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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Will of God

"What is God's will for my life?" Anyone who has a living relationship with God will at some point or another be concerned about that question. Generally speaking, the question is about things like "Should I marry this person?" or "Should I take this job?" or "What should I study in college?" Things like that. So we will tell people, "If you want to know the will of God, it's easy; read your Bible." But these kinds of things are not likely in there, right? You will not find "Yes, marry Julia" kind of answers in the pages of Scripture. So how helpful is that answer, "Read your Bible"?

In some cases it is the best possible answer. The answer to "What must I do to be saved?" is found explicitly in the pages of God's Word (Acts 16:31), for instance. "Should I sleep with my boyfriend before marriage?" is clearly answered (repeatedly). Jesus left no question regarding whether or not I should cheat on my taxes (Matt 22:21). "Should I help the poor?" is an easily answered question (Matt 22:39; Luke 10:30-37; Prov 3:27-28; Prov 28:27; Deut 15:10-11; 1 John 3:17; Luke 14:14; and on and on), but "Should helping the poor be the singular concern of every Christian?" is also in there (Matt 26:11; 2 Thess 3:10). Scripture gives lots of explicit answers to real questions.

Beyond the explicit, however, there is more in Scripture to answer, "What is God's will for my life?" Scripture may not tell you, "Should I marry this person?", but it might give you principles to consider, like "Do not be bound to unbelievers" (2 Cor 6:14). It may not tell you, "Eat the fish, not the cake," but it does tell you "You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3) There are principles throughout God's Word that can answer lots of these questions. Many of these answers go to motive rather than specifics, but once the motive is pointed out, the specifics are answered, too. "Should I spend the extra money on a nice car or be more frugal with a practical-but-less-expensive car?" is not found in the pages of the Bible, but the principle that we are stewards of what God has given us is in there and the fact that we aren't intended to make our own pleasures our guide is in there and so on. At the bottom, the two clearest guiding principles are not contended: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. When we ask these kinds of "What is God's will for my life?" questions, the first criteria we have to ask ourselves is "Which of the choices I'm looking at are out of love for God and love for my neighbor?" Honestly, that clears a broad swath of questions right there.

The Bible does have answers about the will of God. It has some very specific answers (e.g., Mic 6:8; 1 Thess 4:3; 1 Thess 5:18; 1 Peter 2:15; 1 Peter 4:2). It has some obvious answers, like every command written down in its pages. It has clear principles like love God and love your neighbor and "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others" (Php 2:3-4). Here's the difficulty, then. In order for you to know what the will of God is for your life -- in the big things and in the little, in the small moments of life and in the overarching issues, in how to live and where to go and what to do -- the thing you have to do is know God's Word. What are the commands? What are the instructions? What are the principles? What is the point? God's Word does answer the question, far more often, I think, than we realize. The problem is not that there aren't answers. The problem is that we're not looking for them on the open ground of God's breathed message to us.


David said...

Or more likely, we don't like the answer we find.

Craig said...

I’ve tended to argue that we’ve all got a little Jonah in us. Even when it’s clear what God’s will is we decide to go the other way.

Stan said...

True, David.

Yes, Craig, and then, when God actually does what He says, we get miffed.