Robert Munger’s talk on "Knowing God’s Will"

When a person has come to believe in God and that God calls people to follow him, the often asked question is, “How do I know what God wants me to do?” At Urbana 81, Robert Munger talked about “Knowing God’s Will.” Here are my notes:

How do we make right decisions (that is, the decisions that God wishes for us to make) and is there a process that assures us that we are doing God’s will for us?

Basic Principles of Guidance Found in Jesus’ Call

Jesus, while physically here on earth, called people to follow him. And he calls people to follow him while he is physically absent from the earth.

  1. “The call of Jesus is first and always to himself, to walk with him and be at this side.” Our response should be to make a “wholehearted, irrevocable decision to follow Jesus Christ, to live for him, to be his.”
  2. “. . . the greatest work in all the world is to make Jesus Christ known as Savior and Lord.”
  3. Jesus is our shepherd. “Sheep are stupid animals . . . [but] the shepherd’s call and encouragement, his rod and staff, make sure that every sheep in the flock will arrive safely.”
  4. The key to guidance: “we must be willing to do God’s will before we know what it is. To trust ourselves to him. To be taught, shaped and led as he shall choose.”

Some Practical Procedures

  1. “Offer yourself to daily to God.”
  2. “Pray for guidance and grace. Ask him to make his way plain to you and put his desires within you.”
  3. “Inform the mind . . . People are guided by what they know, not by what they don’t know.”
    “We are guided by the truth of God’s word.” We can learn much in the Bible about what is important to God as we study his actions in history and as we study his words spoken to people in the past.”
    “We are guided also by the facts of God’s world.”
  4. Spend time with other Christians who are wise and know God’s word who can provide support, encouragement, wise counsel, and accountability. [Greg’s addition: But be careful of those who seek to control your life and imply that to do God’s will you must do what they say.]
  5. Start where you are. Don’t think that this or that has to change before you can start. Jesus said that he would be with us and never leave us. Give yourself to God, pray for his direction, study his word, get wise counsel and take that next step.

Not The Wisdom Of Men, But The Power Of God

Some friends gave me a voucher for a free United Airlines ticket that they were going to be unable to use. This was a real blessing because I was going to purchase a plane ticket to attend an ACMI (Association of Christians Ministry with Internationals) conference in Minnesota at the end of May. My friends were leaving the country (the next day, in fact), so I went over to pick up the voucher at their house. He told me that this voucher could be used for any flight in the 48 states and that he could also give it to someone else and that I would have to go the airport to get it exchanged for a ticket.

As grateful as I was to have the voucher, as I envisioned myself going to the ticket counter with this voucher (made out to someone else), my thinking was along the lines of “they aren’t going to let me use this.” I said, “Why don’t you write out a note that you are giving the ticket to me and sign it,” which he did.

So finally, on a day when I was already going to the airport to pickup an incoming Chinese student, I went a little early to exchange the voucher for a ticket. As I drove to the airport, in my mind I began to go over the various scenarios that I could imagine unfolding as I try to exchange this voucher with someone else’s name on it. If they said this, I would say that.

Then I began thinking about how when Israel would go out to battle, God did not want them to take too many into battle “lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me'” (Judges 7:2). Later, this verse also came to mind:

And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (ESV)

So then I stopped preparing for possible lines of defense, and began asking God to help me. As I stood in line, there were two agents taking people from my line, both fairly pleasant looking. Then a third one came on duty–Miss Grumpy. So naturally I began to worry that I would get her. I continued to pray, but I also thought, maybe God wants me to get her to make sure I know that this was his doing.

Sure enough, she called me up. I handed her the voucher and, as she began typing, asked where I wanted to go. I figured that I should tell her that I was not the person listed on the voucher. She said, “Oh, well, he should have come with you to sign this over.”

I pulled out the scrap of paper with my friend’s note and signature. She looked at it and said, “That’s good enough for me.” And then she issued me my ticket for Minnesota. She didn’t even keep the note.

Thank you, Lord!

Greg

Don’t Forget to Row

I was reading in Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology,” Chapter 16 on “God’s Providence.” He referenced the story in Acts 27:13-44 where Paul is traveling to Rome and the ship is being threatened by a storm. An angel of the Lord appears to Paul and says, “”Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.” Then Paul says to those on the ship, “So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.” There were 276 people on the ship.

Later, sensing the danger, some of the sailors attempted to abandon ship. Paul said, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” As I have read that passage in the past, I thought it odd that their preservation would be dependent upon all staying on the ship. God promised to save them; why did all need to stay on the ship? If some chose to risk their life by trying to escape on their own, why would that jeopardize those who remained?

Grudem says, “We may sometimes forget that God works through human actions in his providential management of the world.” As you read on in the story, you see that the sailors were needed. While God was choosing to save them, there were some remaining maneuvers that the sailors needed to perform in order to get them close enough to shore so that they could get safely to the beach.

We are told to ask that God would give us our daily bread (Matthew 6:11), but we are also told that those who do not work will not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). So, when God promises deliverance from danger, don’t forget to row.