The Only Way You Can Do God’s Will

I can’t.

Our culture despises those two little words. Hatred for weakness and inadequacy is why we tell our kids never to say, “I can’t.” It’s why we love the inspiring words of Thomas the Tank Engine: “Yes, you can!” The belief that we’re capable of anything, if we set our minds to it, pervades our worldview.

This “I-can” mentality also colors our reading of Scripture, specifically how we understand and respond to God’s commands. If we aren’t careful, we’ll be deceived into thinking we’ve “got this” apart from the power of the gospel motivating and empowering us.

When God’s Will Is Impossible

Consider a familiar passage. Many of us can recite it from memory. It’s one of the few answers we give to the common question, “What is God’s will for my life?” We affirm it—

But struggle to apply it:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

God couldn’t be clearer: His will for his people is a life steeped in rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving! We never have to wonder if we’re on the right and godly path with these actions. They are God’s will for us. Yet—

They’re some of the most difficult commands to obey.

Think about it:

  • Why does God command us to “rejoice always”? Because it’s more natural for us to grumble and complain about our circumstances than to see God’s character and purposes at work in them.
  • Why does he tell us to “pray without ceasing”? Because, in an age of distraction and entertainment, it’s easier to give our focus and time to nothingness, wasting it on self-centered, temporary pleasures, than to give ourselves to eternal, Kingdom matters.
  • And what about his command to “give thanks”? We usually forget or refuse to because, somewhere deep within our hearts, we fail to remember that everything is a gift from God. We think we’re entitled to what we want and deserve an easy life.

Friends, I’m preaching to myself here. I often fail to fulfill God’s will in these particular commands. I’d rather complain about what he hasn’t given me than praise him for what he has; and I’d more quickly scroll social media for the umpteenth time than set aside what feeds my pride for the prayerfulness that will expose it. Turns out these basic commands to do God’s will are much harder to obey than they seem.

Yes, on our own, obedience to God is impossible. We need his help and power, secured for us through our union with Christ, to do his will.

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Turn My Eyes from Looking at Worthless Things

The eyes are the lamp of the body. It becomes what they behold.

Lured by desire and the passions of the flesh, the eyes look upon secret loves too dark for anyone but their Creator to fully see and know. Prone to wander, how they feel it—the pull to gaze upon worthless things…   

Worthless Vanity

She rolls out of bed and gets ready for the day, wrestling through outfits, but finally choosing the deep blue shirt. People say it compliments her eyes. Her friend, the mirror, is also her greatest foe, faithfully awaiting her gaze and reflecting what she wants to see—but only after it condemns her, only after she heeds its brutal, silent critiques.

Do people see how hard she’s working to maintain her figure and erase her years? And if they did, would it matter?

Would the mirror be any gentler, any kinder to her?

Worthless Attention

The bright screen bores itself into his brain. A constant barrage of entertainment, his phone never leaves his sight or lacks for his attention. He fears missing out—yet he doesn’t hear the flesh-and-blood voices around him when they call his name.

A like outweighs a life.

But it’s never enough; the attention feels like an endless black hole. He’s not even sure who he is anymore since he can change his reality at the touch of a button, with the swipe of a screen—  

He’s got others fooled. He’s even got himself fooled.

Or does he?

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Is the Word of God a Quick Fix?

When you come to God’s Word, are you looking for a “quick fix”?

I was struck by the following quotation, as I read through one of Pastor Colin’s sermons from the radio series The Anatomy of Faith:

God may be saying to you, “Instead of looking for a quick fix to the problems in your life, you need to establish a regular pattern of receiving my Word with faith, so that it will bear long-term fruit that you have not been bearing in years.” You never know what God is going to say to you, but you know he is going to say it through his Word. (Colin Smith)

This statement is striking because it pegs our human tendency to view God’s Word as a “quick fix.” I’ll bet that I’m not alone in wanting to hear God speak truth into my heart. But I’ll also bet that many of us tend to be drawn to Scripture thinking we need an instant solution for our troubles, rather than nourishing, consistent sustenance for our souls.

In effect, the Word of God becomes a means to an end, and—I admit—it’s usually a selfish end! Deliver me from circumstantial trouble. Show me the next step I should take in my own carefully crafted plans. Make sense for me of this enigmatic reality that makes up God’s sovereignty.

God’s Word can easily become information for our brains, rather than nourishment for our souls. Instead of genuinely loving and craving the Word, we can use the Word for selfish gain, hoping that it will give us a way out of worldly troubles and suffering.

Scripture becomes a “quick fix.”

So how can we learn to love God’s Word increasingly more every day? How can we avoid looking to Scripture as a mere “quick fix”? I think there are three key points in Pastor Colin’s statement above that will help us see how we can—only by God’s grace—grow in loving the Word:

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10 Promises for Your Bible Reading

Many mornings, weariness threatens to win.

Like a thick cloud, it opposes my time in God’s Word, obscures my desire to read, and keeps me from seeing the light of truth. My weariness might be circumstantial – a disappointment or an ongoing trial – or it may be physical – a long night of little sleep or the lingering annoyance of chronic pain.

I desire to dive into the depths of Scripture, but weariness wants to keep me in the shallows. I yearn to explore the endless riches of knowing Christ better, but weariness tempts me to apathy and tricks me into settling for less.

I need God’s help when I come to his Word. We need God’s help. Only he can overcome the shallows of our weariness and enlighten our clouded hearts with his truth. He actually promises to do these things when believers read their Bibles—

But do we trust his promises?

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20 Practical Ways to Kill Sin Every Day

Sin perplexes us.

We love it, and we hate it. We embrace it, and we war against it. We act on it, yet we don’t always understand why. Sin is alluring and confusing, pleasurable and destructive. The redeemed heart has been set free from sin’s power, yet still wars with sin’s presence—and sin distances us from the God who willingly came to rescue us from it.

When I asked friends, “What are some sins and areas of temptation we must fight every day?” the response was overwhelming: jealousy, laziness, discontentment, control, discouragement, pride, a sharp tongue, vanity, slander, inadequacy, anxiety, fear, selfish gain, impatience, anger, disobedience, lust, fear of man, and critical judgment of other Christians.

20 Practical Ways to Kill Sin Every Day

Which of these resonate with you? Do others come to your mind? No Christian is exempt from the battle with sin, and it’s wise to consider what and how we’re actively fighting each day. But we do not fight alone:

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:9-11)

Believer in Christ Jesus, you are dead to sin and alive to God – and your calling is to “consider yourself” in this way. So what does it look like to fight sin on a daily basis, when temptation is all around you and spiritual death is sin’s goal (James 1:15)?

Ponder these 20 practical ways to “consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God” by killing sin today:

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Five Keys for Making Prayer a Habit

Prayer is hard work. It’s not something that comes naturally.

We go about our days, engaged in the home or workplace, distracted by good things that would keep us from prayer if we let them. Our hearts are prone to wander from God in self-reliance toward temporary pleasures, rather than running to him in dependence for the lasting joy and satisfaction only he can provide.

No relationship will flourish without intention—and this takes work! Perhaps you feel your need for communion with God, and you want to grow in forming a habit of prayer, but you don’t know where to start…

Five Keys for Making Prayer a Habit

Maybe prayer seems daunting, like a high mountain to climb; or perhaps the pace of your day doesn’t seem to allow for this time. Yet, the growth of any relationship won’t fall into our laps; we need to be intentional, trusting God will meet and help us in this time of sought communion.

So here’s a start! The following are five keys to help you form a habit of prayer:

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Eight Reasons to Cling to Scripture in Suffering

Recently, a friend and I were interviewed on a radio show about the book we’d written on suffering. One of the host’s questions struck me: In the midst of the refiner’s fire, how do we keep from going through the motions? How do we have a sense of the abundance God promises us?

I immediately thought of Psalm 119:50: “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” And so I responded, “I have to be in God’s Word every day.”

Eight Reasons to Cling to Scripture in Suffering

Are you suffering right now? Would you say along with the psalmist that you’re afflicted? If your answer is no, this life guarantees that all of us will hurt in some degree before we meet the Lord. If your answer is yes, take heart; you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who’ve known suffering in all its depths…and have endured.

Whether affliction has touched or devastated you, God promises in his Word to be your help, just as he did the psalmist. See in Psalm 119:49-56 eight reasons to cling to Scripture in your suffering:

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A Three-Part Formula for Fear

Israel refused to enter the land.

After years of wandering in the wilderness, and after freedom from slavery in Egypt, God’s people should’ve been thrilled to draw ever nearer to the land flowing with milk and honey, the land God had promised them. Finally to be home! Finally to be settled.

Instead, they were afraid. Between them and the promised land stood the Amorites, an enemy God commanded them to defeat, and promised they would defeat, with his help. The Israelites couldn’t see a vibrant, good land for their possession, but only the obstacles. Nor would they take God’s words to heart: “Do not fear or be dismayed.” I will be with you.

In looking at Deuteronomy 1, where Moses recounts the story to his people, we see a three-part formula for fear that’s most likely at the root of our fears today.

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9 Ways to Miss the Point of Small Group

Thursday night. Bibles open. Six men from the local church pray together. One of them reads Psalm 31 and applies it to his brother. A strong sense of God-dependence fills the room.

Sunday post-lunch. The church is quiet after a busy morning. Kids play in the next room, while five couples gather to discuss the sermon. They hunger and thirst together for God’s truth.

Small group. Missional community. Home group. Life group. Whatever you call the gathering of an intimate number of believers outside of worship services, the goal is the same: fellowship and encouragement around God’s Word.

9 Ways to Miss the Point of Small Group

Yet we can easily miss this. Despite our best intentions, we get sidetracked and forget the goal. Sometimes, despite this goal, we’d rather pursue what’s easier and more comfortable for people—but this lacks transforming power to draw us nearer to God and each other.

Small group has a point, and we’d do well not to miss it. Here are nine ways this can happen:

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10 Ways Disappointment Can Strengthen Your Faith

Disappointment exercises our faith.

Like a good resistance band, it pushes back at us, putting on the pressure and testing our endurance. We can either succumb to its force or return the push. We can give way to what disappointment naturally produces—discontentment and doubt—or we can let it grow us.

We can let it stretch and strengthen our faith.

When Disappointment Comes

I’ve felt disappointed lately. In a few realms, the resistance band has gone to work, exercising my faith in Jesus:

  • When a situation is blurred in confusion (push), do I trust his perfect knowledge and wisdom (pull)?
  • If an outcome isn’t what I’d hoped it would be (push), will I receive God’s will or get angry (pull)?
  • If God takes away a good gift (push), do I demand an explanation, or submit to him what I may not understand (pull)?

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