This is the first of a series on understanding and choosing God’s will.
Right now, all of us have decisions to make. They might be about school, work, your home or even what to do this afternoon. I believe you are here because you want to do God’s will. You even believe, “Not my will, but Your will be done.”
Okay, we often don’t check in with the Lord for His will on some things, like, I’ll bet my wife didn’t check in with the Lord about whether she was going to get the French Silk or the Key lime pie or when I was trying to decide if we’d watch the next Band of Brothers DVD or the movie Robert Griggs recommended, “The Mark.”
The question is what is God’s will and will I do it? I’ve prepared several messages on how to understand God’s will and do it.
For example, what about that question, “Who does God want me to marry?” After high school, I admit that I was wife shopping for a couple years. I definitely didn’t ask God if He wanted me to be a Eunuch. I’d consider women and wonder, “Is this the right one?” I had a whole list of “ingredients” and guess what? Eventually, Barbara was the only one on my radar! When her father gave me permission and she said I do, well, the rest is history, or shall I say, “His story of His grace in my life?”
What is God’s will for what job you will do? What is God’s will for the school you will attend? The car you will buy? Have you ever wondered if you made the right choice? Let’s say you are having trouble in your marriage and you are wondering, “Did I make the wrong decision?” And now you are wondering how to get out of it? Do I really understand what it means to know God’s will? What is God’s will? I admit, I was almost obsessive when I thought about God’s will. I was concerned about what shirt or what socks I should wear. Paul wrote,
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:1-2 NKJ)
I considered God’s perfect will as individually designed just for me. For example, like this diagram of good, better and best. (The diagram shows a man with a line to a throne with the glory of God on it and a vector of better on either side of the perfect line and a good vector on either side of that combination. There is sin on the outside of that either in “permissiveness” or “legalism.”
1) Is God’s will the dot on a bull’s eye? Eph. 1:11
In the past, I have presented God’s Direct Will, which is when He does the action, His Indirect will, which is when He uses another agency, like parents, to act for Him to raise children up and His Permissive will, which is when He allows something to happen, like sin, which is not His desire. Set those aside for now.
Let’s learn about God’s Sovereign, Holy and Individual will. God’s Sovereign will is His choice that determines everything that happens. Paul wrote, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Eph. 1:11 NKJ) God rules the universe. Ultimately, He determines all things! Another example is,
27 “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 “to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. (Acts 4:27-28 NKJ)
God’s Holy will is His commands revealed in the Bible about how to believe and live. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.” (1 Thes. 4:3 NKJ) The Bible gives general and specific instructions which guide all of life. Our decisions must be in harmony with Scripture to honor the Lord. Paul wrote, “…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1Thes. 5:18 NKJ) And Peter wrote, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Pet. 3:15 NKJ) As you set the Lord Jesus apart in your heart to follow Him, you will also prepare to lead others to Him. However, The Holy will does not guide specifically who to marry, or where to work.
God’s Individual will is that detailed life-plan for your unique life. Paul wrote,
15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit. (Eph. 5:15-18 NKJ)
Most point to this as the center, the bulls eye, of God’s will. If you are not in the bull’s eye, you are out of God’s will! How many of you have married “second best”? Is the reason your boss is so difficult, because you are in the wrong job? Some have many jobs or spouses. Were those bad choices and out of God’s will? Some might be foolish and judge. But because we live in a fallen world, consider Job and do not judge!
Let’s compare these. God’s Sovereign will is a detailed plan for all events in the universe, whereas the Individual will is the detailed plan in a believer’s life. The sovereign will cannot be missed, because it will come to pass, but can the Individual will be missed by failure to discover it? How should we understand the Individual will?
The individual will is reasonable, because of the kind of God we have. Paul wrote, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor. 14:40 NKJ) Also, He knows the outcome of decisions,
21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 “But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. (Matt. 11:21-22 NKJ)
We’ve seen it in experience as people have determined His will like Martin Luther, John Wesley, Hudson Taylor, etc. Then you have Biblical teaching examples like Jesus who was sent by the Father, “…He sent Me.” (John 8:42 NKJ) and His works were assigned by the Father, “…for the works which the Father has given Me to finish (John 5:36 NKJ) (Jn 5:36). The Holy Spirit directed Paul to leave on his first missionary journey Acts 13:1-2,
Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:1-2 NKJ)
How do you determine His will? What is that determination like? Is it a syllabus search, whereby God lays out the whole class schedule? The content of each class, the writing assignments and the test dates? Or, do we approach a Celestial killjoy and you really don’t want to know His will, because He might send you to Antarctica? Are we Bionic Missionaries or special people with superhuman strength and clothes like superman to know God’s will? Is God’s will for white hairs only? Do you have to be a Christian for 40 years or more to know His will? Or maybe we have to have a lightning flash like what Paul experienced on the road to Damascus? Is His will just for the big decisions, but not small ones? I used to think God’s will included what shirt to wear and when. I finally figured out, when a woman said, “I don’t have a thing to wear,” she really meant, God hadn’t revealed what she was to wear!
The traditional view looks at the Bible, inner witness, mature counsel, common sense, circumstances, personal desires and special guidance as factors for knowing God’s will. Are these what we choose to determine the bull’s eye of God’s will for YOUR life? Can you know with 100% certainty? Paul wrote, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Col. 3:15 NKJ) The word “rule” means to “umpire,” or “officiate” in the Greek games. God’s peace “rules” so we can have peace. If we choose God’s will, will we have peace?
There are several factors the traditional view holds onto for obtaining that peace. First, there are Road signs like the Bible, Holy Spirit witness and circumstances. Long before satellite guidance, it was pitch black and a passenger on the ship knew they would be approaching land very soon, but did not know how the captain could guide his ship safely to shore without breaking up on the rocks. “Captain, how do you know how to guide the ship in?” He responded, “I guide the ship parallel along the shore and I look for three particular lights on the shore. When they line up, I turn the ship toward the shore to the harbor. That is a great illustration for guidance, but who interprets these road signs?
A second factor are Results that reveal when you choose God’s will you will have peace and blessing! Your faith is tested and doors may close, but peace prevails, the view holds. Sometimes a burned finger or spanking teaches a mischievous child far better than boundaries. Again, but how do you interpret results?
A third factor is Prayer – is like a breath of fresh air, while driving 600 miles on a road trip. Prayer means we are lined up with the vertical. But, how much do you pray? If we all wrote down how many hours we prayed last week, would we be embarrassed?
Finally, a fourth factor is Communion with the Lord or close intimacy with the Lord, which brings clarity. When I am separated from fellowship with the Lord, it’s difficult to know how best to make choices. You have probably been talking to a person on your cell phone and said, “Hey, let’s get together and talk about it”? There is something about closeness that produces clarity.
Is God’s will the bull’s eye dot of God’s Holy Will?
2) You can determine God’s Holy Will 2 Tim. 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17 NKJ)
Scripture declares His holy will and you can be equipped to walk in it.
But can you determine the bull’s eye? Is there a unique Individual will like the names for every star ((Ps. 147:4)? Is there a “Twinkle, Twinkle” uniqueness required for God’s order? Is the bull’s eye approach necessary for order (1 Cor. 14:40)?
Is God “Father knows best,” because God is Father, Shepherd and King? Does that mean there are detailed plans for every member of His kingdom? After all, the Lord Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27 NKJ)
Or maybe there is a “Parental guide,” and everything is precisely laid out? Do Christians live under a precisely prescribed procedure like the Law?1
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; (1 Tim. 4:1-4 NKJ)
Do some people know the precise will to impose on others? Here’s the point:
God’s will can be known from Scripture for walking in holiness!
- You determine if you will depend on Him. If God gave you a roadmap, you could follow the roadmap without depending on Him. That means you could live without faith.
- You determine if you will trust Him in your decisions by faith. If you have a roadmap of His will, you no longer have to trust Him for decisions. You merely do what the map says and faith is not involved.
- You determine if you are honoring Him by your life. If you follow the roadmap, you could live a moral life, but not need faith. That is not a holy life and God receives no glory. Have you made the greatest of all decisions in life?
Next week, I’ll expose problems with the view I held for too many years, the traditional view, or seeking the bull’s eye dot.
Have you accepted the Lord Jesus as your Savior? He died for your sins and if you receive Him, you will become a child of God, because of His grace toward you. Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) When was the first time you “wondered” what God’s will was? What did you do to try and determine what you’d have to do to obey His will?
2) Is God sovereign over all the universe? _______________ If God is the sovereign ruler over the universe, then why would He not also ensure His people understand what a specific plan would be (Acts 4:27-28)?
3) Does God have a will for marriage? ________________ What Scriptures would you use to guide living in a marriage relationship? What Scriptures would you use to determine who to marry? What do your answers tell you about God’s will for marriage?
4) Does God have a will for raising children? ________________ What are ten Scriptures you would use to understand how to raise children? What Scriptures would you use to determine how many children to have? What do your answers tell you about God’s will for having a family?
Making application of the message to life:
5) What are considerations you would use to understand God’s will for where, when and how you would work? How would you help someone else who is asking the questions?
6) How could someone use the phrase “God’s will” for personal (or selfish) purposes?
7) How much do you suppose emotions enter into the equation for “determining God’s will” for many people? How would you disciple someone to be cautious about determining God’s will in specific situations?
1 – Much of this material was adapted from Gary Friesen’s book, “Decision-Making & the Will of God.”