Before becoming a Christian, I gravitated toward various forms of fortune telling (usually for the purpose of knowing whether or not my romantic aspirations would be gratified). After my conversion, I ardently sought prophecy and “words from the Lord” that would help me determine His will for my life. There’s something in human nature that demands to know how our individual lives will unfold.
In my Bible reading this morning, I thought about the quest to know God’s will as I read 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5. Each of these chapters contain point-blank statements about God’s will.
The first passage identifying the will of God specifically targets sexual conduct.
Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. ~~1 Thessalonians 4:1-7 (ESV)
I haven’t studied the background of 1 Thessalonians, so I don’t know why Paul elaborated on sexual conduct as an element of sanctification. Obviously sanctification involves many areas of life, and I certainly believe the Lord desires us to be sanctified in every area of our lives. Yet both sanctification in general and sexual purity as a specific evidence of sanctification are God’s will for Christians.
God also wills that we maintain godly attitudes and behaviors in reverence for Him.
12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil. ~~1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (ESV)
Perhaps another time we can carefully study this passage, but right now let’s focus on the big picture. Paul issues a series of rapid-fire commands for the Thessalonians, instructing them on how to live as Christians. In particular, verses 16-18 accentuate His will — rejoicing, praying and giving thanks.
These two passages don’t tell us whom to marry, what job to accept or where we should live. But actually, they provide guidance in a larger framework which in turn equips us to discern His will in these other matters.
Hey, I told you your flesh would be disappointed.