As I was coming into the book of Colossians to see what the Spirit would have me write about this morning, this struck me:
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God." (Colossians 1:1)
I want you to take a moment and just read that over a couple of times and ponder it. Go ahead, I'll wait for you in the next paragraph.
"By the will of God" is something we should be able to say about ourselves. Our re-birth is by the will of God; not the will of any man or woman but God's will that we would receive a second birth. Everything in our life, our life itself, should be ordered by God.
God's will for us is like the hair colour we were born with or the height we have grown to. There are some things in our lives that were chosen for us, they are part of us and we had no choice in it. But many of us are not satisfied with what God has chosen for us.
We live in an age when people can change almost anything about themselves they don't like. You don't like your hair colour? Change it. You don't like your nose? Get a new one. You don't like your spouse? Shop around. You don't like your neighbourhood? Move. You don't like your church? There are plenty of others to choose from. You don't like your calling? Here's a list to pick from.
There is very little that we can say is "by the will of God" any more because we live in an age of "you are the captain of your own destiny". We keep all the right language, activities, and appearance but our attitude is far from being a disciple. I keep going back to this one thing Jesus said:
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23
The whole "deny" yourself is the setting aside of self determination and submitting yourself to God's will. Just as Jesus lived a life of submission to the Father's will, as was very clear to us just before the crucifixion, we are to set aside what we think is best, based on our knowledge and wisdom, and be consumed by our Father's will. That actually means doing things that you might not want to do, things that make you feel uncomfortable and that don't fit into your wisdom. Taking up our cross is to take up the will of the Father despite our will for ourselves.
It is clear to us that Paul did not choose to become an apostle but after he was chosen by Jesus he embraced God's will with a bear hug. He gave himself entirely to his calling. Where he once tried to destroy the Church he became her greatest admirer and defender. Where he had devoted his life to the "betterment" of Israel he became a lifeline to the Gentiles. Where he was a teacher of the law he became the great teacher of the gospel of grace. By the will of God, Paul said because he knew he did not choose this path for himself.
There is something wonderfully liberating to know that you are being directed by God. If he called you he will equip you. If he has taken you out on this journey then he will provide for it along the way. If this is his plan then he will see it completed. There is so much encouragement in those five words when we know them to be true, "by the will of God".