Sermon Series Week 3 – Why? Making Sense of God’s Will
Why Can’t I See God’s Will for my Life?
Colossians 1:3-14, July 27, 2014
As we continue this week with our sermon series, today we are looking at the question, ‘Why can’t I see God’s will for my life?’ We are probably all familiar with the story of Elijah and his encounter with God on the mountain. After he had defeated the prophets of Baal, the queen was not very pleased and put a hit out on Elijah. He took off running and ended up in the mountains where thunder roared, earthquakes shook, fire broke out, but finally God spoke to him with the silence – that still small voice. Rarely does God speak to us in the thunder or the earthquake. It happens, but not very often.
The author of our text shares a story of a farmer who goes out to plow one day, only to see a cloud configuration with the initials ‘PC.’ He immediately sets out to become a pastor because he thought ‘PC’ stood for ‘Preach Christ.’ As the story goes on the farmer was a complete failure as a pastor and once again returned to farming. When questioned about his decision, he noted that he thought God was calling him to preach Christ when actually God was calling him to plant corn!
We don’t often get a clear picture of what God is calling us to do. I would venture to say that we probably miss God’s message to us even after repeated attempts by God to get our attention. Here’s a scene from the movie ‘Bruce Almighty’ that presents this really well. Note all the physical ‘signs’ put in front of Bruce while he asks God to show him a sign. [play video] I feel that way with my call to ministry. Perhaps God was nudging me toward ministry long before I clearly heard the call. But once I did, there was no doubt for me. When God told me I was one of the six from my home church being led into full time ministry, the message was crystal clear! I would argue that kind of clarity is often rare.
We have to ask a few questions in order to better understand how we can discern God’s will for our lives. First we need to understand what we mean by God’s will. Are we talking about a set of precepts and principles to follow or are we talking about God directing every aspect of our lives, including every decision, action, or word we speak? With this question comes another one – is God’s will irresistible? Where does our freedom of choice fit into the picture?
I finally found the answer concerning this quote I keep coming back to. It is from Shakespeare’s play entitled As You Like It – ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.’ (Act 2, Scene 7) Are we merely playing out our predetermined lives on God’s stage? Is every event, decision, action, trial we encounter part of God’s ultimate plan? Complications arise with this belief when we try to reconcile it with a loving, caring, compassionate God. We would have to accredit every evil action, illness, every amount of suffering we encounter to God. That doesn’t sound like a merciful and loving God to me.
If we are merely playing out a preplanned course of action where the outcome is certain, it seems like life would lose a bit of its meaning. I know I’ve been channel surfing a time or two only to come across a movie I’ve seen a lot. My husband and I will joke a little saying things like, ‘Wow it was close that time. I wasn’t sure he was going to make it.’ We knew the ending of the movie. We knew for sure he was going to make it. The wonder of the movie – the enjoyment was clearly diminished after seeing the same movie again and again. Would there be much enjoyment or meaning to life if all we were doing is following a script? At times we do want to relive exciting moments in our lives – it’s probably why so many folks take pictures or movies of family activities. But after a while, we need to move on to something that is new and different.
There is another viewpoint concerning God’s will that others have presented. This one allows for free will and for God’s plan. It states that God has a plan for our lives and if we follow that plan we will be fully within God’s will, but we can choose to follow the plan or not. Here’s the problem with this line of thinking to consider – God doesn’t share this perfect plan with us. We are left to discern God’s will for ourselves. Think of the farmer planting corn. It is not very often that we hear God in the thunder – it is often the still small voice that we may miss entirely.
So if we stray from God’s will, does everything after that point become skewed? Since we are not given a clear image of God’s will for our lives, and we can choose to follow God’s will or not, how will we return to God’s will if we have already chosen not to follow on a particular issue? Back in the day, I was looking at colleges and I went to Oklahoma to visit Oral Roberts University. The place was amazing. I had already sent in my application and was invited to spend a long weekend on campus. Rather quickly, that door was closed to me and I looked at 2 local colleges and was accepted at both. What if I made the wrong choice? What if something was supposed to happen to me at God’s planned college, and I strayed from that plan? Does that mean that everything I have done since then is outside of God’s will? It gets extremely complicated to follow this line of thinking.
Perhaps we can look at God’s will another way. The author of our text suggests this, ‘What if God is inviting us to collaborate on a general plan for our lives?’ Maybe God has some sort of outline for our lives but allows us to work together to make choices and shape our lives according to this outline, or stray from it entirely if we choose? If we choose to go against God, as we learned this is within our human nature to do, we potentially miss out on God’s blessings for us. We naturally turn toward sin, but when we turn around and follow God, we are able to experience the blessings of forgiveness, peace, hope, and love that would have been missing from our lives.
You have probably heard the stories of those who seem to have everything – money, possessions, fame, fortune. Yet we continue to hear how these folks end up destroying themselves, steeping so deep in despair that no comfort seems to be available to them. When we push God out of the picture, our restlessness and dissatisfaction often takes over. But when we experience the peace of Christ, the forgiveness for our shortcomings, the understanding that we have a grand two-fold purpose – to love God and love our neighbor, we can truly experience a little taste of heaven, right here on earth.
Those of you who have children or grandchildren, or maybe you work with children; you have hopes and dreams for these children. You want them to be healthy, happy, and as Christian parents, you want them to love God and live counter-culturally, helping others and sharing God’s love. We cannot plan out everything for our children but we give them tools and guidance in order to enhance their chances of living into your hopes and dreams for them. Maybe it’s like that with God. Maybe God has hopes and dreams for each of us. Maybe God gives us tools and guidance, but leaves the choices up to us. God is not necessarily dictating everything detail of your live, but providing guidance and direction and unconditional love.
Again we return to the original question, ‘Why can’t I see God’s will for my life?’ The author suggests that we need to be reminded that we are not the only ones with which God is collaborating a life story. We mentioned last week that each of us may be the answer to prayer for someone else. Some will call these encounters with others as coincidences, but perhaps these are ‘God-incidences.’ When we tune into what is going on around us, we often find meaning and purpose in our lives as we share love with our neighbors in some way.
This sounds so blessed. It sounds as if we will know God’s will when we get that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. But keep in mind that following God’s will is not easy. Every life story will be filled with heartache, trials, and pain. But as we follow the will of God, as we tune into what is going on around us, as we seek to develop a deeper relationship with God, we will also experience joy, hope, and a sense of real peace. Our life stories will not end in the dark, but God will see us through and bring us into the light of eternal life.
As a congregation, when we celebrate Holy Communion we are reminded that the son of God did not have an easy life while on earth, but instead was nailed to a cross. But out of that pain and suffering, came the redemption of the world. I hope you feel the presence of Jesus with you each time we share a bit of bread and juice together as this body of Christ. Let us continue to encourage each other as we seek God’s will for our lives as individuals and as this Christian community of believers. Amen.