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Boundaries and the Will of God

When I was a young boy growing up, my brothers and I had a swing set in the backyard.  Surrounding that yard was a fence marking the boundaries within which we were supposed to remain.  We could play in the backyard, but we could not go outside its limits without penalty.  Many times, I tested the waters.  That didn't go well.  Lol.  I found that when I obeyed and stayed within the boundaries of my parents will, or fence, things went better.  Can I get an Amen?  Lol. So, I learned in a hurry that remaining within the confines of the fence, I didn't have to worry about the consequences of disobedience.  

God has a will for our lives.  He wants us to find that will and do it.  Where can we find this will of God?  Look no further than your Bible.  You will see that it has an Old Testament and a New Testament.  The word testament means, will, purpose, disposition.  This book, called the Bible, is just that.  I find that when I am obedient to the will of God for my life as I know it to be from His Word, my joy is greater even if my circumstances are not.  There is nothing greater than knowing I am in His will.  However, being in His will does not exempt me from trial, trouble, or tribulation.  Some would have us believe that when we get saved all is roses forevermore.  There are those in Christianity who would have you believe that if something bad happens to you, it is an indicator that you have sinned, or you have left the will of God. This is not the case in every circumstance.  Someone needs to know that.  It is true, I have made many mistakes and have taken myself out of His will with no one to blame but myself.  However, although I cannot escape the consequences of my disobedience, with repentance and tears, I find forgiveness and I can get back into His will.  Hallelujah!

Let's look at someone who was in the will of God, yet at no time was He ever out of that will.  He always remained within the boundary of His Father's purpose for His life.  That person is Jesus Christ.  What can we learn from Him?  Listen to it:

            "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil."  Matthew 4:1  

Whoa!  What did we just read?   The Lord Jesus, always in the will of God, was led by the Spirit into a wilderness; a dry desert; a place with no fast food restaurants, or cell phone reception, or ATM machines.  We just mentioned above that at no time was Jesus ever outside the confines of His Father's will.  Yet, here he is in a wilderness; a dry, dark time of His life.  I hope you can see what I see.  Do you?  Let's dig into this a bit more.  Perhaps we can learn some valuable lessons that will unlock and unravel some of the confusion that surrounds us from time to time regarding His will and the trials we are now facing.

As we begin, we will equate the wilderness with trial, storms, trouble, darkness, or tribulation.  So, what do I learn?

            I.   The Wilderness is Inevitable
            II.  The Wilderness is not Accidental
            III. The Wilderness is always Profitable

Let's take the first one.  "The Wilderness is Inevitable."   Jesus said:

"In this life you will have tribulation." John 16:33

That’s clear.  Listen to this:

            "Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake." Matthew 5:11

Notice, He didn't say IF, but He said WHEN.  It is something that happens to every Christian from time to time.  You will suffer loneliness, misunderstanding, and just plain hatred for being a follower of Jesus.  Hey, Jesus experienced the same.  The scripture says that the servant is not above his master.  In the book of Acts chapter 16 we read that Paul and Silas were put in prison.  Why were they there?  Well, the Bible tells us that a demon possessed girl had been following them around for a few days and after some time, Paul, by the Holy Spirit, discerned her condition and cast out the demon.  A great day for the girl, right?  Absolutely.  However, this girl had brought in a lot of money for the people to whom she was a slave.  This didn't go over too well with them because the money she brought in by her fortune telling, was gone.

            "And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and brought them to the magistrates…and when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely."  Acts 16:19, 23

So, here are Paul and Silas in a prison cell.  Why were they in this cell?  Was it because they did something wrong?  The answer is no.  They were in this position because they did something right!  You may be in a predicament right now, not because you did anything wrong.  It may be that you are facing this storm or wilderness because you remained within the boundaries of the will of God for your life.  Jesus was in the wilderness and He was always in the will of His Father.  So, this lets me know that one can be in the wilderness, storm, trial, or darkness and be IN the will of God!  But, you ask, what good is that?  Great question.  Listen to the writer of the book of Acts:

"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."
 
Wow!  Now that’s fantastic!  The prisoners heard them!  Did you see that?  Listen, you may be going through this experience because there are others who need to hear you pray, and praise, and sing despite the mess you're in.  You may be in the hospital for someone else's benefit besides your own!  Praise God!  I'm feeling better already.  I'm feeling like I have a purpose.  I'm starting to see that God can trust me to go through the wilderness without whining and complaining and feeling like God has abandoned me.  Isn't it about time that the Lord has some people He can count on?  It's not a sin to go through a rough wilderness.  It's not a sin to be going through a darkness experience from time to time.  Listen to these words:

            "Who is there among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of his servant, yet walks in darkness and has no light?  Let him trust in the name of the Lord and stay upon his God." Isaiah 50:10

There it is.  You fear the Lord.  You obey His voice. But darkness has invaded your life through various trials.  What do you do?  You trust in the name of the Lord!  You stay upon your God!  Stay means rely.  Rely upon your God.  So, here we see that it is something that happens to those who are walking in obedience.  This is for someone today.  Though you may be in the dark, the dark does not need to be in you.  In fact, God is in your darkness.  He is?  Listen to the scriptures:

            "And Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was."  Exodus 20:21

Where God was!  God is in your darkness!  Even Moses knew that darkness was not the end of things.  In fact, he found that it's in the darkness you will experience a new dimension of God's presence that you couldn't get anywhere else.  There are things you will see in the dark, experience in the dark, that you could never see or experience in the light.  Listen, my dear fellow believer, GOD IS THERE IN YOUR DARKNESS!  We sing a song in our church the words of which are these:

            "When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace.  In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil.  On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."

Hallelujah!  I do not fear the dark like I used to.  I do not fear the wilderness as I used to.  I am learning to see that it's in those times He shows me who He is in a greater way than if I had remained in the sunshine!  Let me ask you a question.  Are the stars in the sky out in the daytime?  Yes.  But you can't see them.  Why?  Because it's not dark enough!  Woo!  Somebody needs to shout!  There are things to be discovered in the darkness.  Listen to it:

            "And I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, which call you by your name, am the God of Israel." Isaiah 45:3

So, what are some of the treasures you will find in the darkness?  I give you three.

            "What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light." Matthew 10:27

            1. What I TELL you... Jesus has something to say to you in the dark.  It's in the dark times, the place of dry wilderness, where we need to be the most attentive.  Get ready, He is about to share something with you.  Don't miss it by whining and complaining and murmuring.
            2. That speak ye in LIGht... You are coming out of this!  It's temporary.  It will not last forever.
            3.  That SPEAK ye in light... you are going to live to tell about it.  You will have something to say after He has something to say.  That's always the way it seems to happen.  In the darkness you will get a word to keep you going, to keep you walking, to keep you rejoicing.
So, the wilderness is inevitable.  It comes to those who are living within the boundaries of the will of God as they know it to be.

Now, the second one.  "The Wilderness is not Accidental".

            "All things work together for good, to those who love God and are called according to His purpose."  Roman 8:28

It's the providence of God!  What is the providence of God?  It is the act of God whereby He works all events to fulfill His purpose.  Hallelujah!  It's what happened to Joseph in the Old Testament. He had been sold into Egypt as a slave by his brothers who disliked him.  In the end, Joseph became a ruler in the land of Egypt.  Listen to it:

            "And his brothers fell down before his face, and they said, behold, we are thy servants…but Joseph said, you thought to do me evil, but God meant it for good." 
Genesis 50:18-20

Jesus was led by the Spirit.  And when God is leading us, nothing is seen as outside His control.  He will use the bad to work the good.  He will cause the attack of the devil to backfire and God will receive glory.  What the devil means for evil, God will use it for good!
There was an evangelist named George Young.  He and his wife traveled and preached in the early 1900's.  The townspeople where he lived did not like George because of his straightforward preaching of the gospel.  Nevertheless, George and his wife continued to follow the will of the Lord in bringing the gospel to those who would listen.  After some time, George and his wife decided to build their first house.  The day finally came when it was finished.  They moved in and were quite content.  Soon after moving in, they were scheduled to preach a week of meetings in another city.   They returned home to discover that the townspeople had burned down their newly built home.  They were devastated.  But they did not lose hope, nor did they seek revenge.  As George sat down in the middle of the burned remains these words came to him:
            "Some through the waters, some through the flood, some through the fire, but all through the blood.  Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long."
 
HALLELUJAH!
The title of that song is "God Leads Us Along".  I wish I could sing it for you.  But let me give some of the verses of the song.  I want to show you that even though you have had it rough lately, or you were accused unjustly, or perhaps you were misunderstood, or just disliked for the stand you took for the Lord,  nothing is accidental when you remain inside the fence.  Listen to it and think of how George felt:
            "Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright, God leads His dear children along; Sometimes in the valley, in the darkest of night, God leads His dear children along.
            Though sorrows befall us, and Satan oppose, God leads His dear children along; Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes, God leads His dear children along."

Well, praise the Lord!  Did you notice the word darkness in there? Valley? Sorrow?  Then did you notice the words grace, and conquer?  How could George write this kind of song after seeing what those people did to him and his wife?  He saw trial, wilderness, and darkness through the eyes of God!  He had to sit down and get alone with God and begin to see how God sees.  He saw that the servant is not above his master.  He saw that God loves the ones who did this to him and that out of tragedy comes, joy.  Out of sorrow, hope.  Out of evil, good.  Instead of lashing outward at people, look upward to the Lord.  You, too, will come out of your tragedy singing:

"Some through the waters, some through the flood, some through the fire, but all through the blood.  Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long."
 
Yes, nothing is accidental.
           
Let's look at the final one.  "The Wilderness is always Profitable."
I am learning that when I remain in His will as I know it to be for my life, not only do I see the wilderness was not accidental, but I benefited greatly from it.  Let's look at some of the ways in which we can profit.  When I stay inside the fence, I experience these four things:

1. I am Sustained.
2. I am Successful.
3. I am Secure.
4. I am Safe.

1. Sustained.  In the wilderness, after 40 days of fasting, the devil came to Jesus.  He said to Him,

"If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.  But Jesus said, It is written, man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."   Matthew 4:2-4

What is the "word that proceeds out of the mouth of God"?  Is not His Word His Will?  Yes!  This book is His will and testament!  What was Jesus saying to the devil?  He was letting him know that he would rather be hungry and IN THE WILL OF GOD, than to have His stomach full yet OUT OF THE WILL OF GOD.  The spiritual profit is greater than the material any day!  It seems the church world is far too focused on the material these days.  We need to get back to what really feeds us.  Let's get back to the thing that really sustains us.  His Will!   Amen!  There are times when I concentrate too much on the material that I forget the spiritual.  I forget that His plan is more important than my plan.  But when I do His will, He takes care of the rest.  When I focus on the spiritual, He takes care of the material.  Listen to this.

            "In the meantime, his disciples came and gave him some food, saying, Master, eat.  But he said to them, I have meat to eat that you know nothing about.  Therefore, the disciples said to one another, Has any man brought him something to eat?  Jesus said to them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work."  John 4:31-34

Isn't that the greatest thing you've ever heard?  What was Jesus saying?  He was telling them that what fed him; what sustained him; what kept him going, was not the material, but the spiritual.  What fed Jesus?  What sustained Jesus?  What is it that will feed you?  Sustain you?  Yes!  The will of God!  Jesus was witnessing to a woman caught in sin.  He was doing the will of God.   And as he remained doing so, the material got lost in the spiritual.  He didn't need a hamburger and fries, i.e. the material.  He had something better.  Did you get that?  As you and I stay inside the fence, doing His will, food or rather, the material, takes a second place.  Things of this world do not feed us.  They do not sustain us.  They will never satisfy.  How many times has the spiritual been lost in my preoccupation with earthly things?

            "While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." 
2 Corinthians 4:18
           
2.  Successful.  I will be successful.  Really?  Yes.  In what way?  Ah, that's a good question.  How do people these days define success?  Well, in the church world, they define it by how many people are coming to the services.  They measure success by how much money came in the offering, or by the size of the building program.  However, that is not how the Lord measures success.  Clearly, success is measured by whether I am IN THE WILL OF GOD.  I see that in the life of my Savior.  He was in God's will every moment.  Yet it appeared to many that He wasn't.  I mean, after all, He died a criminal's death.  While He hung there in agony, those standing by said, "He saved others, himself he cannot save." According to man's standard, Jesus would be considered a failure.  The Bible says they all forsook Him and fled.  He was not the only one, however.  Jeremiah the prophet preached for forty years and no one listened.  Noah preached for 120 years and the only ones to get on the Ark were his family.  Was Noah a failure?  According to the standard of man, yes.  According to the standard of God, no!  God told Noah to build the Ark.  He did just that.  He obeyed.  He didn't walk outside the boundaries of God's will.  He stayed inside the fence.  And if you are doing what the Lord commanded, you too, are a success. Why? Because you are doing and being what God has called you to do and be.  It matters not what man's opinion is.  My pastor told me years ago that he would rather have the smile of God's approval and the frowns of men, than to have the smiles of men's approval and the frowns of God.  That is good advice.

3.  Secure.   As we persevere to abide within the boundaries of His will, we experience a security in Christ which no thief can break through and steal.  I do know some insecurity lies in all of us just because we are made of flesh.  But it's knowing I am living within the borders of His intended purpose for my life that I do not fear.  Sometimes people fear for their positions at work, or in ministry, or perhaps even in the home.  Husbands feel like they are in competition with the kids for the love and affection of their wives and vice versa.  Pastors feel like they are competing with other ministers and ministries.  We must admit that we suffer sometimes from a virus of insecurity.

I am reminded of Moses after he led the Israelites out of Egypt.  They were about to go in to the promised land, but after hearing the negative report of the spies decided the plan was too risky.  Angry with Moses and Aaron for bringing them into such a desolate situation, they decided to stone the two brothers, choose a new leader, and return to Egypt.  All well and good, but they didn't take into consideration that Moses was God's appointed leader.  What will Moses do?  Somebody wanted his job!  Instead of defending himself, he took it to the Lord.  That's what we should do.  The Lord speaks to Moses and declares these people are no longer His people.  He will wipe them out and start over again!  Whoa!  Oh, Christian, see how God defends His own?  Think about that for a moment.  God will take care of you!  The Bible says God  "puts one down and sets up another."  Don't fear for your position.  Don't worry about the promotion.  If God doesn't want you to have it, why would you want what God doesn't want?  You don't need to shift to survival mode and become defensive.  Leave it in the hands of the Lord.  I'm talking to someone right now.  Find your security in the will of God.  Period.

4.  Safe. That's a big word these days.  We hear a lot about safety first.  There's safety in numbers.  Better safe than sorry.  However, stepping outside the perimeters of His divine intention can jeopardize our spiritual, even physical safety.  The safest place is in the will of God.  It was safer for Christ to be hungry and in the will of God.  It is safer to have one car and be in His will, than to have two cars and be out of his will.  Staying in the will of God brings ultimate satisfaction.  You may miss a few meals and drive an older car, but you will be happy.
Safety and comfort are not synonymous.  You can be comfortable, yet not safe.  Noah was in a boat that smelled and was uncomfortable.  Despite the conditions inside the ark, the alternative was far worse.  The cross upon which Jesus died, was most uncomfortable, yet it was the will of God. And Jesus was safe in the arms of His Father.  Are we not thankful that Jesus stayed within the boundary of His Father’s will?

Brother or Sister in Christ pursue the will of God.  Establish yourself in it. Keep your eyes on Him who is invisible. Hey, how can I expect Him to reveal His will and guide me in all my ways if I hide sin in my heart?  How can I know His plan for me if I refuse to walk in the light of His Word that I hold in my hand?  The things that derail guidance are often not the big obvious things but the small trivial matters of the heart.  The Psalmist declares:

            "Cleanse thou me from secret faults.  Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright and innocent from the great transgression."  Psalm 19:12-13

My friend, if you have wandered away from the will of God, you need not stay outside the fence.  There is no need for you to remain one minute longer in this frustrated condition.  God can take up where you walked out!  He can make all things new.  He can restore all the years the locust has eaten.  Don't allow that nasty grasshopper of disobedience to eat up your joy, your peace, and your assurance any longer.  Give yourself up!  Get back to the cross and the blood.  He will never forsake you and you will get up from your time with Him a stronger more determined man or woman of God.  If you've stepped outside the boundary, repent and say, Lord, I've stepped outside your will.  I ask you to forgive me, and today, I place myself back in your will.  Then thank Him for it, walk on, and go to the hardware store and buy a lock for the gate that is in the fence!

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