Christians who love God seek to do His will.
In my last post, we discussed the importance of language in determining God’s will, and consulted the two primary words for will in Greek. During our study, we discovered that the usages of the word will in the New Testament sometimes refer to God’s commands, but more often to His desires. This may lead us to wonder, How detailed does it get? Does God have a desire for every decision that I make, such as what to have for breakfast? Does He have a desire for us to marry a certain person, move to another state, change careers or go into ministry? Was it His desire that you read this post? What does Jesus have to say about this?
Do not worry, but seek
In the gospel according to Matthew, Jesus reveals that discerning God’s will is not just about decision-making or about our future, but about God and his kingdom.
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:31-34 NIV (emphasis mine)
Worry is to be replaced with an earnest search to know God, His kingdom and His righteousness. J. Grant Howard Jr. puts it this way, “God does not want confused, bewildered, frustrated Christians wandering around anxiously searching for His will. He wants people who are walking confidently and peacefully in His will.” The first thing we need to let go of is our worry, so that we can walk with confidence.
We’re not on a search to know God’s will; we seek to know God, who graciously reveals His will.
Read the above statement again. The difference between knowing God and simply chasing His will is humility. By humility, I mean acceptance that what we seek belongs to God, that all of our human wisdom is insufficient to fully comprehend His will. Were it not for His mercy to reveal some to us, we would be left in frustration and hopelessness. Paul reminds us that God’s thinking is not like ours, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33 NIV) Therefore, it is wise to seek to understand the biblical meaning of discerning God’s will, so that we might grow in our faith and our relationship with our Creator.
So, does God have a specific will or desire for every detail of our life?
I started wrestling with this question in 2005, a year after I became a follower of Jesus. There are thousands of articles, blogs, sermons and books on this subject. I have studied the Scriptures, read many books and had numerous discussions with mature Christians, pastors, and a few theologians. It is my desire to share with you what I have learned on possible answers to the above question. It all boils down to three possible answers.
Yes, No, Maybe
As of this writing, no one has been declared a winner of this debate. It’s no wonder so many are confused or frustrated by this topic. Yet, this does not mean we should ignore the big question. Although there is no definitive answer, it wise to be informed that Christians approach this subject through three main theological lenses or views on God’s intention. They all quote Scripture and employ good rationalization. Below is my “cliff notes” version of this discussion.
- YES – Specific-Will View: God has a specific (or individual) plan for each one of us that includes every detail of our lives. Like Moses, the prophets and the apostles, God will use us in mighty and detailed ways. He communicates his specific plan to those who show themselves obedient to do it. It is our job as Christians to hear his voice and wait for His peace before we act. (Proof texts: Ps. 135:6; Jer. 1:5; Matt. 10:29-30; Ps. 139:16; Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 1:9-10; Eph. 1:11)
- NO – Wisdom View: God has a plan for each of us that includes our salvation and sanctification, but it does not include every detail of our lives. He gives us wisdom and discernment to make good choices on our day-to-day decisions. (Proof texts: Prov. 8:17; Deut. 3:7; Job 9:14, 12:13; Isa. 40: 28; Dan. 2:20; Mt. 7:24-27; Eph. 5:17; Acts 16:9-10; Romans 11:33-36)
- MAYBE – Relationship View: God has a plan for each of us that includes our salvation and sanctification, and it might include plans for specific circumstances in our lives. God gives us wisdom and discernment through our relationship with the Holy Spirit, on an as needed basis. Only in hindsight are we able to see that God did nor did not have a participation in the circumstances of our lives. (Proof Text: 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:19-22; Heb. 1:1-4; Luke 9:35; John 10:16, 15; Rev. 3:20)
Three Views, but One Way
For a long time, I was frustrated by the “tie” amongst these views. I wanted to know which one was right, and selfishly wanted a clear victor in this debate so that my questions would be answered. However, I noticed that despite their theological disagreements on the existence of a “specific will,” they all led to the same practical method. There is only one way to discern God’s will: Jesus! The method to discern God’s will through Jesus freed me from the captivity of insecurity and gave me clear steps for my journey. I will go into detail about this method over my next posts.
Q. How can studying this topic with confidence and humility help you grow in your faith?
 For a more detailed synopsis on the three views, I recommend: Douglas S. Huffman’s How Then Should We Choose? Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making (Kregel Publication: Grand Rapids, MI) 2009.
Check out an earlier post in this series here