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Seeking God's Will Can at Times be Difficult, a Biblical study on Isaiah 43:18-21, is part 4 of a series, Understanding & Discovering of God’s Will for my Life, which helps us understand what perspective changes are necessary in order to embrace God's will.
For these last two points we turn to verses 18-21 of Isaiah 43. The question that we want to address is, "Why is God's way so hard or difficult?" Let's read the verses.
18 "Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past.
19 "Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.
20 "The beasts of the field will glorify Me; The jackals and the ostriches; Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people.
21 "The people whom I formed for Myself, Will declare My praise. (Isaiah 43:18-21)
Let's go through these verses and see what God is saying about this. We will note that there is first brought to our minds a contrast of the past and the future.
Verse 18 says, "Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past." If we are familiar at all with the scriptures, this command might surprise you. We might respond by wondering what is wrong with the past? There is more at stake, however.
Many of our holidays such as thanksgiving and Christmas including Biblical ones such as the Passover focus on the past. We are told to celebrate communion. Because of this, we must not draw the conclusion that dwelling on the past is necessarily wrong. Sometimes it is very good and necessary.
The understanding of this verse comes with the contrast of the next verse. The past has many great testimonies of God and His mighty acts, but our lives can't stop there. Did you ever meet someone who always says what great things God did (such as saving him) but never says what great things God is doing for us now? God is not saying that the past things are unimportant but only that He is the Living God and lives to make a difference every day of our lives. This is what Paul had in mind when he said,
"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead"(Philippians 3:13).
He needed to forget what has happened so that he could put all his energies into what God still had for him. By focusing on the past we tend to get prideful and compare ourselves with others. By running after God's plan for us, we are humbled by our weak faith and awed at God's mighty and merciful hand.
God delights in doing something new. Even more God delights in involving us in His new plans. Unfortunately, the 'new' are things which often make us uncomfortable. They lead us to unseen circumstances. We are not sure on how to handle the things which we face. This alone makes it hard. If we stay in the past we tend to get prideful. But these new experiences are always humbling. God stretches us.
We might have a problem with a friend, a struggle with a spouse, a money problem, loss of employment, failure on a test, etc. Each of these situations usher us into unpleasant situations. You don't like it and I don't. We want control of our situation.
Wealth as a whole enables us to live in cushioned environment where we are protected from these situations. Success in the world means protection from these very situations. This is often the reason we need to go through crisis to get us back on track. And simply speaking, we should not always think the highest paying job, the most attractive lady, or the best college is for you. It might be. It might not.
God, however, seeks these 'new' situations. Maybe you are thinking that I have wrongly described what 'new' means. But let us keep reading and you will see with me that this is not the case.
"Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert. beasts of the field will glorify Me; The jackals and the ostriches; Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people."(Isaiah 43:18-19)
God describes what new is. They are wondrous things that He plans. They are the impossible things that He does. But we must remember for us to experience the impossible, we first have to face our inability to work out a solution. Roadway in the wilderness? Rivers in the desert? These are impossible things to do!
Did you ever see the Judean wilderness. We might think of some barren land. We are right to think of it this way, but it is more than this.
The whole wilderness is jagged steep hills unfit to walk or even climb in many situations. It was in these caves that they hid the Qumran scrolls for thousands of years before being discovered. If we made a road, we would need to flatten each hill and fill in each deep gulley. We would need some monster of a bulldozer-helicopter to do it.
The same thing with creating a river in the desert. Sure we can take a bucket of water and throw it in the desert. But everyone knows what water you pour in will disappear in a quick moment. The only way a river is formed in the desert is that a miracle occurs just as God did in the wilderness wanderings. But in either case, it was impossible. We are dealing with impossible cases. Even with today's marvelous technological advances, we are stumped at these things.
Our salvation is impossible. We are not able to gain salvation until we acknowledge our inability in gaining it on our own. It is by grace. In other words, we don't deserve it and can't obtain it on our own. It is only because of God's extraordinary plan and love through Jesus Christ that He involves us in His redemptive plan.
For God to do something new means He needs to bring us to the impasse, the wall we can't pass. This goes directly against modern man and his devices.
If we would only be more honest, we would see that we face quite a few impossible situations. We often handle them wrongly? What do you do when?
You want a baby but can't have one?
You are terribly frustrated by some obstinate person?
You lose your job?
You didn't get into that school or land that job you thought you had?
You get sick, seriously sick?
You have a serious financial need?
You hit some kind of emotional problem?
You are kicking dust in devotions time?
There is no end of desperate situations. We see Abraham, Joseph, Daniel, Isaiah, Jesus facing impossible situations.
It is the crises of life which form the greatest opportunities. One Chinese word (wei/ji-) for crisis includes the character for danger as well as opportunity.
Like these men of faith, so we need to be ready for God. When we are seeking God's guidance, we need to pay special attention to what new things God is doing around us. The circumstances are designed to shape and mold us into Christ.
In order for something great to be done to the glory of God, a great contrast needs to be made. We need to be brought to the end of our own resources. If we put our trust in the Lord, it is at this point that our faith is awakened. We are able to put our trust in Him to do the impossible.
The temptation is to not trust God. This is why we need to constantly be aware or as the scriptures says, "Be alert."God doesn't want us to fail. He has made it that we can endure, trust Him and see some special work of God. God wants to show His extraordinary power in the midst of every one of our trials.
Let me ask you what do you want for this New Year? Do you dare to ask for anything 'new?' In one sense it doesn't matter. God will have you encounter crises. This is His purpose. Not just to keep us humble and protected but so that He can reveal His marvelous works. The point is that we need to anticipate these changes to be ready for them. Perhaps the best way to test your preparedness is to see if you can ask Him for something 'new' in your own life.
If you can do this, then just remember to stay alert. A journal helps to keep us attentive before the Lord of what is happening in our lives.
If you find yourself hesitating, see if you can find out what is it that holds you back. More than likely, it is this very area that the Lord will work on (a stronghold). He wants you to trust Him. He has called you by Name. You can follow Him. Ask Him to train you through the process. He is excellent at this.
Let's look at one more verse. Verse 21 nicely summarizes all our points "The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise."(43:21)
The end purpose for life is not that we be comfortable or so-called happy. He is not concerned with our status, image or class. He has made us and put us where we are with both our giftings and limitations whether they be physical or possessions. In any case, we should be on the look out for how God is going to reveal His glory in our lives.
We are not to compare ourselves or what we have with others. Instead we are to focus on what He is doing in our lives.
Let us note a few things.
Here is that same word 'formed' again. God takes pride in His design for our lives. Some people worry over how people will think of them. Your nose is too fat; your hair to black, your legs too short, etc. You will make so many foolish decisions about life when you doubt God's good design for you and your life. God makes no mistakes.
If we have life blemishes, whether they be bodily features or poverty, God wants you to know you can trust Him with them. God has specially designed you to carry out a greater work through you that otherwise couldn't be done. Do you need to be a doctor or have a PhD to show you are love worthy? Not at all. God knows how to use all your giftings and limitations to bring greater glory to Him.
The evil one would have us doubt Him but God should be trusted here. Many of you are young. Unless you settle this question, you will spend all your life in vain looking for God's will. Trust Him right now, then you will be free to seek His will.
God wants us involved in His plans. His ways are the greatest. When we look at Jesus, do we not see what happens when someone fully dedicates Himself to God and His purposes? Sure. God has chosen a great number of people to show forth His love and grace. If you orient yourself around this understanding, then you can easily get through some of those problems regarding seeking His will. Let me give you one short examples.
• You have two job offers. Which should you take? You must go back and think of it from God's perspective. Which will give you more opportunity to give Him praise? Will the greater paying? Not necessarily. Will the higher position? Not necessarily.
That is how man thinks. In prayer we begin to search these questions. If your motives are correct, then you will pay close attention to the opportunities for service, the needs of people around you. You will not let fear or difficulties hold you back from things that God has put on your heart. Remember you are seeking His glory. Let Him pave your path. If you have to lie to get a job, then you know for sure that God does not want you to have it. At times I have at great risk made applications by speaking the honest truth. I let God work it out.
• Relationship questions.
Compromise and you might get a guy. You might be convinced, for example, that noone will marry you because of your height, race or religion. It might be true. It might not be. But you should be convinced that God has given you such stature for a particular purpose. Remember he knows you by name.
Someway He is going to bring forth His glory through your life. Don't get caught on what you think you need. Trust Him to care for you. Just seek Him and He will do the very best concerning your life. He works through all the different problems that you face: no friends, sickness, etc.
This year determine to live by faith. You see, you now know that God brings all things together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. When we allow ourselves to be carried away in the river's current, we are not sure where we might end up.
But because God's love is everlasting, we can be sure it will be good. It will be wonderful. God doesn't just like okay situations. Like the roller coaster, God creates great extremes for greater glory. He starts training us with small things but then works us up to great faith situations. Good fellowship groups share about life experiences in light of God's purposes. They are faith building times because you are sharing how God is working.
God wants more than anything that you bring praise to Him. This is why He made you. He wants to give you a 'new' testimony. He doesn't want you just to rely on past things He has done. They are great, but this year He is going to do something very special and new. Did you ever notice the thread going through the commands from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18?
"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks. For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Brothers and sisters, if you think life is boring, stand back and ask God do something new in your life. If church, your family, your job, - anything is just going on. There is no real glory for God there. He wants to make a Name for Himself. Ask Him to do it. Place yourself in the current of His will and let Him take you for a ride. What does He want? Begin praying. Persistently observe. Wait maybe for a long time. But He will come through. Remember He is setting up the act so you will have something to praise Him for.
After looking back on how He has led me in my past, I actually learn to go with the flow. I can trust Him for big and small changes. This is because He is utterly faithful. If you had a dull New Year's party you are just getting older. This year get together with other brothers and sisters and start praying that God would give you a New Year's party next year which is about Him! You each want a testimony of what has done in your lives. Watch. Wait. Respond with anticipation. Let Him lead. Don't panic. Praise Him!
You will feel desperate, inadequate, unequipped, but this is part of His design so He can get the glory. Steve Camp's Song, "Mercy in the Wilderness" reflects the difficulty and joy of going through these 'new' experiences with Him.
Every day that I walk with You, you break me down, and You make me new.
Though my faith is tried this I know is true. There is mercy in the wilderness.
Through the Valley deep and the mountain high. You have been my strength; Your Word my guide.
I have known your grace through the tears I've cried. There is mercy in the wilderness.
In the barren place, where the hard winds blow
Oh my flesh cries out, "Lord Refresh my soul.”
O the Lord is kind; and the Lord is good.
He is faithful to His children
Through the fire and flood. He has with me stood; He gives mercy in the wilderness.
After looking back on how He has led me in my past, I actually have learned to go with the flow. I can trust Him for big and small changes. This is because He is utterly faithful, and I have had a lot of training. But still each 'new' situation is a challenge. It is a choice that demands trusting in Him.
If you had a dull New Year's party and just getting older, this year get with the other brothers and sisters and start praying. Watch. Wait. Respond with anticipation. Let Him lead. Don't panic. Praise Him! You will have a lot to share at next year's New Year party.
Dear Lord, I have been so consumed with my life that I have never been able to plug into your great work. I have become deadly secularized. I ask for forgiveness for this major mistake and now commit myself to be part of your great plan. I don't know what that is but I am readying myself for You. I want to have a greater testimony, a new one for You and not for me. I want to boast to others how great You are. Thank you for calling me. Thank you for making me yours. Thank you for making me yours in a very special way. I am yours forever. In Christ's Majestic Name I pray, Amen.
This concludes this series on Understanding and Discovering God's Will for Our Lives. Check below for other BFF articles!