Knowing God’s Will – Sermon by Jim Bagley – 18 October 2020

WELCOME

Good morning Kingsville Baptist.

It is precisely at these times that we need to draw closer to God, and closer to each other.  I am thankful that we have multiple ways to assemble; whether it be in person, on the Facebook livestream, through the website, or on paper. For a moment, as we begin to worship as a congregation, let’s stop and ask God to bring to mind those we are missing this morning, and offer to God a short prayer for them.

Even though we may be scattered at the moment, please do not hesitate to call the office, staff or leaders, or each other, if you need help or just someone to talk to and pray with.

Scripture Reading

Psalm 96:1-9 New International Version

1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
    sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
    proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth.

Prayer

Dear Lord,

We come to you this morning with the intention of praising You. May we have hearts and minds that are open to Your voice as you speak to us, whether in the moments that follow or any time during the week.

And as we worship, may we be reminded who we are worshipping; the God of the Universe! The One who loves us so much that You were willing to sacrifice Your son for us! May we grow in our understanding of just how incredible Your grace is toward us.

In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Song

Today's Message

Introduction

There is a question I have been asked over and over again over my 21 years as a pastor. The question is: “How can I know God’s will for my life?”

There is a simple answer to that question: “Ask Him!”  But there is much work to do before you can get to the simple part. Using a human example: if you or I asked the Prime Minister how we could help him, we would probably get a pretty generic answer, and we would expect that; after all, you and I don’t personally know the Prime Minister, and he doesn’t know us. We have no personal relationship and he would have no reason to put his trust in any of our promises or abilities. On top of that, he wouldn’t know our motives. Why are we making this offer? How far are we willing to go? Is it a sincere offer or an empty promise?

In general, it works the same way with God. Being able to have that kind of dialogue with Him also must be done in the context of a close and meaningful relationship; one where we have taken the time to know Him and have developed a prayer life that includes listening to Him; not just talking!

Scripture Reading

Passage:  Exodus 33:12-23

In the Old Testament, there are many accounts of individuals desperately seeking God’s will. One of the most significant of these is Moses’ prayer for direction in the wilderness found in Exodus 33. In this story from the second book of the Bible, God had just given the Israelites the Law at Mount Sinai; the ten commandments along with many additional pages of more specific laws, as well as rules and guidelines for worship and building the Tabernacle. With this in mind, hear the conversation between Moses and God found in Exodus 33:12-23.

Exodus 33:12-23 New International Version

Moses and the Glory of the  Lord

12  Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’  but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’  13  If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways  so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

14  The  Lord  replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15  Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.  16  How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?  What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17  And the  Lord  said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked,  because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

18  Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19  And the  Lord  said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass  in front of you, and I will proclaim my name,  the  Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.  20  But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see  me and live.”

21  Then the  Lord  said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock.  22  When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock  and cover you with my hand  until I have passed by.  23  Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

1.  An Ancient Question

The first thing we notice is Moses asking that same question that all true followers of Jesus must also ask:

“Teach me your ways so I may know You and continue to find favour in You.”

Or,

“Show me who You are and what You want me to do.”

This is the most basic of questions, and one we must not ask lightly. Is that your question? Is it something you have given some thought from time to time?

For many evangelical Christians, it can often seem like all God wants from us is to seek forgiveness of our sins so we can act nicer and go to heaven when we die. It’s NOT that God DOESN’T want this, but that He wants much more for us. Each one of us plays a vital role in the Body of Christ according to the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. That Body may be your local congregation or the Christian church as a whole, but every one of us has a significant role to play – even if we do question our own significance.

And so, this question isn’t just for the Moses’ of the world, or the leaders of your denomination, or the leaders of our congregation. It is also for every single one of us. Part of what has weakened the church in our time is that so many Christians have become passive participants in God’s Kingdom; more spectators and consumers than critical members of a counter-cultural movement.

Reflect

Is this your question? Have you asked God to reveal what He wants from you, and for you? If yes, then keep asking. If no, then spend some time in prayer asking, “Why not?”

2.  God’s Presence Brings Peace

When people do find God’s will for them, one of the things most say that verifies it as truly from God is the peace they have. The process of asking and seeking may be filled with stress, but God’s will brings a sense of peace.

Now this is certainly a different kind of peace. It may not bring an absence of conflict, a settling of all problems, or even completely restored relationships. In fact, it may not be reflected in improved circumstances at all. Things could actually get worse! Remember, even after God’s promise of rest for the Israelites found in verse 14 of this passage, they would go on to experience 40 tumultuous years in the wilderness; experiencing hunger, disappointment, punishments, and even war with the countries who were becoming more and more nervous about this landless nation becoming an armed power in the nearby dessert. No, walking in God’s will isn’t always peaceful; but it will bring peace; it will bring rest.

The incredible thing about God’s kind of peace is that it is peace in the midst of a storm. Peace that brings you calm when there is nothing but chaos all around you. Or as Paul teaches in Philippians 4:6-7:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The peace that transcends all understanding; that’s what God wants you to have; that’s what is promised to us when we fully enter into the will of God!

Reflect

Have you ever experienced this “Peace that transcends understanding?” Peace that is most powerful in the midst of difficult circumstances? If you have, take a moment and give thanks to God for this miracle in your life.

3.  All or Nothing

Moses goes on to tell God, “If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Moses was making it clear, he wanted all of God’s will and all of God’s presence; he would settle for nothing less. Do you know another name for partial obedience? It’s disobedience. Moses knew that the situation God had called him to was way over his head; leading a million former slaves through the wilderness to conquer a new homeland; a land that wasn’t empty; a land that would be fiercely defended! No, Moses knew he needed all of God, and so the only way to lead these people was to do it 100% God’s way.

We seldom find ourselves in situations as desperate as Moses was, and so our own searching for God’s will is often a request for a bit of God to add to our already full life. Perhaps God could fix a problem here or there, so we can get back to what we really want to do; seldom intending to actually give Him full control. We call people who do give their lives fully to God radicals and religious fanatics; and those are almost never compliments!

Yet, full control is what God wants for us. Full control is what it means to have Jesus as the “Lord” of our lives. Full control is where the blessing and the peace can be found.

4.  Following God Leads to More

When Moses received the promise of God to be with the Israelites, he was overjoyed, but not satisfied. As wonderful as that promise was, Moses wanted more! Moses wanted to experience God’s presence in a more personal and tangible way, and he wanted it now.

Any of you who have been on this journey of being transformed by the Holy Spirit over the last few years know what I am talking about. Spending time in God’s presence is both satisfying, and calls us to crave more of it. It is almost addictive, in the best possible sense of the word.

As an illustration of this, think back to the time when you first met your husband or wife, or at least when that romantic connection first showed itself. Spending time with each other was what you desperately wanted to do, but the time with each other was never enough. The more time you were together, the more you wanted to just be with them.

This is a lot like how our relationship with God is when we are fully pursuing Him as He is pursuing us. When we are willing to give Him our all, more is never enough!

Reflect

Consider your own relationship with God as honestly as you can. Would you say it resembles the intensity of a new love? Or is it a more formal relationship – one of respect but not so much intimacy? Have you ever wondered if there is more to this Christian life than what you are experiencing?

CLOSING REMARKS

The reality for us to discover is that God’s presence in our lives is far more powerful and significant than we can ever imagine. As we draw closer to Him, this will become increasingly obvious. As Paul says in Romans 12:2,

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

What does our passage from the book of Exodus (from the depths of the Old Testament) teach us about finding God’s will?

  1. That it is a worthy request to make, to ask God to teach us His ways so we can follow Him.
  2. We will know peace when we know God’s will; a peace that is different and beyond any other understanding of peace we might know. A peace in our Spirit, that is available to us, no matter what circumstances we may find ourselves in.
  3. To be in God’s will, we must be prepared to give Him our all; not surrendering only a portion; not holding back.
  4. Seeking God’s will is not something we only do in exceptional times; it is to be our normal life style.

God, who is greater than we can imagine, is calling you and I to life with Him; a community of followers who call Jesus “Lord.”

Prayer

Dear Lord,

May we have hearts that are turned toward You; seeking Your mind, Your way, Your will.  We confess that we may get it wrong more than we get it right, but may we also know that you are a forgiving God, and that Your will is to give us our best possible life when we live it in You.

Lord, we give thanks that this is a process we participate in, not a passive one. And so, may the choices we make be consistent with the lives You are calling us to. We give thanks that even our poor choices can be redeemed by You, if we continue to trust You and seek Your face.

We come before You and confess our sins.

We confess that we do not always love You with all of our hearts, souls and minds. Instead, we look to satisfy our own desires, our own agenda’s, our own appetites and neglect what You have called us to. We seek to be the gods of our own lives. We ask Your forgiveness.

We also do not love others as we love ourselves. Instead, we give our love conditionally; reserved only for those who will love us back. And we are stingy with our forgiveness; choosing to let our hearts grow hard and cold.

Forgive us for breaking Your law to love You and love others. Give us more and more of Your empowering Spirit so we can change and become who You have called us to be.

And be near to those who are struggling today. Struggling with sickness, with sadness, with confusion and with loss. You promise that You can bring good in all circumstances, and we cling to that promise, even when it seems impossible.

Above all, we are thankful for You, and Your presence in our lives, our citizenship in Your Kingdom, and the gift of eternal life.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Song

Benediction

(Ephesians 3:20-21)

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us,

To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

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