When I entered the Marine Corps, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that boot camp was going to be an eye-opening experience, but it was a challenge I was willing to meet. I knew that I would be spending many months entrenched in a rigorous training program designed to make me a productive member of the Corps. Without such training, I would not be able to fulfill my roles and responsibilities at any unit to which I might be assigned. If I failed the training, I would be useless to my Corps and, most importantly, those Marines who were trusting me as a leader and team member.
In a similar way, God is using this time in your life to prepare you for a future area of service for Him. While you won’t undergo military-style training, you will experience an education process that is designed to make you more like Christ, a servant and minister to others regardless of your job title.
All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers. – Deuteronomy 8:1
Notice the present preparation with a future indication of promise. The Lord stated that on “this day” the children of Israel were to learn and observe the commandments of God so they could experience three blessings. Those blessings were life, family, and the Promised Land. This land was to be the place set apart just for them so they could worship and serve the Lord (Exodus 5:1; 7:16). Although the entrance into the Promised Land was delayed forty years for one generation (Numbers 32:13), God used that time in the desert to lead and train the children of Israel to be obedient to His commandments.
Though you may feel as though you are wandering through life, God is using this time to lead you and to teach you to be obedient to His word. Like the children of Israel, you are being prepared for entrance into God’s will through obedience training.
What does this preparation involve? The Lord gave three distinct admonitions to ensure that the children of Israel were prepared, and we can be prepared for God’s will as well if we follow these same admonitions.
Observe the Commandments of God
The children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years so God could prepare Himself a people for the land. The previous generation had an opportunity to enter into the Land, but their lack of faith and disobedience were condemned to die in the wilderness (Numbers 14:27-34). Instead, God determined to extend the opportunity to their children. God prepared this new generation of Israelites to live by faith in order to inherit the land (Deuteronomy 1:39; 8:1). God’s will, or His desire for their lives, was for the Israelites to dwell in the specific area designated for them. Yet, the children of Israel were not automatically allowed to enter the Land – they were exhorted by God to remain observant of His commandments.
How do I observe the commandments of God? In order to observe commandments, you must first learn them from the Scriptures. The concept of learning is not merely the memorization, recognition, or recitation of knowledge. For example, possessing an ability to quote the 10 Commandments does not indicate that you live by them. It simply shows that you have some basic knowledge of the contents of Scripture. Learning, then, must move beyond recognition and involve application to one’s life. Learning indicates that life change has taken place. You don’t just understand that God’s name isn’t to be taken in vain, but you determine to never do so (Exodus 20:7). Learning does not culminate with what a teacher says; the height of learning is evidenced by what the student does in response to teaching. Learning is change – the change from an action or attitude that does not conform to the Lord’s commandments to a lifestyle that adheres to the principles and practices of Scripture.
With this definition of learning in mind, have you learned the Scriptures? Have you allowed the Bible to change your life? Are there some actions that you’ve stopped doing since you’ve become a Christian? There should be some areas where you previously walked in darkness, but by God’s grace you now walk in the light. If you’ve never ceased from your wandering and going astray, perhaps Jesus has never come into your heart. The first part of God’s will is for you to be saved, and then you will be able to learn the teachings of Scripture (I Corinthians 2:13-14).
Like the children of Israel, Christians can struggle with learning and observing the commandments of God. When this happens, the Holy Spirit will convict of sin and redirect the believer at which point the Christian must decide if he will yield to sin or to the Savior (Romans 6:16). If you want to be prepared for the will of God, then you must yield to the Savior’s commands. God is not obligated to grant you access into the “Land” of His particular will for your life if you are not living the way He has decreed. Each generation in this passage had a choice, and Christians today have a choice to obey or to disobey. Such a choice will determine if we obtain the will of God or not.
Let’s keep some things in perspective. Look at all that the Lord did for the children of Israel: He saved them from slavery and bondage in Egypt; He conquered their enemies at the Red Sea; He gave them a divine law (the Word of God) that no other nation had known; He dwelled in the midst of them throughout their journey; He was faithful to lead them by day and by night; He fed and clothed them and met their every need. Their response? They doubted God’s ability and disobeyed God’s commandments. Now, their children had to make a choice – will I be like my faithless family or will I live by faith and do right?
God invested a lot in the Israelites, and He has invested a lot in born-again believers today. He saved me from the bondage of sin; He conquered my enemies of sin and has given me victory; He gave me the inspired, inerrant, infallible, and preserved Word of God for me to read and study; He gave me the Holy Spirit to indwell me; He gave me that promise that He will never leave me or forsake me; He has always met every need. My response…? Your response…? If the response is disobedience, the Land of God’s will becomes a distant dream never to be realized while the mire of doubt and despair becomes our dwelling. That kind of life is not God’s will; it will be a life of your own making.
Remember the Leading of God
As we recall to our memories all that the Lord has provided for us, let us also recall the past times when we were in great need of God’s guidance, wisdom, and direction. Did God deliver you out of your affliction (Psalm 34:19)? Was God faithful to you (I Corinthians 10:13)?
And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. – Deuteronomy 8:2
Just like the Israelites, we are admonished to “remember” the events which have led us to this point in our life. Think of the times of trial when God met with you to encourage you and to provide for your needs. For Israel, they had to recall the time when God gave them water to drink from the Rock, when they were healed from the bites of fiery serpents, when they were protected from a harmful revolt of a wicked man, and many other times. Remembering God’s work is a trigger designed to “humble” us and to cause us to realize that we must remain dependent upon God. Often we insist on living independently from God, yet we must be humble in order to see God’s touch on our lives (James 4:6).
Remembering the Lord’s leading also “proves” us and causes us to “know what was in [our] heart.” Recalling the Lord’s work shows us the truth about our obedient or disobedient responses to God. How did we previously respond during a trial? Was God pleased with that response? If I had it to do over again, would I make the same choice? Through such interrogatives, we will learn with certainty the cause of either our eventual prosperity (due to faith) or eventual adversity (due to doubt). At the end of our assessment, we should conclude with remembrance of the supremacy of God’s love toward us. We understand that each new day’s design is guided by His hand. The plan is a carefully crafted formula designed to teach, train, shape, and sanctify us into the likeness of Christ. Knowing that all things work together for good to them that love God, the question remains, “Will you allow God to work in your life again as He has done so previously?”
As we recall what happened and how we felt upon our deliverance, we must then go deeper in our discernment of the eternal purpose of such deliverance: that in each situation we may find the will of God and do it. We do not live for “bread only” that employment may provide, but we live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). We have an eternal purpose, and that purpose is to know God and to make Him known through our words and actions (Ephesians 3:11-13). Such godly actions will glorify God (Romans 15:6), fulfill the good works which He has chosen for us to do (Ephesians 2:10), and fulfill the desire God gives us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). This is the revealed will of God for your life, and until that purpose is fulfilled you will not be removed from this earth. The only caveat to that statement is this simple truth: if you have proven time and again that you lack the desire to be useful and instead pursue rebellion then God will withdraw His hand of blessing from you. Like the previous generation of Israelites, you will “wander” throughout life until your carcass falls in the waterless wilderness of despair.
The importance of remembering God’s leading throughout your life cannot be overstated. Every step along the way has been intended to create spiritual growth and to prepare you for greater usefulness in the Lord’s work. You must remember that God has never let you down and that God has every resource available to Him even in the howling desert where provision seems impossible. If we neglect to see the hand of God upon our past, then we will not discern His will as we enter our future.
Consider the Chastening of God
Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee. – Deuteronomy 8:5
Lastly, consider the exhortation and warning to consider our heart as well as the chastisement that comes upon the disobedient. As Christians, we stand in the same relationship to God as does a son to a father. A child’s instructions come from their father, and disobedience is corrected, or “chastened” to use the biblical word, in order to teach and to train the child to obey. These corrections are not done in wrath, as many earthly fathers may correct their children. Rather, the correction and chastisement of the heavenly Father is done with grace though it is grievous to us for a time (Hebrews 12:11). His goal is for us to be like God the Son in word and in deed.
Most people don’t like to be corrected. We don’t really like people telling us what to do especially if we can find a reason to justify our actions. Even when our motives are pure and the results appear favorable, the correction of God is intended to go beyond superficial examinations and ensure the application of biblical principles. In order to do this, God cuts to the “heart” of the problem: the problem of the heart. Our hearts are seeking to trick us into doing wicked things. In fact, the Bible makes clear that it is desperate to do so (Jeremiah 17:9). If we are to minimize the chastisement in our lives, we must “keep [our] heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23). This admonition directs Christians to guard their hearts, to keep it from evil, to allow it to be influenced by the Holy Spirit, and place it in subjection to the Lord’s desires and decrees. The text of Deuteronomy 8:5 uses the strong word “consider” in order to tell us to fix our inspection and scrutiny upon our hearts. We are caused to ask, “What is really in my heart? If I let my heart rule my life, where would it lead me? Would God be pleased with such a decision? Would my actions be honoring to Him? Would my heart lead me to greater service and worship of God, or would it lead me down a path of wickedness?” Where is your heart leading you today?
Are there consequences? As with all decisions, you will reap what you sow. The choices to observe God’s commandments, remember God’s leading, and to consider our hearts will be the first action that opens a flood gate of effects in your life. You have the power to make a decision, but you do not have the power to control your consequences. Hence why prudent decision making is so vital in life. “The wisdom of the prudent is to know his way” (Proverbs 14:8), and the Lord explains the consequences of each way that you could choose:
• If you choose to commit your way unto the Lord (Psalm 37:5), God will lead you into His intended area of service and ministry. As the Lord told the Israelites, “For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land” (Deuteronomy 8:7). His promise to you is that obedience brings the assurance that you will fulfill the will of God for your life.
• If you choose to forget the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:19), then your end will be the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12). Like a child’s old toy, you will be “put on the shelf” to collect dust and never be used by the Lord. As you wait for your shelf life to expire, you will leave behind a testimony of vanity and emptiness. Any potential that was once so promising will simply fade away like a sunset.
Do you want life to be well for you and your family? Of course, both you and the Lord want that to be the reality of your life. Here is the will of God, “keep all my commandments always:”
O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! – Deuteronomy 5:29
I’ve heard it said by too many Christians, “I just can’t live the Christian life.” If you walk in the Spirit, you will have all the power you need to be more than a conqueror (Galatians 5:16, Romans 8:37), to live in victorious faith (I John 5:4), and to have a testimony of faithful service and worship for God (Acts 20:24). God’s desire is for you to fulfill His will for your life. That’s why He has prepared it for you. Indeed, He has promised to lead you to His designated place for you if you meet these prerequisites. Do you meet them? Are you living up to them?
Ultimately, you will discover that finding the will of God for tomorrow means doing the will of God for today. What is the will of God for today? To observe His commandments, to remember the work of God in all regards of your life, and to consider the consequences of disobedience. Please take time to examine your heart and life to ensure that you are preparing to enter into His will.