We just started a series at church that is focused on the will of God. It pains me that we have made God’s will into something that we are afraid of rather than bask in. God’s beautiful words in Jeremiah, “I know the plans that I have for you” were not intended to strike some sort of fear in our hearts that we better be careful to figure out those steps and stay in them. Those words were uttered to give us peace, to allow us to know that we were not supposed to do the best we can but rather we have the opportunity to receive the best that God has for us. God’s will is not about decision making or problem solving, it is not even about resisting temptation and denying ourselves. The will of God is a gift, a prize, not to be found but to be received. The Psalmist said that we are supposed to rejoice that the steps of the righteous are ordered by God, not fret over figuring out the right order. God is not hiding Himself or His will, in fact, the nearer we are to Him, the more clear His will becomes. God’s will is not about deciphering the times, it is all about enjoying His presence.
As I read through the gospels I see a lot of us in the lives of the apostles. It seems to me that they spent a lot of their time trying to figure out Jesus’ next move. They talked over who He was, what He would ultimately do and even what role they would get to play once He had finally fulfilled His purpose. The interesting thing about all of this debate and conjecture is that the entire time that they were trying to figure out when He would usher in His kingdom and restore Israel’s power He was actually explaining to them exactly what He was going to do. Last week we talked about the two believers that left Jerusalem and headed to Emmaus because they were disappointed that Jesus had not restored Israel as they had hoped He would. The problem is that the entire time they were listening to and following Jesus He was telling them exactly what He was going to do. He told them that He came to seek and save the lost; He told them that He came to serve and not be served; He told them that His kingdom of was not of this world and He told them that He would die and then rise again within three days. He told them His will, but they did not hear it. Why? Because they had already decided what they wanted His will to be. It is hard to hear when you have already made up your mind.
Just as he begins to wrap up his second letter Peter gives us some amazing and startling news. He writes, “God is not slow concerning His promise, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The amazing news is that God is not slow! The startling news is that God is longsuffering concerning His will. To be slow is to simply not be motivated, to not be concerned enough to finish the task in a more timely manner. To be longsuffering is to not lose heart, no matter how difficult a task or how long it may take. God is not slow, meaning that He is motivated and He does desire to fulfill His promises and His will. At the same time He is longsuffering, meaning that He does not give up, He is not quick to quit and He is willing to endure for long seasons to see His will, salvation, come to those that He is waiting for. Classic good news, bad news; God is not slow, but He will wait as long as He can for His will to come to pass. Be careful that we do not confuse His patience with being slow. Patience produces perfect, but when we consider God to be slow we end up acting in our own strength and understanding.
My point today, and I pray that it is not convoluted to the point that it is meaningless, is that we must stop believing that our will is the same as God’s will. God is present and He is in the midst of every moment of every day that you and I live, but His will is not nearly as much about us and our wants and desires as it is about His one desire to see us and all those around us come to His saving grace. God ordered Jesus’ death at it’s exact moment for the sake of the thieves hanging on either side of Him. He ordered Stephen’s steps for the sake of those that would hear Him declare Jesus as Lord. He ordered Paul’s steps for the sake of the gentiles waiting to hear the truth of God’s love for them. He ordered John’s for the sake of all those that would read the book of Revelation and come to know Jesus as the Alpha and Omega. He is ordering my steps for the sake of those that He has chosen to use me to shine His light upon and He has ordered your steps in the same manner. As you wait for God and ponder His will today I encourage you not to call Him slow and not to fear wrong turns. Set your affection on Him, on the Author and the Finisher and then, don’t let those just be names or titles, begin living as if you believe that He will both start and finish everything good and perfect in your life.
Our calling, our opportunity, His will for our lives is not nearly as much about occupations and ministries as it is about Him; His love, His presence, His heart and His will that none would perish. When God’s will becomes our will then we will be able to rest because we will then be able to rejoice. First we rejoice because our steps have been ordered by God and because He is longsuffering, not willing to lose heart. Then we can believe that every delay is not an obstacle to be overcome but rather a patient opportunity for someone to know the fullness of God’s love in salvation. Don’t be afraid of God’s will, walk in it, bask in it, enjoy it. I am learning to look at it this way, my salvation probably seemed like a delay of God’s promise in someone else’s life, so every time I ask “how much longer God?” I want to remember that there is someone else that is coming to salvation in the midst of my waiting. I will not be impatient with God’s longsuffering character any longer. I pray that the perfect work of patience would allow seasons of waiting to be realized and celebrated as seasons of salvation. God is not simply waiting, He is loving, speaking, revealing and ultimately saving. His will for your life is the same as His will for mine, “that none would perish but that all should come to repentance.”