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God’s Will For Your Life

May 10, 2020

God’s Will For Your Life

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24
Service Type:

God’s Will For Your Life


I was having a conversation with my son about a year and a half ago, and he gave me permission to tell this story, but we were talking about dating. He was interested in a girl he knew, she liked him as well, and mom and dad were standing in the way of the two of them taking the relationship any further. 


And all along, I had this plan, that instead of just saying “no, you can’t do this or that”, we were going to have conversations about everything. Everything. And instead of giving him more commandments to add to the 10 that none of us can keep anyway, that I would give him scenarios and ask him to think. So instead of saying “you’re not allowed to go on dates by yourselves” I would ask questions, like, “do you think that will make certain temptations easier or more difficult?” Or “if the purpose of dating is to get to know each other, would going to a movie where you just sit in the dark and neither of you speak to each other for 2 hours help with that purpose? Or would hanging out in a group where you can observe how she responds to several people and situations at once?”


And after a couple weeks of late night conversations, hard questions, and us both trying to understand the position of the other person, Jackson finally looks at me and goes, “Dad what are you trying to do with me?” I said, what? What do you mean? He said, well you’re obviously trying to do something. What are you trying to do? 


God Has A Wonderful Plan For My Life?

I wonder how many of you would ask that same question to God if you could. Some of you might have grown up hearing the phrase, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” And now that you’re a lot farther along in your story, you may question if the word “wonderful” shouldn’t just be crossed out. He might have a plan, but I’m not sure how wonderful it is. 


This is the stuff mid-life crisis’ are made of. The “wonderful plan” you were promised as a kid where you can be whatever you want to be if you put your mind to it turned out to be a load of hogwash for some of you, or an endless road of hard work and anxiety for others. That wonderful plan that included marrying the most amazing, best friend you could ever have, turned out to include living with a sinner. The wonderful plan that meant having a house full of little kids turned into teething, finding your cell phone or toothbrush in the toilet, lost sleep and medical bills. And then of course there is that wonderful question that every high school kid loves to be asked: what do you want to do after high school? After college? Which turns into: Are you going to stay home with the kids or keep working? Should I take the job in St Louis or refuse it? After I retire, should we stay in Iowa or move South? 


So maybe you’re in the category that obsesses over “What is God’s will for my life? What does he want me to do with my time here on earth? What if I make the wrong decision? What if I marry the wrong person, or take the wrong job, or go to the wrong college, or what if I think I’m hearing from God but it was just me? What if we move and we shouldn’t have?”  


But there’s another category of people too, and that is the “I do whatever I want” crowd. You just go about your life doing what you think is the right choice based on your circumstances. Life is what you make it. You don’t ask anyone’s opinion or advice, much less ask what God wants you to do.  


We’ll address that group a little more in our next sermon series, but today, our scripture literally has the words in it: “This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”


But before we talk about God’s will for you or me, we have to talk about God’s will for all of human history.



  1. God created a kingdom where he is king. He spoke and things came into existence and it was good
  2. Ambassadors to represent him – Adam/Eve – fill the earth, have children, be mothers and fathers.
  3. Rebellion unleashed by humanity’s representatives. When they sinned, we sinned. Their rebellion is our rebellion.
  4. Promise – Nation set apart, Offspring to fulfill promise (Every mother was hoping to carry and nurse this child; infertility meant no shot; ), Land of promise

    Then comes Jesus – God in the Flesh, fulfillment of prophecy

  1. Is the Offspring of Abraham/David filled with the Spirit, fulfills promises, suffers and dies
  2. Resurrection – Jesus rose to life again, proving that the cross worked – that sin was atoned for and rebels and can be redeemed!
    1. This again is good news on Mother’s Day: Those of you who are moms don’t have to be overwhelmed by your failures and coming up short… your right-standing with God isn’t based on how well behaved your children are, or how long you are able to spend in quiet time each morning. Jesus already gave you his right standing with his Father! What you need most is not more tools to be a better mom – what you need most is to rest in the forgiveness and grace found at the cross of Christ. Those of you who don’t have great relationships with your mother, maybe your birth mom gave you up for adoption, or your mom has passed away – Psalm 34 says God is near the broken-hearted. Psalm 56 says he keeps track of your tossing, and gathers your tears. God grieves with you. And at the cross, Jesus was abandoned by God so you never would be.
  3. Last week, Steve talked about how we are filled by the Spirit to represent him (Church) – fill the earth (Go into all the world: As the Father sent me, so I am sending you). 
    1. No longer does motherhood find its value only by giving physical birth – the offspring of promise has come. Now the game has shifted. Motherhood is now a spiritual calling; the opportunity to fill the earth with spiritual children.
    2. I’m so thankful for the women in my life besides my mom, who have been spiritual mothers to me, through encouragement, notes, and their friendship. 
    3. Infertility or miscarriage doesn’t have to be the end of your value, the full stop on your significance in the world. Because in Christ, you’ve been given full access to spiritual motherhood, not as a consolation prize, but as a holy calling, being loved by God and welcomed into his family based on Christ’s right standing. The grief and pain you feel are real, and part of living in a fallen world, but it doesn’t have to be a defining moment in your story anymore. 
  4. Kingdom of God/Land of promise – New heavens, new earth (Next two weeks) will walk with us again, every tear wiped away, perfect relief and full joy, all the pain of motherhood caused by Eve’s sin and our sin, done away with forever.


But until then. 

Not just for moms, but for all of us, the question still remains, what is God’s will for our day to day lives? We understand that God’s primary will is to bring himself glory through the work of Jesus, by saving sinners, until the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea. But what is his will until then?


This is God's Will For You - 1 Thessalonians 4

[1] Additionally then, brothers and sisters, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received instruction from us on how you should live and please God - as you are doing - do this even more. [2] For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. [3] For this is God's will, your sanctification. So God’s will is that we would move from sinful to holy, from sinner to saint, from no discipline to disciplined, from being led by the flesh to being led by the Spirit.


So lets keep going: Flip over one chapter to what Leanne read for us this today: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-28 CSB - [12] Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, [13] and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 


Be at peace among yourselves. 


Why would he have to say that? Could it be that even back then, in the year 51 AD, first century, 20 years after Christ, that the church had divisions and arguments? The church wasn't even 20 years old! 


Fast forward 2000 years. We live in a day when we can find 100 articles or videos that fit what we already think to be true, and we have multiple avenues at our fingertips to express those beliefs in hopes others will see the light. And we have to take this admonition from 1 Thessalonians 5:13 seriously – be at peace among yourselves.


Practical: River City – over the next couple weeks, we are going to be all over the map. Some of you think this whole virus hubbub is just stupid and we never should have stopped gathering, and others who think we should never gather in person again.Some of the things we’re thinking through: We have vulnerable people among us. How do we care for them? We have parents of young kids among us, who will probably find it easier to stay online and mute their screen or put on a video for their kids than try to keep them still and quiet in a large gathering. How do we care for them? We’re not going to make a decision that pleases everyone, but we are going to try our best to make a decision that honors everyone. I know that 1000 years into the glories of heaven, we won’t look back and wish we started gathering sooner or that we’d have waited. There is no perfect time to come back together. So please pray for the Leadership Team as we think, pray, listen, and watch for how we can best come back, and be at peace among yourselves. You who think this is all a conspiracy – be patient with those who are afraid and may not return to public gatherings for a year or more, or if they come, come in a hazmat suit. Those who are afraid, be patient with those who are itching to meet again. They are not trying to kill you. Be at peace with everyone. 


Look at verse 14 – [14] And we exhort you, brothers and sisters: warn those who are idle, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 


When you think of idle, you probably think lazy. That word literally means out of order. Another version translates it as “irresponsible.” The picture in mind is a soldier who doesn’t remain in their ranks, but steps out of line. This is a person who clearly understands what they should be doing, what’s expected, and so on, and simply refuses to do it. And the body of Christ, you as brothers and sisters, are called to warn them. Call them out. You say, wait a second – What ever happened to don’t judge? I thought we weren’t supposed to judge people. It doesn’t say judge. It says warn. Warning someone requires that you love them. If I warn you that your house is on fire, it shows I care about you enough to not want you to burn. A judge passing a sentence is based on law, not love.


So, part of how you show love to people is to warn them when they are NOT keeping peace with everyone, and refusing to do the work following Jesus.


Keep going. 

Comfort the discouraged. Those who feel like they are drowning in the weight of anxiety, or sorrow, or fear, or just the daily activities of parenting, or life not being what they thought it would be. They need constant encouragement and maybe even need to be pulled along for a while. 


Help the weak – those who are spiritually, physically, morally weak. Maybe even financially weak. 


Be patient with everyone. Whether or not they agree with you, are at the same place you are spiritually, whether they are doing what you think they should be doing or not.


[15] See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all


If we’re honest with each other today, we would have to confess that one of the primary idols that we continue to worship, even as those who have been saved by the grace of God, is the idol of self. We mainly do whatever is good for ourselves. When my wife asks me to load the dishwasher, I’m thinking about myself. When I’m sitting down to watch a movie with the kids or Jodi, or even being present to help with dinner or cleaning the house, I’m thinking about myself. Even when I write sermons, sometimes I’m thinking about myself. 


But this says always pursue what is good for everyone else! Yes, but what about me? Don’t I ever get anything good? Keep going – 


[16] Rejoice always, [17] pray constantly, [18] give thanks in everything; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 


First of all, look at those three actions:

  1. Rejoice.
  2. Pray.
  3. Give thanks.


And then look at how we are expected to do them:

  1. Always
  2. Constantly
  3. In everything


This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. This is how people who are in Christ are called to live. 


But here’s what I want you to land on today. Go back to chapter 4:3 – what is God’s will for you? Sanctification. A process of change. 


Now here in 16-18 of chapter 5, what is God’s will for you? A process of change that involves rejoicing, prayer, and thankfulness. Romans 12:2 says part of that transformation takes place in our minds. Our thinking has to change. 



Many of you would say you know you need to pray more, or read more. But I don’t think prayer or rejoicing or giving thanks are the end. I don’t think praying constantly is something we work up to as we mature as a Christian. I don’t think giving thanks in everything is something we work up to, that as I mature some day I’ll be able to do that. Or rejoicing always, no matter what has happened, is happening, or might happen to you is something you work up to. 




What do you do today, as a weak, faithless, spiritually desperate Christian? 


Rejoice in all things, even when you can barely find a reason to.

Pray constantly, even when you don’t think it works.

Give thanks in everything, even through gritted teeth. 


That’s the process of growth! That’s what God is trying to do with you! Look at verse 19– 

[19] Don't stifle the Spirit. 


Sin stifles the Spirit. Prayerlessness stifles Him. Harsh words and cold stares instead of rejoicing stifles Him. Disunity quenches Him. Unsympathetic criticism instead of gratitude stifles him. 


[20] Don't despise prophecies, (which just means speaking the word of God) [21] but test all things. Hold on to what is good. [22] Stay away from every kind of evil. 


[23] Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 


That’s God’s will for you, that you would be kept sound and blameless in every part of your being. Your spirit (your communion with God, that vertical relationship), your soul (the inanimate part of you that makes you who you are – your desires, your affections, emotions, etc), and your body (the house you live in). 


And here’s the best news of all:  [24] He who calls you is faithful; he will do it. 


God will finish the work that he started in you. There are no half-finished people in heaven. There are no half-sanctified or half-holy people in heaven. God is faithful to finish what he started in you and in me, to make us holy, to transfer you from self-centered, kingdom of me, to a Christ-centered, kingdom of God. 


That is God’s will for your life. Your sanctification. You are being made holy by God himself, through the work of the crucified and risen Jesus, who has given us his Spirit as guarantee that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day Christ returns.