Undoubtedly God always has the best interest in mind for those who have come to faith in him through Jesus. (Rom. 8:28) We are accepted and loved and God’s affection and regard for us is not determined by how well we jump through behavioral hoops in our efforts to gain his notice and favor. However, there are some useful “starting blocks” as we pursue God’s will for us that are foundational if we are to relate to him closely and to live with a desire of exercising his will. God’s passionate desire is that we become truly and wholly his. His will for those believing now as well as those yet to come to faith is that “he does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Ptr. 3:9) and that “all people will be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Ptr. 2:3-4. He is an “open arms” God reaching through Jesus to all mankind.
God’s will for us as believers is that we be set apart for his use and different from the “world”, saying “that we should be sanctified; that we should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3) and “that by doing good we would silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” (1 Ptr. 2:15). The prophet Micah unpacks God’s will in 6:8 but even his words come to us in what seems to be general terms. “No, he (God) has told you what he wants, and this is all it is: to be fair, just, merciful and to walk humbly with your God.” (TLB). These words are instructional, but what do we do when we need to pursue God’s direction for our more specific needs in daily life, for decisions we are waiting to execute? Where do we turn? After all, God created us to know him and fulfill his purposes.
Wait a minute. Let’s be honest with ourselves here. People, and I include believers here, don’t always want to know God’s will. Maybe you can identify with one of these reasons or even add something of your own. First and worst is that sometimes we want to play god in our lives and we don’t want God’s “interference”. Knowing God’s will makes us accountable to him, and we might think ignorance or indifference are good excuses for playing “Lord of the Rings” in our life. (Let’s remember that both rebellion and passive indifference are both sins against the Creator) Maybe the cost of following God’s will appears too high. After all, it can cut across our personal desires (what the scriptures call “flesh”). And following God’s will may appear too difficult. We might fail. That’s where reliance on the Holy Spirit is essential and we can be certain of God’s satisfaction, no matter how we interpret the results. God is more concerned with our heartfelt motivation than our end results or how “well” we perform. We’re talking about “process” here superseding “product.” Failure isn’t finality!
We have developed a few strategies to determine God’s will which are not based on faith in God or his word. One is called “The Open Door Policy” and it goes like this: We take the first option that presents itself. Here’s an example. I need to buy a car so I pray asking God for direction. Shortly after I prayed I get a call from a friend who calls to see if I want to buy his car. It must be God’s will because my friend called just after I prayed. (Never mind the car was on its last leg and my friend has been trying to unload it for months). People with high closure needs tend to go down this path. Is this you? Wisdom usually includes pursuing more than one option.
The “Closed Door Policy” means the option cannot be God’s will. It assumes if there is no initial resistance to an option, it must not be the option God wants. The misunderstanding here is that God’s will is always the path of least resistance. The Bible is clear, however, that God frequently allows difficulty in our lives in order to develop our character as well as our dependence upon him. Throughout the Bible we see people facing challenge and hardships which compel them to press even closer to God. Sometimes God has purpose in our persevering, even when we run into an initial closed door. Does this approach seem familiar to you?
The “Dramatic Experience” policy is the last I’ll mention. This involves seeking a dramatic experience to determine God’s will. Though God sometimes works very dramatically to reveal his will, this is the biblical exception rather than the rule. For examples, see the story of Gideon (Judges 6) and read about Ananias (Acts 5). Also, see clear examples of direction like Deut. 5:16 “Honor your father and mother” and Matt. 28:18 “Make disciples of all nations.” More often, God’s will is spelled out in scripture through directives and commands. Making an effort to develop a well-rounded understanding of the Bible will solve many of our quandaries.
Next week we’ll look at where believers should look for God’s direction. You might want to think about how you are presently determining his will and what seems to be working best for you. In the meanwhile, here are 4 things to remember:
- God is sovereign. He is in control of everything and everything he does is right. (Don’t get sidetracked by how things look to you)
- God loves you perfectly. He will not do you harm. Therefore, you can trust him with your life. You can follow his lead by faith, knowing he has your best interests in mind whether you interpret the circumstances correctly or not.
- God is concerned with the process you go through in becoming more like him, not just the product you can accomplish with your life.
- God’s will is not elusive. He desires to reveal his will more than you desire to know it.
Think About It.