I placed my belief in Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was a young boy. My belief was sincere and legitimate, and at that moment God the Holy Spirit took up permanent residence inside my body and I was thus “born again.” A few weeks afterward I was baptized by immersion, not to experience salvation and become a Christian but as proof that I had experienced it and was a Christian.
The next few years saw me living the way the average Christian lives. I went to church, prayed, read my Bible, and for the most part lived a moral kind of life. But then came my teenage years. That’s when the wheels fell off my walk with Christ. I stopped going to church, stopped praying, stopped reading my Bible, and replaced it all with other things that I shouldn’t have been doing.
It took a while, but by my early twenties my sinful ways had led me to rock bottom. That’s when I rededicated my life to Christ. Did I get saved again? No. I had never lost my salvation. What I did do was confess my sins and genuinely repent of them. I also did something that I’d never done before: I surrendered myself 100% to Christ’s lordship over my life.
In the wake of my rededication, I began to seek God’s will concerning every area of my life. That included the so-called “little” decisions as well as the “big” ones. And, truth be told, since then I’ve never really had all that much trouble discerning what God did or didn’t want me to do. Oh sure, some decisions take a fair amount of time and a lot of prayer to figure out, and oftentimes I’ve even had to work through the slow process of proving God’s will regarding a situation. In the end, though, I’ve always gotten the answers I needed. I don’t say that to brag. I offer it simply as proof of the Lord’s guidance.
Ah, but there is one particular knot in the wood that has oftentimes plagued me in regards to doing God’s will in my life. It’s the problem of other people preventing me from doing that will. You ask, “But how could someone prevent someone else from doing God’s will?” Oh, it’s not that hard. Consider the following hypothetical examples:
-It is God’s will for Linda to marry Frank, but Frank refuses to submit to God’s plan and rebelliously marries Jennifer instead. Where does that leave Linda?
-It is God’s will for Phillip to get a certain job, but Jeff, who is in charge of the hiring of personnel, isn’t a submitted Christian, has his own agenda for who he hires, and subsequently gives the job to Ray instead. Where does that leave Phillip?
-It is God’s will for little Joey to attend church, but his parents, Steven and Monica, have no interest whatsoever in attending church themselves or taking him. Where does that leave little Joey?
On and on we could go with the hypothetical illustrations, but these three are enough to make the point. We just can’t get around the fact that other people can and do sometimes prevent us from getting in on God’s will for us. Let’s say that God speaks to me through the still, small voice of the indwelling Holy Spirit and says, “Russell, I want you to send $100 to the Salvation Army.” Okay, I alone am solely responsible for whether or not His will gets done there, right? But what if He says to me, “I want you to tell each one of your church members to send $100 to the Salvation Army”? Well, that’s different, isn’t it? I can’t force other people to mind God and carry out His will. Maybe they will or maybe they won’t, but either way I won’t have the control over the outcome.
And just to show you how big a problem this is, let me remind you that the vast, vast, vast majority people living on planet earth DON’T attempt to discern and do God’s will concerning the countless circumstances and decisions that life presents. That means that we all at various times get caught in the backwash of a whole lot of rebellion against God’s will. Call it unfortunate. Call it frustrating. Call it complex. But whatever you do, call it life.
So where does all this leave us? Well, know this about God’s will: When someone knocks you out of getting in on it for your life, God will move you on to something even better. Let me go back to my three illustrations. Frank refusing to marry Linda will result in God sending Linda a wonderful man to marry. Jeff refusing to hiring Phillip will result in God opening a door for Phillip to get a job that will be even better for him. Steven and Monica refusing to take their son Joey to church will result in Joey enjoying church all the more when he is grown and allowed the opportunity to attend himself.
Let me explain how this works. God has perfect foreknowledge of everything. That means that no act of rebellion catches Him off guard or unprepared without what we might think of as a “backup” plan. The perfect illustration of this is Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. They went against God’s will by eating the fruit from the knowledge of good and evil. In so doing they fell into sin. But did God panic? No. Instead He instituted the concept of a substitutionary sacrifice as He killed two animals and used the skins to make clothing for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21, Hebrews 9:22). This shedding of blood was an early foreshadowing of all the animal sacrifices that would be offered up during the Old Testament period under the law. Taking things even further, all of those Old Testament offerings eventually found their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus offering Himself up on a Roman cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Now here’s the thing: From eternity past, God’s main plan was NOT that Adam and Eve and all their descendants would live in endless sin in the garden of Eden; it was instead that Jesus would die as the substitionary sacrifice for the sins of the human race. Consider the following passages:
…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you… (1 Peter 1:18-20)
All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)
You see, this is how God works. In some strange way that you and I can’t fully fathom or grasp, His original will doesn’t have to be His primary will. Even more than that, His original will doesn’t have to be as good as His primary will. Have you ever thought about what would have happened if Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned? I’ll tell you. They would have lived forever on earth in the garden of Eden. Keep in mind that bodily death is the result of sin (Romans 5:12). So if you eliminate sin altogether, you eliminate death altogether. That means that a sinless Adam and Eve would have been immortal there in the garden of Eden. Admittedly that would certainly have been an awesome existence for them, but it does have one major drawback: They would never have seen the inside of heaven or been able to spend eternity in direct fellowship with God on His throne.
So do you see now how what seemed to be God’s “backup” plan of Jesus dying on a cross to eternally pay their sin debt was really the better plan for them? This explains why the Genesis story makes special note that God drove them out of the garden after their sin and posted cherub angels and a flaming sword to prevent them from continuing to have access to the garden’s tree of life (Genesis 4:22-24). Evidently it was the fruit from that tree that gave them their bodily immortality. If they had continued to eat that fruit after they had sinned, they would have been forced to live endlessly on the earth in their pitiful, sinful state.
And so where do this whole subject matter find you? Can you think of a situation in your life when someone else prevented you from getting in on God’s will? If you can, then take some time right now and meditate on how things played out for you in the wake of that debacle. When you do this, I think you’ll find that God’s “backup” plan for you concerning the situation actually turned out better for you than His original plan. Dare I say that because of His foreknowledge it’s even possible that His “backup” plan was what He was truly up to all along. Is this a deep subject? You bet. But is it a Bible one? Absolutely. And I hope that this post has helped you to understand it at least a little better.