Mark S. Mitchell

Pastor, Writer, Follower of Jesus

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Knowing and Doing God’s Will

Yesterday I preached at New North Church on the subject of knowing God’s will. My sermon big idea was that God is more concerned with who you are than where you are. Thus, God doesn’t always tell us what his will is beforehand. Instead, he matures us in wisdom and discernment so we make decisions that reflect his character.

Last week, Lynn and I spent five days in Montana. One of the things we wanted to do was go fly-fishing. The last two times we did this we hired a guide who basically did everything for us except pull the fish in. He rigged up our fly rods, chose the correct fly, told us exactly where to cast it, and even when to set the hook. It’s wonderful to have a guide like that. He makes all the tough decisions for us.

But this time we decided we were ready to do it on our own. To prepare, I read about fly-fishing in Montana. We brought our own equipment, rigged up our fly rods, got some advice from a local fly shop, waded out into the river not knowing exactly where to go, and fished for parts of two days. As you might imagine, we didn’t catch much. But, honestly, the experience was far more rewarding than hiring a guide. Why?Because we were learning. We’re learning to think like a fly-fishing guide. We’ll do it again and we’ll get better.

Sometimes we want God to act like a fly-fishing guide, but he wants something better for us. We want him to tell us exactly what to do every time we have to make a decision. “Wear these clothes. Take this class. Date this person. Choose this major. Buy this house. Accept this job. Marry this person.” But God has a loftier goal for us. His goal has more to do with the kind of people we become. He wants us to have the mind of Christ. He wants to conform us to the image of his Son. To get there, we have to learn to think things out, exercise judgment, make difficult choices in the face of uncertainty, and learn from our mistakes. It’s harder this way, but this process is indispensable for our growth. This means that many times when you seek guidance, God’s response will be: “Learn my ways, rely on me, seek wise counsel, pray, and then just make a decision. Because you’ll never grow if you don’t do that.”

And do you know what’s great about that? You can relax. You don’t have to fret about missing God’s will. If your heart is truly surrendered to him, you cannot, you will not, miss his perfect will.