Knowing God’s Will

*This is a message I gave for a summer conference in a friend’s church a few weeks ago. I’ve removed a few key illustrations for security reasons.

Decisions never leave us in life. Crossroads can creep into our lives without warning. Other times though, the crossroads are more like the final exam that looms in the foreground.

You’d think that after you choose your college and major, then you’d be done with major life decisions. I’m here to tell you that is not the case. I’m almost 25 and I am still figuring my life out.

What are the decisions you have in front of you? Any of you applying to colleges? Deciding what to be involved in during the next school year? Looking for a summer job? Have you been overwhelmed by the decisions?

I don’t know about y’all, but I am a worrier. Do we have any worriers in the room? I worry about big decisions often.

I know I’ve exasperated my parents with my “what if’s” and my worries.

My worries in the past were, “What if I don’t get into Baylor, what if I don’t get the writing job I want overseas, what if …”

My question now is: what do I do after this three-year assignment? What if I come back right away, what if I stay in the U.S., and if I stay, will I be able to come back? What if I chose the wrong seminary?

The questions are endless and typically end up with me overwhelmed and exasperated.

Have you felt overwhelmed and exasperated with decisions and not known what to do ? If you haven’t, you probably will sometime in the future.

Well, how can we know what to do and how to make these decisions?

First, let’s look at Matthew 6:34. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Even though this verse tells us not to worry, it’s still so easy to worry. When you think about it, it is quite silly. We are children of the King. He’s mapped out Creation to the end and we are worrying about our life when He already knows what happens and it is for our good.

Sometimes it seems much easier to worry about the future than what we have on our plates right now.

In this passage, Matthew tells us to look at the lilies and how God cares for them, and wouldn’t he also care for us? He cares for the animals, wouldn’t he also care for us?

We’re told not to worry about tomorrow. We have enough to worry about today. Our hearts know this. Our heads have trouble grasping it.

Worry makes you look down at everything that’s overwhelming in your life instead of looking to Him. Worry causes us to look away from God.

That’s a scary thought isn’t it?

Looking away from God? Think about that. We are looking away from our Sustainer. I don’t think we realize sometimes we are doing this.

It seems easier to worry and take things into your own hands. For some reason, we think, well, I am not going to wait for God to answer, so I’ll just do what I want. Or maybe it’s that we don’t trust He will answer. By taking a decision into our own hands, we think, oh, well at least we’re getting it done know we’re getting it done.

I don’t know how y’all feel, but sometimes I feel like by letting my worry go, I will be dropping the ball. It’s hard to let go. It’s kind of like on roller coasters, when you want to lift your hands in the air when you go over the steep hill, but you kinda still want to hang on. How many people have flown out of roller coasters when they let go?

The Lord has been teaching me a lot about letting go and letting him. Matthew says, in chapter 5 verse 3, “God blesses those who recognize their need for Him.” Matthew 5:3. Once we recognize we need Him to make the decision, we are blessed.

How can we stop worrying and recognize we need Him and let go. Worry is just so hard to let go of.

Recognizing our need though may sometimes feel like failure. It isn’t.

We need to raise our gaze and seek God’s will. How do we seek God’s will? How do we become more like Him? How do we know His will for our lives?

One of the ways we do that is through meditating on God’s word.

In Joshua 1:8-9 it says, “Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may obey all that is written in it. Only then you will succeed. I command you – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”

Joshua was the leader who took Moses’ place. Joshua had huge shoes to fill. He was taking over for the guy who led the Israelites out of Egypt, who received the 10 Commandments from God and parted the Red Sea. I don’t know for sure, but I am pretty sure Joshua was scared silly. I would have been. Moses was a tough act to follow. How was he to know the direction God wanted for his life? Joshua not only had decision he needed to make for himself, he had decisions for an entire nation.

God told him on several occasions to be strong and courageous and to meditate on Him, not the problems at hand.

The pastor at my church said this past Sunday that if you’re a worrier, you already know how to meditate – worry is negative meditation.

Negative meditation means you are trying to solve the problem through your own might and not through His. We spend all of our energies focusing on the problems. I spend a lot of time negatively meditating. I worry and meditate on the stories I write, wanting to get them “just right.” I want to do the stories justice. I think by meditating on the problem, I’ll help get it taken care of.

This might work or it might work for awhile but it is truly walking the path God has for is? Is it living life abundantly? Jesus said that he came so that we might have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10, says the thief comes to kill and destroy, but I came so that you might have life.

The pastor at my church encouraged us to follow what the Lord commanded Joshua, “Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may obey all that is written in it. Only then you will succeed.”

Ponder that for a moment. What does it mean to meditate on it day and night? It means being familiar enough with the Word that it’s like your constant companion – it’s closer to you than you cell phone or iPhone

Think of it like a Twitter feed if you use Twitter. You update it throughout the day, right?

It’s kinda the same with God. You check in during the day. You send up prayers throughout the day. Or it’s like adding a location to Facebook. “Tessa is with God at the grocery store.”

Recently, I’ve been trying to be better about carrying God’s Word around with me and reading it along and along and not just in the morning during my quiet time.

The other day I was at the hospital and while I was waiting, I pulled out my Kindle and read a few verses. It so happened that my appointment was on a Sunday morning. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make church in time. I considered just going home and reading the Bible on my own. But, as I sat and waited and read, God spoke to me through a verse in Hebrews 10:25 that says not to forsake the assembling of believers.

So, I went to church and the message was exactly what I needed to hear.

It was about being strong and courageous. The message was about pondering the Word. The message encouraged me to act in obedience to the small steps He’s given me, and then more will be revealed.

“Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may obey all that is written in it. Only then you will succeed.”

God said only once we meditate and ponder His Word we will succeed. Think about that. There is no success in our plans if God and His Word is not a part of it. That means we’ll have success in our decisions by meditating on His word

Now, back knowing God’s will for our decisions. We’ve talked about how worry doesn’t really help. We know we are supposed to meditate on the Word, what else?

Many times when we are obedient in the small things, God reveals the next step. We may not know where we are supposed to go to college, but God is calling me to spend time in His word. When I do that, He honors the obedience and shows us the next step.

It’s kind of like walking into the flashlight light that you have. Once you step forward with your flashlight you can see more. You don’t know what’s ahead until you step forward.

A practical example of this is I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to pursue two options for my next step in life.  One option is to return here to work. The second option is going back to the U.S. for further study. Now, one way He revealed I can think through this is by making an excel sheet of what I’m looking for in my continued education.

By obeying this guidance, it’ll help me narrow things down and it is walking in obedience to what I already know to do

Now, I am not saying this is what you should do; it’s just an example of obedience in my life.

If we are seeking God in our decisions, He’ll bless us with the best.

Of course another way to discover God’s will is through prayer. God wants us to come before him in prayer with our joys, struggles, thoughts etc.

Philippians 4:6-7 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Bring your decision before God in prayer. Don’t be anxious. With thanksgiving, let our requests be known. He’ll send us peace and take away the anxiety

Prayer is a conversation with God, kind of like a constant instant messaging conversation. The Bible says to be in prayer continually.

Come before him with your struggles, joys, thanksgivings. Remember to lift up others in prayer.

It’s amazing to me when we start praying for others, not only are we giving our brothers and sisters in Christ help, our lives are enriched too.

By reading His word and meditating on Scripture, we’re getting to know God better. Think about it, would you call a close friend a close friend if you never spent time with them? If you didn’t know much about them? If you didn’t listen to them?

God is our Creator and best friend. By spending time with Him, we learn about His will for our life. His will for our life is better than any will we could come up with for our life.

James 4:8 says, “Draw close to God and He will draw close to you.”

As we spend time with God, we’re also able to let the Holy Spirit prompt us. The Holy Spirit is that still, small voice we hear in our heads.

A recent example of this, I was eating in a restaurant in Korea. Outside the window, I saw a homeless woman. She was sitting there, barely moving, with everything she owned in life.

I’m sitting at a Bennigan’s, enjoying a Monte Cristo sandwich and a sweet tea. I heard that still, small voice telling me I should give my leftovers to the woman.

Recently, I had been spending time with the Lord more and it’s amazing how much more He speaks to me. I think a few months ago, I would have been too self-absorbed to even notice the woman or listen to the Holy Spirit telling me to give my leftovers to her.

That is a small example, but the Holy Spirit will speak to us about life events like that. We need to tune our ears to hear him.

Let’s read Matthew 7:7-11

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

If you knock on someone’s door and walk away before they answer the door, are you going to know what they have to say?

No. You have to wait for them to answer. Sometimes waiting takes some time. If you knock on a person’s door, and they don’t answer, Maybe the person is in the restroom – maybe they are getting dressed. Now, with God, it isn’t these things, but He answers according to His timing and what’s best for us.

God wants us to keep asking, praying and seeking His will. It’s an active thing, not passive waiting game.

1 John 5:14 says, “And we can be confident that He will listen to us whenever we ask Him for anything in line with his will.”

Sometimes the things we are praying for aren’t in line with His will. He has something better in store for us. Do you trust that what He has is infinitely better than what we could ask or imagine?

Sometimes there is sin in our lives we need to repent of first and then God reveals the next step. Is there sin in your life you need to be rid of?

Sin is a roadblock that keeps us from God. Many times when we ask God for the next step in our life, He’ll tell us to first remove the hindrance in between us and Him.

Sometimes we ask selfishly or for things that bring us pleasure but have no heavenly value.

James 4:3 says, “And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong-you only want what will give you pleasure.”

How do we know if our motives are wrong? The more time we spend with God, the more we become like God. The more we become like God, the more our motives line up with him.

We might be tempted to think God’s plans are no fun or will be less fun than what we can come up with for ourselves.

But Jeremiah 29:11 says,

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

I know we hear that verse a lot. But it is really a good one. Believe that is it true, and that God will give you a future and hope.

Psalm 139 says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

Do you believe that is true for your life? The journey our God has for us in one of abundant joy. He promises us that. He has a divine journey. Many times we settle for mediocre – we settle for what we can see that is good, but what if we aren’t seeing what’s better?

We think we’ll stay with what we can orchestrate, and not what God can orchestrate for our lives.

We can’t see the whole picture and what fun adventure lay around the corner when we are too busy and worried to go around the corner.

There’s a confidence that comes in seeking Him and taking the steps He’s shown us and He reveals more through our obedience.

If we keep seeking and knocking, spending time in His Word, praying, meditating on it, He’ll reveal His will in the perfect time.

Another way we can hear from the Lord is through godly counsel. God places people in our lives who speak Truth to us.

I would caution you though, to not seek out advice from others first before going before God. I tend to do this. I go to my parents and friends many times before I go to God.

God should always be the first one we run to.  I am working on this in my life. It seems easier to run to the people in our lives because they are there and the answer is quick. I’ve been trying to be better about first running to God.

God does speak through godly people in our lives, so be in tune with God.

I’d like to challenge y’all to think about the decisions and the worries you have in your life. Take a minute to think about them.

Tell God what they are and that you want and need His direction. Ask God to take away the worry, you might have to do this more than once. I often have to keep laying my worry down on the altar. Every time an anxious thought comes, take it captive.

Plan time this week to spend with Him. Set aside time in the morning for a quiet time and a prayer time. In the prayer time, allow time to listen. Throughout the day, think about what you read that morning. Take time during the day to read more in God’s Word. Maybe get a Bible app on your smartphone.

Take time to talk with other believers, to ask them to pray for you and ask how you can pray for them. Allow God to speak to you through others, but make sure you don’t elevate the person to status of God

Talk to Him throughout the day. Journaling my prayers sometimes helps me. Close your day by talking to Him. Be asking Him to show you the small steps you can take each day. Once he shows you, obey and do whatever it is. Look for ways to be obedient, even if it doesn’t seem relate to the decision you’re making or trying to make.

When you pray, don’t just pray for Him to fix your problem or buy your car. Seek to become like Him by aligning yourself to His word. This will guide your prayers and you’ll begin to pray according to His word.

Follow the commands He’s written in the Bible.

When you begin to worry, catch yourself and remind yourself to throw that worry up to God ask God for help. Find areas of sin in your life and ask forgiveness.

If you don’t know Christ as your personal Savior, I’d love to invite you to start this amazing and exciting adventure. Talk to one of the adults there. Seek to know and understand Him through His Word.

I know it’s a scary journey when you’re not the driver of the car. But as God promises as he did Joshua, “Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. JoanP says:

    Good words, Tessa!

    1. thaitessa says:

      Thank you! Thanks for reading!

  2. Sam Chen says:

    This is a beautiful message. Still speaks to me as I read it a few weeks later. Thank you for partnering in ministry for His Kingdom, Tessa!! It’s a blessing to know you and call you friend.

  3. christine H says:

    Great post T! Like Sam mentioned, your post resonates with me even after you wrote it. Thanks for blessing us with these kind and loving words :-)

    1. thaitessa says:

      Thanks Christine! Thank you for being a blessing to me throughout the years!

  4. Cara says:

    “Sometimes it seems much easier to worry about the future than what we have on our plates right now.” So true. It’s easier to think about potential future plans than to take time to be holy right now. Love you, Tessa!

  5. Erin P. says:

    Hi Tessa,

    It’s Erin P. from college/ADPi — no more facebook — don’t miss it —

    Haven’t spoken with you in a while, but I have a friend who will be arriving in Chiang Mai within a month or so and I gave her your blog information and told her you have a facebook page in case she wants to get into touch with you while she is in CM.

    She will be there for several months of massage school training.

    If you get a random friend request or something, that’s probably her. I think it is good for fellow Americans to network while abroad, so I let her know you lived there and I like you! (that last goes without saying)

    1. thaitessa says:

      Hey Erin! So good to hear from you! Yes, I was wondering where you were! So good to reconnect with you!

      I am actually moving back to the U.S. for a little bit. I land in on Oct. 23! I will be moving back to Thailand next year. I will be in Texas quite a bit – we should get together!

      I would love to talk to your friend! Haven’t gotten a request yet but would love to talk with her!

  6. Erin P. says:

    PS saw your twitter handle- gross on dengue fever.

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