  God works differently with each of one of us.  But if you are truly cooperating with God's general will for your life as previously described, then God will somehow reveal his specific will for your life.   This requires faith.  


Saint Augustine famously said, "Love God and then do what you will."  In other words, if you truly love God and want to discover His will for your life, then doing what you will, will, in fact, be doing what God wills. 


Father Thomas Merton a Trappist monk from Kentucky wrote this beautiful prayer on Discovering God's Will:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing.
And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road although I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Amen.



   







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