Study 6 KNOWING AND DOING THE WILL OF GOD
What Every Christian Should Know
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Psalm 143: 1-12)
This psalm is one of the penitential psalms. C. H. Spurgeon describes it as ‘a box of ointment composed of divers ingredients, sweet and bitter, pungent and precious’. In this study we shall consider the heart-cry of the psalmist for grace to know and to do God’s will – ‘Teach me to do your will’ (verse 10). There is only one thing that really matters in the life of the Christian; it is to know and to do the will of God. This being the case, how important is the theme of this study! To know and to do God’s will was the supreme thing in the life of our Lord Himself – look up and compare Psalm 40:7-8; John 4:34; 17:4; Matthew 26:39. What does this six-word prayer of David teach us?
1. IT STATES THE FIRST HEART-CRY AND LONGING OF THE TRULY BORN AGAIN SOUL.
Before we become Christians we are not really interested in God’s will. We are only interested in our own will and in going our own way – look up Isaiah 53:6. But what happens when God in His mercy steps into our life? At once we find ourselves praying the prayer of David – ‘Teach me to do your will.’ For an illustration of this read Acts 9:1-6, and especially notice verse 6. One of the marks of a truly born again soul is the desire to know and to do God’s will.
2. IT DECLARES THE FACT THAT GOD HAS A WILL, A PLAN, FOR THE LIFE OF EACH OF HIS CHILDREN.
This great truth is declared throughout the Bible and is proved in the experience of God’s people. Take the Book of Psalms, for instance: how often the psalmist prays to know God’s will in order that he might please God! – look up and compare Colossians 1:9; 4:12. Christian biography also confirms the glorious truth that the Lord has a plan for the life of each one of His children. Anyone who has read the biographies of John Wesley, F. B. Meyer or Billy Graham will surely have recognised this truth. This means that the Lord has a plan for your life.
3. IT AFFIRMS THAT GOD IS READY AND WILLING TO REVEAL HIS WILL TO HIS CHILDREN.
People often ask the question: How can we know God’s will? The answer is that God is always far more willing to guide us than we are to be guided, for He wants the very best for us, not the second-best. We need to distinguish between the directive and the permissive will of God. By His directive will we mean that which is His highest and most gracious purpose; by His permissive will we mean that which He may allow and yet not really approve. Often He permits that which He does not desire or commend. I may have God’s highest will for my life. This, and this alone, will be life’s highest purpose and its greatest usefulness. On the other hand, I may make my own plans and insist on my own choice, and He may allow me to do this and even grant me some measure of blessing, but it will be a most serious mistake – look up the solemn words in Psalm 106:15. This leads us to the question: What are the conditions of knowing and doing God’s perfect will, and how may we know His perfect plan for our life? Does David’s prayer give us any clues?
4. IT INDICATES THE CONDITIONS THAT MUST BE MET IF WE ARE TO KNOW AND TO DO GOD’S PERFECT WILL.
- (1) There must be a teachable attitude. This is indicated by David’s request, ‘Teach me…’ It speaks of a childlike spirit. It tells us that David acknowledged his need to be taught – look up Jeremiah 10:23, and compare Matthew 18:3.
- (2) There must be an intense desire to know God’s will. This also is indicated by David’s prayer. It was because he longed to know and to do God’s will that he cried out, ‘Teach me to do your will.’ The Bible is full of specific promises to stimulate our desire in this direction – look up and compare Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 3:6; 16:3; James 1:5.
- (3) There must be a willingness to do His will, whatever it involves. Notice that David prayed, ‘Teach me to do your will’ – not simply, ‘Teach me to know your will.’ He was prepared to do the will of God, whether it was easy or hard, pleasing or painful, and whether it was harmonious with what he wanted or otherwise – look up John 7:17.
These are the three simple conditions that must be met if we are going to seek, to know and to do God’s will. But notice one further thing about this prayer:
5. IT PROVOKES THE QUESTION; HOW DOES THE LORD TEACH US TO DO HIS WILL?
He does it in three ways:
- (1) By the teaching of His Word. In the Bible we have God’s will revealed in general terms and in clearly stated principles. For example, will it glorify God? Will it honour the Holy Spirit? Does it conflict with any clear command? These clear principles give us definite guidance concerning a great many matters. There are matters, however, about which the Bible does not have any specific word for us. Suppose we are in doubt as to whether we should go on a certain journey or buy a certain house – how can we be sure of our guidance about matters like this? We can be sure because God guides us not only by the teaching of His Word, but also:
- (2) By the promptings of His Spirit. This is very wonderful! – look up Romans 8:14, and compare Psalm 143:8, 10, 11, particularly noticing the words, ‘Show me the way I should go…may your good Spirit lead me on level ground…For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life…’ When there is no specific principle by which we may discover guidance, God graciously intervenes and guides us by the prompting of the Holy Spirit who dwells within the heart of every believer – look up 1 Corinthians 6:19. Thus, we have the Guide Himself within. But the Lord also guides us:
- (3) By the overruling of His providence. He guides us through what we call the circumstances of life. He opens and closes doors – look up Revelation 3:8. He hedges up our way so that we cannot do the thing that we planned to do. He causes our thoughts to change to be in harmony with His own thoughts – look up Proverbs 16:3.
These are the three ways in which the Lord enables His children to ascertain His will. It is important to notice, however, that to be sure of knowing the will of God these three must agree, they must harmonise, and they must all say to us, ‘This is the way; walk in it!’ – look up Isaiah 30:21.
What a wonderful thing it is to have a longing in our hearts to know and to do the will of God! Have you that longing? Is David’s prayer your prayer – ‘Teach me to do your will’? – look up 1 John 2:17.