QUESTIONS FOR GOD
GOD, WHAT IS YOUR WILL FOR MY LIFE?
PASTOR ED YOUNG
MAY 17, 1992
Father, you brought us here this morning for a dynamic reason and that reason is to hear a Word from you. I pray now that you would open our hearts and clear our minds of every outside thought except what you’re going to say to us because God, you know I have nothing to say, zero to say, but you have everything. Use me now as an instrument. For we voice this prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, our Living Lord, Amen.
This Friday, my wife and I attended the Byron Nelson Golf Classic with some close friends. We were fired up about seeing the world’s greatest golfers play at that gorgeous golf course—John Dailey, Freddie Couples, Ben Crenshaw. Lisa and I watched as these golfers went from hole to hole, walking down the fairway, thousands of people following them in their custom-made golf outfits, with their caddies right by their side. They would take out a golf club, approach the tee, and the marshall would hold a sign up that said, “Quiet.” They would address the ball, looking very confident, very assured of themselves. And they would take the club back with the picture-perfect, textbook swing; and all of a sudden you would hear the sound all of us like to hear, “Whish!” and the ball would go right down the middle of the fairway.
I said, “Lisa, is that awesome? Can you believe how those guys can hit the ball!” We were taken back. I’d never been that close to a professional golfer. I really couldn’t believe the confidence the gallery showed with these professional golfers. They would make a human corridor down the tee box and they wouldn’t worry that the ball was screaming off the tee, especially if John Dailey hit the ball, at about 200 mph. I thought, “If I was playing, they would be well behind me.” If you’re standing parallel to me, you’re in trouble. But they trusted these golfers and they would hit the ball down the fairway.
One thing that struck me about these professional guys: Now and then—and this happened rarely—when the ball would go to the right or to the left or in the rough or in a sandtrap, it wouldn’t really rattle their cage. It wouldn’t freak them out. They would walk up to the ball. They would talk to the caddie. The caddie would give them advice. And they would hit an amazing shot out of a difficult lie. They had confidence. They had strength. They knew they had mastered the game of golf.
I love to kind of overhear the words in the gallery as these individuals are playing golf. A couple of people are saying, “If I could only play golf like that!” “Give me just one round to play like Freddie Couples. I would love it!” Or “If I had the power of John Dailey. If I could only play golf like those individuals.” That’s what the gallery wanted, and all of us, if I asked you the question today, “Would you like to play golf like a professional golfer, like someone on the PGA Tour?” you would say, “Yes, Ed.” No doubt about it.
But I want to probe your minds further. How would you like to be able to live your life, to play the game called life, the way a professional golfer plays golf at the Byron Nelson? With all of that confidence, with all of that strength, with all of that assurance. Wouldn’t it be great to live life like that? You get into trouble, no problem; you’ve mastered life. You know you have a tough situation, but you can get out of the situation.
This morning I have great news for you, folks. We are going to talk about the will of God. God has revealed His plan to you and to me and God tells us if we follow His plan, if we get in on God’s will for our lives, we will be able to play the game of life like professional golfers play the game of golf. I would like to get in on that, wouldn’t you? I really would. But before we jump into understanding God’s will for our lives, I would like to direct your attention to God’s Word. Take your Bibles and turn to the book of Ephesians, Chapter 5, and I’ll read Verse 17. Ephesians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore, do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is.” God says, “I’ve revealed my will specifically to you. I want you to understand what my will is. Understand it.” But let’s look at some misunderstandings before we understand God’s will.
A common misunderstanding regarding the will of God would be, “Knowing the will of God is a feeling. If I have a quiver in my liver or if I have a feeling….” “If I’ve just seen Brian’s Song or Old Yeller, and I’m feeling all sentimental and I have that certain thought, then it must be God’s will if I have that kind of emotion.” But the Bible says your emotions are not always trustworthy. Jeremiah 17:9 says these words, “The heart is deceitful.” The word “deceitful” in the Hebrew means “it’s sick.” You can’t always trust it. “The heart is deceitful above all things”—in other words, emotions aren’t reliable—“and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah was saying, “We can’t really understand our emotions and if you’re waiting for some super-spiritual, emotional feeling to say, “That must be the will of God,” that’s not the will of God.” That’s a common misunderstanding concerning the will of God.
The will of God also is not a cosmic hide-and-seek game. Some of us feel that God has hidden His will somewhere. He gives us clues, and the Christian tries to find God’s will. “You’re getting warmer, Ed. You’re getting cooler now,” and all of a sudden, “There’s God’s will. There, it’s under that fake plant.” We take God’s will out, and “Here it is! I found God’s will. Thanks a lot, God. It took me 20 years, but I found it!”
God’s will is not an emotion, God’s will is not a cosmic hide-and-seek game. How about this game? Another unreliable way to find the will of God: the open-your-Bible-and-put-your-finger-down-on-the-magic-verse method. Have you ever done that before? “Dear God, I’m going to open the Bible and when I put my finger down, whatever verse I read, that will be your will.”
I read about a gentleman a couple of years ago who did this. He had his quiet time, his devotional time, by an open window and he would let the wind blow through the pages of the Bible. Wherever the pages would calm down, he would take his index finger, close his eyes, and put his hand down. Wherever his finger landed, he would read that verse and say, “God, that must be your will for my life today.” Well, this man did this. He closed his eyes and the first verse he lands on was “Judas went out and hanged himself.” [Laughter] He began to get scared a little bit and shake. Then he said, “Well, it must not have worked right, God. The wind wasn’t blowing.” And he did it again and he puts his finger down. The next verse read, “Go out and do likewise.” [Laughter] He begins to really get scared and rattled. Finally, “Okay, God. One more time. This is my verse for the day.” He closes his eyes, the wind blows the pages back and forth, and he looks and the third one says, “Whatever thou doest, do quickly.” [Laughter] So the magic verse formula does not work.
Others feel like God makes a deal with us—another unreliable way to discern God’s will. More or less like Monty Hall comes up and says, “Okay Joe or Jill Christian. God’s will is behind Door No. 1, Door No. 2 or Door No. 3. Pick one.” And you guess and you say, “Is it door one, door two, or door three? If I choose three and it’s in one, I’m in trouble.” That’s not God’s will. Let’s make a deal for God’s will? It doesn’t work that way.
Others build a wall around themselves in fear. They fear the will of God. They think, “If I ever find God’s will, if I ever live at the center of His will for my life, then He’ll send me to New Guinea or outer Borneo and I cannot go there. What if people criticize me? What if God makes me change my lifestyle? I really can’t do that.” I want to share another verse of Scripture with you, Jeremiah 29:11. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you.” God is talking. God says, “Don’t be afraid of my will. I know the plans I have for you.” Folks, do you realize God’s plan for your life is incredible? God knows what will make us the happiest far more than we can ever imagine or ever grasp in our own finite minds. Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.” Plans to make you miserable? What does it say? Plans to make you settle for second-best? No, it says, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”
We’re afraid of God’s will because we think, “God doesn’t have my best interest in mind. He doesn’t really know me.” But once we surrender ourselves to the Lord, we’re going to discover something dynamic—that God has a golf course that lasts for eternity. In fact, this golf course makes Augusta National look like the Sahara Desert. God says, “I want you to play on my course. I want you to experience hole after hole after hole. Yes, the course is beautiful. Yes, the course is exciting. Yes, the course is breathtaking, but it is difficult. The rough is deep. The sand is very loose. The greens are like putting on cement. It’s a tough course, but it’s the only course, it’s the best course for your life.”
I’ll conclude with the final unproductive way to discern the will of God or to find the will of God. We think the will of God is some type of recipe. Julia Childs pouring in ingredient after ingredient after ingredient. “If I follow these five steps to God’s will—A, B, C, D, E—then all of a sudden, I’ll be in the will of God.” And we live in a microwave society, don’t we? We want things quick. “Yes, give me that cassette tape on the ten principles of God’s will, Ed. I’ll take the tape, pop it right into my cassette deck. I’ll drive to McDonald’s, get a McLean sandwich, talk on my car phone, listen to the tape on the way to the next appointment. I want it quick. I want it fast.” That’s what God’s will is to some people. But again, that’s not God’s will.
What is God’s will? 1 Corinthians 1:9 tells us, God’s will is not a bunch of rules. God’s will is a relationship because 1 Corinthians 1:9 says that God calls you, He calls me into fellowship with Jesus Christ. So it shouldn’t be fear. It’s not a feeling. It’s not some sort of Julia Childs formula. It is fellowship. It’s a lifestyle.
So I thought for the 25th anniversary of the Byron Nelson Golf Classic and the first Annual Byron Nelson Day at the Fellowship of Colinas, I would parallel understanding God’s will to playing golf. I’m going to parallel understanding God’s will to playing golf. So from now on, whenever you see a pair of golf cleats, golf clubs, golf balls, you’re playing in a foursome, you’re watching television, you’re at the Byron Nelson, I hope you will think about God’s will and understanding and getting a grasp on this hot topic.
A couple of months ago we did a survey at The Fellowship of Las Colinas and we asked you a couple of questions. We got you to give us responses on what you would like us to cover in specific messages and one of the main, most prominent statements that you gave us was, “How can I discover God’s will for my life?” Let’s parallel it now to playing golf in the next few moments that remain.
I think everyone will agree that the Augusta National Golf Course is the greatest golf course in the world. That’s where they play the Masters, ladies and gentlemen, in Augusta, Georgia. I grew up right next to Augusta, Georgia. This past week, I called Augusta North National Golf Course and I asked them what it would take for me to play one round of golf. The lady politely said, “Sir, that is impossible.” I said, “Let’s play a game. Let’s say money is no object.” “I’m sorry, sir. That is impossible.” “Let’s say I was related to like Clint Eastwood or Madonna or some big name, could I?” “I’m sorry sir, you could not play. You must be invited personally by a member and he or she must be in your foursome.” I said, “Wait a minute. Money is no object?” “That’s right.” “It doesn’t matter how good a golfer I am?” “That’s right.” “It doesn’t matter what my last name is?” “That’s right.” “I have to have a personal invitation from a member?” She says, “Yes.” I said, “Thank you very much,” and I hung the phone up.
The first aspect in discerning God’s will and understanding God’s will for our lives is that we have to respond to Christ’s personal invitation He has given you and me. Christ has done that. Remember we talked about the incredible course Jesus has planned for all of our lives? But folks, the Bible says it doesn’t matter how good we are. It doesn’t matter how nice we are or how much money we give to charity or to the church, Jesus says, “You cannot earn it! You have to respond to my personal invitation to play on this golf course.” It doesn’t matter if you are a sorry golfer or a good golfer or a mediocre golfer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 2 handicap or 30 handicap, you’ve got to respond to Christ’s invitation. The first characteristic of living in the will of God.
Let’s turn to 2 Peter 3:9. 2 Peter 3, Verse 9 tells us, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness. He is patient….” That means He is waiting for your response. He has issued a personal invitation to all of us to play on God’s spiritual golf course. Verse 9 continues, “He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance.” The Bible says over and over again that we’re saved, not by works; we’re saved by grace through faith. That’s an amazing point to think about, that Jesus has a personal invitation for you and for me. Respond to it.
You see, most of us are standing outside, looking in saying, “Boy, I would love to play on that golf course. I would love to have that strength, that clear conscience, that power. It would be phenomenal to be able to do that.” But Jesus says, “Respond to my invitation and I will let you play.”
What’s another characteristic of living in the will of God in relationship to golf? You’ve got to, secondly, listen to your caddie. Listen to your caddie. I was out at the Byron Nelson Friday morning and the caddies are so important to the world class golfers. They talk to them. The caddie gives them advice on what club to use, 2-iron, 7-iron, wedge. They even watch the professional golfer’s swing to give them advice. They help them read the green. “It’s going to break right to left about a foot. You need to hit it in that direction.” You’ve seen that picture, those who know the game of golf.
The Word of God says the moment we receive Jesus Christ into our lives, the first thing He does is He puts the person of the Holy Spirit inside our lives. I call the Holy Spirit the spiritual caddie. He’s a spiritual caddie. John 14, Verses 16 and 17 tell us the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. The word “comforter” in the Greek means He is the person who comes alongside of us and gives us advice in every situation. All of a sudden, we’re in the rough as far as relationships, or we’ve sliced one in the woods in a business transaction, or we’ve gotten upset at our spouse and we’re in the trap. The Holy Spirit will whisper to us, just like the caddie does to a professional golfer, “Use this club.” He’ll direct you to this verse, talk to this person in regard to counseling concerning God’s will. The spiritual caddie. You’ve got to have good communication with the Holy Spirit over and over and over again, day after day, responding to the invitation, listening to the Holy Spirit.
But there’s a third principle in regard to golf and thinking about God’s will for our lives. You’ve got to read the scorecard. When professional golfers play golf, they play some practice rounds and they take notes on every hole. Then they will check their notes out. They will read their notes. They will look at the golf course and see how it’s laid out. They will look and see—is it a par 3, par 4, 525 yards, 199 yards; and they will know exactly where they want to hit the ball and they check these differences out. They have the scorecard right there. They also record their score when they’re playing golf. They see how well they’re doing. What’s the spiritual book scorecard? It’s the Bible. It’s the Word of God.
Psalm 119:105 tells us that the Bible is a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path. You see, our caddie, the Holy Spirit, assists us and He says, “Read the Word. Get into God’s Word,” and as we read God’s Word, it shows us how to live our lives. It shows us the hazards. It shows us the sand traps, the roughs, the areas we ought to stay away from. We listen to the caddie, we read God’s Word. It also helps us to keep score. We see how we’re doing when the measuring stick we use is the biblical scorecard; that’s the Word of God. The third aspect of living in the will of God.
But there’s a fourth aspect. The most important thing to a golfer is not just a caddie or reading the scorecard, you’ve got to have the proper, fundamentally-sound golf swing. Right? I watched an older gentleman after a particular golfer would tee off or hit out of the sand, the gallery would kind of go through their swings too. “Boy, I wish I could have my hands like this and swing.” But I want to go over a couple of points of a golf swing and relate it again to the Christian life, God’s will.
The golf swing begins when you take your eyes and put your eyes on the ball and you keep your head down. That’s what they tell you in taking basic golf lessons. You’ve got to keep your head down. But we want to look up, don’t we? We don’t want to keep our heads down. Most people keep their heads down and they take the back swing and they look up and they take out about a foot of turf. But the Bible says we are to keep our heads down as we walk the Christian life. Our heads down in prayer, in constant communication with the Lord. We’re to keep our eye, literally, on Christ, “the author, the perfector, the finisher of our faith.” You see, when my head is down consistently, when I’m seeking the mind, the will of God, then I am going to live my life the way God wants me to live it.
Also in a golf swing, they tell us to swing from the inside out. As we live our lives in the will of God, we’re to let the Holy Spirit work on us from the inside out, not from the outside in, but the inside out, seeking His agenda, going through that particular sandtrap or that hole day after day after day.
Also in the golf swing, they’ll tell you it’s important to transfer the weight. You’ve got to transfer the weight. Everyday, we have to transfer our sin, our shortcomings. We have to keep short accounts with God. If there is some sort of living sin in your life or my life, we can miss God’s voice, the prompting of the spiritual caddie when He wants to communicate something to you or to me.
Some people worry about things and they rack their brains, “Is this God’s will? Do I marry a non-Christian? Is this God’s will if I have sex outside of marriage?” Folks, God has already settled those issues. There are some things that are specific. The Bible refers to these as precepts. Precepts are black and white principles. You shouldn’t worry about, “Well, should I marry a non-Christian?” God’s already said, “Do not be unequally yolked with unbelievers.” If you’re thinking, “Can I have sex outside of marriage? I love this guy. I love this girl. We’re not married yet, but can I have sexual relations outside of marriage?” The Bible has already settled that issue. Sex is just for the marriage bed. And I talk to people often who say, “I don’t know if it’s God’s will if I should live with this person” or “Should I marry this non-Christian?” That’s a precept.
The Bible also has principles in it. Principles are general concepts. When Lisa and I were praying two years ago in Houston about accepting this church as pastor, no matter how hard I looked, I never saw a verse in Habakkuk 4:13, “Ed, move to Irving and become the first pastor of The Fellowship of Las Colinas.” Or when I was wondering, “Now, God, is it your will to marry Lisa?” I never saw Jeremiah 29:4, “Ed, Marry Lisa Lee.” But I used God’s principles.
The Bible says that when we’re in the will of God, we will have the peace that surpasses all understanding. We will have satisfaction. As I prayed about, “Is it God’s will for me to pastor this church?” I felt peace. “Is this God’s will for me to marry Lisa?” I felt satisfaction; I felt peace. So we have to realize there are some precepts and we need to know the precepts, but there are also some general principles. God gives us, folks, a choice. The Bible is not like some type of a spiritual directory that tells us A, B, C, D, E, F, G—let me see what I’m going to be doing 50 years from now. Let me see. If it did that, it wouldn’t have very much faith to it.
Remember I told you in Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” You study Israel archaeology and study the folks during the Old Testament and New Testament times, they would strap oil lamps to their feet—this is the picture behind this verse—and the lamp would illumine enough space for them to take a step at a time during the nighttime hours. Now, they didn’t have some type of strobe light that was cast in their path about a half a mile down the road. They had to take one step at a time, but the steps were illumined, and that’s what God says He wants to do in regard to His will for our lives. God says, “You take a step out in the dark. I’ll illumine your path through the Word of God and I’ll let you take step after step after step.”
The final principle I want us to look at in understanding God’s will has to do with the fairway. When you live your life for the Lord, you’ve got to keep the ball in the middle of the fairway and that’s a challenge for most of us who play golf, isn’t it? Keeping the ball in the middle of the fairway.
Some people come to me and say, “You know I got a divorce 10 years ago and because I got a divorce, Ed, I know I’ll settle for second-best the rest of my life, because I made one mistake” or “You know, I stole something. I was dishonest in this corporation and because I did that, there’s no way God could ever use me.” “Because I married the wrong person 20 years ago, there’s no way God could ever….” What does the Bible talk about us settling for second best? If that were the case, look at Moses. Moses killed an Egyptian. God still used him in a mighty way. Look at David, he committed adultery and murder. God still used him in a mighty way.
God expects you, He expects me, to slice the hook, to hit a worm-burner, to knock it over the green sometimes. God expects that. But God will work through our mistakes to bring about His will, His plan, His purposes and that’s great news! That’s fabulous news!
I want to close with one verse. Psalm 37:4 says this, “If we delight in the Lord…” if we delight in the Lord, if we worship the Lord, if we’ve met these five conditions we’ve talked about. I’ve responded to the invitation. I’ve got the proper swing. I’m listening to the caddie. I’m reading the scorecard. I’m staying down the middle of the fairway, living a holy life. If we meet these five conditions, Psalm 37:4 says, “my desires are His desires. His desires are my desires,” so we’re free in God’s will. We’re free in God’s will.
This Wednesday night at 7:00 pm I will continue this subject matter, understanding God’s will, because this morning we have just scratched the surface. What I want you to understand is, when you meet these five conditions, you say, “God, I’m free, I delight myself in you” and God will supernaturally guide you. He will direct you in His will.
Are you in God’s will? Are you living at the center of God’s will? If one of those five conditions is not met, if they’re not taken care of, you’re missing out on the greatest course you can imagine! It’s my desire to communicate to you through God’s Word, how great the course is. Respond to the invitation, follow the Lord, and your desires will be His desires.