“Doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about His plans.”
– George MacDonald –
Well! You’re back! That’s wonderful 😀
Last week I left you with a bit of a cliffhanger, didn’t I? We discussed the problems with the way most people view God’s will, but we didn’t learn much about another option, a more Biblical option.
This week we’ll look at this option, and next week we’ll talk about practical decision-making using this Biblical pattern.
Instead of looking to the subjectivity of the signs and impressions to discern God’s path, there is an alternative: the Wisdom View.
Instead of saying that we have to figure out what God wants for each step, the Wisdom View teaches something quite different–and maybe a bit startling! The following four principles summarize the Wisdom View of God’s Will (see Decision Making and the Will of God, page 116):
If God tells us to do something, we should do it.
If God has not commanded us not to do something, we are free to do it.
If the Bible doesn’t say anything about it, God “gives us wisdom to choose.”
If our choice is wise and within God’s commands, we have to make a decision and trust God for the results.
If the Bible said, “Cars are evil inventions that no child of God must own,” then we would be out of God’s will to buy a car. But since it doesn’t, we are free to go out and purchase a vehicle to help us function in our God-assigned roles.
Remember the three kinds of God’s will that theologians talk about? God’s Sovereign Will is usually not in question, even by proponents of the alternate views. As the authors of Decision Making and the Will of God say,
“Would you like to know God’s sovereign will for next Tuesday? Wait until next Wednesday. Only God knows what will happen in advance, and He’s not telling.” – page 190
Most theologians recognize that God’s secret plan is not something to be discovered in advance–that’s just not our job as creatures. When Peter spoke to the crowd at Pentecost, he gave an example of God’s Sovereign Will:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24, NKJV, emphasis added)
So–that leaves Moral Will (Luke 7:30; John 9:31; Romans 12:2; Colossians 1:9; 1 Thess. 4:3-5) and Individual Will. The gist of the Wisdom View is that there is NO Individual Will of God, in the sense of something God wants us to find out ahead of time. While God cares for us deeply, personally, and individually, He does not dictate every movement to us. That’s where His Moral Will and wisdom enter the scene.
This is such a relief! I don’t have to worry about God’s sovereign plan. He’s got that covered. I don’t have to worry about a fictitious individual route to be deciphered. All I have to do is “follow hard after God” (Psalm 63:8) through the saving work of Jesus, seeking to please Him by doing the things He does make clear in the Bible.
“God certainly cares about these decisions insofar as He cares for us and every detail of our lives. But in another sense, and this was the point I was trying to make, these are not the most important issues in God’s book. The most important issues for God are moral purity, theological fidelity, compassion, joy, our witness, faithfulness, hospitality love, worship, and faith. These are His big concerns. The problem is that we tend to focus most of our attention on everything else. We obsess over the things God has not mentioned and may never mentions while, by contrast, we spend little time on all the things God has already revealed to us in the Bible.”
– Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, pages 44-45 –
The key to the Wisdom View is that we don’t have to jump through spiritual hoops–or sit around waiting for a vision from heaven–to please God. We just seek Him. That is His will.
And, as the name of the view implies, the rest of the decisions are left to wisdom. Does God forbid it? If not, the next question is, “Is it wise?”
“Now therefore, O sons, listen to me,
For blessed are they who keep my ways.
“Heed instruction and be wise,
And do not neglect it.
“Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at my doorposts.
“For he who finds me finds life
And obtains favor from the Lord.
“But he who sins against me injures himself;
All those who hate me love death.”
– Proverbs 8:32-36, NASB –
Well-known theologian A.W. Tozer says this about the Christian’s decision-making process:
“Now, a happy truth too often overlooked in our anxious search for the will of God is that in the majority of decisions touching our earthly lives God expresses no choice, but leaves everything to our own preference. Some Christians walk under a cloud of uncertainty, worrying about which profession they should enter, which car they should drive, which school they should attend, where they should live and a dozen or score of other such matters, when their Lord has set them free to follow their own personal bent, guided only by their love for Him and for their fellow men.
“On the surface it appears more spiritual to seek God’s leading than just to go ahead and do the obvious thing. But it is not. If God gave you a watch would you honor Him more by asking Him for the time of day or by consulting the watch? If God gave a sailor a compass would the sailor please God more by kneeling in a frenzy of prayer to persuade God to show him which way to go or by steering according to the compass?
“Except for those things that are specifically commanded or forbidden, it is God’s will that we be free to exercise our own intelligent choice. The shepherd will lead the sheep but he does not wish to decide which tuft of grass the sheep shall nibble each moment of the day. In almost everything touching our common life on earth God is pleased when we are pleased. He wills that we be as free as birds to soar and sing our Maker’s praise without anxiety. God’s choice for us may not be one but any one of a score of possible choices. The man or woman who is wholly and joyously surrendered to Christ cannot make a wrong choice. Any choice will be the right one.
– A.W. Tozer, from “How the Lord Leads,” emphasis added –
Based on the Wisdom View, our top priority is to do the things God commands. After that, we have a huge area of freedom to choose. Are you excited yet? I am! This is a beautiful balance: acknowledging God’s authority and control, while taking responsibility for our actions.
What do you think?
Don’t take my word for it–search the Scriptures to see if what I’ve said is true (Acts 17:11)! Read up on the subject from both perspectives. (From the Wisdom View side, I’d highly recommend the books I mentioned in last week’s post.) Respect your conscience and be fully convinced before you act on what you’ve learned (Romans 14:5,23).
Through this series on God’s will, I pray that you will truly “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10). This is my desire for you, my sisters.
It is my hope that you be freed by this wisdom-based perspective, embracing the future as an adventure to serve our great God!
Stay tuned for next week’s Q&A on practical decision-making!