Recently I have been thinking a lot about God’s will. I hear this notion come up a lot in Christian circles–churches, friends, Bible studies, etc. People talk about wanting to know what the will of God is for their life–which job to take, where to go to school, who to marry, and other big decisions. I have heard some of these same people discuss the fact that they felt led to attend a particular school, talk to a stranger, ask someone out on a date, go on a missions trip, or even become a church’s senior pastor. How does this work? Often people claim this information is conveyed through a few methods–they felt a peace about a decision, there was an open door, they felt a nudging in their spirit, or it was like God was whispering in their heart. And yet, I have not heard God’s voice talking directly to me. Maybe I have missed some open doors. What does this mean?
What are we talking about when we discuss “God’s will”? The first form of His will is what we refer to as God’s moral will. This is clearly outlined in the ten commandments and Jesus’ teaching on the mount–don’t lie, don’t lust, don’t hate. These are God’s moral will for our lives–to be holy and live such lives. Sean McDowell breaks it down: “God’s will is that you be saved, be filled with the Holy Spirit, be pure, and submit to the proper authorities” (www.planetwisdom.com/seanmcdowell/seekinggodswillpt1.php). And we are also to be spreading the Gospel message to everyone. These are God’s moral will/commandments for our lives.
The second type of will would be God’s will for our everyday life. Greg Koukl refers to this as God’s sovereign will. According to Koukl, God’s sovereign will is secret and will be accomplished (Decision Making and the Will of God – www.str.org). The question is–how do we know what his everyday will is for our lives? The Bible doesn’t say who I should marry. Will God speak to me? Will a door open? Will I feel a peace? What if I don’t hear anything? What if two doors are open? Even Paul ignored “open doors” (2 Corinthians 2:12-13). According to Sean McDowell: “As far as I know, there is not a single instance in the Bible where it is taught that God speaks to us through our feelings.” He goes on to say: “Romans 8:12-14 says, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Being lead by the Spirit refers not to individual guidance, but strength to live a righteous life—to stand up for what is right. The Spirit leads us by convicting us of sin and empowering us to make right choices” (www.planetwisdom.com/seanmcdowell/seekinggodswillpt2.php).
If we are following God’s moral will we have freedom to make our own decisions. Sean McDowell says if we are following the four principals he mentioned earlier (saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, pure, and submitting to authority) then “you are free to make choices based on your desires. And if you are living a godly life, God will give you the right desires” (www.planetwisdom.com/seanmcdowell/seekinggodswillpt1.php).
A big problem with this notion of individual guidance is if we aren’t spiritually in tune with God’s voice, then what if we miss God’s chosen spouse, job, or school? Then are we taking what’s second best? And if we marry the “wrong” person, then does that mean we have ruined it for their “true” spouse… which then messed it up for the person they end up marrying and so on. We pretty much single handedly mess up the whole system. According to Greg Koukl there are five areas that are not Biblically accurate to get guidance from: a feeling (”I feel led”), inner peace, open and closed doors,fleeces or providential signs, and confirmations (Decision Making and the Will of God – www.str.org). These are often presented or talked about as valid ways we should be instructed, and yet, Koukl can find no Biblical basis for this modern day church concept. Koukl states “Here is my view. Does the Bible teach that we must learn to discern the voice of the Lord individually for ourselves to live optimal Christian lives? Does the Bible teach we must learn to discern the voice of the Lord individually for ourselves in order to live optimally as Christians? The answer is no it does not teach that . . . This teaching that God will whisper in your ear all kind of particulars that pertain to you and His will for your life is very appealing to Christians. Even though when you look at the Scriptures, the specialized directions are rare. They are unusual. They are usually unsought. And they are always crystal clear. None of this “I think the Lord is telling me” business” (www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5291).
God wants us obeying his moral will–we should be making holy and wise decisions. Solomon was blessed for his desire to have wisdom to lead the Jews. He asked for wisdom and not a laundry list of exactly what to do. A key idea is that it’s not about who we marry, but the kind of spouse we are to be. Not the job we have, but the kind of employee we are to be. McDowell points out “The Bible teaches that we are to seek wisdom. In fact, we are commanded to seek wisdom with all we have: “How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver” (Proverbs 16:16)” (www.planetwisdom.com/seanmcdowell/seekinggodswillpt2.php). How do we exercise this wisdom in our decisions according to McDowell? We do this by praying, reading God’s word, and by seeking the Godly counsel of Christian brethren. And that is the freedom we have in Christ–to seek to live in His moral will and to make wise decisions.