Discovering the "Will of God" for Our Lives
We are all faced with various decisions in this life. Some of them are of huge proportions; others are of seemingly insignificant magnitude. For example, we want to know who we should marry, where we should attend college or university, whether or not we should take this or that job, or any variety of similar questions.
As Christians we want to know, specifically, what God’s will for our lives is. Some become almost paralyzed as they agonize over what God would have them do or not do in various situations. Almost invariably, these Christians will be looking for God to give them some kind of special revelation or sign of what course of action they are to take. There is a lot of confusion, ignorance, and downright sloppiness in this area, so we want to clarify the matter of what we mean when we speak about the will of God.
Even much of our theological language can be muddled and confusing. For example, some of the radio and TV evangelists choose to speak about God’s sovereign will, his moral will, and his individual will. Now that sounds plausible, doesn’t it? But when you stop and think about it, these are very vague and indefinite categories. Let me explain what I mean. Since God is sovereign, all of his will is his sovereign will. So the category sovereign is too vague. What about God’s moral will? Well, try to think of some revelation of God to man about how man s to be and what man is to do that is not moral in nature! The third category is where a lot of people get “hung-up” today. Does God have an individual will for my life? Let’s see if we can bring some clarity into the subject by asking ourselves what we really mean when we speak about God’s will.
In the very first place, I want to present you with a term that you might not be familiar with. I want to talk for a moment about God’s decretive will. A kind of common definition here might go something like this: God’s decretive will is that will by which God decrees things to come to pass according to his supreme sovereignty.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (chapter 3.1) speaks of God’s decretive will in this fashion: God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
Now there’s real sovereignty. God ordains. God is in complete control of all of his creation. What he decreed from eternity is good, holy, wise, righteous, and perfect. Notice that this is not some arbitrary or capricious decision made by God. Neither is this some impersonal force in your life. This is the living God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ and in the Bible. This God’s will is greater than mine. It restricts my will. My will cannot restrict his. God works from a divine plan and that plan cannot be thwarted. Such is God’s decretive will.
We like to talk about another will of God, however. In addition to God’s decretive will, we also speak of his preceptive will. What is that? This would be God’s will found in his precepts, statutes, and commandments. All of this is moral for God’s commands are a reflection of his moral character.
The Bible talks to us about the difference between these two wills in Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” Here’s an important key! The secret things belong to God. Let him deal with those things. Where you and I need to busy ourselves is with the “revealed things” that are found in Scripture.
Let’s see if we can make some practical application of this truth. For the sake of example let’s say that there’s a young man who is looking for a wife. He’s dating four girls at the present. Three of these girls are Christians, and the other is not. Our young man is in a quandary as to which of the girls he should marry. He’s frantically running around looking for God to speak to him in a deep baritone voice and say something like, “Marry Jill, you big dummy!” Alas, no voice is ever heard and our young man is left in his indecision. What’s a young man to do? The answer is fairly simple actually and the Word of God provides it for us. Is the non-Christian girl an option for this young man? Absolutely not! Here’s where Christians run into all kinds of problems. They say they’re looking for God’s will and then go out and marry a non-Christian. That’s nothing less than disobedience to God. He has made it abundantly clear in the Bible that Christians are not to be unequally yoked and that they are to marry “in the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:14; 1 Cor. 7:39). So the Word of God has narrowed down our young man’s choice to the three Christian girls. But now he’s still in a bind, because he’s not sure which one of the three. The answer to his dilemma now is fairly straightforward: choose one! You’re free to marry any one of the three since they all meet the biblical requirements.
Certain considerations might be taken into account at this point. Suppose our young man is a Presbyterian and two of the girls are Pentecostals. There is nothing in Scripture that prohibits them getting married, but all parties involved might want to sit down and talk out some of the important doctrinal differences that exist between Presbyterians and Pentecostals. That is, they would want to discuss Baptism, for example, since one holds to infants of believing parents and professing adults being baptized and the other holds to professing adults only. But the point is: they may still marry since they are both Christians.
I am convinced that the Bible speaks to every issue and circumstance of life—either directly or indirectly. Again, let me quote from the Westminster Confession of Faith (1.6). “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the spirit or traditions of men.”We’ve become lazy and accustomed to being “spoon fed.” What is needed, however, is being willing to do our “homework” and search the scriptures to determine what God’s will is for all of our life. This is going to take some digging into the Word, but the rewards will be great.