Finding the will of God
Many Christians are plagued with questions and fears about finding the will of God for their lives. Is this quest to find an individualized, personalised will of God a Biblical concept? Or, has it been imported into the Bible and imposed upon the Bible from outside sources? Do we have to find God's hidden plan of God for our lives? Or, does the Bible talk about God's will as something far greater, something already revealed?
FINDING THE WILL OF GOD
© Rosemary Bardsley, 1995,2006
Have you ever used …
… the snatch and grab method?
The promise box sits invitingly on the dresser. The fear of choosing an option racks your mind. Time is running out. Eyes closed, praying fervently, you snatch and grab one of the promises. Whatever it says you take as guidance from the Lord.
…the jab and stab method?You churn with the necessity to choose … a career, a husband, a new house. You don’t want to miss God’s will. You take your Bible. You let it fall open. Trusting God to overrule, you jab and stab with your finger. The pinpointed verse will be God’s word about your decision.
…the jumping verse method?
You’re reading the Bible. An unmade decision tortures your thoughts. From among all the verses you read, one seems to jump out at you, speaking directly to your problem, giving you God’s yes or no for your decision.
Why do so many believers struggle with the question of finding the will of God? Is all this effort and worry necessary?
These three methods, which sometimes appear to work, and sometimes end in embarrassment or disaster, display a commendable degree of commitment to the Lord. They also provoke questions:
- Is it right to use the Bible in this way?
- Is this faith true, Biblical faith?
- Does the Bible talk about finding the will of God?
- What is the significance of my decisions?
1. The purpose of the Bible
The Bible limits its own purpose. From Luke 24:27,44-47, John 5:39 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17, we understand that the entire Bible is concerned with Jesus Christ. He is its theme. He is its centre. The Bible records the prophetic and historic revelation of the eternal Christ.
In no way is the individual Christian the centre. In the Bible the individual Christian finds him/herself confronted by the eternal Lord. In that confrontation, he/she meets the promises and the demands that only this eternal Lord can make.
These common methods of finding the will of God overlook the purpose and meaning of the Bible, using the Bible in a way never intended. In their focus on me and my decisions, they divert my attention away from Christ. I become the Bible’s subject instead of him. The choices and changes of my brief, imperfect life take precedence over the grand, majestic theme of God’s eternal plan to send his Son to be the Saviour of the world.
2. The nature of Biblical faith
There is a common belief that Christians who find the will of God by the above methods are people of superior faith. Added to these are those who put out a fleece [see Judges 6:36-40], telling God that if he wants them to do this, then he must do that as a confirming sign. The faith of these Christians who get their verse or have a sign from the Lord is applauded.
But let us stop and rethink.
Where in the Bible are we told that getting a verse or word or guidance from the Lord is a measure, or even an act, of faith?
Where in the Bible are we told that what Gideon did in Judges 6 was an act of faith? If we read the whole chapter, it becomes quite plain that his action was an expression of fear and doubt, for God had already told him that he would save Israel by his hand.
The Bible tells us that we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet this demanding a verse or a sign from God is really walking by sight. It demonstrates a form of faith, yes, in that it trusts God to give the verse or the sign. But it is a faith which needs to see the next step. It needs to know that its decision is validated by God. It dares not to step into the darkness of the future just trusting God. It is a faith that is afraid to take responsibility for its own decision.
Biblical faith trusts God.
Biblical faith knows that God is the Father. Biblical faith knows that God is the King. Biblical faith knows that it can make a decision within the boundaries of God’s eternal plan and purpose and trust God with the outcome.
God, who is our Father, loves us enough to intervene and cut short a wrong move. God, who is the King of all creation, has the power and authority to do so,. We need have no fear in our decision making, only a true, Biblical faith which knows that its God is far bigger than its decisions.
3. Finding the will of God
Ephesians focuses on the eternal plan and purpose of God. We learn here that the will, or plan, of God [rather than being something that we have to find] is something that God has revealed. Read chapters 1 to 3. Paul states here that it was God’s plan, will and purpose, since before the creation of the world, to send his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world so that, united to him, we [people from all races] would be brought into his family [See 1:4-5, 9-11; 2:15-16; 3:3-12].
While speaking about the eternal purpose of God in Christ Jesus, Ephesians also pinpoints the reason or intended result God has in this. Why did God have this grand plan of salvation in Christ? So that, in union with him – having been adopted, redeemed, forgiven, marked as his own by the indwelling Holy Spirit and raised up with Christ to newness of life – we, as individuals and corporately as the church, will bring praise and glory to his name. This also is the will and purpose of God. [Read Ephesians 1:6,12,14; 2:7, 10,21; 3:10,21].
It is of this twofold will, plan and purpose of God that the Bible speaks.
[For further study read Isaiah 43:7; Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9. Also, in John 17:1-5, Jesus Christ states that in glorifying his Father on earth, he has fulfilled his Father’s purpose.]
4. The significance of our decisions
There is one of my decisions which has ultimate, eternal significance, affecting all my other decisions. This one significant decision concerns my response to Jesus Christ: will I acknowledge that he is who he claims to be [the Son of God], or will I not?
If I choose the negative response, I am refusing the right of Christ to command my obedience and I am rejecting his offer of forgiveness. In this negative decision, I am holding myself outside of the eternal plan and purpose of God in Jesus Christ. All other decisions are rendered irrelevant.
If I choose the positive response, I am putting myself in his hands – as my Lord, who has the right to command and direct my life, and as my Saviour, without whom I cannot survive in the presence of God. In this positive decision, I step into the realm of the eternal purpose of God in Jesus Christ.
What does this positive decision concerning Jesus Christ do for me? Read Ephesians 1:3. Listen to what it is saying!
In Christ, I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms! All good things that my heavenly Father has to give are already given to me! Every spiritual blessing.
Are any left out? No.
Are any dependent on subsequent decisions in my life? No.
Where is their security and continuance found? In Christ.
Can I, by coming to a decision about a career or whatever, change, reduce or lose these blessings? No. Why not? Because they are mine in Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, forever.
In Christ, I have the totality of God’s blessing. Not only do I have all the facets of salvation listed in Ephesians 1 – 3, I also have Christ himself. Unless my subsequent life demonstrates that my positive response to Christ was a sham, then no decision of mine can reduce the blessings I have in Christ. There is no way I can miss out on God’s best’, for in Christ I have God’s best already.
Having secured us firmly in this great faith, Paul exhorts us. “ … live a life worthy of the calling you have received” [4:1]. Then he goes on, in Ephesians 4 – 6, to outline how our original positive response to the Lord Jesus Christ will influence our day-to-day decisions. These decisions – shall I lie or tell the truth; shall I hurt people with my words or help them; shall I steal or work honestly; shall I bear grudges or forgive - demonstrate the integrity of our original decision to follow Jesus.
The current preoccupation with finding the will of God, in relation to major decision-making cannot be found in the Bible. For Jesus, his Father’s will meant aligning himself with God’s eternal purpose in its twofold aspects: God’s eternal purpose of salvation and the praise of God’s glory. For Jesus, the first aspect meant walking steadfastly to the cross; for Jesus, the second meant obeying God’s commands in such a way that God was glorified in his life.
For Christians the will of God is similarly twofold.
To live according to God’s will means, firstly, that we, like Jesus, will so order our lives that they align with the eternal purpose of God to bring people of all races into union with Christ Jesus. All of my decisions should be made in the light of this purpose. I should ask myself:
… Will this course of action help or hinder God’s purpose to save?
… Will this choice contribute to the Kingdom of God, or will it produce only that which disintegrates in the rubbish tip of human pride and achievement?
To live according to God’s will means, secondly, that I, like Jesus, commit myself to obey his revealed will – those commands and exhortations that are written in the Bible. It is to these little, everyday decisions of our will that Jesus gave significance – not to the major decision points. Our decisions here in the ‘little things’ are significant because they validate or invalidate our claim to know the Lord. [Read Matthew 7:21-23; John 14:15; 15:9-10, 17; 1 Corinthians 13.]
To sum up:
The Bible teaches that God’s will is not something lost or hidden that we have to ‘find’. In both of its aspects – the eternal purpose in Christ and the praise of God’s glory – it is clearly revealed. What the Bible urges us to do is to walk in that will. Since the coming of Jesus Christ, there is no longer any secret, no longer any mystery. In him, the answer is straight and simple: follow me.
In following him, the questions, the fears, the hesitations are banished. In following him, we live and walk in the will of God.
[For further on the Will of God, go to The Lord’s Prayer studies, Your will be done.]