“God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows”
– Timothy Keller –
This week is the final week of our study on God’s will, as well as the second part of our Q&A. May the love of Christ dwell in you richly!
Q: “Does God reveal His will to an individual, but not to their authority? If so, how does one approach a situation where there is a disagreement with an authority on what God’s will is?”
A: There are several reasons why it is vital to pay close attention the advice and warnings of authorities, especially as young people. First of all, parents have a God-granted place of honor that is not optional (Eph. 6:1-3). Obedience to authorities (unless they command you to sin) is God’s will–no subjectivity there. For adult children out of the home, parents’ advice should be respected, even if the final decision is up to the grown child. In most situations–even for adult children–listening to those authorities is the wisest course of action.
In the case of a person conflicting with their authority about a perception of God’s will, you must work from what you know for sure. What do we know for certain that God wants in such a circumstance? Commands to obey and honor are relevant here. Next, what do we NOT know for sure? In the disagreement, are we elevating our subjective experience (an inner feeling or voice, an impression, a circumstance) above what God has already revealed in the Bible? If an authority is trying to prevent you from obeying God, that is one thing. However, if the conflict is over your personal interpretation of how that obedience is supposed to look when lived out, go with what you know for sure. God has put that authority in your life for a reason
Q: “The one thing that I struggle with some times is trying to figure out between my desires and the desires God places on my heart…”
A: Desires themselves are not inherently sinful or harmful. Because we are redeemed sinners, we know we have to be careful of sin creeping into our dreams and wishes, but just because we want something does not automatically exclude it from God’s will. While God’s primary concern is for our Christ-likeness, not our comfort, He does want us to face life with joy and appreciate His gifts (1 Tim. 6:17; James 1:17).
That said, your question seems to be about motivations. Ask yourself why you want one choice or the other. If you are motivated by fear, anger, jealousy, or another sinful emotion, that is a sign that you need to surrender that area to God–but not necessarily that it is the wrong choice. Confused? Here’s an example.
Suppose my church’s music leader asked me to play piano for the congregation during services. My immediate thought might be, “Oh, I often get a big head when I play in front of people. Since pride is sin, I shouldn’t accept this position.” A better approach would be for me to confess the pride, pray for a right attitude, and take up this service, if that is a wise course of action within my other circumstances and responsibilities.
Another key thought is that our desires are conformed to be more like Christ as we pray and spend time reading the Bible and attending a faithful church. You don’t have to worry about turning up the label on each little desire and seeing if it’s marked “God’s desire” or “my desire.” You can examine a desire by comparing it with Scripture. God desires that you serve and grow in Him through a relationship with His Son, loving Him and those around you–it’s that simple! If you are faced with equally wise options and one would make you happy and the other will make you miserable, go with happy! God is not anti-happy, just anti-sin.
“The will of God isn’t a special direction here or a bit of secret knowledge there. God doesn’t put us in a maze, turn out the lights, and tell us, ‘Get out and good luck.’ In one sense, we trust in the will of God as His sovereign plan for our future. In another sense, we obey the will of God as His good word for our lives. In no sense should we be scrambling around trying to turn to the right page in our personal choose-your-own-adventure novel.
“God’s will for your life and my life is simpler, harder, and easier than that. Simpler, because there are no secrets we must discover. Harder, because denying ourselves, living for others, and obeying God is more difficult than taking a new job and moving to Fargo. Easier, because as Augustine said, God commands what He wills and grants what He commands.
“In other words, God gives His children the will to walk in His ways—not by revealing a series of next steps cloaked in shadows, but by giving us a heart to delight in His law.
“So the end of the matter is this: Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, wherever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God.”
– Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something, p 121-122 –