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Don’t we all want to know what God’s will is? Yet sometimes it seems so hard to know it! “God, please, help me to know your will today, and I will do it,” we pray. But nothing comes. Wondering why God is silent, we go on with our ordinary lives, believing and doing the same familiar things we have always believed and done. And little happens.
But now, this morning, as I face surgery for an aggressive, fast growing cancer, I know God isn’t silent. I know what His will is. He has told us clearly and often. But what He tells us to do seems so simple and easy on one hand and so impossibly difficult on the other, it stretches our faith to believe it or do it.
I found the answer in two books. The first is a little paperback my son sent me, which I had read years ago. It’s by a chaplain in the U.S. Army named Merlin Carothers, who describes frequent miracles and tales of many coming to Christ in the worst days of the Viet Nam War. The book is Prison to Praise.
The other book is the Bible. Over and over the Apostle Paul tells us what God’s will is. He practiced it daily in his own life and urged us to do the same. It had to be a source of the incredible things he accomplished for Christ. We read his words, smile, and go on to something more practical.
“OK,” you ask, “Out with it. What is God’s will that is so simple yet so difficult?” Here it is: Always be joyful. Always keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (I Thess. 5: 16-18, LB) See also (Phil 1: 18; 2:17; 3:1; 4:4; Col 1:24)
Where did Paul learn this? Perhaps his friend Barnabas taught it to him. He may have found it in a psalm of David or perhaps an apostle told him what Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad [when you are persecuted]. (Matthew 5:12 NIV). Maybe he got it from Isaiah, who wrote this: “I will praise you, O Lord… I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord…is my strength and my song…With joy draw water from the well of salvation. In that day…you will sing to the Lord.” (Isaiah 1-5, NIV)
The two men were attacked by a mob, roughly dragged to a judge who had them stripped naked, flogged severely, and thrown into prison. They were chained to a wall in the darkest corner of the jail. What was their crime? They had preached the gospel of Christ and freed a slave girl from a tormenting spirit.
Being human, we know they were in great pain. They also had every right to feel afraid, humiliated, indignant, and sorry for themselves. It took a while, but late that night, they turned from their pain. In one of the great texts of the Bible, we read, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.” (Acts 16:25, NIV). They were obedient to God’s will, as Isaiah urged and exactly as Paul wrote it: they sang hymns to God; kept on praying and were thankful in a bad situation.
What was the result?—miracles galore! An earthquake opened prison doors, chains were loosed, people were saved, baptized and filled with joy for they had a new relationship with God. Finally, the two men’s wounds were treated; they were feasted and exonerated the next day.
By God’s grace, I have resolved to face my crisis by obeying his clear will. I will sing praises to the Lord and expect to see Him glorified. Whatever difficulty you face, big or small, rejoice in Him, Sing to Him and I’m confident, you will see Him work His wonders as He promised. This is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.