(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Next post, right?
Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Because there is often confusion over what’s meant by “God’s will” this question must be explored more thoroughly. A simple yes / no answer is not sufficient. Scripture speaks of the will of God in multiple ways. There are at least two ways which bear on this discussion: God’s revealed or moral will, whereby He shows us what He considers to be good and just and His secret or decretive will whereby He determines all things that come to pass. This dichotomy is laid out for us in Deuteronomy 29:29 which says “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
So, before we can answer the question posed here, we must know with which aspect of God’s will we are dealing.
God’s Revealed or Moral Will
This is what we see in the commands and precepts of scripture. We absolutely need to know His will here. It’s here we learn how we are to relate to God and to one another. That we are to love our neighbor as ourselves or to be faithful to our spouses in marriage. It’s where we learn we are to work as unto the Lord and support our families. It’s where we learn about the gospel. Human beings can resist God’s moral will – that’s called sin.
This is why one of the most important things a Christian can do is read, study and meditate on the word of God. The Psalmist says “I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9).
God’s Secret or Decretive Will
As true as it is that God has given us in His word all we need to know to please Him and lead godly lives, it’s also true there is much He’s chosen not to tell us – for example, when He will return at the end of time to consummate His kingdom.
The Bible is clear that God ordains all things that come to pass from the rising and falling of nations to the death of a sparrow. However, nowhere in it’s pages are we told to try to figure out what will happen when for things like this. In fact, divination, trying to determine what will happen in the future, is associated in the Old Testament with witchcraft and pagan religious practices – the antithesis of godly behavior. Human beings cannot resist or thwart God’s decretive will.
So how does this work in our day-to-day life? Say you want to get married. That’s a big, life altering decision so you want to be sure to get it right! Can you go to God’s word for guidance? Absolutely. We know from from the Bible that in order to be in God’s will for marriage we must marry another believer of the opposite sex. Beyond that, the Bible gives us no specific direction. Therefore, if we marry another Christian of the opposite sex, we can be comfortable that we’ve married within the boundaries of God’s will.
The Bible does not tell us, nor should we expect extra-biblical revelation to tell us, who specifically to marry. We have the freedom as Christians to marry whoever seems best within the boundaries set by scripture and once we’ve done so we have the obligation to cherish and care for our spouse as commanded by scripture. There should be no second-guessing that we perhaps picked the wrong person or missed out on “God’s best” because we didn’t figure out that God was really telling us to marry Susie instead of Jill.
So, should we seek God’s will for our lives? Yes, but how we do that will differ depending on the issue at hand. Where scripture is specific, we are to obey. In areas not specifically addressed by scripture, the Bible gives us general guidelines and God gives us the freedom to decide within those guidelines using the resources, intelligence and gifts He’s given us. That is, after all, why He blesses us with those things.
For further reading on this topic, I recommend Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View by Gary Friesen