When people ask, “What is God’s will for my life?”, or “Am I doing God’s will?”, we should ask, “To which will are you referring?”.
A common challenge for many Christians is determining what the will of God is. At some point in time within our walk with God we’ve all been faced with this challenge of trying to figure out if we’re making the right decisions in life. Decisions such as choosing a college, the right spouse, a job, a car, having children or something such as going on a mission trip. Now these are just a few examples of the types of decisions we can exhaust ourselves with in trying to determine if they’re in fact part of God’s will. I’ve learned that this issue exists for the Christian because we tend to first, misunderstand the will(s) of God, and then, we attempt to apply this sort of misunderstanding to our lives. We then spend an extreme amount of time and energy fretting over it which is something we should not be doing.
So how do we rid ourselves of this dilemma in a practical fashion? I believe we must first understand the will(s) of God and also our place as God’s creation. Let’s start with the latter.
Sometimes we need to be reminded of the creation account.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27
We need to remember that God is in control. He is the creator of all that exists. We are not. At one point or another as believers, this slips our mind. It is important to seed this truth deep into our being, reminding ourselves of this daily. This is where we start.
Next we look at what God says about fretting over matters that are beyond our control.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” – Matthew 6:25
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34
Here Christ tells us to not be anxious about our lives. He in fact, between verses 25 and 34, reinforces the truth that nothing is out of the view of God. He knows precisely what we need and what is most important as it pertains to our lives. This is important to get because at times we worry that one decision could be the death of us. We could lose our job, our home, all of our income, a scholarship, etc., and with that our whole world could come crumbling down. We would be finished, out on the streets with no job, no home, no income and no future. However Christ tells us that God is completely aware and He will not let us slip through the cracks. This, along with the creation account is foundational to the Christian’s belief system.
Now, let’s look at the will(s) of God. In doing so I believe we will begin to see the intertwining of God’s will and our place in being part of the fulfillment.
God has a will that is His sovereign will. This simply means God is in complete and total control of everything and that nothing happens without His acknowledgment, guidance and permission. God is in full and total control. God is not surprised or caught off guard by anything that happens at any point in time. The bible makes this clear.
“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” – Psalms 115:3
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” – Ephesians 1:11
The bible in fact is littered with verses speaking to the sovereignty of God. 1 Chronicles 29:11–12 is another great example. These verses and the many more that exist within scripture affirm God’s complete control over His creation.
It is actually to the folly of man to think he controls anything as it relates to the divine operation of creation.
Providential will is another “will” of God. It is essentially the means God uses in order for His sovereign will to be fulfilled. It is the how God goes about affirming that He in fact is in complete and total control of everything stemming from the universe to the very affairs of men. It speaks against the idea of deism, the belief that God is not involved in the very universe He created. Scripture displays God’s providential will at work.
“who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations— let not the rebellious exalt themselves.”
Selah – Psalms 66:7
“who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.” – Psalms 66:9
“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,” – Galatians 1:15
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” – Genesis 50:20
We can even see God working in the life of Pharoah who was against God’s people.
“But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.” – Exodus 7:3–4
Also in the life of Joseph where he was sold into slavery by his brothers.
“And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” – Genesis 45:5
What we see in scripture is that God intervenes in our lives and even directs our decision making. There is nothing we do that is outside of God’s will. This is an important point to understand because if we were able to operate outside or external to God’s sovereign will, then we would essentially be God. It is also important to note that God intervenes in our lives without violating our own moral responsibilties. A good example of that is in the case of Pharaoh who enslaved the people of Israel. Scripture tells us God hardened his heart (Exodus 7:3–4) however Pharaoh was already an enemy of God, obvious by the fact he enslaved God’s people. So it isn’t like God changed the heart of a morally good, God loving man, into an evil hard hearted one. God simply directed an already rebellious heart for His purposes which led to the freeing of His people. The point is, we are all still culpable for the choices we make and we have the ability to make choices. However in the grand scheme of it all, there is no such thing as true free will. Why? Because God is sovereignly in control.
God’s permissive will can be defined as God’s allowance or permission of acts to happen which will still ultimately lead to His ordained purposes. They are acts that He does not actually decree to come to past. Sin is the idea here. God allows sin to take place and for man to rebel against Him. However, God is still in control as nothing is outside of His sovereign will. God is not surprised by any of our actions.
“Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission.” – Luke 8:32
“and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind” — Jeremiah 19:5
Something that is also important to note is the fact that God does not reveal everything to us as it pertains to His will. When He does, it is by way of His Preceptive Will.
God’s preceptive will relates to what God desires for man in accordance to His precepts (moral instructions on how we should follow Him). This is the revealed will of God that is made known through the word of God. It reveals how man should live, what God expects of man, how this leads to God’s glorification and the salvation of man. We can see examples of this in scripture.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,” – 1 Thessalonians 4:3–4
“not by the way of eye- service, as people- pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,” – Ephesians 6:6
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
The bible, throughout the old and new testament, reveals to us what God’s will is for all mankind. God desires and calls men to Christ for the purposes of salvation, for the glorification of God and so that we may enjoy God for all eternity. That is the point of everything. It is the reason why Christ was sent and crucified.
We can see that there are different wills to God and depending on what part of the bible we read the context of God’s will can change. When people ask, “What is God’s will for my life?”, or “Am I doing God’s will?”, we should ask, “To which will are you referring?”. You see, there isn’t just one will. This shouldn’t cause us to fret though for discerning God’s will is not as difficult as it seems.
Recapping we know a few things:
- God is the creator of all there is to include mankind.
- It is a sin to fret over things in life as if God lacks the ability to care for or direct His children.
- God is ultimately in complete and total control of all things in existence.
- God is involved with His creation to include mankind’s decisions however mankind is still culpable for his sins.
- God permits certain things to happen, namely sin, in order for His purposes to be fulfilled.
- God reveals to mankind what He wants man to know and this is done through His holy word.
So our takeaway is that whatever decision you are making or have made, God is aware of it. In fact He knew what decision you were going to make before you made it. If God doesn’t want us in a certain place, He has the means and ability to prevent it. If he wants us in a certain place, He has the means and ability to move us there. We should not be fretting over God’s will. What He has made clear to us, in His word, is what He desires for us believers. That is to live holy, know Him more, enjoy Him forever and for God to be forever glorified in this truth. What God has revealed, His preceptive will, is what we should set our sights upon. We should ask God in prayer, to lead us in our decision making process so we live following these precepts while carrying out the Great Commission. Lastly, we are to completely trust our lives over to God, being faithful that He is in full and total control.