Alice in Wonderland came to an icy fork in the road. Panic stung her as she stood frozen by indecision. She lifted her eyes toward heaven, looking for guidance. Her eyes did not find God, only the Cheshire cat leering at her from his perch in the tree above. “Which way should I go?” blurted Alice.
‘That depends, . . . .”said the cat, fixing a strange smile on the confused girl.
“On what?” Alice managed to reply.
“On your destination. Where are you going?” queried the Cat.
“I don’t know, . . . ” stammered Alice.
“Then,” said the cat, with a grin spreading wider, “it doesn’t matter.”
Many of us feel like Alice in Wonderland, we stand at some crossroads in our life and don’t know which road to take. The difference between us and Alice however is that we DO know where we are going. We are children of the King and we are headed to eternal life in His presence. But, do you see, that is part of the problem. It would be easier to look at the decisions of life and conclude that it didn’t matter which way we choose. But because we belong to Him . . . it does matter. We know that when we live according to His will, we will know His blessing and experience His joy. Jesus says, “he who does the will of God is my brother and sister.”(Matthew 12:50); Jesus also tells us to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
Some decisions in our life are major: where should we go to school? What job should we take? What home should we buy? Which person should we marry? What commitments should we accept and which should we decline? How does one discern God’s will for our lives in these times?
In our text this morning we see a long story of the arranged marriage of Isaac and Rebekah. Abraham sends his trusted servant (perhaps Eliezar) back to the homeland of his family in Haran to get a wife for Isaac. It is in this story that we find some principles for finding God’s will for our lives.
CHECK GOD’S WORD
Abraham based his request on God’s promise to Him. He knew that God intended to give this land to his children. He knew that it was God’s intention to judge the Canannites. Certainly there were many beautiful woman in that area. But Abraham knew that God had called the Jews as His special people. Isaac could not marry a Canannite woman because it would lead to a compromise of faith. So, right at the beginning this servant had certain parameters to work with. He knew that he was looking for a woman that was from Abraham’s family and one that would return to the Canann with him. God’s promise had given the servant a good start.
The Bible is where we get our good start when it comes to finding God’s will for our lives. In the Bible we find commands and principles. If you were driving on a road and a sign said “Speed Limit 55” that would be a command. If it said “Use Caution” that would be a principle. The Bible has both kinds of directions in the Bible. God gives us certain commands,
1 Thessalonians 4:3 “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified and that you should avoid sexual immorality, that each of you should learn to control his own body.“
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Peter 2:15 “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil, live as servants of God.“
He tells us we shouldn’t lie, we should respect our rulers, we should honor our parents, we should worship regularly, we should put God first. These commands and clear and are meant to be obeyed.
There are also principles such as: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” We are told to be “kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, just as God in Christ has forgiven us.” We are told that we are to honor the Lord with our lives.
The commands and principles of Scripture will point us toward God’s will.
- We find someone we are interested in but they are not believers and we fret over whether this could be the right person for us. But the Bible tells us that we should only get involved with believers. (1 Corinthians 7:39-40)
- We wonder whether we should declare all our income on our tax forms. The Bible is clear, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”
- We question whether we should do what God says or whether we should obey our employer when we are asked to do something illegal or immoral. The Apostles answered that in the Book of Acts, “We must obey God rather than men.”
- Our marriage is struggling and we meet someone that “seems to care for us” and we feel drawn to that person and don’t know whether it is right. It’s not! The Bible says “do not commit adultery”.
But even here I must be careful. There are lots of people who have justified ever manner of crazy behavior because of the way they twist scripture. Chuck Swindoll tells the following story,
- A Pastor had served as a deacon in a former church prior to being called into the ministry. He toyed with the idea of buying a Doctor of Divinity degree from a degree mill. He really wanted that degree, but he struggled with whether or not it was God’s will. Late one afternoon, he stumbled across the answer he’d been looking for. Because it was in the Bible, all doubt was removed. The Lord had confirmed the minister’s desire through 1 Timothy 3:13. The King James Version reads, “for they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree. . . . ” [STRESS FRACTURES p. 233]
I love the story about the Pastor who was preoccupied with preparations for his vacation and really did not spend much time in preparation for his message. The Pastor decided he would claim God’s promise that when you are brought before the courts you should not worry because the Spirit will give us the words to say.
Well this man went into the pulpit feeling quite spiritual. He told the congregation, “this morning I want the Holy Spirit to guide me as to what to say to you.” He listened and then He heard God’s Spirit unmistakably say, “Tell the Congregation that I have not adequately prepared this week.”
It is essential that we read the Bible in it’s proper context and not make it say what it does not say. When God’s Word speaks, we must follow that guidance. But . . .what if the guidance we get is still not enough?
ASK FOR GUIDANCE
Sometimes the simple principles are the most profound. Look at the servant praying: in verse
Then he prayed, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a girl, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” [12-14]
If we want God’s guidance we have to seek God’s guidance. James tells us if “anyone lacks wisdom he should ask of God who gives to all men liberally”. But we must be asking sincerely.
Can I be brutally honest? Most of the time when we ask God to show us what to do, we are really saying “let me know that what I want to do is O.K.” If we truly want to find God’s will we have to keep all options open. Before we can find God’s will we have to trust that God’s will is the best. We must understand that what God chooses (even if it is not the choice we would have made) is always the right choice. We must be willing for God to change our direction, or to say “no”, or “not yet”. We must trust that a closed door is not designed to defeat us or discourage us, it is meant to move us in a better direction. God will answer if we ask sincerely. It is certainly true that we will never be open to God’s direction until we can pray with Jesus, “not my will, but yours be done.”
WEIGH YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES
The servant watched what was happening. One of the best things that the servant did is found in verse 21, “Without saying a word, the man watched her closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful.” Consider the circumstances that the servant watched
- would she offer to bring water for the camels
- would she be a relative of Abraham
- would she go with the servant
If any of these circumstances had gone a different direction, the servant would have concluded that he had not found the right woman.
Sometimes God directs us by a closed door. I remember when we were looking at several different churches I asked God to close all the doors except the one that He wanted us to pursue. If none of the churches were His choice then He should close all the doors. Guess which door remained open?
Sometimes God directs by giving us a great opportunity (but we must always check it by the Word and prayer); Sometimes there is a sense of peace (again, check this out it is possible to have peace because your conscience has become deadened). .
One of the best aides God gives to us is our Christian brothers and sisters. Sometimes what seems cloudy to us is crystal clear to the one we are talking to. But again there is a caution: you should check things out with someone you feel has the spirit of God in them. We want someone who is committed to Christ as we are, AND is objective. It is too easy to find people who agree with us. We’re not looking for agreement but guidance.
This servant asked God for a specific sign. Is it appropriate to ask God for a sign? Throughout the Bible we see Biblical characters discerning God’s way in many different fashions.
- Some had God speak directly to them in a dream or vision
- Others cast lots (even the disciples in Acts 1)
- Some asked for other signs (Gideon Judges 6:37-40 and the fleece; Moses was given a miracle (Ex. 4); Hezekiah and his shadow 2 Kings 20:9; )
But before we start demanding that God give us a sign we need to keep a couple of things straight, First, these Biblical Characters did not have the advantage of God’s Word or God’s Spirit to guide them. Today we can check God’s Word for guidance and we have God’s Spirit living within us to guide us into all truth. Asking for a sign when God has spoken clearly is an act of sin . . . not faith.
Second, we must beware of signs that are set up to get what we want. For example, we know that we should visit a person but we don’t want to. So, we pray, “Lord, if you want me to talk to this person make me run into them as I walk to the Post Office.” Sometimes we will ask for an extreme sign before we are willing to do what we believe God is calling us to do. This too is sin.
Third, we must choose the sign carefully. Sometimes people will say, “Lord, if you want me to do this . . . have the light stay green until I get through the intersection” or something of that nature. That is superstition, not faith. Look at how carefully the servant chose his sign,
how could the servant determine quickly which of the girls that would soon be arriving would have the qualities necessary for Isaac? It would be necessary for him to make the first approach toward conversation, and the obvious thing would be for him to ask her for a drink of water from her pitcher. However, almost any girl, out of common courtesy, would agree to such a request as that, so that act alone would not be sufficient. If, however, she would then, on her own initiative, offer to help in some further way, going a second mile as it were, this would definitely be a good sign. Perhaps the most severe test would be whether she was willing not only to give him some water, and perhaps even his attendants, but also his ten camels. Surely, if she would do this, without grumbling, it would go far toward proving that she was the kind of wife Abraham was seeking for his son.
Drawing enough water to satisfy the thirst of ten large and tired camels would be a hard and wearisome task, to say the least. He couldn’t really ask a girl to do such a thing. Nevertheless, if she would do it voluntarily, it would be a strong indication that she was the right one. [Boice, GENESIS Vol. 2 p. 719, 720]
There are other times when we “sense” God speaking to us. We have an “impression from God.” When God gives an impression he almost always also gives some verification. All impressions must be evaluated carefully by the clear and authoritative teaching of Scripture. Like in the game rock, paper, scissors . . . paper wins over rock, scissors wins over paper, and rock wins over scissors. In this case . . . Scripture wins over feelings. If Scripture does not speak to the issue we should check with godly friends.
WALK IN FAITH
When all is said and done we must walk by faith. The servant of Abraham went to Haran trusting that God would lead the way. He asked God for direction and when it was given, he acted. When he got to Rebekah’s home he didn’t even pause to have dinner . . . he wanted to find out if Rebekah was the one first. He continued to walk by the light God provided.
God generally guides one step at a time. Before we can see the second step we must take the first one. Let’s not forget that God has given us His Spirit to guide us. He has given us minds to think and to weigh options. Sometimes we have to trust our “sanctified common sense”. Sometimes we have to trust the brains and the Spirit God has given us and make the best decision possible. We must walk by faith that God will send his angels ahead of us just as He did Abraham’s servant.
As a result of this servant’s faithfulness, Isaac married Rebekah. Two children were born to that union and they named them “Jacob” and “Esau”. Jacob’s name was later changed to “Israel”. This faithful servant played a key role in God’s plan of redemption.
Your decisions won’t affect the plan of redemption but they are significant. Strive in your life to implement these simple steps
- check God’s Word
- seek God’s Help
- pay attention to your circumstances
- walk faithfully each step God reveals
Two final issues. I mentioned that God reveals things one step at a time. For some of you, the first step may be to take that initial step of faith. Maybe the reason you feel outside of God’s will is because you are outside of His grace. God guarantees guidance to all those who are His children. You can be faithful in church attendance and still not be one of His children. You can be a leader in the church and community and still not be one of His children. You can be trying your very best in life, and still not be one of His children.
A person is a child of God when
- they have admitted that they have lived as enemies of God. They have disobeyed His commands, they have ignored His importance, they have only been concerned about themselves. In other words, you must first admit that you have sinned.
- they acknowledge that there is nothing they can do to rectify this situation. All their good works, all their best actions are tainted with selfish motives. And even if we were able to do some things that are truly good . . . it would never be enough to “pay for” the sin.
- they recognize that Jesus Christ is God become man who died as an innocent man, for our sin. He literally came back from the dead making it possible that anyone who really trusts Him to be forgiven and to live beyond the grave.
- they make a commitment to trust what they have come to believe is true. Lot’s of people see that Jesus is good. Lot’s could tell you He died for sin. But it is only when we place our hope in Him . . . it is only when we are willing to bet our life on Him and orient our life from Him that we can truly be said to be a child of God.
If you have never taken this first step. Stop right now. Close you eyes. Talk to God. Tell Him that you are willing to trust Jesus Christ to save you from your sin and from yourself. Tell Him that you believe and receive His promise. Ask Him to take control of your life. And then thank Him, because He has promised that anyone who comes to Him will NOT be rejected. Once you have settled this ultimate issue the others will come easier.
One final thing about finding God’s will for your life. God loves us so much, that even if we make a wrong choice . . . He can get us back on course. He may have to shut a door, or place obstacle in our path . . . but He will lead us in the way that we should go. He promises to lead us home and He will do so even if He has to go and get us after we make a wrong turn. So . . . live boldly and faithfully in the confidence that God will direct your paths . . . just as He promised.