Struggling with God’s will

Romans 12:1-8
I hadn’t noticed what the apostle Paul did in Romans 12. This is a somewhat familiar chapter to many people. We’ve heard the call to transform our minds. And we’ve heard that verse taken out of context many times! It’s not a motivational quote. It’s less personal than we take it to be.

Now, I’m not being grumpy about it. We all need a little transformation. But the text belongs to the church. That means the church has something to learn from it about its ministry and purpose. The transformation Paul mentions has to do with who we are as the body of Christ. I can say that with confidence because Paul goes on to tell us that “we, who are many, are one body in Christ.”

What the body of Christ needed to know then was the will of God. You and I need to know, too. You can’t read Romans 12 and come away thinking the will of God is only a personal matter. You’d have to ignore too much of the text. Plus, you’d need to forget a passage like Romans 12 is part of a larger letter written to an entire church.

Paul wants the whole church to focus its attention and life on the will of God. If the will of God was all about your life and personal decisions, what would happen to the church? That may a reflection point for us today. How has what has happened to the church, in part, been a reflection of how we have over personalized the will of God?

The will of God is about drawing all humanity to God. Paul has already said as much in the previous chapter: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25). That’s the will of God.

There were some who struggled with that notion. Theirs was a religious conviction. For many of us, the struggle is different. I’m not sure we have a problem with God’s desire to reach all people. No, our struggle goes back to what we mentioned about personalizing God’s will. We can’t help but reconstruct God’s will to fit what we want from God.

By all means, seek God’s wisdom for the decisions in your life. But realize that whatever you decide to do doesn’t change God’s will. God’s will moves through time as the same desire of God. The church’s mission is to align itself with God’s will–to draw all humanity to God.

And that leaves me with what I noticed today. In speaking of God’s will, Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.

At this point, he isn’t telling us what is the will of God. He’s already done that. Paul is trying to convince us to accept what God’s will is. He emphasizes that it’s good, acceptable and perfect. He says that because many of us still need convincing.

For some, it didn’t sound so good. For many of us, it’s acceptable if it applies to our own lives. And that’s the transformation and renewing of the mind we need.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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