by Phillip D. Murray, PhD, DMin
1 John 2:17 – And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
“How can you know what God’s will is? Is it even possible?” We began our look at that very common question in the first of this series.
The rest of this series is dedicated to answering the “gray area” question. There are several questions and considerations that will help you determine God’s Will in those not-so-easy-to-figure-out circumstances. None of the questions we will consider over the next few days BY THEMSELVES will give you a magic answer; but when considered as a whole, you should be able to make a Godly decision with confidence. Let’s look at today’s question… when trying to discover God’s Will about a question or circumstance, ask yourself:
Is it really necessary?
Is the thing, choice or action you are considering really necessary, or is it just something “extra” that you would LIKE to do, but there is really no “necessity” involved?
- Can you live without it?
- Is it really very important?
- If you gave it up, would anything suffer or be neglected?
- Should you give it up in order to leave room or time for something better?
We burden ourselves unnecessarily with TOO MANY things, too many choices, too many commitments, too many activities. God never meant for us to live a million miles an hour (1Thess 4.11).
Sometimes it’s easy to answer this question when it comes to the “non-sacred”. We might easily conclude that more work, more sports or more possessions aren’t really necessary… BUT it will take some deeper spiritual maturity to determine when more church, more ministry and more Christian activity is too much. God has promised to give us the answer though when we ask in faith (James 1.5).
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us
We are running a race. If the choice or decision you are pondering is one that involves holding on to sin, then we have a plain answer in Hebrews 12.1: lay aside sin because it ensnares you, traps you and trips you up. But what about when the choice is amoral (wouldn’t be sinful either way)? Notice the admonition to those in the race:
Let us lay aside every weight!
The idea here is to throw off anything that will slow you down; anything that will make it harder and longer to reach the finish line which is PERFECTION, becoming like Christ. A runner doesn’t carry around an extra 50 fifty pounds when he is trying to run and win a race. In fact, almost embarrassingly, runners today are wearing almost nothing, and certainly carrying nothing extra. Why? So that there is no extra weight or burden to slow them down. It is said that the runners in the “original” Olympic games ran completly naked. This extreme “laying aside of everything that will hinder us from running” is exactly the mental picture the original readers of this verse would have in mind.
So ask yourself: is it really necessary? Will it slow me down in my race to be Christ-like? Does it contribute to the goal of finishing the race and winning the race? Will my walk with God be hindered or helped if I toss aside, or better yet, never pick up the extra weight (responsibility, commitment, activity, etc.) associated with this decision?
Another way to help you answer the question “is it really necessary” is to determine “will it matter?” What I mean by that is best demonstrated with a series of questions. When considering a choice or decision ask yourself, “if I do this thing” (or say yes, or commit, or take on this responsibility):
- Will it matter tomorrow?
- Will it make a difference 2 weeks from now?
- Will I really care 2 months from now?
- Will it have any lasting benefit 2 years from now?
- Will it matter in 20 years?
- Does it matter from an eternal perspective?
After answering those, ask yourself the NEGATIVE versions of those questions: will it hurt tomorrow? Will I still be paying the consequences 2 months or 20 years from now? Will I lose eternal reward?
Remember, these aren’t quick and easy, magic-pill questions. None of the questions we will consider over the next few days will give you an answer by themselves. But taken together you should be able to confidently determine God’s Will in the vast majority of circumstances.
First, see if the Bible has a plain answer. If you can’t find a clear, direct answer in Scripture, then start the process by asking: Is it really necessary? Or just a low priority? An unneeded, extra distraction? Will it matter 10 days or 10 years or 10 lifetimes from now? Hold on to your answers, we’ll look at another important question tomorrow.
Contemplation: Do you ever ask “is this really needed” or do your feelings determine what’s “necessary”? In other words, if you feel like you want it, feel like you need it, or feel like doing it… are your feelings in charge of deciding what you think is essential? Have you ever asked God “is this really a necessity”?
Application: This is a tough question to answer because if we DESIRE something, we are prone to rationalize its necessity. It helps sometimes to ask an objective, trusted spiritual mentor; being outside of the “feelings” allows another person to help you see clearly if something is an “extra” or a necessity. Also, if you pray and ask in faith, God will give you the wisdom to know (James 1.4).
Lord, help us to understand the difference between “essential’ and “extra”. We pray for wisdom and discernment in choosing which things really matter, and which things really aren’t necessary or might even be a hindrance. In Jesus name, Amen.