A Key to Doing God’s Will in Your Life
I am teaching my son to play piano. When we have a lesson, I give him instructions on how to spend his time practicing that week. Play this scale at four 16th-notes to the click at 104 clicks per minute, making sure not to allow your left index finger to collapse. If you make a mistake, put a check on your paper, then play the scale perfectly two times before moving on. If you can’t finish the scale in two minutes, then put an X on your paper and move to next scale. At your next practice, focus on the scales you had trouble with, decreasing the tempo until you can play them perfectly. Then increase one metronome click at a time until it is at tempo.
When my son sits down alone to practice, he has a decision to make. He can follow my instructions in detail—or he can do something that just approximates those instructions. What happens if he chooses the second option? He has an easier time, yes, but his growth as a piano player is hindered.
There is a key ingredient he needs in order to take the first course. It’s an ingredient we all need.
God instructs us through the Holy Bible. There are times when knowing what God wants in a given situation is difficult to know for certain. But many times, what He wants is clear and unmistakable, if we are paying attention and listening intently. The challenge is following through. Doing it.
This is why God exhorts us in James 1:22, “[B]e ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Knowing or agreeing with God’s word does not count. What counts is the doing.
How can we be doers of the word? In a real sense, it often comes down to one key ingredient: self-discipline.
The Bible shows that God’s purpose for mankind is to develop His own character in us. As educator Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: “This creation of right spiritual character in us demanded free moral agency—that man must intelligently choose the right as opposed to the wrong—that he exercise free choice, develop self-discipline.”
Here is how he defined righteous spiritual character: “It is that controlled ability, in a separate independent entity, to come to a right knowledge of the true from the false—the right from the wrong—and, by free choice, to choose the right and the true, and, further, to use the self-discipline to will and to actually DO the right.”
Following God’s instruction so often comes down to self-discipline. This does not mean you can build God’s character by exerting your own willpower. God builds that character in us—it is a spiritual process. But He cannot do that if you don’t cooperate.
When God gives you instructions or shows you His will through Bible study or godly counsel, what determines whether you will be a doer? Like my son at the piano, you must have self-discipline. You have to turn that instruction into specific action steps, give yourself reminders, put them into your schedule, tell your friend or spouse so he or she will hold you accountable—whatever it takes. And above all, when you don’t feel like doing it, you must do it anyway!
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “I have defined character—that is, true, righteous, holy character—as 1) coming to the knowledge of the true, as opposed to the false values—the right, in stead of the wrong way; 2) making, of one’s own free will and volition, the choice to do the right instead of the wrong; 3) the exercise of the will in actually doing the right instead of the wrong.
“Character, then, once the true knowledge is acquired and the right decision made, involves self-discipline. The truly educated person is a self-disciplined person” (Plain Truth, January 1984).
“What, then, does this self-discipline involve?” he continued. “Two things: 1) self-restraint to resist the lower impulses and pulls in human nature—to restrain the self from desires, impulses, habits or customs which are contrary to the right way; and 2) self-propulsion or determined initiative to drive the self to do those things which ought to be done.”
Failing to do is a lack of self-discipline. Doing the easy thing instead of the right thing is a lack of self-discipline. Giving in to whims and distractions is a lack of self-discipline. Being honest about this is an important step toward growth. It leads you to buckle down, turning to God even more earnestly for help, and exerting even more effort, never giving up until you actually do the right instead of the wrong.
God wants to help you. But He can do this only as you exert the self-discipline to do as He directs. He gives you His Word, and will even show you how to implement it in your life. Ask God for the strength and even the will to do as He instructs (Philippians 2:13). Then do your part. Be tough on yourself! Discipline yourself! Bring yourself into subjection to God’s instructions (e.g. 1 Corinthians 9:27). And no matter what challenge or excuse or weakness stands in the way, use God’s power and strength and exert yourself to do His will.
To learn more, request Gerald Flurry’s powerful booklet How to Be an Overcomer. Chapter 5, “The War of the Wills,” provides important biblical perspective. The whole booklet is filled with practical wisdom on doing the will of God!