February 12, 2017 – Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
Proclaimer: Rev. Dennis W. Foust, PhD
Sermon: Can You Know God’s Will for You?
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:1-3:7 (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Micah 6:8; Psalm 119:1-9)
Her question was honest: ‘How can I know God’s will for my life?’ How would you respond to her? Mark Twain said that reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated. And, if anyone ever tries to convince you they know God’s will for YOUR life, they may be exaggerating. We must be careful when we speak of the will of The Living God.
Numerous times, I have been present in the midst of tragedy with a family when someone flippantly says, “We just have to accept this as God’s will.” Their fatalism is not helpful theology; it is deterministic cynicism. On occasion, I have wanted to correct them on the spot. Usually I go behind them and try to do ‘theological clean-up’ with the grieving family.
As part of Christ’s Church ministering in this twenty-first century, you are doing your best to be the light of the world. Today, our individualistic-oriented culture and our information-based society are co-creating tremendous confusion about the will of God. People who have never read a chapter of the Bible or a page in a book of theology present themselves as religious authorities. Here are 3 thoughts to share with others about the will of God.
- THE WILL OF GOD FOR HUMANITY HAS NEVER CHANGED
In the 4th and 5th centuries, Augustine of Hippo, was a bishop and theologian in what we know today as Algeria. St. Augustine’s taught that ‘there is one and only one message about the will of The Living God taught throughout The Bible.’ The will of God for you is the message of the Christian Scriptures woven throughout the Hebrew Bible. And the message of God’s will in the Hebrew Bible is made plain in the person of Jesus and the teachings of Christian Scripture. The will of God was revealed in the first commandment and then affirmed by Jesus. This continues to be the will of God for humanity: “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.” The will of God for humanity has never changed.
2. THE WILL OF GOD IS FOR YOU TO EXPERIENCE A BLESSED LIFE.
Jesus taught that we are always blessed. Two Sundays ago, we focused on The Beatitudes as blessings we already enjoy through living in relationship with God. This message of God’s blessing called us into worship today and was presented in Psalm 119:
God has set before us life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If we obey the commandments of the Lord, we live and prosper. 17But if we bow down to other masters and serve them, then we 18perish and do not experience the life God offers. It is God’s will that we do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.
But, let us be clear. We are not teaching the ungodly idea circulating today as the ‘prosperity gospel;’ A few weeks ago, a person not related to St. John’s asked me, “Do you think God will increase my financial wealth if I tithe?” I smiled and said if financial independence were that simple, everyone would tithe. Tithing comes with discipleship. I then asked, “Do you think Jesus came to set up something like Amway or a pyramid scheme?” I tried to offer a concept of the blessed life of following God’s will in commitment and service. They weren’t buying.
We teach, it is the will of God to make you alive; to empower you through God’s Spirit of Holiness; and to energize you with the power of Love. It is the will of God for you to experience the blessed life of a relationship with God that is expressed through transformational relationships with others and redemptive service in the world. In this way, you participate in the blessed life and reflect the image of God. I am fond of Thomas Kelley’s line, “Wherever you find the will to will God’s the will, there you will find a child of God.” The will of God is for you to be in a relationship of blessedness with God and others.
3. THE WILL OF GOD CAN BE KNOWN THROUGH THE MIND OF CHRIST.
Our Christian Scripture reading for today tells how the Church in Corinth was fussing, feuding and quarreling. They were competing with one another rather than seeking unity. They were focusing on their biases and blinded to a larger vision. Some said they belonged to the Apollos Party. Others pledged loyalty to the party of Cephas. Paul called them ‘big babies’ – well, “infants in Christ.” He put the pacifier in their mouths and fed them with baby formula rather than an adult diet. And then, Paul broke into their preschool fussiness by challenging them to focus on the will of God. In other words, Paul reminded them that they belonged to the Jesus Party. (From time to time, all of us need to be reminded of this reality.)
Paul asks the question which Isaiah had asked: “Who has known the mind of the Lord…?” (Isaiah 40:13). Then Paul answers the question with this crucial phrase: “… we have the mind of Christ.” When anyone asks you to help them follow the will of God, you can show them that they do not need to live in the shadows of misunderstanding. We have the mind of Christ. We do not subjugate the will of God to any institution, cause or party line. We have the mind of Christ. We do not need to be confused about the will of God. We have the mind of Christ that reveals to us in bodily form and daily life the character of, the priorities of and the vision of the will of God. The will to will God’s will – moves you beyond confusion or division.
Paul spoke of the mind of Christ when he wrote to the Church in Philippi. He said, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,…emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant.” The mind of Christ will always lead you in the will of God. The mind of Christ may not lead you down the easiest of pathways; but the mind of Christ will always be the way of blessing and life abundant and everlasting.
Friends, you are doing your best to reflect the light of Christ. You are seeking to show others how you follow the will of God for you: the will of God that has never changed; the will of God that blesses you; the will of God that is revealed in the mind of Jesus Christ.
As you take up your cross and follow the will of God, you approach a table, you take up pieces of a broken loaf and you drink from a cup that spills forth in the world revealing the will of God for all humanity. We seek to follow the mind of Christ who guides us in the Will of God. We are one body. Amen and AMEN.