Meditating on the Will of God: 29: Searching for the Will of God
1 Tim 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.
I suppose the heart of this particular series of meditations could be summed up by the question, “What is it that God wants?” Now there is a ‘big-picture’ answer to that and a ‘small-picture’ answer and for this study I wish to focus on the latter answer. Drop back nearly two thousand years and imagine you are one of the leaders of the early church. Jesus has returned to heaven and the Holy Spirit has come, so yes, you do have purpose and direction as He inspires, guides and teaches, but what do you teach the new believers? What is at the heart of God’s will for you to communicate to them?
Now courtesy of Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, we have a glimpse into the way that they went about this. Catechisms became a feature of the later life of the church and the earliest glimpses of such an approach to passing on the truth (or God’s will) came in these letters as he refers to “trustworthy sayings” which is what we started off the previous meditation. Whether Paul’s comment about being the worst of sinners was part of that particular saying we have no way of knowing but at least, in the first part, we have the very heart of God’s will in sending Jesus: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. That is what the whole of the New testament is about. For three years Jesus ministered in Israel and revealed the love of his father and prepared a group of men and women to continue his work, but THE crucial element of his activity on earth was dying on the Cross for our sins, in order to save us. If we want to know what God’s will is, it must start here, for both me and for those around me; that is what He desires. Sadly, because of free will and the hardness of heart caused by Sin, many people will not comply with His will in this respect but that should not detract from what His desire is.
Another one of Paul’s sayings is not so clear as it could refer to what goes before it or after it: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labour and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.” (1 Tim 4:8-10) So let’s take both options. First of all, “physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Godliness here means a life in relation to God, a life reflecting His character, a holy life. This, says Paul, is what the Christian life is about now, living out the life that Jesus has given back to us. It was a life under the wrath of God (Eph 2:3) but now it is a life as a child of God and that offers blessings for the remainder of the present life and for eternity. It is a life where God imparts all of His love and goodness by means of His Holy Spirit and so we are both recipients and imparters of the love and goodness. The second part of those verses declared an alternative possibility: “we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.” This part reminds us that the focus of our new lives is in trusting God who has become our Saviour when we believed. If He did that before we knew Him, how much more will He bless us now we do know Him. Both of these – the verse before and the verse after are true and applicable. This is God’s will, to trust in Him and allow Him to deepen our relationship with Him more and more as every year passes. Godliness is the end product for our present lives with eternal life stretching out that blessing way beyond the grave.
In his second letter there is another of these saying that were taught to the new believers to understand something more of God’s will: “Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Tim 2:11-13) That might be summed up, this life of godliness, receiving the blessings of God is conditional upon us keeping on in the faith. There are four ‘if’s here. We need to die to the old life, to be able to live his new life, we need to endure and keep on and we will learn to reign with him, we need to be faithful to him, for is we deny knowing him we fall out of relationship and he will deny knowing us and, finally, even of we cease to be faithful and become faithless, he will remain faithful and will remain their with his arms open wide waiting for us to return (as with the prodigal son).
But we’ve missed the second of those sayings in Paul’s first letter: “Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.” (1 Tim 3:1) Some might ask, ‘are you saying God wants s all to be overseers or elders?’ No but I am saying that the teaching implies that it is good to mature and come into a place where you can serve the church. Maturity involves having a servant heart, and that is part of the godliness that the first one spoke of.
In his letter to Titus there was another of these: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.” (Titus 3:5-8) Again it is difficult to know where it begins and ends but he summarises what has happened to us: reborn by the Spirit, as a result of the work of Jesus on the Cross, to enter into eternal life which starts now but has no end.
So, the will of God for us while we are here on earth? To receive His salvation made possible by Jesus on the Cross, born again by the indwelling Holy Spirit, entering into a purposeful holy life of love, goodness and service (godliness) that develops and matures us and part prepares us for the eternity ahead. Focusing on us and our life is what I have called the ‘small picture’ will of God. In the next and final mediation we shall look at the wider picture.