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.

The Gift of Pain

During a recent Bible study, we were discussing the “Fall of Man” (Genesis 3). As part of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God says, “. . . cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field” (Genesis 3:17b-18). That seemed a little curious to many of them, that this would be a particular consequence of their disobedience.

I asked, “Is pain a good thing or a bad thing?

Immediately someone said, “A bad thing.” Only a few seconds passed and someone else said, “A good thing.”

Together, we imagined what it would be like if we could not experience pain. It soon became apparent that pain was necessary to let us know that something is wrong and that pain itself was not the bad thing; it is the condition that causes the pain.

So what is the worst condition in which a person could find themselves? It is to be eternally alienated from the only source of life and goodness: the Creator. And that is just where Adam and Eve were; alienated from God. But God had altered his creation in order to remind not only Adam and Eve, but also their descendants, that they need him.

In Haggai 2:17 it reads, “‘I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me,’ declares the Lord.”

When difficulty comes and disaster strikes, let it be a reminder of how much we need him, and then turn to him. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” Hebrews 4:16 (ESV).

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.