Four Principles of God's Will

by: Ronald L. Dart


There are two kinds of people here today. They face some very hard decisions in their life, either right now or very shortly, when they get home. The other kind of person is the person who faces some very hard decisions when they get home or within the next couple of weeks and doesn't know it yet

The fact is, that all of us, are going to be facing difficult decisions, and that seems to be what life is all about, it is one hard decision after another, and a lot of times the solutions we find to the problem we are working on now, is a cause in the next problem, so life is just a series of decisions and problems and solutions that we go through.

What would it be worth to you, to be sure that you knew God's will as you approach some of those decisions you have to make, because among those of us that face decisions, there are two kinds of people.

There are those people who never give a second thought to what God's will is, and they couldn't care less, and then there's the kind of person who will not get out of bed in the morning unless they are absolutely sure that it is God's will, that they get up.

I remember this young lady who came to counsel with me once when I was Dean of students at the college. A fellow had taken her out on a date that week, he had been dating her for quite some time, and at dinner, at a nice restaurant, over dessert, he said, "Sue, God has shown me that it is His will that you marry me!"

Well, she wasn't absolutely sure, so she thought she would inquire of me, as to what she should do? Have any of you girls ever had to face that? A guy tells you over dessert that he really believes that it is God's will that you marry him? Wait until he has paid the bill, take his hand in yours, and say as sweetly as you possibly can, "As soon as God lets me know what His will is, I will get back to you." Then never go out with him again.

How can you know when it is God's will for you to act and when it is God's will for you to wait? Because there are those times, when you would say, "It is obvious that I have to do something, and there are times also, when I will have to wait."

When should you just trust God and when should you take matters into your own hands? Even the way you phrase these questions, it is loaded, isn't it? When should you trust God? Always! When should you take matters into your own hands? Never!

And yet, we all know, don't we, by now, that God could care less whether the pickup truck that you are going to buy next week is red, or black, or puce in color. Don't we? We all know that, God does not care what color of car, truck or anything else that you buy. He might not really care if you even buy a car or truck.

On the other hand, everyone knows, that when the voice of God rolls down the mountainside and says, "Thou shalt!", You had better do it. And, you had better do it now!

So we have the two poles of this thing pretty well nailed down, and in between this, there is a vast wasteland of human decision making which most of us muddle along in our lives not quite knowing what God wants and what He doesn't want, not knowing if we should be making this decision or leaving it to Him.

I'm going to give you today, Four Principles to consider.

I will give them to you slowly in case some of you want to write them down. These are not being handed down from Mount Sinai but handed down from the pulpit.

These are 'Dart's Principles for Decision-Making in light of the will of God.í

Principle Number One: When God gives you a promise, He expects you to wait for it.

Now that is not hard to understand, but it may be hard to do.

For example, if I walk up to you today and I have an envelope with ten crisp hundred dollar bills in it, and I hand it to you and say, 'Here take this thousand bucks." You take it. Do you have a promise? No, you do not have a promise, you have one thousand dollars. On the other hand, if I tell you or I give you a little note and say, "I promise to pay you $1000" and sign my name on it May 28, 2019, and I give it to you, what do you have? You have a promise. There's one thing wrong with that promise, I do not know if you caught it? What is the big question that you have? When do I get this thousand dollars?

This is one of the problems that we have with the promises from God, they come down to us and they are clear and we know the promise is there, but God does not tell us when. And not only does He not tell us when, his watch does not run at the same speed ours does.

So, 'soon' to God does not mean the same thing that 'soon' to you means. We all get that too, don't we?

Now that was Principle Number One: When God gives you a promise, He expects you to wait for it.

Principle Number Two: When God has given you a command, He expects you to obey it.

That's easy. If He says to do this, you do this. If he says don't do that, then don't do that.

Principle Number Three: When God has given you an example, He expects you to follow it.

Principle Number Four: When God has given you a lesson, He expects you to remember it.

Now these are not very difficult.

When He has given you a promise, He expects you to wait for.

When he has given you a command, He expects you to obey it.

When he has given you an example, you should follow it.

When he has taught you a lesson, He expects you do remember it.

Everything else in life, is up to you.

How hard is that?

Now I will say this about this "Everything else in life, is up to you," God also expects you to use sound judgment when you make those decisions in your life, He expects you to remember your lessons, follow your examples, obey your commands, wait for his promises, but the decisions are, for the most part, up to you.

There's one more thing that you need to know, something that is often times overlooked, you are allowed in the process of making your decisions within God's will, you are allowed to use common sense.

God created man, God created the mind of man, God created the logical system in which we work and operate and communicate and therefore He expects us to be able to use that logical system in a common sense matter to make some of the decisions that we face in our life.

Expanding On Principle #1

Now I'm going to try today to illustrate what I am saying to you, so you can understand it better and maybe you can find a way to make it work for you.

If you will turn back to Genesis 15, we will go to a classic example and talk about the question of a promise of God and waiting for it.

Genesis 15 and verse one, we come to a man that we are all familiar with, "After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision saying, "Fear not Abram: I am your shield and your exceeding great reward. {2} And Abram said, "Lord God, what are you going to give me?"

The first thing God says is, "I am your shield, your protector, and I have a big reward for you." Abram said, "What are you going to do for me?"

Abram's life was pretty good, except for the fact he was a dweller in tents. He lived all of his lifetime out there in the middle of nowhere. He had cattle and servants, his life was working. Abram said, "What are you going to give me, seeing that I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? If you give me a great reward I have nobody to leave it to except my servant." {3} Abram said, "You have given me no seed, one born in my house is my heir. My servant is my heir. {4} And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, "He shall not be your heir, but he that shall comes forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir. {5} And he brought him forth abroad, and said, "Now look toward heaven," (so I guess it was night), and he looked up into the sky and the sky was just covered with stars, and God said, "Tell me if you can number them?"

Of course Abram could not number the stars that they could see in the desert at night, in the middle east where there was no city lights. It must have been a spectacular show.

God said, "Count them! So shall your seed be. {6} and Abram believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness."

Now, right here, is where most of us find ourselves most of the time. We know what God said, and we know the promises are there, and we believe the promises of God, we believe that He will do the things He said He would do, and so we say, "I believe God and He looks upon our belief and counts it for righteousness for us too. We have a relationship with God. Our difficulty though is the difficulty that we faced a while ago when I said I will give you a promissory note that I will give you $1000 and I sign it, but there's no 'when' connected to it. And this is the problem that Abram had. He was already by the time the first part of these promises was given to him, an old man. He had no child, he was already to the place in life that he did not expect a child. Sarah was to old, he was getting to old, things weren't working like they used to work, he said, "It's not going to happen," and he said, "I don't understand LORD what's going on." The LORD said to him, "He shall come forth out of your own bowels."

The problem was, nothing happened even then, that also is where we find ourselves, from time to time. God has promised, we have believed, and nothing has happened. And time passes and it passes agonizingly slowly, as we wait, as we wonder, as we struggle, as we fret, as we work our way through the problems of life, and we wonder what should we do now LORD?

What Did Sarai Think?

Inevitably, the question will arise, "I wonder if God expects me to do something about this? I wonder if there is something that I can do? Maybe I shouldn't be here just twiddling my thumbs, maybe I should be taking action, faith without works is dead, there must be surely something for me to do?

Well that's what Sarah thought, Genesis 16 verse 1, "Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. {2} And Sarai said unto Abram, "Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray you, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai."

They agreed. Now what you have here is one of the earliest cases of surrogate motherhood, the earliest one mentioned in the Bible, although there is indications that was probably practiced far and wide in the ancient world where servants bearing children for the master of the house. They had wives and concubines, it was a very different world from ours. But Sarah thought, the promise is out of his own bowels and the seed will come to populate the earth but it doesn't have to be me. It can be my servant, so she gave Abram her servant Hagar, her maid, for him to go in to her and have a child.

Understand we are well ahead of In Vitro Fertilization, and we are not talking about artificial insemination, they did this the old-fashioned way, with all of the consequences that entailed as a result of that.

Let's continue in Genesis 16 verse three, "And Sarai, Abram's wife took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. {4} And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes."

"Aha, I am now better than you are!" It's just good old human nature. It is simple to understand and easy to follow, easy to recognize. Every woman would probably know what those feelings would be like, if you found yourself in those circumstances.

Verse five, "And Sarai said unto Abram, "My wrong is upon you: I have given my maid unto your bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and you.""

Sarah realized things began to go wrong, that what she had done was wrong, it was her solution not God's, that she had in a way crossed over into an area of God's promises and had taken matters into her own hands, and she should not have, and she had created problems as a result of doing so.

Now this is an interesting lesson to think about. The promise was there and they stepped out, Abraham and Sarah agreed to try to solve this problem and to create and accomplish God's will but do it their way. It was not an illogical decision except for the commandments of God and the sin that would be involved, a man having sex with someone other than his wife, but that was a custom of the time. They could find ways to work around this type of problem. The solution to that problem became the cause of tomorrow's problem, big time. This one was really a serious problem and we are living with it today.

Abram goes on to say in verse 6 of Genesis 16, " Behold, your maid is in your hand; do to her as it pleases you. And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her face. {7} And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. {8} And he said, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from? and where are you going?" And she said, "I am fleeing from the face of my mistress Sarai." {9} And the angel of the LORD said unto her, "Go back to your mistress, and submit yourself to her." {11} And the angel of the LORD said unto her, "I will multiply your seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.""

Now this becomes rather interesting, because here was the woman who herself was really innocent, she was a maid, she was a servant, she was a slave and had no choice in this matter. Her mistress gave her to her husband and he came into her, she conceived a child, it wasn't her fault and it wasn't the child's fault.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Here we have the law of unintended consequences coming into play, and something has happened that we didn't intend to happen. We have a child in the world and this child, being a son of Abraham has certain promises due to him for that reason alone. Think about it.

God promised that the descendents of Abraham would be thus and thus. This boy is a son of Abraham.

Now God is interested in him, God has to concern Himself with him and He does.

Continuing in Genesis 16 and verse 11, " And the Angel of the Lord said to her: "Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has heard your affliction. {12} He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man's hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." {13} Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, "Have I also here seen Him who sees me?" {14} Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered. {15} So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. {16} Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram."

You can see why they were beginning to have questions, don't you? He was 85 and Sarah was 75 and the promise had not been fulfilled. So they did what they figured out they could do and a son was born, in which the Scripture says, "He shall be a wild man. His hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him." Do you know who these people are? The descendents of Ishmael? They sit on most of the world's oil reserves. They are very rich and they have become a thorn in the side of Western civilization to this day. The Jews, the Israelis, they are nothing but a pain to them. They are a pain to us, remember the oil lines that we had back in the 70s. We are living with the results of what Abram and Sarah did to this day and the prophecies that come as a result of it. The Law of Unintended Consequences.

Now Paul in the book of Galatians when he began to speak of this, he talks about he that was born after the flesh (Galatians 4:23-31) and he that was born after the promise. What Paul is saying is that Ishmael was a child that was born after the flesh. Aren't all children born after the flesh? Now what he means by that is the flesh and blood took matters into their own hands and made their own decisions and tried to solve the problems their own way and the son that was born after the efforts of human beings. Isaac on the other hand was born as a result of the promise of God, so you have the child was born of the flesh and you have the child who was born of the promise, and they are two very different circumstances.

What Should I Do?

So we in our lives might face different situations where there is a promise of God, we have waited for, and here we sit wondering, "Should I do something? What should I do? What do I do about tackling this problem? And what if they don't do anything and I should have and what if I do something and it turns out to be like Abraham and Sarah, and I have cut across the promise of God and all things go wrong, what then? Well, what things indeed?

Let's take a look at the next chapter, chapter 17 verse 15, "Then God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. {16} And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her."

I guess even before God got finished, for it sounds like He is in mid-sentence, verse 17, "Abraham fell on his face and laughed!"

Now I can understand that, how old was Abraham? Let's look at verse one, "When Abram was ninety-nine years old." He was 99 years old, folks. Sarah, by the way, is 10 years younger, she is 89 years old. She is going to be 90 and Abraham will be 100 when this child is born.

George Burns hopes to play the London Palladium when he is 100, he hopes to walk out on stage and tell a few jokes and the rest of the evening will be filled out with other performers, if he is able to make it on that particular occasion.

And here's a man, 99 years old, whom God says, "Sarah is going to get pregnant," Abraham says, "What?" Now you have to understand, that the relationship between Abram and God is not exactly like the relationship that you have with God. Abraham sat down and ate with God. They had conversations, they talked back and forth about things. Abraham talked God out of doing things that he might have been ready to do. They could enjoy a glass of wine together or a steak together, they could eat unleavened bread as they did on an occasion.

Abraham is a friend of God and he is such a friend of God that God can tell him something like this and he can fall down laughing and God would not strike him down dead.

Abraham laughed, {17} "and said in his heart, (he did not say this out loud) "Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" {18} And Abraham said to God, "Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!"

Ishmael

I think that is beautiful in a way. When you stop and understand that Ishmael, or whatever else might have been the case, though not Sarah's son, he was Abraham's son. Abraham had spent a lot of time with this boy as a father who spends time with his son. He taught him how to milk, he taught him how to do different things, how to take care of cattle. He probably taught him how to hunt. They spent a lot of time together as father and son and he showed him how to do things and by this time Abraham loved this boy and the idea of Sarah, as old as she was, getting pregnant, and with him that had to do what it was to get her pregnant and he said "Why can't we just let Ishmael be the one."

And God said, "No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendents after him. {20} Now you ask about Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation."

Ishmael was going to have 12 princes. He was going to have, like Jacob had, 12 sons and they were going to be a great nation. Who would imagine that they would be sitting on the world's oil reserves and have the kind of wealth and power to this day, and they know who they are, by the way. They know they are Ishmaelites and they know that they are the sons and descendents of Abraham, something that most people don't know.

Continuing in verse 21, "But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year." {22} Then He finished talking with him, and God went up from Abraham."

What a fascinating story, this whole thing is, as it works out as God begins to work His plan out.

Now, here is what is interesting to me about this, well let's go a little further before I tell you what's interesting to me about it.

Isaac

Genesis 21 and verse one, "And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. {2} For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. {3} And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him--whom Sarah bore to him--Isaac. {4} Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. {5} Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. {6} And Sarah said, "God has made me to laugh."

This is funny because on the occasion God came to Abram on his way to Sodom and Gomorrah to do what had to be done there. He told Abram again that Sarah was going to have a child. This time Sarah heard it for she was hiding behind the tent flap and she laughed. God said what is Sarah doing laughing in there.

Sarah said, "I didn't laugh," and God said, "O yes you did laugh and you are going to have a child." {6} "So Sarah said, "God has made me to laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.""

Which you just did. I had to tell you this in such a way that you would laugh because it is right that you laugh. It is a wonderful thing, the birth of this child, and what it meant and how in truth, if we could just know it, that this child is the father of so many of us, who are here today for in fact nearly all of us that are here.

So this child being born has made it possible for us to be here and Sarah said, {7} "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a child in his old age."

Sarah Did Wrong

Now here's what's interesting to me, Sarah did wrong and she recognized that she had done wrong and she came back to Abraham and said "My wrong be upon you for I should not have done this," and the consequence of this, we have already talked about, how God said "He was going to be a wild man, his hand is going to be against every body and everybody' hand is going against him." And the bad news is he is going to be a powerful person and powerful tribes are going to come out of him, and they are going to be trouble to you for all this period of time, so there was bad news.

But the good news is, it did not sidetrack the promise of God. God did not negate the promise, didn't do away with the promise, did not back out of the promise, just because they took matters into their own hands mistakenly, thinking they were doing the right thing.

And so you know, so much of the time in our lives we are paralyzed and can't bring ourselves to make a decision because we think it will be wrong and maybe we will get crosswise with God.

Well, you are going to make wrong decisions, and you are going to face the law of unintended consequences from time to time, but the promises of God will still be there, if you can still wait for them, if you can still have the patience, you will do what you need to do.

"So the child grew, {8} and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. {9} And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. {10} Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac."

Paul cites this in the book of Galatians in relation to this occasion.

{11} And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son Ishmael."

Abraham hated to do what he had to do, but he did it.

{12} And God said to Abraham, Let it not be grievous in your sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac shall your seed be called."

This is the line, this is the way it should go.

So we see and as I said to you earlier, the promises of God are there and when God has given you a promise, He expects you to wait for it and there is a lesson to be learned all by itself.

Principle Number Two: When God gives you a commandment, He expects you to obey it.

The challenge that Abraham was about to face on this particular one, is one beyond the comprehension of most of us.

Genesis chapter 22 it says this in verse one, "And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, "Abraham:" and he said, "Here I am." {2} And he said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you to the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell you of."

I heard a preacher some years ago, who was giving a sermon and preaching fervently about the matter of faith and when God intervenes, God does this and God promises that and you just do it. You don't argue, you just get up and do it. He cited the example of Abraham, and where God said, "You take Isaac your only son and you take him and offer him for a burnt offering." The preacher said, "Abraham just went, he got Isaac, and the things together, they got up and just went. He didn't agonize over it, he didn't fret, he didn't stew, he just obeyed God." WRONG! The time this really came home to me, and if you read the Scripture, you have followed me up to this point, and you understand the kind of heart that was in Abraham, you will know that that's not right. I remember when I saw the movie, called "The Bible" where George C. Scott played Abraham in the movie, and where he was ordered to go and sacrifice his son Isaac, and this tore the heart out of the man and in fact Abraham would not be a fit man to represent God in this little episode as he does, if it had been easy for him to do this, if he would have done it with the snap of his fingers. Abraham had to hurt to the very core of his being when this commandment came down.

God gave him the great privilege of representing the Father in the whole story of the Father who gave His only begotten Son that whoever would believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life, (John 3:16) and so this lesson goes on through.

It's odd to think in working out the promise is still part of your belief system for faith and trust in God and that He will do what He has said, is to be willing to give up the promise when you have it in your hand.

Now Abram, we are told later did this, not thinking that he would not have to kill the boy, he thought he was, it was the writer of Hebrews (11:17-19) who told us, he went ahead believing that God would raise him from the dead. He lost no faith in the promise, but he thought he would have to kill the boy, but he didn't.

When God gives you a command, He expects you to obey it, He expects you to follow it to the limit, even if it is to the death of your firstborn son. Fortunately, no one else in the history of the world has ever had to face that choice, and you don't have to worry about that one.

You have to worry about your choices, about your decisions, and the difficulties that you are going to face from time to time.

Principle Number Three: When God gives you an example, He expects you to follow it.

Turn back with me to first Peter. We will be in the New Testament for a while.

First Peter chapter 2 verse 18, "Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward or perverse. {19} For this is thank worthy, if a man for conscience sake toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. {20} For what glory is it, if, when you be buffeted for your faults, you shall take it patiently?"

Oh big deal, I'm really patient going through this trial that I'm going through but I brought the whole thing on myself anyway. There's no credit in that.

He said, "If, when you do well, and suffer for it, and you take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. {21} For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps."

Now Christ's entire life was an example for us to follow, and we all know that, now listen to what he is saying here, "Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow in His steps." By this He does not mean that we should follow in his steps in the sense by going out and trying to suffer. It is not seeking out of suffering, or looking for suffering, or pursuing of suffering, that we are talking about here. What he is talking about is how you endure the suffering. Listen to him as He continues.

"Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps. {22} Who did no sin." (So it was not His fault that this came upon Him). "Neither was any guile found in his mouth" (He did not bring it upon Himself.) {23} Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he didn't threaten anyone; He just committed himself to him that judges righteously."

He did not answer back, He did not revile the people who were reviling Him, He simply submitted Himself to it. And said, "I will put my trust in God who judges all men righteously."

Now that is an example to follow, that's an example that a person can follow for life, no matter where it leads, and the prime example for all of us, in all of His life, and in all of His work, in all of His ministry, is Jesus Christ. Do you want to know where those examples are? You are sitting there with your Bibles open. You have a New Testament in the Bible and you have the four gospel accounts which is the greatest example for a life ever lived. Then follow it. You look to see what He did and then how He continues to do it, and to carry on through it.

Principle Number Four: When God teaches you a lesson, He expects you to remember it.

Turn back to Matthew chapter 26 and verse 31, "Then said Jesus unto them, "All of you shall be offended because of me this night."

Here I sit in front of Jesus, I have listened to Him for 3 1/2 years, followed Him up and down the roads of Galilee and Jerusalem. We have faced dangerous situations. There are only 11 of us sitting here at Passover listening to Him making this statement at this time. I hear what He is saying and He looks at me and He says, "All of you are going to be offended because of Me tonight." What do I feel inside of me? Immediately I will deny that. "There is no way Lord that I will be offended because of you, or anything of the sort, I have been through enough already, I am not giving up now."

Jesus said, "All of you shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, "I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad." {32} But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. {33} Peter answered and said, "Though all men shall be offended because of you, yet will I never be offended."

Now 'never' is one of those words, that I learned never to use. It is almost a challenge and God in heaven looks at us when we say, "I'll never do that," and He says, "Oh, really, I wonder how much resolve you really have?" And it seems when Peter did this, he challenged 'never'. Never challenge 'never.' But he did. Peter said, "I will never do it."

Verse 34, "Jesus said unto him, "Verily I say unto you, this night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.""

Jesus knew this man, He knew that Peter was impulsive. He knew he was bold. He knew he was a brave man. He also knew that deep down inside there was a very deep sense of insecurity as well. He was brave and he was afraid, like most of us are from time to time. He was brave enough to follow Jesus all the way to the judgment hall, he and John were brave enough to go inside. He was brave enough to go to the fire, stand there and warm his hands by the fire, inside the place. But When a woman, a little maid in the place came up and said, "I know you, you are one of the disciples of Jesus." He said, "No, I am not, I don't know who He is." Later on somebody says, "Yes, yes, you were with them, I saw you at the temple the other day." Peter cursed and swore and denied that he knew Jesus Christ. He absolutely refused to own up to it. He did it three times. And the cock crowed and he knew and he went out and he wept bitterly as most of us would under those circumstances.

There are many times in our lives when God has to teach us things. He says, "Don't despise the chastening of the Lord, whom the Lord loves he chastens and corrects every child whom He receives" (Hebrews 12:6).

There's all kinds of things that come our way in our lives, things that we do, mistakes that we make, but chastisements are from God and they are lessons for us to learn and lessons we must never forget.

Peter, later on when he and the other disciples were up in Galilee and Jesus had cooked them a meal on the side of the lake and they were walking down the shore together after dinner. Jesus walking along beside Peter. I can visualize Jesus putting His arm in Peter's arm and pulling him closer, shoulder to shoulder, and Jesus saying, "Peter, do you love me?" And Peter saying, "Lord, you know I love you." Jesus responds, "Feed my sheep." They walk a little further and Jesus jerks his arm, and says, "Do you really love me?" Peter says, "Lord, you know everything. You know I love you." They walk a little further down the road and Jesus says, "Peter, Do you really love me?" Now Peter really got upset this time, and said, "You know that I really love you!" And Jesus said, "Feed my sheep!" That was the end of the episode. That was the whole thing.

But can you imagine Peter as he realized that he denied Christ three times and Christ made him affirm Him three times, what that meant to him. Do you think Peter ever forgot it in all of his life?

I think one of our difficulties in learning our lessons and remembering our lessons is that we do not realize it is a lesson, because we're not paying attention. We don't look to see God in our lives. We are not aware of God in our lives. We are not aware that the challenge that we face is one more thing for us to learn from. We are not aware that this decision I have to make here is one that God is not going to give me the answer to and He is going to make me decide and then when I get out on the other side, I am going to look back and I am going to learn from the thing that I have been through. And that decision I made last week got me into so much trouble, I should have known better, I really should have because I had a biblical example I did not follow. And all down the line, we learn lessons and we forget them.

The remembering of this was something that we have a great deal to do with, as we study, as we pray, as we draw near to God, as we look for God in our lives, not to make our decisions for us, but to teach us as we make them and as we make mistakes, and do stupid things, and take matters into our own hands, and create all kinds of unintended consequences that we and our children, and our children's children, have to live with if we don't learn from them, they are lost. They are wasted if you will not remember them.

So there are your four principles.

If God gives you a promise, He expects you to wait for it.

If He gives you a command, He expects you to keep it.

If He gives you examples, He expects you to follow them.

If He teaches you a lesson, you are to remember it.

Now, how can I know all these things? Your Bible is full of them. That is one of the places you know them.

The fifth principle is this: Certainty will always be denied to you.

Now, I want to give you the fifth principle. I did not tell you this one was out there. This one is here and it is important for you to know.

Being able to say, "I know absolutely for a fact that it is God's will that you marry me! Or whatever it is."

Certainty will always be denied to you. Now why is that so?

What fool can't make a decision if God comes down and appears to him at his bedside and says, "John, I want you to take that job tomorrow." Or, "They are going to offer you a job tomorrow and I want you to turn it down." Any fool can do that. Where is the learning? Where is the growing? Where is the development that comes from that?

Certainty will always be denied. Now don't give me the thing about "I am certain that I am to keep the Sabbath Day!" That is not the kind of decision that I am a talking about. I'm not talking about two wings out here, I'm talking about the middle ground where most of our decisions lie. You will never be certain about things in that area, you are going to have to decide, and act and do or not act and not do based on the best you have. Because it is in the process, where you have the chance to develop faith and obedience, judgment, patience, persistence, perseverance, all these things that go to make this strange thing we call character.

Now I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings in a way, and I hate to be the one to tell you this, but there is really a lot of wonderful things in the Bible about grace, and mercy, and salvation, and how it is not by the works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy that He has saved us. It is by the grace of God, not of works. All those wonderful things are just as true as they can be, but I am afraid those wonderful things do not relieve us of the responsibility of developing character.

Character with all that that means, with all of the pain that is connected with it, with all the frustration that goes along with it.

In first Peter chapter five and verse five, Peter says, "Likewise, you younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. {6} Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: {7} Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you. {8} Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: {9} Resist that one and be steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. {10} But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish you, strengthen you, and settle you."

That is a troubling Scripture. I really go through a lot in my life, the same as you, feeling unsettled. I would like to get to where I feel settled. The idea of being strengthened, having the strength and the settlement and the direction in my life. This is something that we all really yearn for, and look for. But you notice the word 'after' and the word 'while'. "After you have suffered for a while."

Here we go back to the same old problem, my watch fell off a minute ago, it might as well have, because it means nothing to God. A 'while' to me is the distance now to lunch, to God it could be the distance from me where I am right now to my 100th birthday. Which is long way off. God says 'after' you have suffered a 'while'.

Suffering is most of the stuff that we bring on ourselves by the decisions that we make or don't make in our lives, because we don't wait for the promises of God, we don't really obey the commandments when we have them in our hand and you know all about them, we don't follow the examples because we really don't study them or think about them or meditate on them or pray about them, and we forget the lessons we learned. And as a result of all that, because we keep waiting for certainty or don't make a decision at all in many cases, we suffer.

As we suffer, we learn, and as we learn, we develop character, and we may somehow, someway, come to the place where we might be useful to God for something.

He said that "after you have suffered for a while, make you perfect, stablish you, strengthen you, and settle you. {11} To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."


This article was transcribed with minor editing from a

Sermon by Ronald L. Dart

Titled: Four Principles of Godís Will10-14-95 95FPGC

Transcribed by: bb 5/27/19

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