This is the second excerpt from Suggestions From A Searcher.
A. God’s Will Revealed (In General)
In order to obey, we need to understand what God wants us to do. So the question which logically follows a commitment to obey is: How does God reveal to us His Will for us? That question has been a hang-up for me throughout my life. Is that what it means to be “called” — to have God specially reveal His will to an individual to do a particular task or make a particular decision? Recently, I have been helped in my understanding of this concept and so I want to share what I am learning about God’s will and how we are called to do it.
Some of my own confusion about the will of God is due to that term “will of God” being used to refer to more than one thing. It is probably more accurate to refer to the wills of God, plural. First, there is the will of God for His ultimate plan for the destiny of mankind–the plan of salvation, i.e. it is God’s will for Christians to make disciples of all nations as stated in the Great Commission. Second, there is the will of God in reference to His desire to have a personal relationship with each of us and how we know and do His will by living as His people. Third, many people use the term the will of God in phrases such as “I want to know God’s will about what career I should prepare for.” That third type of will of God is what I wanted to know: What particular choice does God want me to make in decisions I face?
Personally, I have been helped by the views expressed by Dr. Garry Friesen in his book, Decision Making And The Will Of God. He distinguishes between God’s sovereign will, moral will, and individual will.
1. God’s Sovereign Will
God’s sovereign will has to do with the overall plan of salvation for His creation. Notice that the language quoted above from The Lord’s Prayer refers to “on earth” and “in heaven.” To me, that usage of “will” pertains more to the “big picture” than to my little decisions. Jesus’ prayer of anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane had to do with His crucial part in God’s plan of salvation for all mankind. Though Jesus requested of His Father that the cup be removed from Him, He surrendered to His Father’s will by concluding that not His (Jesus’) will but His Father’s will be done. His Father’s will was to redeem all people, the big picture of God’s ultimate plan. Similarly, Moses had earlier been called to a task of bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt. Again, this was not a question of Moses wondering about what to do with his life, but rather it was the Lord affirmatively accomplishing His sovereign will by using Moses as His instrument. Again, Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was a call to evangelize and share the good news that Christ died for all people.
None of these examples suggest to me that I must expect God to tell me which socks to put on in the morning. When God gives clear direction to individuals it usually involves His purpose in evangelizing the world to come to know Him, to live as His people, and to be saved for all time. That is what I think is meant by His sovereign will. That will is revealed in scripture and in history. God has told us and shown us what He is about. What are we to be about?
2. God’s Moral Will
Jesus Himself described for us God’s will for each individual believer by summarizing the Commandments when He said, ” ‘Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 37-40. Notice that both of these most important commandments have to do with relationships–relationship with God and relationships with other people.
Basically, it is shown throughout scripture that it is God’s will to have us live as His people. One well-known example is found in Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world…. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” By doing His moral will, we are contributing to the accomplishment of His sovereign will.
And He tells us how to live as His people. It is also very clear that we serve our Father in heaven by serving others here on earth. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. … Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 35-40.
The “will of God” as expressed in passages such as these seem to have to do with God’s will for us to live in a moral way. This moral will is about demonstrating that we are His people. This is also a way of recognizing that God is supreme and has that overall (sovereign) plan for how He intends for His people to follow Him. He “calls” each of us to do His will in this sense.
“God’s moral will” is revealed to us in the Bible, through our consciences and by participating in the body of believers. It is about behavior as salt and light in the world. It is about becoming more Christ-like. Therefore, the bracelets with the W.W.J.D. for “What would Jesus do?” fall under this category of seeking to do God’s moral will.
3. Individual Will (Is there such a thing?)
“What would Jesus do?” is an appropriate question when facing moral choices such as deciding how to treat someone who has wronged you, but does it help in deciding, for example, whether to go to Colorado State University or Iowa State University? The questions that I tend to agonize over are in the nature of what He wants me to do (me in particular, as compared to what everyone should do), such as whether He wants me to be a lawyer or an engineer or a news broadcaster. We want to know His will in making decisions concerning education and career and marriage. We want to hear a clear “call.” We want a “sign” from heaven. At least I do. Is there a plan that God has just for me which can be called “God’s individual will” (for me)? Should I expect such a plan to be specially and clearly revealed to me?
List some decisions you face. As you have been involved in the decision-making process, what, if anything, have you done to seek to know God’s will about your decisions? Do your decisions involve God’s sovereign will, His moral will, or are they decisions for which you want God’s wisdom for your individual choice?