By Charles Price
Now if you have got your Bible I am going to read to you from Psalm 139. I am not going to read the whole of this psalm; I am going to read a big section of it. The Psalms come to us of course as complete units in themselves; they are not chapter divisions, they are separate poems written by various different people.
This is a psalm of David, and I want to read to you from Verse 1 where he writes,
"O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
"You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
"You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
"Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.
"You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.
"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
"If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
"If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
"If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
"My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
"How precious to me are your thoughts O God! How vast is the sum of them!
And that is where I am going to stop reading, but keep your Bible open there.
I want to spend a few weeks talking to you about living in the will of God. A big question that many folks have is does God have a plan for my life? And if He does, how do I know what it is?
I was listening to CBC Radio one morning this last week and I heard a conversation that was going on where somebody said, "If there is a God, He is like a poker dealer who deals out a hand and then it's your job to make the best of the cards that He gives you. Some have been dealt a good hand and some have a poor hand. But it is up to you to make the best of what He has given to you."
And sometimes life seems that way to a lot of people. Life seems to be fairly random, unfair, it's the luck of the draw that some person has this and some person has that and somebody was born in this environment, somebody was born in that environment. And what you have got to learn to do is to play your hand well.
But something inside us tells us that is not enough. Jeremiah in the Old Testament expressed a universal sense when he wrote in Jeremiah 10:23,
"I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps."
In other words he says, you know, we can't make sense of this life on our own. We are not sufficient to give life meaning and purpose on our own. And most people know they need some kind of help from outside of themselves.
That's one of the reasons why 80% of newspapers in North America every day carry an astrological chart. Astrology is the study of the movements of the stars and the planets with the belief that somehow they influence human affairs. And they do so from the position of the stars at the moment when you were born. And through studying the stars you can predict your future.
I had breakfast with a man just over two weeks ago. And one of the first questions he asked me was, "What star sign were you born under?"
And I said, "Why do you want to know that?"
He said, "Because that will tell me a lot about you."
Well I didn't tell him because I don't know. I am not interested in the star signs.
"So what star sign was your wife born under?
I said, "I don't even know that."
"Well, what's her birth date? Do you know that?"
"Yeah, I know her birth date."
"Well, I can tell you the star sign for both of you."
I said, "I don't want to know your star sign. Why do you want to tell me that?"
He said, "Because that will tell me an awful lot about you, because I understand how the stars help us determine the kind of people that we are."
A lot of people live that way. There are over 100 magazines in North America devoted entirely to astrology.
In a survey done a couple of years ago now up at York University here in Toronto, there was a survey amongst first year students, and 45% of these students said they read their stars and over 20% had made a decision in the past year based on their horoscope.
And about a decade ago an older survey said that 55% of North Americans believe in astrology. And an even more disturbing poll showed that 10% of "Evangelical Christians" consult their horoscope.
Well the Bible doesn't have much to say about astrology but where it does mention it, about three times, it's with scorn and with rebuke. And in Deuteronomy 17 it says bowing down to the sun, the moon and the stars is a detestable thing. It is described in that passage as evil in the eyes of the Lord.
So how 10% of evangelicals are doing that, I haven't a clue, but then what is an evangelical these days? It seems to be a, you know, smorgasbord of stuff.
But the point is, and the reason why I mentioned that, is because something deep down inside us longs to be known, longs to be significant and longs to be guided. And we need to know and we want to know that our lives have greater significance than simply playing the hand that we have been dealt and hoping you would play it well enough, and if you play it well enough, you will have a good funeral at the end of it all. And that's it. Not a very exciting life, is it?
There was a guy in the first service this morning who came here for the first time and he said, "I want to give you my pen because it has got my phone number on it". And he gave me this pen. I hadn't got my glasses on at the time, so when I got upstairs where my office is, just now, I looked at the pen and it says "Family Funeral Home". So I am not sure why I need his number! That was after the first service, so if anybody else needs to know that number, I can let you have it later. (It's a nice pen though.)
But you know, we are down here for a short while. Your life, says the book of James, is like a vapour. It appears for a short while and then disappears. You get up in the morning and there is a mist and it's here; the sun comes out and it's gone; didn't notice it go.
The book of James says life is like that. Between your birth and your death, which is not a very long period in the grand scale of history, is anybody actually interested enough to give my life meaning and purpose?
That's why I read these verses in Psalm 139. I love the way it starts:
"O LORD, you have searched me, you know me, you know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways."
And we read much of the psalm just now and if you read it carefully you will discover that in those verses, there are 81 personal pronouns, as far as I can see. That is, 81 times it's I and You, You, Me, You, I, You know me, You love me, You care for me, You listen to me, You guide me, You direct me. And when I feel I am hidden You know exactly where I am. When it is dark, You can see through the darkness and You have a plan for me. And before I was born, You knew me.
I mean this psalm is all about the fact You, me, You, me, You, me, You, me. God is actually interested in you. He knows you. And as one of those verses says that
"When I was woven together... your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
In other words, "before my body was even formed, You knew me in advance. I was not a surprise."
Now some of us may think that we were a mistake; our parents might have told us we were a mistake. You might feel like a mistake, you might look like a mistake. But nobody is. The day you were born God didn't look from heaven and say, "Where did that one come from? Oh man, we have got enough already; what are we going to do with that one?"
The day you were born, the day I was born, God looked from heaven and I don't think He said, "Here he comes, here she comes, right on schedule; where's the book?"
"Here's the book, page 1:
"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them even came to be."
That doesn't mean, as we are going to see in a few weeks' time, that we are locked into some predetermined program out of which we cannot break, we can't break away from that. Of course we can.
But it means that when you were born, you were created and known by God. You were known before you were born and your life has significance, your life has a purpose, your life is one that God will lead and guide and direct you in. And it is this which gives life its significance.
And what I want to do this morning because we will cover this over a number of weeks, is take a few moments to clear a little bit of ground so that we lay the foundation for how we want to talk about this.
The big question that many of us want to know the answer to is "How do I know the will of God for my life?" That is a question that is being asked all the time.
I have just spent three days out in Saskatchewan these last couple days at a Bible college there. And it was their missions conference - about 800 students. It was a privilege to speak to them twice a day and engage in a lot of conversation with these young men and women. And this is a big issue for some of them. What is the will of God for my life?
Well of course it is a good question, but it's not actually the best question. We need to be very careful about the questions that we ask because there is a saying that says if you ask the wrong question, you will probably get the wrong answer.
And if the first question is what is the will of God for my life? what we will be looking for as an answer to that question is some kind of spiritual GPS (Global Positioning System). You know, that's a receiver that gets information from about 32 orbiting satellites and you stick it in your car.
We have a GPS system in our car. My wife bought it for me. She always buys me presents that she needs and you ask who gets lost at a u-tune? But it's great; it's tuned to a British female voice so I am used to being told what to do by a British female voice anyway, except this is a fairly static voice. It doesn't carry much emotion and you punch in the address and it tells you exactly what to do. You punch in the address, you start the car; it'll say, "Go to the end of the road. Turn left. Turn right at the next lights. Go for six kilometres. Turn left. Recalculating. Recalculating. When it's safe, do a u-turn." It always says, "When it's safe."
You know we would like that. We would like God's will for our lives to be some kind of stick up your spiritual antenna and there is some sort of GPS. And so you get up in the morning and "Go to the university and study this subject. See that girl over there; marry her. Go and get this job. Live at that address. Live happily ever after. Amen."
And that's what we would look for. "God, just, You know, show me what to do, tell me what to do, tell me where to go, make life make sense for me." We would be content with that.
That's why the question, What is the will of God for my life? is not actually the first question. It is a valid question. But the first question is what is the will of God? Period. Not what is the will of God for me; what is the will of God for God? What is the big picture of what God is doing in the world of which I, as an individual, can have a part?
Because we will only ever discover the personal will of God for me and it will only ever make sense within my understanding of the general will of God in our world in which I can have a part because my purpose in life, if it is to be valid, must be an expression of His purpose in our world. My agenda, to be valid, must be an expression of God's agenda. My goals, to be valid, must be an expression of His goals.
So the first question is what is that God is doing that predates me and will postdate me. What is the big picture?
If you go to be interviewed for a job the first question is not what do you want me to do? The first question is what is the nature of the business? And having understood the nature of the business, then what do you want me to do? will make sense in the light of my understanding of the big role and purpose of the business. My individual role and purpose will be significant as it is a fulfillment of that bigger role and purpose.
You see businesses don't exist to give jobs; they exist to fulfill a purpose. God didn't create you so you would have something to do. God created you because He has something to do of which you and I have a privilege of being a part. That's the wonder of being created, coming into this world.
And God has plans for your life and God has plans for my life that are part of the bigger picture. And sometimes my own life's role may seem to be very insignificant (what is the point of this?) but it is a key role in the big picture of what God is doing.
There is a saying that we hear from time to time - God has a wonderful plan for your life. What is true is God has a wonderful plan. Now for you, the role may not be that wonderful, but it furthers His wonderful plan.
Some years ago I had a heart attack and I was unable to do anything for several months and was told I needed a complete rest and so on while the healing process was taking place.
And a guy came to help us in our garden (this was in England) and we had things that needed doing. And so he pulled out weeds and he turned over the soil so we could plant some stuff and when the spring and the summer came the garden could flourish.
But when he came to help us, we didn't say, you know, we have a wonderful plan for your life. We said we have got a wonderful plan for this garden. Now, the plan for the garden is that you now need to pull the weeds, turn the soil, put some fertilizer down, that kind of thing. And it was hard work for him. And when the flowers eventually came and the garden was looking good in the spring and the summer, he had gone. He never saw that.
Now if I said to him, "We have a wonderful plan for your life," he might say, "Fantastic I can pick the best flowers that are left and take them and give them to my girlfriend." That would be a wonderful plan for him. But it was a wonderful plan for the garden and he didn't hang around long enough to see the results of it.
And sometimes we play a role in God's overall purposes and we say what is the reason for this? And we don't actually have answers to that until one day when we know all that there is to know, we'll know what the New Testament says about the will of God. It is good, it is perfect, therefore it is acceptable.
So the first question is, what is the big picture? What is God doing in the world? And sometimes we narrow our lives down to the little picture of me and my role, and it doesn't always make sense and sometimes it just seems very frustrating.
There are various accounts of the story I am going to tell you, but I found out this week in doing a little research that the origin of this story is in the Rule of Saint Benedict, a document written back in the sixth century.
St. Benedict built the abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy, which is still there today. And Benedict tells the story in his Rule of Saint Benedict that a group of men were working on the building site in Monte Cassino and somebody came to one of them and said, "What are you doing?"
And he said, "Well I am a brick layer and I am building a wall."
And then he went to somebody else and said, "What are you doing?"
He said, "I am a carpenter and I am carving some beams."
He went to another one and said, "What are you doing?"
"Well, I am a sander and I am sanding down this block of marble."
He went to another guy who was digging dirt out of the ground and he said, "What are you doing?"
He said, "I am building a cathedral."
Now it was true the one guy was a bricklayer and the other guy was a carpenter and the other guy was a sander and this other guy was probably a digger. But when their focus was on building a wall (I am cutting some wood), you can be pretty sure in due course that will get tedious and tiring and you will look for something else to do.
But when you have the vision of the other guy (I am building a cathedral - I am not just building a well, I am not just carving a beam; there is something big I am part of here) that gives meaning and purpose and excitement to the little bit that you are doing.
And so it is with life that there is a big picture. And what I want to do this morning from this psalm is just lay a foundation of two things that are fundamental to what we are going to learn about the will of God as we look into the Scripture and then in the course of time, the will of God for me and how do I find that out and how do I find my place in that?
And the two things that I want to say to you this morning are number one (and I will explain what I mean by these things and why these are important) - number one, we are objects of God's love, first of all.
Now why do I say that? Psalm 139 (which I just read to you) is a great psalm. As I said, 81 personal pronouns (You know me, You see me, You discern me, You are familiar with me and all that kind of thing) but if you look at the very last verse of Psalm 138, which precedes it, it says there,
"The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever - do not abandon the works of your hands."
So he starts that statement by saying "the Lord will fulfill His purpose for me." He finishes it, "don't abandon the work of your hands". In the middle of it he says, "Your love endures forever."
In other words, "Your purpose for my life, Your works of which I am to be a part are a consequence of your love for me."
Now why is it important to say that? Because a lot of Christians think of themselves as simply being pawns on God's chessboard. And if I am talking about the will of God and if you take what I have said so far about you have a part in the big picture, maybe you think, well that's all my part is, I am just a pawn on the chessboard and I get moved around until eventually I get taken and then I am out of the story, and it's cold and I am used.
But that is not what the Scripture teaches us. Psalm 139 is written out of a sense of God's love and His expression of that love. He created me, He knows me, He is familiar with me, He is present with me, He loves me; those are all there in this psalm.
And it is in that context he says,
"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (there in Verse 16).
We are not just pawns on His chessboard; we are the objects of His love. And one of the important things that we as Christian people need to know is that we are loved. Not just because it is a doctrinal bullet point on our creed (God loves me), but we know it because we experience it.
And as Romans 5:5 says about a genuine Christian,
"God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
That is the Holy Spirit's job, that within our hearts we know because we know because we know. Now I know we don't live on feelings. Feelings are part of us but they are not reliable.
My son is learning to fly out in Manitoba and I saw him briefly yesterday because when I came back from Saskatchewan I flew through Winnipeg and had a couple of hours with him. And he is flying everyday at the moment and he's loving it.
And he was telling me that one of the first things you have to learn in flying is not to trust what you feel, because he says sometimes you feel you are moving in a certain direction; you have got to drive, fly by the instruments; the instruments are what you trust, not how you feel and what you think you can see.
And we didn't talk about this because I don't preach to him but he probably has thought about it. That's such a good illustration of the Christian life. You keep your eyes on the instruments, keep your eyes on the Word of God, keep your eyes on the Lord Himself.
But you know sometimes we don't feel loved, sometimes we feel distance, we feel dejected. I talked to somebody after the first service who is going through a very hard time of feeling God is distant. That's a feeling; it's not a fact, it's not a fact. Because why she came to tell me that was because reading these verses this morning, these verses went right into her heart. "You know me, You know when I sit, You know when I rise." You don't feel it, but you are loved.
And I have a number of times said to somebody, why don't you go home, open your verse at Romans 5:5,
"God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
And to just ask Him to make that a real experience in your own heart, that you know that He loves you, because you know that He loves you, because you know - why? Because He tells you and you sense it and you are overwhelmed with it.
You don't live off of feeling but there are times and there are moments when God meets you in that way and you know it.
You see our relationship with God is not one when He keeps explaining what He is doing. In this psalm down in Verse 11 he says,
"If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,"
In other words he says, "I go into this dark tunnel, this dark experience when everything around me seems to be dark and even the light has become dark." He says, when I am in that situation
"even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."
I feel in the dark. God sees me and works in me totally in the light. He knows what He is doing. There are dark times; we'll talk about those. We'll talk about some of the big, the big mysteries of life. Why do these things happen? Why does that happen?
And so I love the fact that this psalm paints a beautiful picture of the fact that God knows me and He loves me. And to be known doesn't mean He knows your name. He knows you. He knows you. And He loves you.
You need to know that as you look, what is the meaning of my life, what is the purpose of my life, what am I supposed to be doing?
We are at different stages in life. Some of you are looking back over decades maybe of your life and you are tempted to think, O boy, did I really live it well? Because you say, "I don't know if I can see anything that tells me I did."
But if your life has been surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ, you may be been through dark times, you may look back with dark times; we'll talk about this on another occasion. But what is dark to you is light to Him. He loves you; He knows what He is doing.
That's the first thing - we are the objects of His love. The second thing is we are subjects of His lordship. Let me explain this - objects of His love, subjects of His lordship.
I was born in the United Kingdom and because I was born in the United Kingdom, I am not a citizen of the United Kingdom because it doesn't have any citizens. The United Kingdom has subjects. Citizens owe their allegiance to a state; subjects owe their allegiance to a monarch.
And if a person becomes an immigrant into the United Kingdom or somebody joins the Armed Forces or they become a Member of Parliament, they have to swear an allegiance and their allegiance is to Her Majesty the Queen; not to the country; it's a kingdom (or a "queendom").
Canada is kind of caught in the middle here because it kind of technically is a constitutional monarchy and we have the same queen, as it happens here. But she is an absentee queen and once in a while waves across the Atlantic and we kind of wave back "mind your own business" and we get on with it. So Canadians are called citizens. They are really caught in the middle of it all. But you are not - we are not a republic here.
But when Jesus talked about the work of God, He didn't say, "The republic of God is near." He said, "The kingdom of God is near."
That means that anybody who is going to be part of that is going to become a subject. Kings only have subjects; they don't have peers. And fundamental to our understanding of the will of God must be this recognition that when we come into a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we are coming into a relationship with a king, with a lord, with a master, whatever term you want to use; all those words are used of Christ in the New Testament.
As Jesus said in Matthew 7:21,
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven,"
(It's not about getting the language right)
"...but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
That is, the person who brings their lives in submission to His kingship and His lordship - and this of course is at the heart of the Gospel. It is not an extra to the Gospel; it is the Gospel.
Romans 14:9 says,
"For this reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
That's why He died and was raised - to be Lord. That is, that our lives might be brought under new management. That involves a surrender to Him. And that is fundamental to the Christian life.
Now when somebody comes to Jesus Christ and says, "I like a lot of the benefits of the Christian life. I would like to become a recipient of those benefits. I want to have my sins forgiven. I want to go to heaven when I die. I would like to have my prayers answered. I would like to have some guidance through life, but, I don't want You to master me, I don't want You to be in charge of every part of my life. I don't want You knocking on my bedroom door. I don't want You checking my bank account and how I am spending my money. But I would like You to guide me and direct me."
You know what that person receives from Christ? They receive nothing. How do we know that? Because people tried that in the New Testament. There are several examples.
One is the story of a man we call the rich young ruler. Do you remember that story? You can read it in Mark's Chapter 10 but it's in Matthew and Luke.
And I won't read it to you; I will just remind you of the story. That Jesus was coming out of Jericho when a man came running up to them (He was with a group of folks) and he fell on his knees and face in the front of Jesus and said, "Good Master, what must I do to receive eternal life?"
Now it's a brilliant question. I am sure the disciples got very excited. "Wow! This is fantastic! Here's this guy on his knees asking the right question, what must I do to receive eternal life?"
And Jesus said to him, "What about the commandments?"
The man said, "Which?"
So Jesus began to recite them. He got through about 6 - 5 or 6 - when the man interrupted and said, "All these I have kept since I was a boy."
Well I don't believe him - I am sure Jesus didn't, but that's what he said.
And then Jesus said, "There is one thing that you lack. You are a rich man. Go sell your possessions, give them away to the poor and then come and follow Me."
Now why in the world did Jesus make an issue of this man's wealth when here is the man asking for eternal life - what's the connection? Is it wrong to be rich?
The answer is no of course it's not wrong to be rich. The Bible warns it's dangerous but it's not wrong. But what the Scripture says is this:
"No one can serve two masters. You will love the one and you will hate the other. You cannot serve God and money" (some translations say God and mammon, others say God and materialism, others say).
And what the Lord was saying was this: "You want to receive eternal life - that means having a new master in your life. But there is a problem - you have already got a master; get rid of that master. Then come and follow Me."
And to show that His diagnosis was accurate, it says, "The man went away sad because he was very rich."
In other words, he said, "Okay, I am not willing to go that far." And he went away sad.
And what did Jesus do? Did He run after him and say, "Hey, sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you like that. Hey, come back and let's negotiate about this. I mean, it was brilliant the question you asked Me there. You would like to have eternal life? You want to go to heaven? Write down what you want okay? That's great.
"Would you like to have your sins forgiven? You haven't got many of them you say? Well I don't believe you fully, but you've got a few teeny weenie ones surely, come on. Okay, I will forgive you those. Right, that's good.
"Now listen, you are a rich man. I have got some ideas of what we could do with your money. Would you like My ideas for that, or have you got your own? You've got your own, okay. You want to keep your own? Yeah, right.
"Now you are single, is that right? Would you like Me to decide who you should marry or you want to do that? I beg your pardon...what's her names did you say? Well, she mightn't have a name because I may want you to stay single. What I want to know is do you want My will or yours? You can handle that, okay.
"I mean if you, after a few years, you are getting nowhere you can come back and pray and we'll see if we can help. But I'll leave that to you.
"Now, when I ascend to My Father, I am going to send the Holy Spirit to fill My disciples. Would you be willing to be filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost? What did you say - as long as nothing funny happens? Okay, okay, all right. All right, well we'll keep it low key for you; you know, just keep your hands in your pocket and keep your mouth shut and things.
"Now by the look of this list, all you really want is to have your sins forgiven and go to heaven when you die. Oh, that is all you want. Okay.
"Well, look, let Me tell you something. That is not going to be the greatest Christian life, but it's a good starting point. So, welcome into the kingdom and at least if a camel sits on you, you know where you are going and if you get a big frustrated with this later, you can always come back and get rededicated and that kind of thing. But God bless you. Welcome to the family."
Is that what Jesus said to him? Of course it wasn't. I fear sometimes that's the kind of popular evangelicalism today though. Just come on your own terms. Just nod your head and wink in His direction, you know, like you are at an auction and they are saying, "20, 20, 20, up-p, 25, 25, 25" and somebody flicks a finger like that and "30, 30, 30...35, 35...you know. You come to Christ, you know, and you just, "Ooh, I didn't mean that but, okay, I'm a Christian now."
You know, we make it almost like that. No, said Jesus, if you want to receive eternal life you must understand that is not something you will get when you die. It is the presence of God in you now to reign, to take over your life.
You see what we know about this man is that he was basically interested in his own agenda. We only know three things about the rich young ruler, and the three things are that he was rich and he was young and he was a ruler. That's why we call him the rich young ruler; it kind of sums him up.
When you think about it, those three things are all very attractive. It is very attractive to be rich. I wouldn't know, but I have thought about it.
It's very attractive to be young - I remember. And you know, most of us, we like the idea of being young. You know, when you are about 12 and somebody says, "How old are you?" that's a good age. 13, 13. 14, 14, when I am 15, what they usually say is "I am 16 next year" (they try to get a bit older).
When they are 16, "I am 17 next year." And then you become 18 - that's a good age. 19, 20, 21 is a good age. 22: "21 and a bit".
23, 24, 25 ("I am just in my early 20's) you know, we try to be younger. And from 25 till about 75, you know, we try to act as though we're younger. We paint ourselves to look a bit younger. We love it - if you want to make somebody really feel good, you know, you tell them that they look younger than they really are. And people love that.
Until you get to 79 and then you say, "How old are you?" And they say, "I am 80 next year." They can't wait then. And when they are 81, they no longer say, "I am 81"; they say, "I am in my 82nd year" you know. And they get to 90 and boy, "I am 90 - I am in my 10th decade." And then we love it.
But from 25 - 75, you know, we love to be young because it's a young people's world and it's always been that way. This man was young.
He was also a ruler. That meant he told people what to do and they did it. That must have been nice. I wouldn't know; my wife doesn't co-operate.
But he probably sat down one day, "I am rich, I am young, I am a ruler; life is going for me well. But there is a problem and the problem is one day I have got to die. And when I die, I won't be rich anymore - somebody else will have my money. I won't be young anymore. I won't be a ruler anymore; somebody else will have my authority delegated to them. If only I could have a life that would never end. Boy that would be fantastic."
And somebody said to him one day, "Have you ever heard about Jesus of Nazareth?"
"No, who's He?"
"He's a preacher."
"No, I don't listen to preachers."
"But do you know what He is preaching about?"
"He's preaching about eternal life."
"Eternal life? Man, that's the very thing that I need!"
"Well you are in luck. He is leaving Jericho this morning. Catch Him."
And as they were leaving Jericho, look down the road, there is a cloud of dust and a man running up the road for all he's worth. He comes to the back of the crowd, elbows his way through, falls on the ground in front of Jesus, "Good Master, what must I do to receive eternal life?"
In other words, "Jesus, I have got a problem; You have got the answer. Give me the answer."
And Jesus said, "No. I am sorry. I don't give it on your terms. If you want to receive eternal life, it involves receiving a new master."
And if you and I want to know the will of God for our lives, it begins with bringing our lives in submission and surrender. That doesn't mean that everything is hunky-dory in your Christian life. Of course it doesn't.
Surrendering to Christ is that disposition that says, "Lord, I want You to have Your way in my life." And we struggle and battle. We fall in and out with Him. And we don't always understand what that means, but as we grow in understanding, we will grow in our surrender to Him.
But it doesn't mean, you know, that you are a perfect Christian. There is no such thing.
When I got married, I had to say certain things to Hilary. And one of the things I had to say was this: "forsaking all others, I take you only unto me."
And what that meant was - what I meant by that was that I will never again look at a girl the way I look at you. I will never develop a relationship with a girl that I have with you. I will never go on a date with a girl; I will only ever go on a date with you. And I made that commitment that day - that's what was meant - 29 years ago - and I have lived by that commitment for the last 29 years.
But that didn't make me a perfect husband overnight. That took a month! (She was in the first service so I can say that.) No, of course I am not a perfect husband. I am a rotten husband. I keep going away.
But the thing is this: I have a disposition towards Hilary that says, "You have a place in my life that nobody else shares."
And you say, "Lord Jesus Christ, I know I am going to flip and flop around the place, like we all do, but I want You to know that You are the one I love, the one I trust, the one to whom I submit myself."
And yes, the old nature will fight against the Spirit. The Scripture tells us that is part and parcel of life. But the heart of it is that all to Jesus I surrender.
And I know, as many of you know, that you go through issues and struggles and you fail and you sin, but you come back and say, "I am sorry. You are my Lord."
We're the objects of His love and we're the subjects of His lordship.
Donald Grey Barnhouse was a famous preacher from Philadelphia. He wrote a book called "The Way Up is Down." What he meant by that was this: If you want to grow in the Christian life, the way up is down. Matthew 16:25 says,
"Whoever wants to save his life will lose it. Whoever wants to lose his life will find it."
In other words, if you are willing to give your life away to Jesus Christ, if you are willing to lose your life, that is the way down; you will find life in all its fullness; it'll take you up. The way up is down.
On the other hand, the way down is up. If you want to keep life, if you want life to be all about you and keep your life and keep your agendas, you will lose it.
The way up is down; the way down is up, said Barnhouse.
Matthew 23 says whoever exalts himself will be humbled; whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
What's the way up? Down. Humble yourself; you will be exalted.
If you exalt yourself, you are going to be humbled.
And that's why to find life in its fullness is to actually let go of life. And the lordship of Christ is to let go of trying to control everything and trying to predict everything and trying to be in charge of everything, and build all the protections that we like to build around ourselves and say, "Lord Jesus, I surrender everything to You and thank You that in the center of Your will is the safest place on earth, is the most satisfying place on earth, where my old self and my old ego has been crucified with You. I am released to be what I was created to be."
So if you want the will of God for your life, it is a lot deeper than a spiritual GPS; it's a life that is surrendered.
We are the objects of His love; therefore we can trust Him because He loves us. We can trust Him. We are the subjects of His lordship and therefore we obey Him.
And these two things - obedience and trust - are the two essential ingredients of leading the Christian life. We obey what He says; we trust who He is. And of course the third - and these are the three ingredients - is that we love Him.
I have said before that obedience and trust are like two wings on an airplane. Which is the most important wing on the airplane - the left one or the right one?
Matthew was telling me yesterday when I spent these couple of hours with him that when he was flying the other day, that they were doing some spirals and things and just having fun up in the sky, he said they heard a sound - felt like something bending or a creak or a crack on the wing.
His instructor said, "Matt, I think we need to go home." And so they came down, landed, and everything was fine. They weren't sure what it was but it felt like something had either stretched or come loose or something was wrong on the wing. But they were fine.
But you see, you need two wings to fly. If you try the Christian life simply on the basis of obedience, you will become legalistic - it'll all be about keeping the rules.
If you try to fly just on the basis of trust - God loves me; I am just going to trust Him - you will end up in some unhealthy sentimental mysticism.
But if you obey what He says because He is Lord, and you trust who He is because He loves, that is dynamism; you will fly.
And the will of God does not come to us as an appendage, an add-on side bar to the Christian life (you want His will - okay, just tell me what to do, that's great; this is a good plan you've got here). It flows out of a relationship that responds to His love, that knows that we are loved, we are known, we are seen - all the things that are listed here in Psalm 139 - and responds in obedience, that before I was born, all the days ordained for me were written in Your book and I am surrendering to Your book, that You as Lord direct my paths.
It's not a poker hand - make the best of it. You were created for a purpose and God Himself will work that purpose out. And all the circumstances that come to mould us, as we'll talk about in later weeks, all part of equipping us and making us for this purpose that God has for you that gives your life meaning and direction and deep satisfaction.
Let's pray together. Father, we thank You this morning that we are not just little dots on a little planet that is part of a galaxy that is part of a vast universe, and we're just insignificant accidents, freaks of nature - here today, gone tomorrow, forgotten with the passage of time.
But Your Word tells us before we were ever born, You knew us, before we were ever formed in our mothers' wombs You knew us. And all the days ordained for us were written in Your book. And we thank You so much for the purpose, the meaning that gives to our lives. And we want to be people, Lord Jesus, who trust You because we know that You love us. And all that you do is in love - even the things that are darkness to us and painful to us, that you are moulding us. And we want to be those who trust You because You love us, and obey You because Your plans are good and perfect and acceptable. Make this real in our hearts and in our experience we pray. In Jesus' Name. Amen.