Within or Without

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‘Do you see the will of God as outside you, or as in-built? Is it something you are meant to be doing for God, or is it mainly something God is doing in you? ’

I have been mulling over these questions this week. Thinking about how my attitude towards myself, others and God reflects my answers to the questions. The will of God is as big a concept as it is a minute and detailed one. There are two major ways of viewing God’s will; the panoramic view of the will of God encompassing plans for humanity as a whole, the story woven from creation right through to eternity. Or, the individual 20/20 vision of the will of God encompassing our daily decisions and lifestyle choices, how we practically walk out what we perceive to be God’s will for us individually in each moment.

I believe the will of God is not just something worked from without, but a mixture of within and without. It is working with God for God.

If we believe His will is something solely outside of us it is easy for us to become detached and distanced from involvement in it. Our responsibility to see His will worked out in our lives and in our world somehow seems ethereal, a product of Holy Spirit direction and not a collaborative effort with our own co-operation. In this instance, His will is external and aimed at reaching those around us; we take a backseat in the great cosmic plan. We retreat back to the age old refrain ‘the will of God is not about us…’

But, I think the will of God has everything to do with us and everything to do with Him. It is in-built within us from the day we were born. We have an innate desire to not only be with God, in His presence and in His glory, but to serve Him for a purpose much bigger than ourselves. To be creative in how we live out the story of our lives, to be like Him.

To be like Him means that we need to allow God to do something in us. Therefore, His will is not just something we are doing for God; it is something He is doing in us.

The will of God from without;

‘The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’– 2 Peter 3 v 9

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’– John 3 v 16

The will of God from within;

‘For those God foreknew He also pre-destined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.’– Romans 8 v 29

‘For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose.’– Philippians 2 v 13

Within and without, with and for– God is working out His will in our lives.

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Something Like Serendipity

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“Sometimes serendipity is just intention unmasked.”
― Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures

But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

This may seem like stating the obvious, but God is never surprised. He does not wonder what will happen or worry about the future. He knows the end from the beginning.

A particular verse in Ecclesiastes emphasises this further and completely blows my mind;

‘Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account’– Eccl 3 v 15

Serendipity has been defined as ‘the fortunate occurrence of events by chance’ (Oxford English Dictionary). The thing is, we usually only know that a series of events has been fortunate for us after the events have occurred. The riveting thing about God is, He knows beforehand that each event is fortunate and for our good. Before we even get a whiff or an inkling of its blessing in our life.

I wonder how many times we fight against, moan, complain and agonise over situations and events in our lives, utterly ignorant of the awesomeness of the plan God ultimately has.

I believe our lives are divinely connected and intricately woven into an eternal pattern. A pattern which only the Father knows, but is revealed little by little in accordance with the measure that we can receive or handle at any point in time.

Do we ever stop to assess our lives, to ask questions and wait for answers?

Such as, why do we live in the place/ city/ country that we do? Why do we have that job? Why are we part of this family? Why do we love the things we love and hate the things we hate? Why do we have these friends? Why do we meet these people on a daily basis? The questions are potentially endless…

Yet, these are crucial questions to ask. Not just to ask, but to wait for an answer. When we dialogue with God in prayer, His promise is-

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know’– Jeremiah 33 v 3

Knowing why our lives follow a certain trajectory is a valuable thing. Knowledge, as they say, is power. This means determined seeking after God’s perspective, and when we have a glimpse of His perspective, we can partner much more effectively with Him in seeking and saving those who are lost.

Undoubtedly, we will be a part of someone else’s ‘serendipity’ moment. We will play a part in their ‘fortunate occurrence of events’, and hopefully this will involve leading them to the well of living waters- Jesus Christ.

God wants us to be connected to His serendipitous plans, He wants us to get on board with the way He does and how He thinks.

The things God has prepared for us can appear as something like serendipity… but they are not by fortune or by chance. We can know His plans in advance if we so seek, for God has revealed them to us by His Spirit (1 Corinthians 2 v 10).

Do you recognise God at work in your life?