By Benjamin H. Liles
"I feel stuck in my life. Kind of like I know what I want to do, but I'm unsure of how to go about it, or even if it's God's will," I heard her say. So many of us in life wonder if we're hearing God's voice in the moments that are dry and appear desert-like. Sometimes we even wonder, "I feel like I'm going around in circles and not doing anything. How do I know and put God's will into practice for my life?" For certain of this don't be discouraged. I've been there multiple times even in my faith with God.
In the road map of our lives, we often feel like we have some how missed that turn in the road. It's like we're Bugs Bunny, who is oft-quoted saying, "I knew I should have taken that left turn at Albequerque!" Maybe the desert road experience you feel at the moment isn't due to having taken a wrong turn, but you feel off track. It may be due to not understanding God's plan. It could be you simply feel--lost. And that reminds me of Stitch in the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch.
Stitch has landed on earth, having escaped exiled existence on a prison planet. In the process he befriends a little Hawaiian girl, Lilo. Over the course of the movie, we see Stitch go from this "tiny monster" that was created as a one-of-a-kind, to finally belonging in a family. Maybe this is some how a clue to how we can discern God's will in our life. I know it seems a bit far-fetched at the moment, but I'll get us to those points I want to show you.
In Genesis, after God created everything, Adam has been created and possesses God's creation. God tells Adam, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17, New King James). God already knows that Adam is one-of-a-kind, so He knows Adam is alone in the world, aside from having God beside him. God, in His love, created woman out of man: "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man" (Genesis 2:21-22).
Since we're not told how long after God created man and woman how long they were walking with Him, we find that someone comes to Eve, tempting her. "Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, "You shall not eat of every tree of the garden"’?” (Genesis 3:1). This created being--the serpent--didn't just tempt Eve, he twists God's words, to the point that even Eve gave a twisted answer, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die’" (Genesis 3:2-3). Thus, of course, he replies back with a lie: "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4-5). This sets all of us up, from the cradle in the desert experience called life.
John, a disciple of Jesus, later writes, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not from the Father but from the world. The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God remains forever" (1 John 2:15-17, Berean Study). But we still have a problem of what God's will is. How can we know what that is?
At the core of what God's will is, and this is my objective opinion here, it seems it is to change our hearts and believe. Jesus gives a Parable of the Two Sons where both sons are asked to go work in the father's vineyard. One son says he will not, but then he goes and works in the vineyard. The other son says he will, but then refuses to do any kind of work (see Matthew 21:28-32). This particular parable is given toward the Pharisees who say they do God's will, but in fact they do not. When we look at the whole context of Matthew 21, we see Jesus having cleansed the temple, and then cursing a fig tree. The fig tree represents Israel (see Hosea 9:10; Joel 1:7). So, considering the fact that this particular fig tree had leaves but no fruit shows Israel's lack of spiritual activity--"all the trappings of spirituality, but no substance" (Parable of the Two Sons Explained by GotQuestions).
The point of that parable is that those who had been living and practicing sin were putting it off and putting their faith in Jesus. The Pharisees were not. This, then, is what the core of God's will is. "But how do I know what God's will is for my life?" I hear being said, and in all honesty I ask it all the time.
Paul writes, "Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18, Berean Study). Regardless of what situation we find ourselves in, if we are God's children, we need to give thanks for what God has done. As I look at parallel verses, no matter what praises to God need to be on our lips (see Psalm 34:1; Daniel 6:10; Hebrews 13:15). I know it's a hard thing to do when we feel like we're in a parched and dry land, where no water is in sight. To this I am reminded of Israel's wanderings in the Desert of Sinai. They thought things were so much better being in bondage to Egypt than following this God they have never walked before with, and the result is they grumbled a great deal (see Exodus 17:1-7). As I think on this, it stands out that in God's grace, when we go through these experiences we need to be thankful we are no longer slaves to sin, but we have grace through God who will sustain us. We just need to see Him, keeping our eyes of faith upon Him and the works He has done and will continue to do.
Peter writes, "It is God's will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you" (1 Peter 2:15, New Living Translation). Let's first look at those words, honorable lives. If we were to look at ourselves in the light of scripture, there is nothing honorable about us. But when we take into consideration of having changed our hearts (repenting) and believing on Jesus Christ and His works on our behalf (having faith He fulfills scripture) He is the one who brings us honor. It is said, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21, New American Standard). Paul is saying since Christ never sinned and He alone is righteous, that He took our sins--our punishment on himself--trading our sinfulness and unrighteousness so we are made righteous with God.
The next part of what Peter says in 1 Peter 2:15 is that our lives "should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you." If we back up to what Jesus Christ said about allowing God's light to light us from within, to keep it out so the world sees it, they will come to know God. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16, Berean Study). When others see the light of Jesus at work in our lives, they can sometimes see their need for Him. Interestingly enough, Paul writes, "Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people" (Philippians 2:14-15, Berean Study, in bold is what we are to do so no one finds fault; in bold and italics, this is how we ought to live our lives).
The last thing I can think of when we go through periods of "desert-like conditions" in our faith is to remain steadfast in the love of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome, because everyone born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith. And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the very commandment you have heard from the beginning, that you must walk in love" (1 John 5:1-4; 2 John 1:6, Berean Study).
Therefore, we see the things that are evident of what God's will is: having the belief and faith Jesus Christ is God's Son, changing our hearts and minds over from sinfulness to newness of life in Christ; that no matter what the circumstance brings in our lives we are to give thanks and praise Him without grumbling or complaining; finally, to show His love to others no matter what. For those who are deeply hurting, unsure of if you are doing God's will, remain steadfast and pure in your faith. I have to stand with Paul when we feel tested in our faith: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness" (Ephesians 6:10-18, New King James).
When you feel like you can do no more than stand in faith, feeling you have done all you can, take a knee. I have always loved the music of Petra, and this song comes to mind, even now. It's usually my fall back when I feel discouraged and like I'm not doing God's will myself. Their song Get On Your Knees and Fight Like a Man quotes two verses, "Your father forced us to work very hard [L made our yoke heavy]. Now, ·make it easier for us, and don’t make us work as he did [L lighten the hard labor and heavy yoke of your father]. Then we will serve you. [L Therefore,] Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen [L The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective]" (2 Chronicles 10:4; James 5:16, Expanded). In other words, according to Bob Hartman's song for Petra, "Get on your knees and fight like a man. You'll pull down strongholds if you just believe you can. The enemy will tuck his tail and flee. Get on your knees and fight like a man."
The whole point of this article is to help each and everyone when they come across those arid conditions in life. When you feel beaten down, like your past is catching up with you, like you just can't take anymore--lift your eyes to the sky, get on bended knee and pray like nothing. Of course make sure you are clothed in Christ's righteousness, putting faith fully on, being fully prepared like a good soldier who goes into combat. Then lift up your voice. Cry out to the God who fights on your side. He will do what He says, having said. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit" (Joshua 1:9; Zehcariah 4:6). God will fight for us on our behalf always. All we have to do is keep our faith, keep our eyes on our Commander and General, and simply let Him do His work. This has been written for everyone who is either hurting, feeling lost, and needing some encouragement today. I lift you up in the matchless name of Jesus Christ. Amen.