What is God’s Will?

 

1578087736_ecdbe1ebd3_zWhen it comes to the topic of God’s will, we would do well to know the important truth of the following text,

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Duet. 29:29).

This verse places the will of God into two categories – “the secret things” and “the things that are revealed“. To put it another way, we will consider God’s secret will and God’s stipulated will.

GOD’S SECRET WILL
The secret will of God refers to God’s sovereign will that will come to pass. The psalmist declared, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (). Regardless of what is happening in our lives or in the world, God’s single sovereign plan cannot and will not be thwarted! There are three important things to know about this “secret will.”

Firstly, God’s sovereign will is eternal. His will is not a developing process nor is it under construction; it was formed in eternity past. Before anything was, God determined that it would be. Consider the following verse,

“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure'” (Is. 46:10).

When it is said that God’s sovereign will is eternal, this must not be confused with the un-biblical idea of God foreseeing what happens and therefore He makes it His plan. In this line of thinking God is not the determiner, but rather He is a reactor. Instead it is the other way around, God determines what happens and then it happens.

Secondly, His sovereign will is unchanging. When we devise plans it is not uncommon for them to change. Our plans can be easily frustrated or changed due to unforeseen events. Unlike us, God has a sovereign will that is unchanging. This truth is clearly stated in , “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand.”

The final feature of God’s sovereign will is that it is all-inclusive. By this point I mean that all that happens, good and evil, small and large is a result of God’s sovereign plan. Consider the examples of Joseph () or even the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ ().

Though it is indeed impossible to fully understand, all things that come to pass happen as a result of the counsel of His sovereign will (cf. ). In words of Louis Berkhof, “the secret will of God pertains to all things which He wills either to effect or to permit, and which are therefore absolutely fixed.”[1]

GOD’S STIPULATED WILL
The second aspect to God’s will is His revealed or stipulated will. Berkhof again is helpful, he says, “The revealed will prescribes the duties of man, and represents the way in which he can enjoy the blessings of God.”[2] The stipulated will of God is revealed or made known to us in God’s Word. The pages of Scripture contain numerous commands from the Lord for His people. Some of these commands are actually called the “will of God” (; ; ; ).

When it comes to you as an individual asking the question, “what is God’s will for my life?” You need to immediately recognize that God’s stipulated will is abundantly clear and it is not up for negotiation. Though that won’t always directly answer your questions concerning the future, it does tell you what God requires of you in the present. That ought to be your greatest obsession, namely what God requires of you now! Since God has made this clear to us, it is then of great importance that our obsession ought to be pursuing what He has said to us. Not us pursuing the unknown. But what about the matters and decisions we need to make about the future?

Since God is in control of all things, we can be certain that we are here for a reason, and that our presence on earth was no accident. So what are we doing with our lives now?

In and 16 Paul implored his readers to conduct themselves in wisdom and to make the most of their time knowing that “the days are evil.” Because “the days are evil” we are not to lives as fools, instead we are to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (). This is what God expects from His people – conduct according to His will! Clearly this is no small task, in-fact, it is impossible. We do not have the ability or resources in and of ourselves to live in perfect biblical wisdom. We need a power source outside of our own abilities that will enable us to walk wisely and understand the will of the Lord.

Scripture clearly calls for God’s people to walk in the will of God. Knowing then that the Bible teaches us to examine our lives and the importance of walking in the will of God, how can we effectively walk in the will of God in such a way that we make decisions that align with the Word of God? This now leads us to some practical principles that will help you know God’s will and guide your decision-making.

[1] Berkhof, Louis, Systematic Theology, 77-78

[2] Ibid. 78

Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,

17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Decisions, Guidance and the Will of God

this way, that way

Decisions, guidance and the will of God. Wow, that is a loaded topic! Yet it is something that we as God’s people know to be very important. When it comes to a discussion on the topic of decisions, guidance and the will of God there is sadly much confusion. In this post (and in a number to follow) I want to look at the important matter of trying to find out God’s will for our particular situation. It is a topic that we will continually be faced with for the rest of our life. Our lives are filled with decisions both small and large. Decisions can range from what we will wear to whom we will marry and there is a lot in between. When it comes to any decision, we ought to have the desire to do what God would have us do. The difficulty comes when we try to work out what God wants us to do.

Sadly, people have some weird and wacky ways of discovering the will of God. I remember hearing the story of a young lady who was praying to the Lord to find out if it was His will for her to be a foreign missionary. After some time in prayer she looked up at the time and it was 7:47, and she took this as a sign that she should board a 747 and become a missionary! Perhaps you are acquainted with those who use the “lucky dip” method of flicking through the Bible, placing your finger on a verse and then you have your answer! This of course can be really dangerous. If you are wondering what you should wear to an outing and by using this approach what would you do if you read a verse like “but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked” () or “with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes” (). You might want to reconsider the legitimacy of this method!

This introduces a series of posts on the topic of decisions, guidance and the will of God. In this series of posts, it is my plan to provide you with a number of guiding principles drawn from Scripture.

52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly.

Life and Temptation

Temptation

Life is filled with temptations. These temptations can be small and they can be substantial. Temptation that you experience may be a real trial for you, but for others it may be merely trivial, and vice versa. What is it that causes such a struggle within us when it comes to temptation? It would be easy a natural tendency of people is to shift the blame away from themselves. We may blame the environment we are in, the upbringing we had or even our personality type. The problem with doing this is that we are wrongly diagnosing the problem therefore don’t receive the biblical solution. The reality is that there is a deeper and more potent source causing the lure to temptation. What is it? Before we consider some specific strategies on fighting temptation, I want to briefly consider the source and sequence of temptation from . 

THE SOURCE OF TEMPTATION
James makes it clear that God is not the source of our temptation. He cannot be tempted because He has no capacity or vulnerability to temptation (; ; ) and therefore He does not tempt (). So then, where does temptation come from? says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire“. He illustrates the source of temptation with fishing metaphors. Like a fish that is enticed by the bait and then lured away, we fall into temptation when our “own desire” drags us to the bait. The problem is within us (cf. ). Again, notice that the text says, “his own desire“. We all have different tendencies, which come from our different upbringings and personal choices in life. One person’s temptation isn’t always the same as an others. Nonetheless they are still real.

THE SEQUENCE OF TEMPTATION
Consider the sequence of temptation. In , James changes metaphors from fishing to gestation (“Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death“). “Desire” represents the mother and its child is “sin“. The gestation period of a human is nine months, whereas the gestation process of temptation instantaneous. Once mother “desire” has given birth to her child “sin“, it grows, and if allowed to become mature it “brings forth death“. The apostle Paul said on the same lines, “the wages of sin is death” (). Sin should not become the object of our entertainment. The results of allowing our desires to conceive are devastating, and must be avoided.

James concludes this section with a firm yet pastoral warning, “do not be deceived, my beloved brothers” (). It is not God who brings such evils in our life; the problem is with our own desires. Though we may find ourselves in a difficult and trying situation, we are to inform our desires so as to trust God. In the words of the great puritan pastor-theologian John Owen,

Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before”.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.

And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

Why do you make me see iniquity,
and why do you idly look at wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

15 But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.”

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.