These messages are based on the new book I’ve been working on: “Surrendered Warriors: How To Know God’s Will for Your Life in a World of Grey.” I would ask that the material, therefore, is only used or reproduced with permission.
Psalm 23:1-6: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This is the most famous Psalm. In fact it is possible one the most famous passages of Scripture. As a piece of literature it is recognised both within and outside of the Church as being a supreme example of poetic form, admired for its structure. For the Surrendered Warrior it contains promise upon promise of the assurance of the Lord's guidance and protection. Journeying together through this series this Psalm will be the guide for us.
The Big Five!
One of the questions I get asked as a church leader is how to know God's will for someone's life? It seems that God is silent on some of the most important issues faced today; Marriage: who should a person marry, or should they marry at all, and if it doesn't work out is divorce okay?
Work: Should you take a particular job or work in a certain environment?
Money: Should I give it away or keep it?
Church: Surely church is irrelevant, do I have to that involved?
Suffering: If God is really loving, why does He allow bad stuff to happen to me?
These are what I would call the "Big Five" issues Christians face today: relationships, work, money, church, and suffering.
To answer to the "Big Five" questions there has to be an understanding of how God's will works in principle. I shall outline principles based on Psalm 23 that will act as a fundamental framework for discovering God's will.
What or who is a Surrendered Warrior? Well, it's you and it's me. People who want to navigate the pathway through life when it appears to be filled with dead ends, detours, and, at times, is not clearly sign posted. There is a goal in mind; to get to the centre, the perfect place to experience God's favour and His will. The epicentre of His love. The aim is to also avoid delay, to not get bogged down, not to be frustrated, to keep going.
A Surrendered Warrior understands there will not always be a direct route to the prize though. They are aware that there is a texture to life, a rhythm to things, and times when they even seem to be 'off course' to help others on their journey; although they realise that at these times they are often to most 'on course' they have ever been!
Surrendered Warrior's are not motivated by a fear of a God who is waiting to trip them up. They are not in fear of judgement if they get it wrong, sin or foul up. They know that God loves them and wants the best for them. Their desire is driven by the G factor: gratitude. They are grateful for their salvation, for they know they have not earned it, deserved it or have merited it in any way. They know it is a gift of God. They know God's grace and rely on Him Ephesians 2:8: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith---and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
The Cycle of a Surrendered Life
Gratitude is vested in the love a Surrendered Warrior has in their heart for God. Their desire is to live life to the full because of His love and their love for Him. This leads to a simple life plan: gratitude is the attitude that leads to new altitude in God that takes them to servitude. That sounds a bit pithy, but it's actually a cyclical process that takes them forward and upward in God.
Beginning with gratitude, a thankfulness that overflows every part of the being, for what God has done. The realisation that in sending Jesus to die for their sins means that God has already done enough, He has done it all. In fact, they know that if the unthinkable happened, that God did nothing else for them in their life time, He would have already done enough.
Gratitude leads the Surrendered Warrior to a different life attitude than those around them. They know that life would be completely different for them without Jesus and not in a good way. Their life becomes one of optimism in a pessimistic world. This is not some kind of supercilious spirituality that denies the hardships in life. It is living with the constant reminder that in the midst of hardships God is faithful and that Jesus has made a way where there seems to be no way:
1 Corinthians 1:9: God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
John 16:33: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
They are grounded and their spirituality is pragmatic.
This way of thinking about life takes the believer in a cyclical pattern, but also in an upward route of Christian growth and development. I simply call it altitude. It's promised to the Surrendered Warrior who waits upon God, who seeks His will, rests in Him and desires to grow higher with Him:
Isaiah 40:29-31: He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
This is not a superior attitude towards those believers around them. This is a recognition, according to Isaiah 40:29-31, that their ability to "fly" is something that happens in the midst of tiredness and weakness; it is a reliance on Father God, to wait on Him.
This cyclonic way of living has its ultimate fulfilment in servitude; doing the will of God in each and every day of the Surrendered Warrior's life as best they can. They realise that life is not about them, their success, their priorities, but about Jesus and His love being displayed to others. It is not solely about hitting a goal, but about how many are taken with them, how many they help on their own journey to the centre of the maze of life, how many they help find their purpose in this earthy existence. They know that when they are engaged with others, helping others, they are doing this for Jesus, to Jesus!
Matthew 25:35-43, esp 35 & 40: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in... 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Back to Gratitude:
As service for the King increases it takes the Surrendered Warrior back to the beginning, to gratitude, albeit on a different level or plane. As gratitude oozes out their attitude and way of life is enhanced. They grow stronger and higher, maturing in their faith, gaining a new altitude in God. As they do, they serve others more, not less, knowing they are serving Jesus in this way. So the process repeats, and repeats and repeats.
Of course there are setbacks. There are detours. There are sins that ensnare and prevent the Surrendered Warrior from developing further. Many of these surround the Big Five areas. Sometimes life seems more like a game of Snakes and Ladders where they are sent back down one or two levels as they hit the head of a snake, rather than elevated by hitting the foot of a ladder. Mistakes will curtail them in their journey. For the Surrendered Warrior though, this does not mean game over. God is gracious. He recovers them, His redemption is constant, His love unrestrained. He is more interested in developing your character, your holiness, your Christlikeness through these ups and downs than He is your material comfort.
Part One: It's Not About You
The Lord is ...
It's All About...
One of the great calamity's of the Church is that modern Christians have fallen into the ego trap believing everything is about them. Their blessing, their lifestyle, their relationships, their money, their children; God can be reduced to a mystical provider who simply answers prayers when life doesn't work out the way it is supposed to.
I've been a Christian long enough now to have sung songs that have fallen into disuse over the years. Some sadly, some thankfully! There was a song that swept the British Church a while ago that had the phrase: "It's all about you, Jesus, and all this is for you, for your glory and your fame; It's not about me, as if you should do things my way, you alone are God and I surrender to your ways." (Paul Oakley, (It's all About You) Jesus Lover of My Soul, from the album, Because of You, (Integrity Music, 1996). It's a beautiful song, an earnest prayer from a songwriter to redress the balance in our lives, to put Jesus in the centre of everything.
The problem is not the song itself. The problem is that when it was sung Christians rarely put Jesus in the centre, little surrender occurred and people went about their lives in exactly the same way on Monday morning having declared their love for Jesus on Sunday. Of course this song and others did affect and change lives, but the sea change called for in the lyrics never seemed to happen.
The issue is that Christians are now consumers of grace rather than channels of peace. Harsh? Maybe. Admitting the issue is the first step to discovering God's will for your life.
David expressed this in Psalm 23. To really get a handle on God's will for your life the foundational principle needs to be grasped: it's not about you, it's about Him.
David, the psalmist and poetic songwriter, begins with two words: “The Lord.” The word for Lord in this verse is Yahweh. For the Jews this name was so holy that they would not even pronounce it when they came across it in their reading of the Scripture, but would rather verbally substitute it with Adonai, with the root meaning of "Lord," or "Master."
David begins with the holiness of God. He uses the most holy of names that he knew of to describe who is the foundation for his life. Everyone who read, or indeed sang this Psalm, although it's original melody has been lost, would have grasped that David is declaring, "The Master!"
This is no trite matter. Not something to be glossed over. When seeking the will of God for their life, the Surrendered Warrior has to put God first. It is not enough to pray for the will of God to be done as long as God's plan is their plan all along. That is simply like flipping a coin and praying it's heads, and then to keep flipping it until it is!
God knows everything, right? He is aware of every decision you make, every calamity that is about to happen to you or the world, and of every possible outcome. Theologians call this omniscience, God's all encompassing knowledge. If He did not possess this quality then He would not be God; He'd be constantly surprised by the next thing you do, always trying to second guess what would happen next. He is God though. This means He knows the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning. In fact, in the Bible, which is the collection of books about God's self disclosure, He calls Himself Alpha and Omega. These two Greek words are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. The beginning and the end:
Revelation 22:13: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
It is a picture for you to show that He lives beyond time. He is not bound by time; He sees time differently to you. God is in the moment with you but already exists in the future before you arrive.
Providence: God's Protective Care
This idea leads to the idea of God's providence. What is providence?
Here's a theological interpretation: Providence is the means by which God directs all things — both animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, good and evil — toward a worthy purpose, which means His will must finally prevail. Providence is the way that God is directing the universe. He is moving it into tomorrow. He is moving it into the future by His providence. Providence means "to provide." God will provide.
Simply put, it is God's protective care. Sending Jesus to die for the sins of the world was an act of God's providence, His provision of a sacrifice to put right what had gone wrong through the introduction of sin in the world. He provides for you.
God's ultimate will shall be accomplished on earth. Remember, He knows the beginning from the end. This means His plan for creation will ultimately be accomplished, that He has set things on a course to that end, and that He will have His desired final outcome. Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven:
Matthew 6:10: ...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven...
It is a prayer for the providence and the provision of God to come into the world, through the lives of his followers: God's will is to be done, through you.
Wrapping This Up:
This all leads us to the question for free will: can I decide to do what I want to do? I will pick this up next time I speak.
In the meantime live the life of a Surrendered Warrior. Not seeking your will, but the Lord’s will to be don in your life.