In studying for this article, I read and listened to many commentator’s views. I do not necessarily agree with all their opinions, but their writings cause me to reconfirm or to rethink my beliefs. One thing that most writers agree on is that there are many different views on God’s will. I apologize for the length of this article, but I found that the subject could not be covered in a couple of pages. The following is what I took away from the study.
Some writers believe that God’s will breaks down in two categories; his sovereign will or purpose and his moral will which is his command to conduct our lives by the teachings in the Bible. God does not intend for us to know most of his sovereign will ahead of time. Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may follow all the words of his law.” Acts 1:7 … “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority……” God’s will requires that we have complete faith and trust him.
The term “God’s will” is used with different implications in the Bible. It’s used to mean the plan of God, the counsel of God, the decrees of God, the disposition or attitude of God. It is also be looked at in the active tense as his conscious deciding, willing, and choosing to do something.
Philip H. Towner’s thought: “Obedience to the will of God challenges and supersedes legalistic obedience to religious rules which through concretization have become meaningless and even hinder the pursuit of a knowledge of God. Ultimately, the readiness of an individual to acknowledge and then do God’s will determines whether that person will be able to apprehend the truth of Jesus.” He uses John 17:7 as his reference: “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”
Think about God’s will as the plan by which everything is designed. He has laid out his blueprint for the entire world as well as for us individually. He expects us to align ourselves within that blueprint. Mr. Towner continues: “The will of God as a superstructure of God’s intervention in the affairs of humankind and for all of life was a belief that shaped much of the early church’s outlook on theology and life. Jesus’ own life, ministry, and teaching undoubtedly provided a formative influence.” The Bible is our resource for God’s blueprint to carefully study, understand and then execute his plan. It’s not a plan that God intends for us to pick and choose what we like and cast aside those portions we don’t like. We have a choice to make!
God’s will includes his plan of salvation. I Timothy 2:4 tells us that God’s global plan wants all men to be saved by coming to a knowledge of the truth. People disagree on exactly what God’s plan of salvation requires of us. I’m convinced many people’s religious beliefs are not based on their own search of the scriptures. They have accepted their parent’s beliefs, the beliefs of a minister or accepted the faith of their spouse. Understanding God’s will requires time spent in self-study. Do not set back with the idea of waiting on God to reveal his will to you by osmosis. There is not enough space or time in this article for me to share what I believe about God’s plan of salvation, but I will be happy to share with you at any time.
Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has plans for us as individuals: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Psalms 57:2: “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me.” How do I determine God’s plan or his purpose for me?
Romans 12:1-2 – “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God --- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is --- his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
In the Old Testament, God’s people offered animals to him as sacrifices for their sins. Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2 that given God’s enormous sacrifice of Jesus for our sins, his purpose is that he now wants us to be living sacrifices and give ourselves in service to him. We are no longer to allow the world to influence the way we live, but we are to have a renewed mind or change of heart to live for God. Some writers believe this change is influenced and led by the Holy Spirit. The word “test” used in the NIV was “prove” in the KJV. The word was used to mean the transformed person would demonstrate or show the will of God by the way he lives.
In some ways, God’s plan for me is a mystery. I don’t always fully understand his intent for me. Here are a few verses that give us an idea of God’s purpose for us:
- Ecclesiastes 12:13 tells us that fearing God and keeping his commandments is my whole duty;
- Ephesians 2:8-10 says we were created in Jesus for good works;
- II Thessalonians 1:12 tells us that we are to glorify God in our lives;
- I Corinthians 12:7-11 and I Peter 4:10-11 says we each have gifts to serve God
- In John 15:12 Jesus commands that we love one another as he has loved us.
Boyd Bailey offers these thoughts on understanding God’s will:
- Search the scriptures for the basics of being a follower of Christ. If we follow Christ’s teachings, we will always be in God’s will.
- Find objective counsel. Proverbs 15:22 “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Listen to believers who will not just tell you what you want to hear. They can assist you in self-evaluation. If they tell you something is God’s will, ask for Bible references then study for yourself.
- Find peace. Psalms 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.” For me, this one is difficult. I’m impatient always trying to make things happen. If I can sit quietly “listening” to God, he usually “speaks” to me. No, I do not believe that God supernaturally talks to me, but somehow looking for his peace and guidance helps. Being patient and waiting on God helps you understand his will.
- Prayer should be a constant in trying to understand God’s will for our lives. Surrendering to God’s plan not asking him to match our plan is vital. It’s ok to ask God for his help with what we would like to see happen, but his plan comes first, always. Do not expect him to yield to your plan.
We should always keep these things in our heart as our purpose. The best way to determine what he expects of us is to study and determine what gift he has given us to serve him. Prayer is vital to discover our gift.
God’s counsel can be sought through study and prayer. If we are truly trying to seek and follow his will, he will bless our efforts. I John 5:14 tells that “if we ask God anything according to his will, he hears us.” What happens if I pray for something that is not in his will? God will not bless something that is evil or requests that are made with the wrong motive.
The decrees of God are his declarations and pronouncements that he has made within his plan. They declare his purposes under his will. They are also considered his counsel.
God’s disposition or attitude tells us God’s thinking and feelings on matters of morality and how he wants them handled. Once again, his disposition and attitude are in the Bible. They are found in the teachings of Christ as the inspired word of God.
God’s conscious deciding, willing, and choosing to do something maybe the concept of God’s will that people will discuss and disagree on the most. This happens especially when it’s used to decide whether God caused something to happen. When a tragic event happens, some people declare it God’s will and others will counter with God did not cause or make that happen. I do not doubt that God allows tragedy to come into our lives, but I have trouble believing that he caused that four-year-old child to be brutally beaten and killed. Some of the writers make an absolute statement that he will not cause events like this. Others believe that God will use anything to serve his purposes. My question is: What purpose did the death of that child serve? I don’t know!
How does God’s will and our free will work together? Scripture from the very beginning of time shows that humans have minds and wills of their own. Consider Adam and Eve. II Chronicles 12:14 points out that Rehoboam “did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord.” Luke 6 says that a good man brings out the good in his heart but that the evil man brings out evil things. God wants us to choose to do his will but is not going to shove it down our throats. That is free will.
Does God have a will over everything in my life? Here again, there are different answers to this question. I believe his will covers my entire life, but I cannot find his guidance to everything in the Bible. It’s estimated that the average person makes about 35,000 decisions each day. The answers for some of our decisions are not always found in the Bible. We decide about job changes, who to marry etc. and you cannot find a verse that gives a direct answer in the Bible. If you are seeking to find God’s will, pray for guidance and “be still and listen.”
Verses relating directly to morality are found in the Bible. Every question relating to our morality is there if you look for it. That part of God’s will is spelled out.
Kay and I made a decision ten years ago to retire and move from Memphis to Bell Buckle. We prayed long and often about the decision. Everything was fitting together for the relocation, so we believed it was God’s will. Why was it God’s will and what was his purpose? To this day we have no idea the answer to that question. Has his will already been served or is it still to happen? We may never know, but we have faith that our move was within his will.
How’s your faith in accepting God’s will? Mine is often weak and not what it should be. I pray to God about many things but still worry. I don’t worry because I doubt his power and abilities but what if his will does not match my request. Death visits each of us at one time or another. Hebrews 9:27 “Just as people are destined to die once….” Death is a part of God’s will. A few days ago eight children were shot at a school in Colorado with one 18-year-old dying. Why? Because bad people do bad things is the answer.
We have all prayed for the sick people in our lives with success and failure. The most difficult death is that of a child. There is no explanation that soothes our anguish. After the birth of his daughter four years ago, my son told me how difficult it would be for his relationship with God if something happened to Kinleigh. The reply to his comment is “have faith in God.” but that seems to be an easy answer at a very difficult time.
John Mark Hicks, a professor at Harding Graduate School and now at Lipscomb, advises not to tell someone after the death of a loved one “it’s God’s will.” He does not believe that offers the comfort intended and can offend. There is nothing we can say to remove the feeling of someone who has lost a loved one. Just being there for them and telling them you are sorry for their loss is the best we can do.
It’s time to close this study! There is no way this article answered all the questions you may have concerning God’s will. Hopefully, it helped you in your efforts to learn God’s will for your life. Study the Bible, pray for God’s guidance, and grow your faith!
Please share your beliefs on God’s will at mikeclement@ charter.net.