The Winning Formula

By Scott Armstrong

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

In the church we make knowing God’s will seem so easy.  There are formulas we can follow!  For example, James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (1:5).  There’s the Wisdom Formula: we lack it, we ask for it—Boom, we get it!  So why is it hardly ever so simple?

As a youth pastor and now a missionary, I have seen many teens through the years who have struggled with knowing God’s will for their lives.  Who am I supposed to marry? Where am I supposed to go to college? What does God want me to do today, right now?

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Romans 12:1-2 is a well-known passage that contains another formula for knowing God’s will.  It promises that we will “be able to test and approve what God’s will is” if we just follow the aforementioned instructions.  We must offer ourselves as “living sacrifices.”  A sacrifice has no rights; it is surrendered completely on an altar.  Even a living sacrifice has to be surrendered entirely.  Then the instructions say, we must not be conformed to the world around us, but be transformed.  There has to be a genuine change in our lifestyles and even mindsets—something that is visually different from the surrounding culture.

Although many of us are tired of quick and easy formulas, I believe the key to knowing God’s will is wrapped up in these instructions.  We will know God’s will if we surrender everything to him.

Of the hundreds of teens I have seen struggling to know God’s will for their lives, do you know which ones have seemed to understand God’s will more than the others? The ones who have been sold out to God, 100%.  The ones who have longed to not just know his will, but to know God himself more and more each day.  The sacrificed ones.  Those who are not conformed to the world around them.  Those who have been transformed.

Do you want to know God’s will?

Are you a living sacrifice yet?

True Family

By Scott Armstrong

“He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers.’ For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:48-50).

Teaching, preaching, healing.  Matthew does a good job recording the purpose of Jesus’ time on earth (see 9:35-38).  In Matthew 12, after traveling around a lot, proclaiming many controversial things, and receiving death threats, Jesus withdraws from the hubbub of the crowds (12:15).  Or so he thinks.  Many needy people follow him and Jesus continues to heal, cast out demons, and respond to his critics.  The day is getting hot, the teacher is getting tired.

Jesus needs to recharge his batteries.  So what better way to do that than by spending time relaxing with family? He probably has not seen his mother and brothers in many months.  Imagine his joy, then, when someone tells him that his family is waiting outside and wants to talk with him.  They had surprised him!  Surely he would end his sermon, disperse the crowd, and greet them with open arms!

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But that isn’t what happens at all.  In fact, his response seems a bit harsh.  He seems to say, “Who cares about them? They aren’t my true family.  You are.”  And then chapter 13 says that same day Jesus continues his ministry as if nothing had ever happened.

We need to be careful here.  The point of this passage is not that we need to abandon our families in order to serve God.  The key is found in Jesus’ response (v.50).  Whoever does God’s will is truly part of Christ’s family.  There is something that supersedes even blood relationship here.

My wife and I are missionaries living in Dominican Republic.  Our parents are in the US.  We miss them.  We value our relationship with them almost more than anything.  I say “almost” because there came a point years ago when it became clear to us that God’s will for our lives was to serve him far away from home and family.

That’s never easy.  But we have no regrets!  Following God’s will has brought us closer to Him and closer to our family as well in many ways.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that following God’s will and being part of Jesus’ family is not worth every sacrifice you make!

My wife and I are missionaries living in Guatemala.  At this very moment, I am writing these words from my parents’ home in the United States.  It has been good to relax and be with family.  I miss them.  I value my relationship with them almost more than anything.  I say “almost” because there came a point years ago when it became clear to us that God’s will for our lives was to serve him far away from home and family.

That’s never easy.  But we have no regrets!  Following God’s will has brought us closer to Him and closer to our family as well in many ways.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that following God’s will and being part of Jesus’ family is not worth every sacrifice you make!