Knowing the Will of God for Missionary Service

Bible Book: John  17 : 4-23
Subject: Missionary Call; Mission Service; Will of God; Victorious Christian Living

John 17:4–23 -  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.”

Would you turn to John chapter 17? And, when you’ve found it, just look up here for a moment - John chapter 17. We’re going to talk tonight about knowing the will of God for missionary service, and you’re going to find out that God has a purpose and a plan for your life that is absolutely unique for you. He has as many plans as He has people here tonight. Read with me John chapter 17 and verse 4. Jesus is praying, and here’s what He says to the Father: “I have glorified thee on the earth” - now, watch this - “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4) Now, just underscore that. Jesus said, “Father, You gave me a job, and I did it. I finished it. I have completed it” - “I have finished the work [that] thou [hast given] me to do.” (John 17:4) That’s verse 4. Now, look down at verse 18, if you will. Jesus then said, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) He’s talking about His disciples. He said, “Father, you gave me a job to do. I did it. And now, Lord, as you have sent me, these, my disciples, Lord, I’m sending.”

You know the most important thing that could be put on your epitaph when they…when you die? It could be this: “He did the job God called him to do” - “He finished the job.” Nothing else matters but that you do what God has called you to do. Now, in order to do what God has called you to do, the job that God has given you -  because Jesus said, “I have finished the work [you gave] me,” (John 17:4) and then He says, “As you sent me, I’m sending them” (John 17:18) - in order for you, therefore, to do the job that God has sent you to do, two things are necessary: number one, you have to know what it is; number two, you have to have the power to do it. Isn’t that true? You have to know what it is He wants you to do, and knowing it is not enough; you also have to have the divine energy, the power, the impetus to get that job done.

Now, when it comes to knowing the will of God, many people want a formula. I’m not here tonight to give you a formula; I’m here tonight to give you a principle. And, if you’ll learn that principle tonight, you will know the will of God. If you will apply the principle that I’m going to give you tonight - now, when I say, “I’m doing it,” I’m just simply sharing with you what the Lord has given in His Word, I truly believe - if you will apply this principle that God has given us - let us put it this way - you cannot miss the will of God. I’m absolutely, totally confident of this: if you will apply this principle, you cannot miss the will of God. If you are unable to do so, you will never know the will of God.

Now, in order to do the will of God, you must know it. There are four kinds of people here tonight who are in this auditorium and in our radio audience tonight. There are those who are indifferent to the will of God. You have a ho-hum Christianity. You maybe are not even carefully listening tonight. You will not know the will of God because of your indifference. That’s one category. There is another category: these are not indifferent; these are rebellious. They have set themselves against God, and they will not know the will of God because they don’t want to know it. They’re willingly ignorant. There is a third category of persons here tonight, and these are they who are ignorant of the will of God, and they will not know the will of God because they will not practice the principle that we’re going to be talking about. And then, the last category of persons who are here tonight are those who are victorious -  those who have discovered and are putting into practice the principle that I’m going to give you tonight from the Word of God.

All right, are you ready for the principle? How can you know the will of God for your life? Now, when I tell you the principle, at first, it’s going to sound simplistic, it’s going to sound absurd, and you’re going to say, “Well, now wait a minute. I was looking for something a little more complex.” It - what I’m going to tell you tonight - is so simple I’m almost ashamed to tell you, but it is gloriously simple, and it is simply glorious. Now, it may not make sense when I tell you to begin with, but here it is. And, don’t pass this off, and don’t think this is a simplistic statement when I say it: Jesus is the will of God for you. Now, you say, “Now, that sounds too religious for me, and I can’t get my teeth into it.” Well, just stay with me. Jesus is the will of God for you. You’re going to find out that Jesus is the pattern, the purpose, and the power for God’s will in your life. Keep that in mind: Jesus is the pattern, Jesus is the purpose, and Jesus is the power. Now, keep this principle in mind. It is a principle.

I. Jesus Is the Pattern

Now, first of all, I want you to see that Jesus is the pattern. Look, if you will, in verses 17 through 21. We’re in John 17. Begin in verse 17. Jesus is praying for us and all of His disciples, and He says, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” - now, watch this - “As thou hast sent me” - “as thou hast sent me” - “into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone” - that is, Peter, James, and John - “but for them also which shall believe on me” - Jim, Adrian, and Bob and Phil - “through their word; That they…may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they…may” - “that they also may” - “be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:17–21) Friend, this is missionary stuff we’re getting: “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21) Now, go up. Here is the key. Look at it in verse 18: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so” - in the same way - “have I also sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) Now, Jesus is the pattern - Jesus is the pattern. Can you see that? “Father, as you’ve sent me, I’ve sent them.” (John 17:18)

Now, let’s find out how Jesus did what He did. How could Jesus come to the place at the climax of His ministry and say, “Father, I have finished the work you gave me to do”? Well, we’re going to look at it right now and see the basic principle, and it is this: that Jesus sanctified Himself. Now, what does it mean to sanctify yourself? Some people believe that you come to the place when you’re sanctified where you no longer sin. Well, Jesus never did sin, so He didn’t have to sanctify Himself, so He no longer sinned. That’s not what it’s talking about. To be sanctified is to be set apart for a purpose - to be set aside, to be set apart for a purpose. Jesus simply sanctified Himself.

He set Himself aside for a purpose, and that purpose was the will of God.

Now, put down an ancillary passage of Scripture here in Hebrews chapter 10 - just write it down. I’ll share it with you, but I want you to keep it in your notes - Hebrews chapter 10, verses 5 through 7. And, it speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ, and here’s what it says about Him: “Wherefore when he cometh into the world” - that is, when Jesus left heaven and came to earth - “he saith, Sacrifice and [offerings] thou wouldest not, but a body…thou [hast] prepared me” - who prepared Jesus’ body? The Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary. His body was a divinely prepared, crafted instrument to do the will of God - “a body…thou [hast] prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast…no pleasure” - that is, the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin -  “Then said I” - now, here’s Jesus speaking. Now, watch it - “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written [about] me” - He’s talking about the Old Testament. Did you know that all the Old Testament is about Jesus? - “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:5–7) That’s why He came.

That’s what the book of Hebrews says - that the Old Testament prophesied that one day a child would be born of a virgin: “a body…thou [hast] prepared me.” (Hebrews 10:5) And, there was a story written in the Old Testament - a story of a Savior who would come, a story already written. And, Jesus just stepped out of heaven and said, “I’m here to do your will. I sanctify myself. I set myself apart to do your will, O God.” There was a plan for the Lord Jesus written in the book, the Old Testament. Jesus stepped out of heaven. He fulfilled that plan. He said, “I have finished the work that you gave me to do, and it is done.” (John 17:4) And, He never made one misstep because He said, “I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:29) Now, none of us have ever been able to say that, but Jesus said that: “I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:29)

Now, what was Jesus doing - His will or the Father’s will? Well, He was doing the Father’s will. He said, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) In His humanity, in the body that was prepared, He just simply presented Himself to the Father, and He said, “[Lord,] I come…to do thy will,” (Hebrews 10:7) and He said, “What the Father says, I say; what the Father does, I do.” (John 5:19)

Now, here’s the question: How did Jesus know the Father’s will? Because Jesus is the pattern. How did He know it? Did He figure it out? Did He think it out? No, it came from a relationship to the Father. Look, if you will, in verse 21: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21) Jesus had such an intimate relationship with the Father that He did not need a roadmap; He did not need a formula. He just simply was in the Father, and the Father was in Him.

A man that’s had a profound influence on my life is Major Ian Thomas. Major Thomas has written a book that, if you’ve not read it, you need to read. It’s called 'The Saving Life of Christ'. It is a classic, and it has had a great, great impact on my life.

Sometimes people ask me to name some of the books that have had a major impact. That book would always be in the list - 'The Saving Life of Christ'. In that book, or in one of Ian Thomas’ writing - I think it’s in The Saving Life of Christ - he tells of the Lord Jesus Christ doing the will of God, and he mentions some things that Jesus did. For example, Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, and that was glorious. That pleased the Father, I’m certain. Then, on another occasion, the Lord Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He shouted and said, “Lazarus, come forth,” (John 11:43) and Lazarus came forth from the dead. On another occasion, Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. On another occasion, Jesus spat on the ground and made clay. Now, He did many other things, but let’s just take those four things that Major Thomas mentions: He preached, He shouted, He washed, and He spit. Which of those four was the most spiritual? Be careful. None was the most spiritual; all were equal. Why? Because He said, “I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:29) So, if you’re pleasing Him, that’s it. If you’re not pleasing Him, it doesn’t matter what you do. “I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:29)

Point: Did Jesus surrender to preach or to spit? Neither one - He surrendered to God to preach or to spit. You see, what was Jesus? He was just available to God to preach, to shout, to wash, or to spit. The will of God is not a roadmap; it is a relationship. That was the relationship that Jesus Christ had with the Father. Now, look in verse 18 and see what He says about us: “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) Now, the problem is that so many of us want to surrender to preach or want to surrender to be a missionary. No! You don’t surrender to a task; you surrender to the Lord. You see, Jesus is the pattern. Jesus just said, “[Father,] I come…to do [your] will.” (Hebrews 10:7)

Now, is the tool to be committed to the task or is the tool to be committed to the carpenter? It is the carpenter that the tool is to be committed to, not to the task. You and I are the tools; God is the craftsman. So many times, we get in missionary conferences, and we want to surrender to a task or we want to surrender to a field. And, you go to missionary meetings, and you’ll have somebody stand up with histrionics and tears and talk about some great need. And then, they will say this - and I’ve heard it over and over again: “The need is the call” - “the need is the call.” Well, that’s foolish because there are needs everywhere - there are needs everywhere. And, if you say, “The need is the call,” there are thousands of needs. You’re going to be constantly confused. And, you think of the blunders that have been made in the world by people who are trying to meet a need rather than abiding in the Lord.

For example, think of Moses. God wanted Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt into Canaan. Moses started out to be a missionary; he ended up being a murderer - killed an Egyptian, buried him in the desert sands. But, the winds uncovered that body and exposed this man who, rather than listening to God, got a cause in his mind, got a need in his mind.

Let me give you somebody else. Think of Abraham. God called Abraham to be the father of the Jewish people - father of the Hebrews - but Abraham couldn’t wait on God. He got all wrapped up in a task rather than abiding in the Lord. So, Abraham and Sarah had a committee meeting, and then they coopted Hagar into their committee, Sarah’s handmaiden. And, Abraham went into Hagar and had a sexual relationship with Hagar, and Ishmael was born - taking things into their own hands. And, for fifteen years, Abraham tried to extract a blessing from Ishmael - trying to do something for God, taking the matter into his own hands because he was committed to a task. Then, Isaac was born, and the blessing was with Isaac. The only explanation for Ishmael was Abraham and Hagar. The only explanation for Isaac was God - was God.

You see, how does a man become a fanatic? He becomes a fanatic the same way: he’s committed to a cause. He’s committed to a purpose. He is committed to a need rather than doing what Jesus did - being surrendered to the will of God, just simply saying, “Preach, shout, wash, spit. I come to do thy will, O God.” Now, Jesus is the pattern. That’s the first point. Got it? Say, “Got it!” Got it, okay.

II. Jesus Is the Purpose

Here’s the second thing: not only is Jesus the pattern - “As you have sent me, Father, so I send them” (John 17:18) - but Jesus is also the purpose. Now, what was Jesus’ purpose when He was here on earth? Well, look, if you will, in verses 18 and 19: He says, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world” - now, watch it - “And for [thy sake]” - “And for their sakes” - “I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (John 17:18–19) Now, Jesus said, “I am setting myself aside for their sakes. I am the purpose for them. It is… I am doing this on purpose. I’m doing this for their sake.”

Now, what was the purpose of Jesus? What was His purpose in sanctification, being set aside for a purpose? Look, if you will, in verses 21 and 22; look at it. Here’s the purpose: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe” - now, watch it - “that the world…believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one” - O-N-E - “even as we are one.” (John 17:21–22) Now, what was the purpose that Jesus set Himself aside for? Well, it was the glory of God -  the glory of God - not a field somewhere, not a need somewhere, but the glory of God. It was to manifest the glory of God. That makes it very clear and very plain in this passage of Scripture. It is the glory. Look in verse 22: “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them.” (John 17:22)

What was that glory? What was the glory that Jesus Christ had when He was on this earth? Well, it was God’s likeness. That’s all glory is, is just God’s likeness. When you looked at Jesus, you could see God. Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9) “Father, I have glorified you on earth. I have let your life, God, be manifest in me. I have set myself aside for one purpose, one purpose only - that is, your glory. And, and Lord, I have done that. I’ve been sanctified for that.” Now, He says, “Father, I am giving this glory to them. The glory that you gave me now, Lord, I am giving to them.” Look in verse 22: “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them.” (John 17:22) Can you think of that? Listen, can you imagine the glory that Jesus had? You know what He says here? “Father, I’m going to give that to Adrian. The glory that you gave me I am going to give to Adrian.” So, therefore, Jesus is not only the pattern; He is the purpose.

What is the purpose of my life? I’ll tell you what it is. Just as you could look at Jesus and see the Father, you ought to be able to look at Adrian and see Jesus. That’s what it is - that’s what it is. God wants the life of His Son manifested here on this earth. That is the purpose of the will of God - that people can see Jesus in us. Jesus is the pattern, and Jesus is the purpose.

Now, we have this glory in an earthen vessel, and only when the vessel is broken will the glory shine through. But folks, do you know, if you’re glorifying Jesus, it really doesn’t matter where you’re serving. My son, Steve - David - stood up here just a few moments ago and said, “Pray for us in Extremadura, in southwest Spain.” The very word extremadura means “extremely hard.” That’s…that’s the name of the place. And, we talked about the souls being saved in Guatemala. It’s not like that in Spain; it’s extremely hard. Well, friend, it doesn’t make any difference whether you’re in a fruitful field or a non-fruitful field. You’re not there primarily to reap fruit; you’re there to glorify Jesus Christ. That’s all! And, there is no higher place nor better purpose than the one purpose, and that is to glorify Jesus in a big place, a small place, a fruitful place, a non-fruitful place. What is your purpose in life? “Father, as you’ve sent me, so send I them. And Father, I sanctify myself, that you will be glorified. And, the glory that you’ve given me, now, Lord, I’ve given them.” (John 17:18–19, 22)

III. Jesus Is the Power

Now, are you following when I said Jesus is the will of God for you? You see, Jesus is the pattern. Jesus is the purpose. And now, here’s the final thing: Jesus is also the power. Remember that I said that not only do you need to know the will of God but you need the power to do the will of God? Don’t think that you’re home free just simply if you know what God wants you to do. You need to do it.

Now, notice verse 23: Jesus said, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one…that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:23) Don’t miss this. This is shouting ground. Jesus said, “I want the world to know, Father, that you love Adrian like you love me.” Now, how…how am I going to have the power to do the will of God? Well, it’s in this verse. Christ is in me, and I am in the Lord Jesus Christ. Look: “I in them” - Jesus in them -  “thou in me” (John 17:23) - God in the Father, or the Father in Jesus. Jesus is in Adrian, and the Father is in Jesus; and, therefore, God lives in me. God lives in you. God has not told us, “Now, suck them up” - as they say on the football field, “We’re going out there. Now guys, you know, grit your teeth and do your best.” No! Where is the power? It is Jesus living His life through you and Jesus getting the glory. Therefore, you are to surrender to Jesus, not to a formula or to a roadmap. It is a relationship with a person.

Now, here’s another ancillary verse I want you to write down: 1 Corinthians 12, verses 12 through 13: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that body, being many, are one body” - that is, what you’re seeing tonight standing up here preaching is one person, but I am hands and feet, eyes and ears, nose, mouth, and so forth, but I’m just one person - “the body…hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ” -  that is, the Body of Christ - “For by one Spirit” - that is, the Holy Spirit - “are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12–13) We’re in the Body of Christ, and the Holy Spirit is in us. Now, by the Holy Spirit, therefore, we are baptized into the Body of Christ, and, therefore, by the Holy Spirit we share the life of Jesus. That’s what He’s saying in verse 23: “I in them. Father, you in me, and I in them.” (John 17:23)

How does this happen? It’s… The Holy Spirit of God does that. When… Why give my heart to Jesus? I am baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. I am placed into the Body of Christ. You see, before Pentecost, Jesus had one body. After Pentecost, He has many bodies. They’re all here - or, at least, a new body. He had a Bethlehem body: “A body…thou [hast] prepared me.” (Hebrews 10:5) Now, He has a Pentecostal body: “we, being many, are one body.” (Romans 12:5) And, the same Holy Spirit that lived in Jesus - “thou in me” - now lives in us - “I in them.” (John 17:23) Isn’t that wonderful? Where’s the power come from? Well, it comes from Him. We are members of His Body.

Now, what is the will of my body for my hand? Do you know the will of my body for my hand? My head - that’s it. Who is the head of the Church? Who? Jesus. All right. We’re members; He’s the head, right? Now, so, what is the…what is the will of Adrian for that hand? Suppose when I waked this morning, my hand said, “Good morning, Mr. Rogers. We five had a committee meeting, and we have decided we’re going to shave you today. And, we have decided today that we’re going to write some letters for you, and we have decided today we’re going to scratch your ear. And, we…” Man, I’d be petrified. Do you see how the Body of Christ makes a mistake sometimes? Sometimes we have an idea we’re going to do this for Him or we’re going to do that for Him. What is the will of Adrian for that hand? My head. What is the will of God for you? Jesus Christ.

He’s the head of the Church. You’re to be available to Him. And, therefore, you must stay so connected to Him that you can receive the impulses from the head. Suppose I want to write a letter, so I send an impulse to my hand that my hand is to pick up a pen and begin to write on that paper. Suppose my hand says, “Well, there is no pen. There is no paper. So, how can I do that?” Very frankly, that’s none of the hand’s business. If I tell my hand to write a letter, don’t you think I have enough sense to know I’ve got to get a pen and some paper? And, if God tells you to do something, mister, He will enable you to do it. I mean, that’s His business. That’s not your business to say, “Well, there’s no paper. There’s no pen.” No, that is His business. He’s the One in charge of the Church.


What am I trying to say? I’m trying to say that the will of God for you - it is so simple -  the will of God for you is Jesus. He is the pattern. He is the purpose - His glory. And, He is the power. It is Him in you doing it. Isn’t that neat? Man, that’s…that’s glorious. And, the thing of it is, it’s so simple - it is so simple.

Now, of course, there will be a field. Of course you will preach, shout, spit, or whatever - of course you will, but that is the byproduct of a relationship to Him, where you are listening to Him and He is speaking to you. And, He has a will for each of us. There are many members in the Body. Who’s the most important - the missionary on the foreign field or the lawyer, the doctor, the clerk, the football coach? Friend, if they’re in the will of God, they are all equally important. Isn’t that right? They’re all equally important. Now, “we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25) We’re energized by the same Holy Spirit of God.

What is my joy and my privilege? It is simply to be available. So, what must I do? The only reasonable thing that I can do - Romans chapter 12, verses 1 and 2: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” - listen to this - “which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) I mean, that’s the only reasonable thing to do. He died for us. He lives in us. We just simply present ourselves to Him. That is our reasonable service - “that [we] may prove” - that is, that we may experience - “what is that good…acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2) Just present yourself to Him and say, “Here I am, Lord,” and you’ll prove the will of God experientially in your life. You present yourself not to a need, not to a field, not to a cause, not to a ministry, but to Jesus Christ. And, it is the renewed mind that will transform you. And, just as God had a purpose for Jesus - He said, “It’s written. There’s a plan written for me in the volume of the book” (Hebrews 10:7) - God has a purpose for you here.

Now, we quote Ephesians 2:8 and 9, but have you ever connected it with verse 10? Ephesians 2:8–9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” - “Not of works, lest any man should boast” - but now, listen to verse 10 - “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8– 10) Just as God had a plan before ordained for Jesus, God has a plan before ordained for you. There is a plan written to you. There is a purpose for you. And, when you come to the end of your life, wouldn’t it be wonderful for you to say, “I have finished the work you gave me to do”? That’s what Jesus said. (John 17:4) And then, Jesus said, “Father, as you’ve sent me, now I send them.” (John 17:18)

You have but one responsibility. It’s found over there in Proverbs chapter 3, verses 5 and 6: “Trust in the LORD with all [of your] heart; and lean not unto [your] own understanding. In all [of your] ways acknowledge him…he [will] direct [your path].” (Proverbs 3:5–6) Just as a bird in migration is directed by the unseen hand of God, the Holy Spirit will be to you what instinct is to a bird. Come up close, and I want to tell you something: if you practice this principle, you will not find the will of God; the will of God will find you - the will of God will find you. When you begin to say, “Jesus, you are the pattern. You are the purpose. My life is to glorify you, and you are the power. I am abiding in you, and you in me. I am your hand. I am your foot. I am your eye. I’m your ear. I’m yours,” then the dear Holy Spirit, moment by moment, will guide you.

Are you committed to Him? When you are prepared to be to Jesus what Jesus was to the Father, Jesus is prepared to be to you what the Father was to Him. And, what you have to do is just sanctify yourself; just set yourself aside for the will of God. I don’t know what it’s going to be for you. Some of you are going to feel the sweet impulses of the Holy Spirit saying, “Go here. Go there. Do this or do that.” I don’t know what it’ll be. Big place, small place - I don’t know. But, I know this much: it’ll be wonderful. It may be hard. You may die. You may be a martyr. That doesn’t make any difference. It’ll be wonderful.

That’s not a formula. Everybody wants a little formula. That’s a principle. The will of God for you is J-E-S-U-S. He’s the pattern. He’s the purpose. He’s the power. Just present yourself to Him a living sacrifice to preach or spit - it doesn’t make any difference. Amen? Glory to God. Hallelujah! Father, thank you - thank you, Lord - that as the Father dwells in you, you dwell in us. O Father, thank you for this. Teach me, Lord, how to live in this relationship. Teach us all. In the strong name of Jesus. Amen.