Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Believers all want to know what lies ahead in the plan of God.
God's will is a series of small events that ultimately take us where He wants us to go. Today, more light taken from the Scriptures to make your path and mine more clear. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, it seems people seek guidance in different ways. They really do, Dave, and sometimes they seek guidance in a wrong way.
You'd be surprised at the number of people who go to fortune tellers, or they may go to someone whom they think has wisdom who perhaps does not have wisdom, and that's why it's so important for us to make sure that when we are guided, when we face difficult decisions, we get the best input that is available. That, of course, comes first of all from the Word of God, but also the people of God. And speaking of the Word of God as we enter this new year, we're reminded of the fact that we need, and we do have, a sure word, as the Bible itself describes itself. We have a sure word that has come to us from above. That's why we're making available for you a book entitled Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible. I wrote this book so that your own faith in the Scriptures might be bolstered, so that you might be able to give an answer to those who criticize the Bible or criticize you for believing it. Ask for seven reasons why you can trust the Bible.
And at the end of this message, I'm going to be giving you info as to how this book can be yours. For now, let us listen together. The point is that David kept asking. And Saul, on the other hand, it only says once that Saul inquired of the Lord, and the Lord did not hear him. Because you see, Saul was living in disobedience. He was into his own agenda. He wanted God now to come along and to help him in his own rebellion, and God didn't hear him. So interestingly, the very next verse says that he went then and he inquired of the sorceress. You remember, he went to this witch at Endor.
And I thought yesterday, as I was looking at that, that that's a reason why many people are into the New Age movement today. That's why so many people read the horror scopes. It's because they pray to God and they think, well, you know, God isn't listening. God does not hear them.
That's true. They are not coming to God in the name of Christ. They are not coming to God on their own terms.
And so God is silent and the heavens are silent, and so they turn to all of these other occult forms of guidance, which God, incidentally, abhors. Well, what does it say? It says, ask. Why is it that we don't ask?
Two reasons. Number one, we think in advance that we know what the will of God is. I've often thought that. I just thought, well, this is the will of God. This seems like a reasonable decision.
And it turned out that it was quite unreasonable. The other thing, and I think that now we're getting to the heart of the matter, is the reason that we often do not ask is because we fear, we fear that God is going to actually give us an answer that does not agree with what we really want to do. We would rather not ask. What's the most important decision that you could ever make in life? It is whether or not you become a Christian. What is the second most important decision? It is whom you marry.
That's the second most important decision. Now, it's interesting that in the process of time, when you do some marriage counseling and you try to help couples solve their problems, I sometimes ask them a question which you can't ask unless you ask in the right way, unless you've built a relationship, and unless you have really gotten close to the situation, because you don't want to just ask a question like this. But I've sometimes asked people later on in reflection, did you really pray about your decision? Did you ask and give God a good, sane, decent chance to break you up? See, unless you do that, you're not really asking. You're only pretending to ask.
Here are some of the answers as I remember them. No, we didn't. I felt uneasy about it, but I had invested so much in the relationship I couldn't back out. Here's somebody else. No, I didn't ask because I assumed that because she was a Christian, it would work out all right.
And then here's the real winner here. Yes, I did ask. I didn't have peace about the decision, but I prayed until I did. I want to tell you something today. Peace is only one part of the puzzle of the will of God. And if you really want to do something and you're determined to it, you can pray yourself into peace.
Even the devil will give it to you if you want it bad enough. I've seen people do some very foolish things because they had peace about it. They have disregarded some good counsel and they've thrown it all out and they said, well, I have peace. Watch that peace because it's only one piece of the puzzle. Now you say, well, what do you do then if you didn't pray about it?
Well, guess what? God has a whole brand new will for you. Those of you who never prayed about whom you were to marry and now you're married, smile. God has a whole new will for you.
And that is to be faithful and to see him work a will within your marriage. Because you see, we have to get over this idea that the will of God is somehow this path that we must we must tread very, very carefully. And should we ever fall to one side or the other? Or should we ever take a wrong path when we come to the fork in the road that God suddenly gives up on us and says, well, you know, they've taken this wrong path and there's nothing I can do with them now?
No. After you take the wrong path and you begin to submit to God, the asphalt under your feet turns out to be the will of God. God has as many possibilities as there are messes in this world. Don't we serve a great God? In fact, I don't care where you are at today. If you are willing to submit to God and do whatever he wants you to do, no matter whether it is a mess of somebody else's making or you're making today, you can look into the mirror and say, I am doing the will of God.
That's right. And we'll explain how that is in just a moment. But Jesus says, first of all, ask. Have you asked God for guidance?
Have you asked telling him that no matter what he shows you, you're going to do? Secondly, seek and you shall find. And how do we seek? We seek through the scriptures. We seek God through the scriptures beyond the sacred page. I see the Lord. Now, when we begin to search the scriptures, by the way, we suddenly discover it is filled with references to what God's will is.
Romans 12, one and two, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you might prove that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Now, there's something that you can do today. You don't have to wait for a light in the sky. You don't need a revelation.
You don't need a day timer for that. You submit yourself to God. You pull yourself onto that altar and then you stay there and you and if you crawl off, you crawl back onto it.
How do you like this in everything? Give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ concerning you. I'm convinced we will never overcome temptation unless we give thanks for it and see God's hand in it as an opportunity to test our loyalty and the giving of thanks transforms the way in which we see reality. Now, there's the will of God that you can do today.
First Thessalonians chapter five verse 18 is what I quoted, but also first Thessalonians chapter four verse three says, this is the will of God that you abstained from fornication. Now there is something that is the will of God that is clear and unambiguous and here's the point. Now, if we are willing to walk in those areas that God has revealed, he will give us guidance in those areas that he has not revealed. You walk in the light and God will give you more light. You walk in this light and God will give you the ability and the wisdom to make those decisions about which the Bible has nothing directly to say. So we seek God through the word and then we wait on God.
My soul, wait thou only on God for my expectation is from him. We wait on God with the full expectation that he is going to give us guidance and leadership and he will show us the way in whatever way he chooses to do that. And then you know what we discover when we begin to seek, we suddenly see the will of God entirely different. No longer is the will of God simply making the right decision, but it is the right devotion.
No longer is it this mysterious path. Suddenly the will of God becomes a person, namely our relationship with God and that becomes the important factor in our decisions. And we begin to see that knowing the will of God is basically at root knowing God, knowing God. And so we seek, we seek and then we knock. And I suppose that Jesus, I'm sure that Jesus was still thinking about us knocking to the gates of heaven and we keep knocking and we knock and we knock. Bunyan in his pilgrims progress there he says that when Christian was knocking on the gate there was a dog barking.
You've had that experience. You know you've come to a mansion and you'd like to think that this is where your friend lives or you're looking for some kind of guidance or direction or something and you feebly begin to knock and your knees are knocking because you're scared and then all that you need to do is to hear this, this wild sounding dog come running out and you know you're just terrified. You know that's the way the devil does it. We come before God and we begin to knock and we hear all of these voices and there's all this anguish and there's all this opposition and there are all these questions and there are all these doubts. It's the dog barking, but if you continue to knock, the owner comes to the door and as soon as the owner comes to the door, the dog backs away and minds his business.
The owner says shh and the dog goes shh, whatever that means in dog language and you discover that it was worth knocking. That's the way it is when we pray. All hell seems to come loose. All of the reasons as to why we shouldn't be praying come to mind. When you're praying, if you're like I am, you sometimes have to keep a notepad because it is then that everything comes to mind that you have to do. Anything that you have forgotten in the last week suddenly begins to surface and what you need to do is to write it down so it no longer bothers you or pray about it.
Pray about every distraction that you have in prayer. Give every distraction that you have to God so you keep knocking. But I'd like to extend this and say that you not only knock now in the presence of God, you begin to knock in terms of opportunity.
In Revelation chapter 3, I believe it is the Lord is speaking to the church in Philadelphia and he says I am the one who opens doors and when I open them, nobody can close them and when I close them, nobody can open them. And it's a door of opportunity. And so you begin to pursue various avenues. Are you inclined to be a nurse? Then you begin to search out nursing and you begin to move in that direction fully telling the Lord that if you're going the wrong way, he has every right to stop you and when you live that way, he will stop you. I've often made decisions like that. I've often said to myself, you know, Lord, I'm going to choose to do this.
This is what I'm planning to do, but if I'm wrong, you let me know. And God has brought all kinds of roadblocks into my life to give me guidance and he will do the same for you. I only mentioned that that you might know that God is faithful if we seek the wisdom for that guidance. Do you want to be an accountant? Aren't you thankful that there are people in this world who want to be accountants?
I thank God for them because each of them must be a very, very unique person. You want to do that? You pursue that. You believe that God might be leading you to some remote part of the world as a missionary. You begin to investigate missions. You begin to knock. You begin to seek opportunities. You begin to send out applications. You become active where you are.
And God will begin to give you guidance and leadership because he doesn't want you to just spend the rest of your life in this no man's land of I don't know what in the world I'm supposed to be doing. Now there are a couple of comments that I want to make. The first is this, that when we do this, we should do it persistently and continually. In Greek, ask, seek and knock are present tense. And Greek scholars tell us that what it really means is you ask and you go on asking. You seek and you keep seeking.
You knock and you keep knocking. And it's a continuous thing. Every single day you begin to say, Lord, today I want to do your will and I seek your guidance and I ask you to lead me and I want to do what you want me to do. And it becomes a lifestyle. It becomes a habit. I was reading yesterday where somebody said that he didn't seal an envelope without breathing a prayer and he didn't get a glass of water without breathing a prayer.
And if you ride the L, you shouldn't get onto it without breathing at least two prayers. And all the way along the line, we live a life of dependence. Every day is a new day to say, God, here I am. What will thou have me to do?
So it's continual. Secondly, I want you to know that even though God may not give you what you want, he's going to give you what is best. Let's look at the next verses of the text. Jesus said, is there any man who if his son were to ask him for a piece of bread, would he give him a stone? Now you don't understand that verse unless you realize that there are sometimes little stones that look like little loaves of bread. You've seen nice round stones.
And there are sometimes some fish that look a little bit like some snakes. So Jesus said, if you being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, it's there in the text. If you being evil know how to give good gifts unto your children, listen to this, how much more shall your Father in heaven give what is good? Give what is good to those that ask him. Now the reason often we don't want God's will is because we don't believe that God is good.
That's the devil's lie. That's what he used for with Adam and Eve there in the garden. He said, a good God would never restrict you like this.
And so he blinds their eyes to the hundreds of trees that they could eat from. And he concentrates on the one that they couldn't eat from and said, a good God would never do this to you. And today the devil does the same thing and says, a good God will never let you do what's going to make you happy and free.
If you really want to do what's best for you, you have to bolt out of his control and you have to do your own thing. Listen, that is a lie and that is nonsense. As a father, I would never give my child a stone if one of our children had asked for bread. But you know, there are times when we do that unknowingly because sometimes you and I can't tell the difference between the stone and the piece of bread. But God will never do that.
That's what the text says. You see, God knows the difference between a stone and bread and he will never give you a stone when you ask for bread. He will never give you something that is bad for you.
If you ask, you seek and you knock. Doesn't mean it's always going to work out pretty. It doesn't mean that God comes along and he takes all of our rose bushes and removes the thorns and just lets us be with the roses and the beautiful smell that they might have.
No, it doesn't mean that at all. I've already told you that the will of God is sometimes difficult. There was a seminary, a young man who wanted to attend seminary in America and he left Nigeria. He left a good job there where they wanted to promote him in the company in a land with a lot of poverty, but he had no self. And he said no to it because God was giving him this strong impression that he was to come and to study in the United States of America. And he came to Dallas Seminary and he died while a student there. The first time a student, an international student has ever died while being in seminary.
Now he has his wife and six kids in America. Can we look at that and say, well, you know, that was a foolish decision. God didn't guide him. No, my friend looked at from the standpoint of eternity, no question about it. That's what was best.
That's what was best. But God sees it differently than we do. And if we are evil and sinners and if we know how to give good things to our children, how much more shall your father who is in heaven give good things, give good things to those that ask him. Now, have you ever put God to the test?
Have you ever asked him? I told you that when you left here, you're going to know what to do. Well, you already know it. I hope that you have the verbs underlined in Matthew chapter seven verse seven. I can't tell you specifically God's will, but I can tell you that if you ask and you seek and you knock, the promise is God will give you something good. He is willing to lead those who sign a blank check, but that's where the rub comes.
Now there's another category of people here today. Some of you do not know Christ as your savior. I can tell you God's will right now. You don't have to say, well, you know, I don't really know what God wants me to do. Jesus said to the people of his day, this is the will of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. There's God's will now. You can't leave here and say, you know, I'm confused about God's will.
There it is. This is the will of God that you believe on him whom he hath sent. Remember this, the issue never, never is to overcome God's reluctance. We just need to get out of the way and let him guide. Let him guide.
Perhaps that's the emphasis in today's message. We let him do the guiding and guide he will. If we come with open arms and an open heart asking and seeking and knocking and trusting and the promise from the lips of Christ himself is when you do that, he'll give you something good and not something bad. And if you will, let us pray. Our Father, we do thank you today that many of us have experienced your guidance and hundreds of people are present today who could right now talk about your faithfulness in guiding their lives.
Many others are confused because they have very important decisions to make. We ask Lord Jesus that you shall show them that you've not abandoned them, you have not left them, but that you stand ready to give them guidance. Grant us that today we pray in Jesus name.
Amen. I don't know about you, but so often I prayed for my children that God would keep them from evil, that they might make good decisions, that God might birth in their heart both the wisdom and the guidance that they need so that they can be used for his glory so that they can live for his glory. Isn't it wonderful that God has given us a book? He's written a book by which we can find out what the will of God really is. Oftentimes in scripture we read, this is the will of God, and we can find out how God wants us to live, and as I like to emphasize, when we are obedient to what he has revealed, he guides us in matters that are unrevealed. My own life is an illustration of that as I look back and see the way in which God led me in ordinary decisions, which at the time seemed very ordinary, but in the end turned out to be very critical.
What he's done for me, he can do for you. We here at Running to Win are totally committed to enabling people to understand the scriptures, to understand the gospel, and I've written a book entitled Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible. One of the reasons is because of the Bible's own testimony. When I was sitting in philosophy class many years ago, a professor said these words. He said, is the Bible the word of God simply because it claims to be the word of God?
Well, that of course seems to be like circular reasoning, but in this book I show that it is very important for us to understand what the Bible says about itself, and in the process our faith in the scriptures is renewed. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. You need this book. Perhaps you know someone who needs this book, and I believe it will be a blessing and strengthen your faith. Ask for the book Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible, because indeed the Bible is trustworthy.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. These days you cannot say you have the truth without offending those around you. And when you say that Jesus is the truth, people become unglued. Next time on Running to Win, we begin a two-part look at why Jesus is the only way to God, modern pundits notwithstanding. Don't miss God Yes, But Why Jesus? Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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