I haven’t been a Christian very long. In fact, I have been a rebel to God longer than I have walked with Him. I still remember exactly where I was when God called me. He saved me, and made me a new creation in Christ Jesus. My life will never be the same. Many of you never knew me before I was saved. It is probably better you didn’t. However, those who did have the blessing to see what God can do to a wretched, self-centered, ignorant, stubborn, hot headed, fool. I am far from perfect, but the change I have experienced from the inside out is truly nothing short of a miracle. God has opened up His Word to me in ways I never knew was possible before. When I read His Word, it is as though Jesus came to sup with me and talk (not every time of course, but I do have this expectation regularly).
The reason I tell you all of this is because all these memories remind me of a profound season in my life that was struck with doubt, fear, and confusion. When God saved me, He put within me an incredible amount of zeal to honor Him in everything. I wanted everything in my life to be subjected to Him. I didn’t one thing to be done without His blessing. You see, how this all played out is that I invited God in on all my decisions (please read “ALL” my decisions, when I say this). I literally got to a point where I didn’t know what pair of socks God wanted me to wear. Which leg to lead with when I took my first step, which route to take to my next destination, or if I should even go?
Can you relate?
Would you think less of me if I told you I don’t believe God tells us the answers to all these questions? In fact, I believe God doesn’t tell us the answers to the majority of the decisions we make (e.g. which house to buy, what car to buy, who to marry, which school to go to, etc.). I don’t want you hear this and conclude that I don’t think God doesn’t cares about every decision we make, big of small. I believe He does. Indeed, I believe every decision I make matters greatly to God. I also believe that He wants us to seek Him with all our decisions and seek an intimate relationship with Him throughout our day. How do all these beliefs work together?
Please allow me to share with you what God taught me in my pursuit to put every decision in subjection to His will and have confidence I was doing just that.
First, we must define what we mean when we talk about the “will of God.” In our Christian circles when someone speaks of the “will of God” they mean what God desires or delights in. Contrast this when you hear people speak of someone being “outside the will of God,” which means, someone who is behaving in a way that brings dishonor or is in disobedience to Him. You can imagine the pressure then when Christians are called to obedience, because every decision is to please God. And if it matters to God what we choose then it seems we need a word from God on every decision, right?
When the Bible speaks of the “will of God” it can be used in two ways. The first way is to refer to that which has been revealed clearly by Him or is in conformity to His standards. For example, I know it is God’s will for you not to murder, steal, or lie. Paul uses the phrase the “will of God” in this way in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 when he says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;” In other words, in every decision you can be sure of this much, it is “God’s will” for His children to be sanctified and abstain from sexual immorality. When the Bible speaks of this type of the “will of God” you are obligated to know and obey it. There is a moral obligation to know and do this “will of God.”
However, the second way the Bible speaks of the “will of God,” is to speak of God’s sovereign plan that is not known or revealed. The Apostle Peter speaks of “God’s will” in this way when he said, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” in I Peter 3:17. Or the Apostle Paul when he stated, “always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.” in Romans 1:10. In both cases, these apostles speak of God’s will as something that has not been revealed and relates to His sovereign plan.
When we speak of wanting to know the “will of God” for our lives, we must discern what we mean by that. Are we attempting to divine from God what our future holds, or are we trying to know what God’s moral law is? The two are different and the distinction is helpful. Here’s why.
Nowhere in the Bible does God call us to be responsible and know His sovereign plan (which has not been revealed). Nor does God hold us responsible to carry out His sovereign will. In fact, often times God’s sovereign will be against His revealed moral will.
For example, it was God’s sovereign plan that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, that Joseph’s brothers would sell Joseph into slavery, and that Jesus would be crucified under Pontius Pilate. However, in every one of those cases, none of them were to do them! God had revealed to Peter to acknowledge Jesus, Joseph’s brothers were to love him, and for Pontius Pilate to judge justly.
This is why it is fundamental we make this distinction. Otherwise, we find ourselves trying to find answers to questions that God has not answered, and thus either feeling horrendously enslaved in failure or guilty of putting words in God’s mouth. Both of which, I know have been responsible for doing.
God has called us to know and obey what He has clearly revealed in His Word alone. Paul says it like this:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV, italics and bold added for emphasis)
This is how we can both know and be confident that we are walking in the “will of God,” because God doesn’t leave us hanging. He doesn’t play games with us. When God wants us to know something, he doesn’t hide it from us or put it in riddles. He speaks to us in a clear and understandable way. He leads by a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. He leads the wise men with a bright moving star in the sky. And He writes His rules on tablets for all to see. He loves us. Even we who are sinners make our expectations for our children clear, so as to not disobey us. So also our Father in Heaven has not left us to our whims and abilities to divine, to know what we ought to do.