This morning I received this nice email from a sister in Wisconsin with a comment and a question.
“I watched your lesson entitled,” How do I Connect with God” last week, Tuesday. What an excellent lesson!”
“I do need help in understanding how happenstance jives with 1Thessalonians 5:18, ‘In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’ You really made me think, I just need help understanding this.”
“I cultivated the habit of thanking God FOR EVERYTHING, quickly. If it was sad news I would thank God. After hearing your lesson I’m not sure about this. Then I heard your lesson and I believe my reasoning/thinking is off and I don’t know how to reconcile these two and make them mesh. I would appreciate it if you could guide me to right thinking.”
In context, the passage reminds us to always “give thanks.” Why? It’s God’s will for us. Thankfulness is not a suggestion. Or a desirable quality. He desires and commands our gratitude. It’s a virtue, like all others, that He expects us to develop and grow in. So, our good sister is following the will of God by cultivating that quality regardless of life’s circumstances, situations and experiences.
Furthermore, it’s helpful to understand “God’s will” in its various expressions. Several years ago I heard a lesson by Colly Caldwell at the Florida College Lectures that really spoke to me and clarified this issue regarding “the will of God.” Colly, pointed out that there are three aspects to God’s will.
#1 There is the unconditional will of God.
#2 There is the conditional will of God.
#3 There is the permissive will of God.
Colly illustrated it with the familiar and compelling narrative of Joseph’s life.
#1 God’s unconditional will is unchanging. His plan for man’s salvation was and is God’s will. That is Changeless. Constant. Eternal. God’s will was to use Joseph to bring about a great deliverance for Jacob’s family and save them from an impending famine. And for the children of Israel to become a great nation and inherit the land of Canaan.
#2 God desires certain things that may or may not occur depending on the choices we make. Joseph chose to be faithful to God. And he was able to use that to carry out His will. Israel on the other hand choose to be unfaithful. God desired for them to love and serve Him, but they did not. God’s will in these cases is conditional.
#3 However, problems occur, evil exists, and we experience suffering that God may not desire to happen, but He permits it. We don’t always know. Sometimes we make choices that we’re not sure if it is the best choice or not. God does not always agree with everything He allows. Joseph’s brothers were envious and had murderous intent in their hearts. I think it is safe to say that was not God’s desire for them. But He permitted it.
Furthermore, it’s good to remember that not everything happening in the moment is what it appears to be. Jacob’s wife, Rachel, was barren. She thought she couldn’t have children. But she did. And Joseph was born.
Joseph’s brothers considered his dreams pompous and presumptuous. Yet, they were given to Him by God, prophetically forecasting the future. But who could know they would be fulfilled 20 years later.
Remember how Jacob lived all those years believing Joseph was dead. But he wasn’t.
When Joseph languished in prison, forgotten by the butler, do you think he thought “this is God’s will”?
Following Jacob’s death, Joseph’s brothers were sure that he would seek revenge for their sins against him, but that wasn’t his intention.
In the final analysis, the only thing I know for sure about God’s will for my life is revealed in His Book, the Bible. In it, I learn that God’s good. And He wants me to be good and godly. He loves me. And wants me to be saved. God is sovereign. He’s in control. But He’s given me free moral agency to make choices, either good or bad. And He holds me accountable for my attitudes and actions.
Joseph’s life reminds us that bad things happen to good people. But the evil intended against us may be used by God for good.
Finally, our sister’s example is good to emulate. Give thanks. In all circumstances. For this is God’s will.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman