Tim Challies

Keys To Knowing God’s Will for Your Life

Of all the issues related to Christian living, few receive greater attention than knowing God’s will for our lives. Many believers, and especially younger ones, agonize over knowing what God means for them to do and how he means for them to live out their days. Many end up leaning toward a low-grade form of mysticism, longing to receive some kind of a sign from the skies or some kind of a word in their hearts. Many live with hesitation, wondering if they have missed their divine direction and are now experiencing God’s second best. Some end up doing nearly nothing for fear of doing the wrong thing.

But it’s my conviction that many people think wrongly about this matter of knowing God’s will. It’s not that God has no plan for you. It’s not that he means for you to go without any kind of confidence that you are living a life that honors and pleases him. Rather, it’s that God does not mean for you to pry back the curtain of his hidden will. Instead, God means for you to respond to the leading of his revealed will. Generally speaking, where Scripture, providence, and desire converge you can move forward confident that you are doing God’s will. If there are multiple options that exist at that point of convergence, you can confidently choose any of them and trust that God will bless you.
There is another key to knowing and doing the will of God and it’s this: your greatest focus should always be on whatever is plainly his will right now. Better than focusing on what God may have for you a year or a decade in the future is doing what God has provided for you today. For while God’s will for the future may be difficult or impossible to determine, his will for the present is usually not.
Though you may labor in prayer over whether God means for you to marry, what’s clear right now is that he means for you to take full advantage of the opportunities and responsibilities that come with singleness.
Though you may be praying earnestly to know what career God has in mind for you, what’s clear right now is that he means for you to apply yourself to your studies.
Though you may be grappling with whether you should go to seminary, what’s clear right now is that God means for you to grow in godly character and to express it within the local church.
We dishonor God when we focus on tomorrow’s faithfulness at the expense of today’s.
We can get more granular still. You’ve heard it said, I’m sure, that everybody wants to change the world but no one wants to wash the dishes. We tend to focus on the big matters to the neglect of the small. Yet life is lived in the moment and in the minutiae. God’s will is as granular as expressing love by telling your mother “Let me do the dishes tonight” or expressing humility by approaching a friend to say, “I need to apologize to you.” It’s in going the extra mile to serve a cranky customer, in approaching that person who is alone at the end of the church service, in sharing the gospel with a stranger in that moment when you absolutely know it’s the right thing to do. It’s as you learn to embrace God’s will in the small stuff that you are preparing yourself to do it in the big.
The fact is that life is a succession of days and days are a succession of moments. While you may not have utter clarity about what God means for you to do in a month, year, or decade, it’s rarely difficult to discern what God means for you to do right now. The man who is faithful to honor God in each moment cannot possibly be said to have wasted his life and the woman who seeks to do what God has made plain in a day will never be said to have lived without meaning. If you live each moment in obedience you will live each day in obedience, and if you live each day in obedience you will in time live your entire life in obedience. If you are faithful to do God’s will in each moment you’ll eventually do God’s will in a lifetime. And God will be well pleased.

A La Carte (May 11)

May the Lord bless and keep you on this fine day.

This week’s deal from Westminster Books is on a collection of books for kids.
There are a few new Kindle deals to look at today.
Why Mainstream Scholars often Differ with Evangelical Pastors on the Gospels
“Why is it that if you read what Wikipedia says about the date and authorship of the Gospels, it is very different from the way most pastors in evangelical churches and most ordinary Christians talk about the Gospels?” George Sinclair takes a shot at an answer here.
Cultivating an Affectionate Marriage
“I am no expert on marriage. But I have been married long enough to experience those times when coldness creeps in and distance grows. The simplest lesson that the Lord has taught us is the importance of time spent together. Taking time to stop, look each other in the face, and really talk, has proven crucial.”
How to Partner with African Churches Well
“How should Western churches partner with churches in Africa?” I found Ken Mbugua’s answers very helpful.
Two letters and a cute dog photo …
Whether you attend a small group or lead one, these two letters may prove useful to you. And challenging.
The curse of being “Decent But Dull”
“The biggest curse in leadership – whether that’s private, civil or in church, is to be decent, but dull.” Well, not really, but that seems to be a message we come across quite often.
The First Commentator to Plead His Case
This is a good little article about the importance of consulting more than one commentary in preparing a sermon or study.
Flashback: A Secret Way to Kick-Start Your Theological Library
I’ve got a secret to share with you that will help kick-start any theological library: You can build an electronic library of excellent theological journals and magazines without spending a dime.

In the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is latent; in the New, He is patent. In the Old, the reference to Him is implicit; in the New, it is explicit. In the Old, we have foresight; in the New, insight. —F.B. Meyer

A La Carte (May 10)

Here’s your occasional reminder that all the quote graphics I share day-by-day are available and nicely categorized at SquareQuotes. They’re free to download, print, etc.

(Yesterday on the blog: The Parable of the Acorn)
What Makes a “Strong Woman” Strong?
Rebekah Matt: “‘Strong woman’ is a phrase heard often these days, and because I admire both words and women, I’ve been paying attention. It’s used in politics, on campuses, in the media, and even by little girls who know at a very early age to describe themselves as ‘strong.’ It’s made me think about what strong actually means—what is the implication when people say ‘strong woman’?”
Success is Dangerous
Jared Wilson says that “when we are made little, we can find ourselves in the heart of John the Baptist’s prayer, that Jesus would increase and we would decrease. It’s not the ideal place to be in terms of our dreams and ambitions, but relying totally on God’s sovereignty is right where God wants us. It’s not a call to passivity or to excuse-making. But even the most diligent of workers can say that God has called him to be faithful, not successful.”
We don’t need to rescue biblical characters from themselves
This is a helpful reminder and encouragement. “The Bible is not a book full of heroes. It is notable just how many of its so-called heroes are, actually, a bit rubbish. And few books encapsulate the abject uselessness of God’s people – and even more so God’s leaders – than the book of Judges. A book dedicated to the bluntest of blunt tools that the Lord chose to use for his own glory. A glory that is all the greater because of the tools he chose to use.”
The Freebie Round-Up
It has been a while since I’ve linked to one of Nitoy Gonzales’ “Freebie Round-ups.” He does a great job of scouring the [Christian] internet for helpful free resources.
When Culverts Buckle
“As the spring thaw begins on the Canadian prairies, the still frozen ground merely acts as a platform over which the water flows, unable to absorb much of the moisture yet.” Amber Thiessen goes on to draw a lesson from this.
You’re Never Praying Alone
It’s very comforting to know that we never truly pray alone—even when we think we’re praying alone.
Flashback: We Have the Light So We Can Be the Light
We are the light to the sons of darkness who cannot see the way to salvation, but also to our fellow sons of light who know the way but whose hearts have grown heavy, whose feet have become weary, who have been waylaid on their journey.

God sometimes washes the eyes of his children with tears that they may read aright his providence and his commandments. —Theodore Cuyler

Disciple Your Children in Their Emotions

Today’s post is written by Christina Fox and sponsored by Christian Focus. Christina’s new book, God Hears Your Heart follows on from Tell God How You Feel (2021) and encourages children to bring all their feelings to God. Learn more and get both books here.

“Mommy, I’m scared!”
When he was young, my son would seek me out during every thunderstorm. He’d arrive at my side, a favorite blanket wrapped around his head, his body trembling in fear. It didn’t help that we lived in Florida where every summer afternoon the sky lit up and the windows shook so hard, you’d think they would break.
I prayed with him and taught him how the psalmist responded to his own fears by telling God how he felt, asking God to help him, and trusting in the character of God. In doing so, I began to teach him how to lament.
“In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me” (Psalm 86:7).
We were created as emotional beings; we all have feelings—our children included. While we rightly spend time teaching our children the truths of who God is and what he has done, we don’t often teach our children how to navigate their emotions. We might instruct them not to sin in their emotional responses but are less likely to help them learn what to do when they feel big things.
My children’s book series, Tell God How You Feel and God Hears Your Heart are discipleship tools for parents to use to help guide their children in learning what to do with the hard emotions of life. In these stories, brother and sister Josh and Mia face difficult emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, and failure, and learn to bring their emotions to God in prayer. They learn the art of lament.
In reading these stories to their children, parents are encouraged to have conversations with their children about their feelings and teach them the habit of crying out to God in prayer. Each story in the books covers a particular emotion and the end of each story includes questions for parents to discuss with their children.
Children learn at an early age how to respond to the hard emotions of life. For some, they might learn to distract themselves from those emotions. Others might develop habits of comforting themselves with a temporary pleasure. Still others might push those emotions down, only to have them erupt later. By teaching our children the way of lament—of bringing emotions to the Lord in prayer and seeking his help—our children are equipped to respond to their big feelings in a God honoring way. They learn to see God as their rock, their refuge, and their deliverer in all their troubles. They learn that God is a Father who hears their cries, collect their tears in a bottle, and is their only source of help and salvation.
“In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears” (Psalm 18:6).
Do you have children with big feelings? Consider reading the stories of Josh and Mia with them today.

The Parable of the Acorn

An elderly man was once out for an evening stroll when his feet inadvertently sent a little acorn skittering across the forest floor. He came to the place where it had stopped rolling and, stooping slowly, picked it up. And then, strangely, he held that acorn to his ear. He held that acorn to his ear and, listening attentively, heard it speak.

“In time the birds will come and make their nests in my branches,” it said. “In time I will cast deep shade so that cattle can come and find respite from the midday sun. In time I will provide warmth for a home. In time I will be a shelter from the storm for those who gather beneath my timbers. In time I will form the ribs of a great ship and the storms will beat against me in vain as I carry passengers safely across the storm-swept seas.”
“You foolish little acorn,” said the old man. “Will you be all this? Can you be all this?”
“Yes,” replied the acorn. “Yes, God and I.”*
As Christians we are often discouraged by our scant accomplishments and slow progress. We find ourselves attuned more to our spiritual defeats than spiritual victories, more to the sin that remains than the holiness won. Though we may not be who and what we once were, we are still not nearly who and what we long to be.
The acorn in this parable models the kind of faith each of us can have, the kind of confidence we ought to have, for it reminds us that God has made many promises. God has said that since he is the one who began a good work in us, he is the one who will bring it to completion. God has said that he will sanctify us completely so that our whole spirit and soul and body will be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has said that he will fulfill his every purpose for us. (Phil 1:4, 1 Thes 5:24, Psalm 138:8)
And though we have been justified and will be glorified, we are being sanctified. Though God has in one moment saved our souls and will in one moment deliver them to his presence, he is in the meantime progressively conforming us to his image. And though he calls us to battle to put sin to death and come alive to righteousness, he does not call us to battle in our own strength or with our own power.
Thus even the most recent convert and even the youngest Christian can say, “In time I will abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good. In time I will put to death all that is earthly in me and come alive to all that is heavenly. In time I will love my enemies and pray fervently for those who persecute me. In time I will be marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. In time I will come to be so much holier than I ever believed possible. In time.”
And in that moment of confident proclamation he ought to expect that the temper, the discourager, will whisper, “You foolish young Christian, will you be all this? Can you be all this?” And it then falls to him to answer back, “Yes, God and I.” For though it is He who demands, it is He who provides. It is He who works within, both to will and to work.

A La Carte (May 9)

Good morning. Grace and peace to you.

Today’s Kindle deals include some top-notch books on the Trinity.
(Yesterday on the blog: One Woman in the Right Mightier than Four Hundred Men in the Wrong)
Not What I Expected
“One of the most shocking television moments I ever witnessed was on L.A. Law in the 1980s. A character everyone loved to hate, Rosalind, stepped into an elevator mid-sentence and unexpectedly plummeted to her death. That’s kind of how I felt when I became a mom. Like I took a step and the floor wasn’t there. The drastic life change was so much harder than I expected, in ways I didn’t anticipate.” That’s an apt illustration, I think!
A Legacy of Covenant Love
I enjoyed this look at beauty in an arranged marriage. “As an outsider looking in for the past fifteen years of their long marriage journey, I am astounded at the depths of their relationship. I am humbled by the way friendship and romance grew out of covenant and choice. I am deeply indebted to their marriage, not only for producing my husband, but also for painting a realistic yet regal picture of covenant love.”
Why We’re All Manhattan Now
There are lots of interesting insights in this article. “We’re all Manhattan now. What was once an outlier culture because it was a city centre – the city centre – is now downtown mall-rat thinking in the backwater towns of not just the USA, but the rest of the Western world.”
Ministry in the Mundane
This one is written specially about motherhood but pertains to so much more.
Teach Us to Number Our Drives, That We May Gain the Hearts of Our Children
And this one talks about making the most of one of those mundane tasks of parenthood. “My job as a Mom means my secondary office is my car. On days when we have sports commitments, I spend hours and hours shuttling my kids around town. This is nothing new for me, and I know parents all over the world experience the same thing.”
Did not meet expectations
“As a teacher I was once asked to avoid ever using the word ‘Failed’ on academic reports. It was felt that the term carried too many negative overtones and could be psychologically harmful to a young child. The instruction was to rather use the term ‘Did not meet expectations’.”
Flashback: Just Forget About Marriage for a Minute!
Ephesians 5 tells a husband he must love his wife as Jesus Christ loves his church. So let’s forget about marriage for a minute and reflect simply on how we are loved by our great Savior.

God is always mindful of His own, always redeeming, always acting to bring about His kingdom purposes—in His way and His time. —Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

One Woman in the Right Mightier than Four Hundred Men in the Wrong

There are many characters in the Bible who display extraordinary character in extraordinary circumstances. Among them is Abigail, whose story is told in 1 Samuel 25. I love this telling of the story from the mouth of the nineteenth century preacher De Witt Talmage.

The ground in Carmel is white, not with fallen snow, but the wool from the backs of three thousand sheep, for they are being sheared. And I hear the grinding of the iron blades together, and the bleating of the flocks, held between the knees of the shearers, while the clipping goes on, and the rustic laughter of the workmen. Nabal and his wife Abigail preside over this homestead. David, the warrior, sends a delegation to apply for aid at this prosperous time of sheep-shearing, and Nabal peremptorily declines his request. Revenge is the cry. Yonder over the rocks come David and four hundred angry men with one stroke to demolish Nabal and his sheepfolds and vineyards. The regiment marches in double quick, and the stones of the mountain loosen and roll down, as the soldiers strike them with their swift feet, and the cry of the commander is “Forward! Forward!”
Abigail, to save her husband and his property, hastens to the foot of the hill. She is armed, not with sword or spear, but with her own beauty and self-sacrifice, and when David sees her kneeling at the base of the craig, he cries: “Halt! Halt!” and the caverns echo it: “Halt! Halt!”
Abigail is the conqueress! One woman in the right mightier than four hundred men in the wrong! A hurricane stopped at the sight of a water-lily! A dewdrop dashed back Niagara! By her prowess and tact she has saved her husband, and saved her home, and put before all ages an illustrious specimen of what a wife can do if she be godly, and prudent, and self-sacrificing, and vigilant, and devoted to the interests of her husband.

Weekend A La Carte (May 7)

May God bless you today as you prepare to gather to worship him on the Lord’s Day.

Today’s Kindle deals include a number of good options, including Andrew Wilson’s award-winner.
(Yesterday on the blog: As You Pray about Roe v Wade)
Salvation, Past, Present, and Future
So much depends upon properly understanding this: “From one point of view, of course, the Old Testament serves as the model of what Christ would come to accomplish. But Hebrews teaches us never to lose sight of the fact that the priesthood, sacrifices, liturgy and life of the Old Testament church are simply a rough copy. Christ is the original; He is the antitype, the pictures of the Old Testament form the type.”
Four Temptations Young Preachers May Face
Chopo Mwanza suggests four temptations that may be especially troublesome for young preachers.
4 Reasons We Should Study the Book of Revelation
Nancy Guthrie offers four good reasons to study the book of Revelation.
My Slave, My Choice
Many people treat the pro-choice cause as if it is on the side of science, but as this article shows, there are other terrible things that have once been said to be on the side of science.
A Molech Primer
“Ever since the Roe vs. Wade case main-streamed abortion in the United States, the ability to take the life of one’s baby has achieved a religious status. Judging by responses to news that Roe vs. Wade may be overturned, people have certainly responded as if their idols were under attack. I think it is helpful for Christians to understand that abortion does indeed function as a sort of sacrament in our society. But we are not alone.”
In Christ, We Have Direct Access to God
Let’s never lose the wonder of having direct access to God!
Flashback: Advance! Advance in Submission
Young Christian, you are also commanded to heed the fifth commandment. How can you expect to obey God through great accomplishments later in life if you will not obey God in this simple command now?

You are as much serving God in looking after your own children, and training them up in God’s fear, and minding the house, and making your household a church for God, as you would be if you had been called to lead an army to battle for the Lord of hosts. —Charles Spurgeon

As You Pray about Roe v Wade…

There is much excitement among pro-lifers in the United States and for very good reason. After all these years and after so much death, it suddenly seems likely that Roe v Wade will be overturned. Of course this will not make abortion illegal in the country, but will simply return the issue to the individual states. Still, it will finally address a great injustice and give hope that the tides may be turning and that abortion may someday be as unthinkable as it ought to be.

I know that many Americans—and non-Americans—are praying fervently that the opinion circulated in draft form will represent the final ruling and that all of the conservative Supreme Court Justices will hold fast. I am praying for this myself! But as we pray for America, I want to encourage us to widen our gaze a little bit and pray for the matter of abortion in other countries as well. Because, strange though it may be, the potential overturning of Roe v Wade, which is the law of the land in only one country, is already having ripple effects around the globe.
Canada is notorious for having no abortion law at all. Therefore, abortion is legal at all stages of pregnancy and for any reason. It is an issue that even ostensibly pro-life conservative governments tend not to touch since they know that if it becomes a core issue in a campaign, it is likely to sink their chances of gaining power. Yet with news of the overturn of Roe v Wade, the ruling Liberal Party is sensing political opportunity. Suggesting that access to abortion is now somehow threatened in Canada, they are hinting that they may strengthen abortion laws here. As one commentator says, they “are clearly trying to transpose the American debate onto Canada without acknowledging the very large political and legal differences between the two countries, in an unveiled attempt to draw out pro-life Conservatives and perpetuate the myth that the Tories have a hidden agenda.” The Prime Minister says he is now looking at legislative options to ensure the right to abortion is permanently protected. Thus, strangely, a ruling that may be very good for one country may end up being bad for its neighbor.
Meanwhile, writing from Australia, Murray Campbell says “Of course, decisions made by the US Supreme Court have no legal bearing on Australian law, but the cultural influence of America inevitably washes up on our shores. I look forward to seeing how this development might affect things here in the State of Victoria, where abortion is aggressively defended as an unfettered legal right up to birth. In such an environment, I am thankful for any public and legal decision that weakens the abortion position.” It could be that the demise of Roe v Wade helps the situation in Australia, or it could be that it worsens it. But what’s certain is that it will in some way impact it.
Then from the UK, Stephen Kneale says that there, like in Canada, “it has for quite some time been considered something of a done deal in British politics. No major political party stands on a pro-life platform and almost no MPs identify as pro-life. Those that are also frequently remain very quiet about the fact. It is seen as a policy that may well spell the end of a political career if pushed too hard. At best, it is seen as a dead issue, effectively unrepealable, and therefore not a good use of campaigning time. Politically, the calculation is that it is better to focus energies on what can be changed rather than on what is assumed cannot be.” Yet “the Roe v Wade decision in the states may well put the matter back on the agenda,” which could in the end either help or hinder the pro-life cause in the UK.
Thus what is happening in the United States—a country that has massive power to create and shape culture—is making headlines all across the world and motivating politicians in far-off countries to once again address the issue of abortion. Some may use it to further life and some may use it to further death. Some may use it to limit abortion access in their nations and some may use it to strengthen it. Some will want to follow in the footsteps of the US while some will want to do all that’s within their power to distance themselves from it. And, indeed, that is the most likely outcome for a country like Canada under a government like ours.
None of this is to say that it’s wrong or bad for the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. None of this is to say that we shouldn’t pray that this will actually happen and that we shouldn’t celebrate if and when it does. Not at all! The day Roe v Wade is overturned will be a truly beautiful day. But I do hope it serves as a reminder that the decision of a handful of judges in one country will ripple out for good and for ill, perhaps to help the cause of life in some nations but certainly to hinder it in others. And the only one who can sort out a mess like that is the one to whom we pray—the one whose mind is vast and whose hand is strong. So let’s pray together that he would act to protect the lives of the unborn in the United States and far beyond. Let’s pray that he would move powerfully to do far more abundantly than all we can ask, think, or even imagine.

A La Carte (May 6)

Those who like to read to little ones will want to check out this sale from Westminster Books on the Big Theology for Little Hearts series.

Overcoming Doctrinal Pride
“There is one specific kind of undiscerned spiritual pride that I think is not often discussed and is especially hard to recognize—the danger of doctrinal righteousness. Sadly, I think it’s a particularly prevalent danger among Reformed, theologically-minded Christians. It’s a danger I have fallen into at times.” You should probably read this one.
Humans Come in Only Two Sexes
“Up until the last few seconds of human history, it was collectively accepted that sex is binary. People are born either male or female. Not so today.” This is so simple, yet so hotly debated. We especially need to assure the younger generations of the simple fact that there are but two sexes.
Gun Control and the Right to Bear Arms
A couple of weeks ago TGC sponsored the blog to tell about their forthcoming “Good Faith Debates.” The first of those debates is now live and it makes for very interesting viewing. It covers gun control. No matter your position on this, it’s likely to be sharpened by hearing a robust defense of the opposite position.
9 Myths about Abortion Rights and Roe v. Wade
Kevin DeYoung dusts off an older article to remind people of some common myths related to abortion and Roe v Wade. (See also: Samuel James’ Receiving Justice with Gratitude.)
A Church of Suspicious Minds
I really appreciate this article from Trevin Wax’s blog. “Suspicion takes a wrong turn when we filter everything and everyone through the lens of distrust, always on a quest to discover an ulterior motive. This is one of postmodernism’s most pernicious effects—a hermeneutic of suspicion that claims every proposal or position is just a power play in disguise. Even deeds that appear altruistic must be tainted somehow by the lust for power.”
Hope has to be learned
“I’m going to let you in on a secret that I’m only getting to grips with myself, it’s simple, but oddly revolutionary: hope is an action. We learn it.” It changes our understanding of hope to see it as an action!
Flashback: What Makes a Sermon Difficult To Listen To
Recently, and largely for my own purposes, I found myself thinking about some of the elements that can make a sermon difficult to listen to. Having jotted them down, I thought I’d share them with you.

It is expedient that you should pass under the cross to inherit the crown. —Thomas Watson

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