For those of you who came out Monday night, and then stayed the whole time (which I think was basically everybody), I salute you! What I weird night…losing power 15 minutes before everyone showed up, piling in on the gym bleachers, then halfway through the study, moving everyone to the auditorium…where we had no microphone and no air conditioning, and the temperature rose through the whole rest of the study. Not the best environment to teach in, or to listen, for that matter. A few people have asked for the notes. With all the distractions I was hoping it made sense, but if you wanted to revisit any of the points, here you go!
One opening observation–sometimes there’s an idea that floats around that not doing things is more spiritual than doing things. The idea sometimes is that true spirituality waits around for God to do things. But that’s juts not an idea that you find in the bible. So first, here are a few stories (out of many) of people acting, in faith, from both the Old and New Testaments:
Caleb: Joshua 14:6-13, 15:13-19
- Actively part of God’s work in the world.
- Lived by faith (14:9)
- Asked for what God had already promised (v.12)
- Willing to take a chance (14:12)
Boaz: Ruth 2:4-12, 3:1-13
- A godly man. Taking care of his responsibilities.
- Knew she was a godly woman
- When presented with an actual opportunity to marry her…
- Took action.
Jonathan: 1 Sam 14:1-2, 4-14
- Doing his basic duty (v.1)
- …so he was part of the real battle.
- Operated by faith (v.6)
- Took action when doors opened.
David: 1 Sam 17:17-37
- Doing his basic duty (v.17-20)
- Cared about God’s name (v.26, 45-47), in a time when God’s people were being defamed (v.10)
- Took action (v.32)
Nehemiah: Neh 1:1-5, 1:11-2:8, 2:11-12, 16-18
- Doing his job.
- Cared about the things of God and God’s work. (1:4)
- Prayed for Favor. (1:11)
- Didn’t fear people. (2:2-3)
- Took action. (2:18)
Acts 6:1-5 Philip is known as faithful and spiritual
8:3-8 Goes to Samaria because of persecution, does what’s obvious.
Acts 4:32-36 He’s a living, active part of the church
9:26-30 takes Saul to Apostles
11:19-23 He’s sent to Antioch, and stays there in response to God’s work
11:26-30 gets Saul to help teach
Acts 15:36-41 decides to go see the churches
16:1, 4-5 finds Timothy
16:6-10 gets divine direction when needed
16:11-12 goes to the chief city of Macedonia
Summarizing insights from these stories:
1. Actively keep God’s commands. Make them your priority.
- Be a person who’s privately and publicly following Christ.
- Be a living part of your church fellowship.
- Actively do righteousness.
- Make God’s big aims for the world the things that shape your personal aims for your life.
- Keep your life free of sin.
This keeps you “in God’s Will.” …that is, in God’s revealed will. Key: This is the only part of God’s will God holds you accountable to be in.
2. In areas where God has given guidance, but no direct commands…search the scriptures, talk with godly people, pray, and act.
- What does the scripture say about this issue?
- Talk to other godly people. God uses Christians who are Godly and wise to help other Christians. It’s part of what the bible teaches the body of Christ is for.
- What do they think about your options?
- Do they think your timing is good?
- Do they think you should be patient? Do they think you should get going?
- Pray: For God to make your heart pure, for the ability to know yourself and your motivation, for freedom from the fear of people, for freedom from the fear of the future, for strong faith, for insight into the situation, and by all means, and for God to guide you.
- Take Action. “Action” may be to remain faithful in your current situation. Or it may mean to move into a new situation. But it might depend on what you want to do.
Two Issues Regarding Prayer:
Issue #1: “Waiting on the Lord”
- It’s not about waiting for a sign. Should we pray for “signs”? Do we have any indication in the New Testament that people ever prayed for signs?
- It’s not about being passive in areas that require us to do something.
What is it about? In the Psalms and Prophets, waiting on the Lord always refers to:
- Patiently continuing to trust in the Lord, and identify as one of his people, when you are in a difficult situation that you can’t change.
- Patiently staying faithful to do live according to God’s commands, even when evil people are prospering and exercising power.
So, “Waiting on the Lord” means—in situations we are powerless to change, patiently expecting God to come fix a situation that is painful or wrong, instead of lashing out or giving up in anger or despair.
Example: Psalm 37:7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Issue #2: “Praying for a sign.”
- We need to pray.
- We should pray for guidance—it’s how we communicate that we’re yielded to the Lord’s will.
- But we’re never told in the NT to wait for a supernatural sign before acting…and we’re never told we need to have some 100% sure way to know exactly what his will is in every situation before we act. (No Spiritual GPS.)
- Prayer is never meant to be a substitute for action.
- So… see what the bible says, talk to other godly people, pray, and act.
Three areas where we need to think about these things.
Once you’re already living a life that’s given over to actively keeping God’s commands…
- We know God wants us to work.
1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 We urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; 11 that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 12 that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.
2 Thess 3:10-12 10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
Ephesians 4:28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
- We don’t need to agonize over where we’re going to work or what work we’re going to do.
- Go get a skill and work heartily at honest labor—provide for yourself, for a family, and for others in need.
- If another opportunity presents itself—Search the scriptures, talk to other godly people, pray, and make a decision.
Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the LORD.
1 Corinthians 7:1-2, 6-9, 32
…It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband…. 6 But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion… 32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord– how he may please the Lord.
- Marriage is good.
- Singleness is good too—if it’s used to serve Jesus. (1 Corinthians 7) (How does this look? This probably looks like, “What I’m doing now is so full and alive and it would all really have to change if I get into a relationship so I don’t really feel like it’s the right time.”)
- God has his ways of shutting things down if we’re yielded to him.
- Let the scriptures shape and guide your desires—what kind of person will best serve Jesus’ purposes in your life.
- Pray for guidance. But…The NT doesn’t lead us to believe God will reveal to you beforehand who you’re going to marry. So don’t wait for that.
- If you want to get married—Search the scriptures, talk to other godly people, pray, and act.
How to Serve God:
- We have lots of direct, clear commands in the NT about things we should be doing. Do all the things that everyone is supposed to do. (i.e. Search the Scriptures)
- Be part of a godly church—talk to other godly people.
- Get involved where you can—and where you want to.
- Pray (For: God to give you a selfless heart, and a vision for his work in the Church, and for love for God’s people. Pray for the church. Pray for God’s people.)
- Take opportunities as they come up.
- If you don’t’ know Christ—your life can have a purpose that’s beyond you. It’s what you were made for. You find it by letting Jesus be your king.
- If you are a Christian—Following Christ does not mean that we live in perpetual fear of missing God’s will. We don’t have to be paralyzed because we don’t know what our next move should be. We’ve been given lots of things that God has clearly told us are his will. We should attend to those. And then, we should feel free to go places and do things that serve God’s purposes, as opportunities become available, or as we want to pursue them.