Welcome back to the podcast. We started the week looking at the key to following God’s will. And last time, in Monday’s episode, Pastor John closed with a very great point on Colossians 1:9. There we saw that Paul was asking God to pour out his Holy Spirit, so the Spirit would remove “the dimness of our ability to see God for who he really is,” so that “we would have spiritual wisdom that experiences preferences and makes choices that are in harmony” with God’s beauty. Seeing more of God is essential to following his will in our daily decision-making. That was Monday (in APJ 1807). Go back and listen to that episode if you skipped it or if you missed it, because today we put that principle into practice. We do so by looking at an example of one man who proceeded with a major life decision with confidence, knowing he was following God’s will. He knew it. He was confident in his decision because he was following the trajectory of God’s revealed will. This is a clip taken from an old John Piper sermon, preached way back in 1982. Here’s Pastor John.
Now, Jesus taught us to pray every day, “Your will be done, on earth as it is done in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Therefore, everyone who confesses Jesus as Lord makes it his aim day by day, consistently and heartily, to do the will of God the way that the angels do it in heaven. And if we are not making it our aim to do the will of God day by day, then it is very likely that we do not belong to Jesus, because Jesus himself said, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). In other words, the family resemblance in the family of God is not so much perfect performance of the will of God, but rather persistent purposing to do it day by day. The mark of the child of God is not that we always hit the bull’s-eye of God’s will, but that we always aim at the targets appointed by the Father day by day.
“The great aim of the church is to do the will of God, to honor the way it’s done in heaven.”
The great aim of the church is to do the will of God, to honor the way it’s done in heaven. And for many of us, that means a constant struggle for two things: on the one hand, to know what the will of God is for our personal lives, and on the other hand, to maintain a strong confidence that God will give us the strength that we need to do it and run interference for us so that all obstacles will be removed.
Knowing Biblical Trajectories
Now, in Genesis 24:1–9, I think we’ve got an incident from Abraham’s life that shows us, on the one hand, how he discovered God’s will, and on the other hand, how he kept his confidence strong that God would always be running interference when he held close to God’s will. And I think the reason stories like this are put in the Bible for us is that we might learn (1) how to know his will and (2) how to keep that confidence in God’s help strong.
So, in advance, let me tell you what I think the main point to be learned about these two things is from this text. I think the main point is this: we can know God’s will, and we can maintain confidence in his help to do it, if we’re familiar with the trajectories of his word. Now, in this day and age, I hope everybody knows what trajectories are. For the last 25 years, we’ve heard about them on the television. A trajectory of a rocket is the path that it will follow on the basis of its shape and speed and weight and direction. So you can know in advance what the trajectory or the path of that rocket’s going to be if you know enough about the rocket and how it’s moving. Now, I think that’s the way it is with knowing God’s word and finding out God’s will.
“You are to be able to find out God’s will tomorrow by becoming very familiar with the trajectories of God’s word.”
The Bible simply does not give you a radar screen or a blueprint of your life tomorrow. It leaves so many questions unanswered about what you should do. And the intention, I think, of God is that you are to be able to find out God’s will tomorrow by becoming very familiar with the trajectories of God’s word that you know from the past — and you could add to that the trajectories of his work that he has been doing in your life up to this time. If you become familiar enough with the weight and direction and the shape and speed of the word of God, then you’ll be able to trace out the trajectory of God’s will for you and maintain strength in his help.
Three Trajectories in Abraham’s Life
Now, let’s see how that worked for Abraham. I think maybe if we look at how Abraham did it, we might become better at it. Sometimes God spoke to Abraham directly, told him exactly what to do face to face. But if you read the story, you realize that those times were few and far between — decades between the times we read of God speaking to Abraham.
Most of the time, Abraham, like us, was left to trace out trajectories from what God had said in the past into the future so that he’d know what to do with his life, what steps to take. That’s what’s happening, I think, here in Genesis 24:1–9. There are three trajectories from God’s word that combine into one line of God’s will for Abraham here. The first trajectory is this: Isaac must have a wife. The second trajectory is this: the wife may not be a Canaanite woman. And the third trajectory is this: Isaac may not return to the land from which Abraham left to get a wife.
Those three trajectories merge for Abraham into a line of decision. And the decision, he is convinced, is God’s will. And the decision is this: “I will send my trusted servant to get a wife for my son from among my own kindred in my own land.” Abraham determines the will of God for the future by tracing out trajectories that he has learned from the past word of God. And then he’s confident, absolutely confident — so confident that he says in verse 7, “[God] will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son.” From which I infer that once we know the will of God, we can have tremendous confidence that God is going to work for us to clear away all obstacles to its success. Many of you have had that kind of experience.
Following the Rocket of God’s Will
Now, we want that to happen in our lives, don’t we? I don’t think there’s probably a person in this room who wouldn’t say right now in your own heart, “I want every day to know clearly God’s will for me. I want to know. I want to have questions answered about marriage, children, job changes, major purchases, schooling decisions, the use of my leisure time and what to do with it, special ministries and whether to get involved and how deeply involved, church affiliation (Bethlehem or another one), percentage of our income to give to the church and to give to World Vision and to give to World Relief and to give here, there, and everywhere. I want to know God’s will.”
I think all of you probably would say that. And you want confidence that he will work for you once you have hit upon the will, that if he tells you it’s his will for you to give 15 percent of your income to Bethlehem, he’s going to work for you and make that 85 percent stretch vastly further than the 100 percent would’ve ever reached. That’s the kind of faith we want once we hit upon God’s will. We want to be led — and led in triumph, as Paul said (2 Corinthians 2:14). Now, Scriptures like Genesis 24 are given to help us maintain that insight and that confidence, I think. And so, I want us to look at it even more closely.
The reason that I call these three things in Genesis 24 trajectories and not commands is because God never commanded Abraham explicitly that his son must have a wife, that his wife could not be a Canaanitess, and that he may not return to Mesopotamia. He never said that. The only way Abraham could determine that, so far as we see from Scripture, is by tracing out trajectories from things God did say to him in the past. And he had said things that pointed in that direction.
God had, as it were, launched the rocket of his will. And now and then, he allowed the clouds at Cape Canaveral to clear for Abraham, and Abraham could see the kind of rocket it was, the direction it was going, and how fast it was going, and then the clouds came back over. And Abraham was left to trace out the trajectory for his own behavior from what God had revealed of the rocket’s path and nature.