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What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

Exchange Your Will For His Will

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(11/16) Okay, so I am just a little curious. What did you want to be when you were growing up and in high school? How many of you are doing now, or have done what you wanted to do or to be, when you became an adult? Life changes, doesn't it. Sometimes it is because of circumstances that are beyond our control, sometimes it is because of poor decisions that we have made, and sometimes it is because of opportunities that we never considered or thought possible. Sometimes it is simply because God is purposely working to move us to accomplish His will.

When we refer to God's will we are talking about what God desires to happen, declared to be right or has determined to happen. In fact, these are the 3 facets to God's will.

God's Determined Will - This refers to those things that God has determined to happen and absolutely nothing can stop it. Consider Isaiah 46:9-10, "Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ Just consider the promise of the coming of the Messiah; the fall of Tyre and Sidon; the fall of Babylon. Just so, He has determined that Jesus is going to return and nothing in the world can stop that. What you read in the Revelation will occur; every detail, because has determined it to happen.

God's Declared Will - God's declared will refers to the things that He has plainly said we are to do or not do. These may be law's like the ten commandments, or commands like the ones from Jesus that you read in Luke 6, or Matthew 5-7. The Great Commission, to make disciples in all the world, is not a suggestion, it is a command. These do not refer to optional behavior. These are things that Jesus says we are to do if we are to be His followers. In fact He asks this in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me Lord, Lord and do not the things which I say?"

God's Desired Will - This may be considered optional behavior or not. It is considering how our actions will affect God and others especially when we don't have clear scriptural commands concerning it. It is seeking the best welfare for others because Jesus did and would and He wants us to love others as He would (John 13:34-35). It is considering whether or not the thing I am doing is honoring to God He wants me to do everything I do (1 Cor. 10:31, Rom. 14) for His glory. He wants us to pray and seek His wisdom before we make decision? This is His desired will. The benefactor of the famous Rhodes Scholarship, Cecil Rhodes, said this, "If there is a God and He cares for men, then the most important thing in all the world, is to find out what he wants me to do and to do it." (repeat).

Listen Carefully, God's will is that we make our life's purpose to be about seeking and doing His will. While we may say this in a Church setting, the fact of the matter is that it is completely opposite of how our minds and our thinking works every other day. Many, if not most Christians think that life is about seeking and accomplishing our own wills. We even believe that God exists to work out the details of my life so I can accomplish what I want and be what I want to be. If and when we pray, it is often about what we want, like our health, wealth, happiness, and our plans for our life. Its, "God bless me and my life and make all my dreams come true."

God on the other hand has revealed to us in the Bible, that there are 3-4 primary reasons why He created you and I. These are the primary reasons why you and I exist on planet earth.

  • To Care for His Creation as Stewards or Managers of the Earth (Gen. 1:26-28)
  • To Honor Him with our Lives (Isa. 43:7; 1 Cor. 10:31)
  • To Know Him Personally, Intimately (Jer. 9:23-24; John 17:3)
  • To Make Him Known by show and tell, to the whole world (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8) or disciple making.

Listen carefully. God does not exist in heaven to be our year around Santa Claus, who is just waiting for our lists so He can make us happy; rather, we exist to do His will. We are here for Him. Do you undertand this? This is why our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, whenever we pray, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." This isn't saying, "God, I hope that what you want to happen will happen in the world today," but rather, "Lord, in all my decisions and in all my actions today, I want to know and do what you want me to do. I want to do your will, your way, just as swiftly and obediently as the angels in heaven do. I want to accomplish your purpose for me today"

Sometimes God chooses to accomplish His will by allowing pain in our lives. Peter wrote this, "Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator." (1 Peter 4:19). And Paul wrote to the Philippans from prison, "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. (Phil. 1:29-30) How in the world could suffering be God's will for us? How could it be an honor as Phil. 1:29-30 makes it appear to be? When suffering occurs and you don't know what to do, one of the things that God wants you to do is to exchange your will for His will. Our will is for the pain to go away and life to be easier and more prosperous for us. But our God sometimes has bigger plans.

There are two excellent New Testament examples of this. The first is in the life of our Lord Jesus and His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matt. 26:39, 42. As the pressure of the horror of becoming sin for us and the hell of His death on the cross loomed nearer and nearer, He prayed that if it were possible, the Father would impliment plan B. But the Father did not have a plan B. The suffering and death of a sinless substitute was the only way to save and forgive sinners like you and me. So, Jesus willingly accepted and fulfilled the Father's will, "nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."

The second example is in the life of the Apostle Paul. The great opposer to the preaching of Christ became the great Apostle and preacher of Christ. But, in so doing, the one who brought great persection would become the one who was greatly persecuted. The one who caused so much suffering for Christ following families would be the one who would suffer so much for promoting Christ following families. When God instructed one of his disciples to baptize Paul because he had just been saved, He also told him this in Acts 9:15-16. " But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake." The books of Acts and 2 Corinthians reveals to us some of what Paul suffered. In 2 Corinthians chapters 1, 4, 6, 10, &11, he shares with us some of what he had suffered. But perhaps the most difficult thing was what he describes in ch. 12. Notice, he shares;

The Privilege

While Paul speaks in the third person, he is referring to himself (vv.1-6). He has been using much of this letter to defend his calling and appointment as an apostle by Jesus. There were stinkbugs or people who were trying to undermine Paul's authority and say that he had no more authority than any one else to speak for God. All he was interested in was power, being a dictator, and taking advantage of people. As Paul lays out his calling, his adventures, his suffering, he also reveals a time when he had an out of the body experience. Maybe it was when he was stoned and presumed to be dead in Acts 14:19-20, or maybe it was when he was praying one day, or while he slept in a jail cell. We don't know but it was 14 years before he wrote this letter. But what an awesome privilege he had to see Heaven, and hear things that no one on earth ever heard and see things that we can't even imagine. How encouraging to be able to face every tough thing of life with the courage of knowing what eternity held in store. It is no wonder he would tell the Philippians that to depart and be with Christ was far greater than being here. But then notice:

The Pain

(v.7) Perhaps for 14 years now Paul has had this pain in the----. He refers to it as a thorn in the flesh. He doesn't tell us what it is exactly. But it was annoying and painful. Ever had a thorn, thistle, or splinter in your hand, foot, or somewhere where every time you bumped it or applied pressure you felt pain? Maybe it was so small you couldn't see it, but you could definitely feel it. Ever walk into greenbriers in the woods? They can really bite you.

Many think that Paul's thorn was some kind of physical problem, an illness, or poor vision as Gal. 4:13-15 tells us, "You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What [a] then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me." I personally think that it was a person or persons who tormented Paul by constantly trying to undermine His ministry and the gospel message of grace. The clues are:

A Messenger of Satan. The word messenger is angelos or angel or messenger just as in Rev. 2-3 (the angels or messengers of the churches, and notice the similar talk in 2 Cor. 11:12-15). It is used of John the Baptist (Mal. 3:1; Matt. 11:10)This is some personality from Satan, but allowed by God as with Job and Peter.

This was O.T. talk about what the people would be in Canaan if the Hebrews left them to live there with them. Nu. 33:55, "But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell." (cp. Jos. 23:13; Judg. 2:3).

The verb, 'buffet" always refers to ill treatment from people as when Jesus was buffeted in Matthew 26:67; or Mark 14:65. These may have been the ones that came from Anticoh and Iconium to Lystra and incited the crowds to stone Paul in Acts 14. But for 14 years he or they hounded Paul and tried to stop him, discredit him, arrest him, and kill him.

The Plea

(v.8) Three times or for 3 seasons, Paul begged God to remove this thorn; just as our Lord prayed 3 times in the Garden of Gethsemane. Oh, how much better he could proclaim Jesus without this thorn. How much more peaceful life could be without always wondering what this guy or this group was going to do next? How could this possibly work for good? But God did not remove it or them. He said, "NO, to Paul's pleas!" But there was a good purpose, a good plan even if Paul didn't understand. Brothers and sisters, you must understand that when God says no to changing your situation or removing your pain, it is because He has something that He wants to demonstrate or do in this situation.

The Purpose

(vv.7and 9) Notice two things:

Lest Paul be exalted above measure. This could be referring to Paul's own opinion about himself, like, God must think I am more special than anyone else. That's pretty evident by what he has given me. I am not an ordinary person, I am super Christian. Do you want to touch my hand? If that is so, this thorn would be to keep Paul humble. Or, perhaps people would want to elevate Him to sainthood on the same level with Jesus, rather than seeing him as a man who was simply the messenger of Jesus just like you and I. If so, this would show that Paul is a great servant, a courageous preacher and missionary but he is just a mortal like us. Subject to the same pains and problems as anyone else, but with the hope of the gospel.

To display God's Strength - To magnify the power of God's grace and love. We will be back here in just a moment. In His humble position Paul had:

The Provision of God's Grace

(v. 9) "My Grace is Sufficient..." notice two things.

God's Grace is Sufficient - it's not, will be, but, is sufficient. His Grace is His unearned free gift of His unconditional love, His forgiveness, His promises both for time and eternity, and the never leaving presence of His Holy Spirit in Paul's life to help and strengthen him. The word sufficient simply means enough. What Paul had been given when he was rescued by Jesus was all he needed to get him through both his trials and his life. By the way, we have been given the same grace, the same love, forgiveness, promises, and never leaving presence of His Spirit.

God's Strength - Referring to His dynamic power and ability to accomplish His purposes, is made perfect in weakness; that is, it accomplishes the desired purpose. Let me take you back to Jesus again. The last day of His earthy life as the God-man is referred to as the Passion or Suffering of Christ. In His submission to being arrested, going through mock trials, being beaten unmercifully, being interrogated, mocked and ridiculed and then being put to death, He displayed the incredible power of God to change the lives of a thief and a centurion, angering the Jewish authorities and bewildering the Governor. In His submission, the love and grace of God was revealed to the world. he would draw people to Jesus and to salvation. Today, the strength of God's love, God's grace, and God's patience is displayed in God' children who rest in Him and know that their trials aren't always about them but about God revealing Himself to a lost world or a church that needs to see authentic Christianity.

We need to pause here. I don't know what trials you are experiencing, or what thorns have been bothering you for years, but I know this, Its NOT always about you. While God is allowing this in your life, He is trusting you to trust Him and lay aside your will for His will; to display grace and love, and patience no matter what. Your pain may be for His glory. Do you remember what Jesus said about the man born blind or about Lazarus' illness and death? John 9:1-3 says "Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him." John 11:1-4 says, "Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Jesus even told Peter that his painful death would be a means of glorifying God. John 21:18-19, " Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me." The results will be that people will see you and think of Him, perhaps be drawn to Him. That is why He has allowed Satan to buffet me, why He has brought this into my life. He wants our response to magnify His grace so people will see Him. My pain, your pain is accomplishing God's plan. He is entrusting you with the pain He has allowed or brought and wants you to trust Him. While your will may be to stop the pain and perhaps to get rid of the pain in the -----! God's will is that you display His grace, rely on His Holy Spirit and love like Jesus, and trust Him to accomplish His plans. People will see that grace works. That's why Paul could say that he would boast, even rejoice in his infirmities notice our last point;

The Pleasure

(vv. 9b-10) Paul could rejoice when tough times came in whatever form they might be, as verse 10 states. Not that any of these were humorous, not because he was sadistic, but because of what he knew. He knew that these difficulties were opportunities to display God's strength. God has brought or allowed this for a good purpose. This pain is for God's glory. If Paul, were to be protected from hardships then he would have been portrayed as a super-human saint. The focus would have been on Paul not on his Lord. His trials caused people to focus on His God. This brought joy to Paul's heart. His strongest witness for God was in his weakest moments.

If you are doing all you know how to do to walk closely with God and yet trials and thorns are present and no matter hard hard you pray they don't go away. It doesn't mean that you have done anything wrong or that God doesn't care or that He is angry with you, it may well be that God wants to show His grace and love and the power of His Holy Spirit in your response. He is up to something good. He has a good plan even if I don't understand. I accept this cross, this thorn, and I will love as Jesus loved, forgive as Jesus forgives, be kind and graceful as Jesus was kind and graceful, I will trust in the sovereignty of God. So, pray and exchange your will for His will. Do what you know he wants you to do. Show and tell people about Jesus and trust God to accomplish His will.

Change Your Course

On a Dark and Foggy night, the Captain of a ship was notified of faint lights in the distance. Immediately he ordered his signal man to send a message: "alter your course by 10 degrees south."

Promptly a return reply was received: "alter your course 10 degrees north."

The Captain was angered, his command had been ignored. So, he sent a second message: "Alter your course 10 degrees south, I am the Captain."

Again a reply was swiftly received: "I am seaman third class Jones. Alter your course 10 degrees north."

Immediately, the Captain sent his third message knowing that this one would evoke fear: Alter your course 10 degrees south- I am a Battleship!"

The response was again quickly returned: "Alter your course 10 degrees north- I am a Lighthouse!"

You and I are a lot like that Captain. We think we know what we are doing and where we are headed, only to often find ourselves headed for a ship wreak if we don’t alter our course. Our Lord God, Creator, Sustainer, Savior, is telling us to alter our course to a new direction. A direction that leads to life that is both eternal and abundant. That life begins when we receive Jesus as our Savior, but a second and equally important decision to make is follow Him as our Lord. It is my opinion that both should be done at the same time. To invite Jesus to come in to your heart and forgive you must, (in my opinion) also include the invitation to take the controls of my life.

If God spoke to you through this or any of the messages about What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do, write and let me know. My email address is Thanks and may God bless you as you seek to do His will.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman