Has anyone ever told you about a big decision that they were making in their life and justified it by saying, “I believe this is God’s will for me or for my family?” I have often told my wife that if someone tells her this very phrase she should run far away from them. Sometimes the decision has been well thought out, prayed on, and researched and the decision will usually turn out to be a positive one. Other times, though, I have thought immediately that the decision did not seem to take into consideration all of the factors that should have been measured before making such a decision. The decision may not take into account all of the who, what, when, where, or usually most importantly, the how of their choice. But who am I to argue with their decision since it is not their decision, but God’s will. Despite that the only justification for their decision seems to be founded in the simple “God’s will” card, there is no response on my part that can possibly challenge this decision if they truly believe it is God’s will. Time after time, though, when I have seen this justification used I have seen the decision be a complete and utter disaster that usually affected their spouses, children, family, finances, and spiritual life in devastating ways.
Could it be that “God’s will” was used as an excuse for a lack of preparation on a decision? Could it be that they wholeheartedly believed their decision was “God’s will” when it may have just been a selfish decision they made? If it is “God’s will” is it alright to throw all logic and common sense out the window? My guess is that some people use “God’s will” as an easy out for their problems. “God’s will” is not a justification that anyone wants to attack. I can’t pretend to know what “God’s will” is for someone else with absolute certainty so how can I attack their decision if it is “God’s will.” Is “God’s will” based on a feeling, gut call, or some kind of peace that they feel with the decision?
I am not going to try to tell you I can discern without fail when something is God’s will or not in this post. I would like to explore how we can gain a better perspective on living in God’s will and what may please God.
Rich Dixon, from Relentless Grace, explains “I think we’re susceptible to a human temptation to transform “our thing” into “God’s thing.” I think we sometimes use God’s will as an excuse to do what we wanted to do anyway, or to abdicate responsibility for the consequences of our choices. I have no clue if God wants me to ride a bike 1500 miles. I usually have this sense that He cares less about what I do than about the heart behind my actions. I think He wants me to use my gifts in service and love, and that perhaps the details aren’t what matters.”
I found a fascinating post by Garrett E. Wishall from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary that I believe gives some good insight into the God’s will debate. In Garrett’s post he explores a book titled, Just Do Something: a Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will (Moody 2009) which is written by Kevin DeYoung.
“I think living in God’s will is the daily decision to live for Christ, die to self and obey the Scriptures,” said DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich. “It is sort of like what Augustine said, ‘Love God and do whatever you want.’ Now, obviously you need to fill up love God with a lot of good, biblical truth. Otherwise, people will excuse a lot of sinful behavior.
“But I think living in the will of God and pursuing God’s will is not asking Him about every single possible choice you have to face and expecting Him to give you an answer. Instead, it is so being transformed by the renewing of your mind that you are learning to think God’s thoughts after Him.”
“Instead of God’s will being about decision making, DeYoung notes that Scripture centers it in growth in Christlikeness.”
“We need to be willing to take risks for God and trust that He doesn’t have to show us the future because we trust that He holds the future. And we need to go out and do something and trust that if we are seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness … then we will live a life that is pleasing to God.”
I think this is an incredibly strong statement. Shooting for the moon is not necessarily pleasing to God. What is pleasing to God is that we are in proper relationship with Him. If we are not in that proper relationship our “God’s will” endeavors are fruitless.
“For example, for marriage — providing you are thinking about marrying in the Lord and you are marrying somebody who is equally yoked — there is not just one person who could be the right answer. That is just living in fear and trepidation in a way that the Lord does not intend. People are well-intentioned, but are often hyper-spiritual with something that I think could be much simpler and more freeing.”
“Fifty to one hundred years ago our grandparents didn’t have 10,000 choices,” he said. “You lived in the same place, married one of the few people in town and worked on the farm or taught in school. It is only with the explosion of choice that this has become such a pressing issue, which makes me think that it is not mainly spiritual. … We make it more complicated by making it this grand spiritual pursuit.”
“I think one of the main motivations or impulses people should have is they need to think in terms of wisdom, instead of guidance. Guidance suggests that there is a right answer and a wrong answer here, and I might screw it up. Wisdom suggests I am learning, I am seeing my sin, I am figuring out who I am, God is with me, He is helping me in the process and there is not necessarily one right or wrong answer.”
This view of wisdom is very good. The key here I believe is first, learning with God by your side and second, seeing your own sin. Anytime we fail to acknowledge our own sin we have lost the very wisdom that is before us.
“I think one of the reasons that God does not give us all sorts of special messages to tell us what to do is because that short circuits the process of wisdom and the process of sanctification,” DeYoung said. “Usually, we get in a situation where we totally don’t know what to do and we say, ‘Give me wisdom’ and we fail to realize, ‘He is giving you wisdom by putting you here.’
“So, we need to realize that part of cultivating godly wisdom is trusting God that we are going to have to live through some experiences to get that kind of wisdom and we are going to make some mistakes. God is interested in our whole lives being transformed.”
I think everyone hopefully can say that they make some decisions differently than they did in the past because they have learned from a previous experience. Growing in our walk can lead us to be more mature in our decision making.
“DeYoung said that in particularly weighty matters, some people will never feel absolutely certain that what they are planning to do is the right thing. In contrast, easy-going people sometimes feel good about a choice they have no business making. Thus, whether or not someone “feels a peace” about something is not a good barometer, unless biblical convictions and one’s conscience are involved.”
“The important thing is realizing — as long as we are not dealing with blatant, sinful vocations — that there are many different things that can please God,” he said. “It is going to be in the context of friendship, community and church leaders that people are going to sort through their desires. There are no simple answers, but often I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer.”
“We just need to help people be willing to really think about decisions and pray, ‘Lord help me see if I am motivated by the right things.’ At the end of the day, we have to believe in some Christian freedom, that if people have a clear conscience toward a decision to move to Manhattan and work in finance, then they can do that to the glory of God.”
Like I said at the beginning of this post, I was not going to try to discern without fail when something is God’s will or not. It would have been great if God would have put light bulbs on our heads and we could just go through the possibilities of a decision until the light bulb comes on. God gave us the freedom to make many decisions in our lives. Sometimes I wonder if God cares very much about how nice a job we have, what house we live in, or which car we drive. His will for your life I bet centers on your relationship with him.
Are you striving to become more Christlike on a daily basis? I will end this post with a quote on God’s will from St. Edmund of Abingdon.
God’s Will is Holiness
A perfect life is a life of honor, humility, and love,
and an honorable life is to will to do God’s will.
Before doing anything, ask yourself if it is God’s will:
whether it is thinking in your heart,
speaking with your mouth, seeing with your eyes,
hearing with your ears, smelling with your nose,
tasting with your tongue, touching with your hands,
walking or standing, lying or sitting.
If it is God’s will, then do it with all your might.
If it is not God’s will, then die rather than do it.
If you ask me, “What is God’s will? I will answer:
“God’s will is that you become holy.”