The subject of God’s will is often one that creates a lot of confusion among believers. The reason for the confusion and frustration is that all followers of Jesus Christ would say that they want to find God’s will and obey it, but the details of God’s will seem so elusive and so vaguely defined in the Scripture. We say, “Just tell me what to do and I will do it! If God wants me to do His will, why is He so reluctant to show me what it is?”
I am still journeying along the path and am still learning more about the whole realm of “God’s will,” but I have learned some things already and maybe these reflections will be helpful to you, as well.
In Ephesians 5:17, Paul writes, “Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, after giving us commands to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in everything to give thanks, Paul tells us, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In these two verses, Paul references God’s will and clearly expects us to know what it is. In fact, he commands us to understand the will of the Lord (Eph. 5:17), and the Biblecannot expect us to obey something that is impossible. We can conclude from this that this will of the Lord is knowable.
To untangle this knot, we first need to realize that there are two aspects to the will of the Lord. There is the moral, revealed will of God, which is the doctrines and the principles, and the commands contained in the revealed word of God, and there is also the secret, decretive will of God, which consists of all the details that God has planned and ordained and decreed by His sovereign power so that His perfect ends for time and eternity will certainly be achieved. We will address each of these aspects in turn in these next two blog posts.
When the Scripture commands us to find or understand or obey the will of God, the Bible is referring to the revealed will of God. That is, we are accountable to God not for making every “right decision” (whatever that means) when we are confronted with a fork in the road or for making the ideal choice among several acceptable and legitimate and “good” options, but we are accountable to God to know and obey His revealed Word. When Paul calls us to “understand what the will of the Lord is,” he is effectively calling believers to devote time and energy to knowing God’s Word and then to be diligent to obey what you know. What this means is that, if we have been believers for any period of time, we have no excuse for not knowing the will of God, because God has given us His Bible to make His will available to us.
The moral, revealed will of God, then, is about obedience. It is about walking in holiness. It is about bearing fruit in keeping with repentance. It is about displaying a transformed life to the watching world. It is about pleasing God by your radically obedient behavior. It is about heeding all the imperatives in the Bible and striving to obey them in greater and greater degrees. It is about being Christ-like in your words and actions.
So, finding the will of God is as far away as your Bible and obeying the will of God has been empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. And, also (listen CAREFULLY), this is the aspect of the will of God that God requires of us. The Lord commands us to understand and obey this will, because He has carefully revealed it in His holy and inerrant Word.
Consider Deuteronomy 29:29 regarding this subject of the will of God:
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things the are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do (obey) all the words of this Law.
Here in this one verse we see the two aspects of the will of God, and we see that it is the revealed will that we are to obey.
As I reflect on this revealed will of God, it occurs to me that this aspect of God’s will requires little prayer and requires great energy and diligence. I say that this requires little prayer because this will of God is based on what He has specifically revealed to us in order that we can know what we need to obey. What the Bible commands I am to obey, and I do not need to pray about that. It is pretty black and white. “In God’s will” and “outside God’s will” are clear because they based on God’s Word.
On the other hand, obedience to this revealed will of God requires diligence and great energy. Our flesh will always resist obedience to God’s commands, because the flesh hates to be restrained from evil. The “old man,” which consists of our old habits and ways of thinking and defaults positions, also aids and abets the flesh to tug us toward disobedience. As believers recently arriving in the light from the darkness, we must strive to learn and embrace the holy commandments of Scripture so that we know what to obey. Finally, the devil and his world systems, which he has structured to foster wickedness, will also militate against our hunger for righteousness. All these forces can be resisted and defeated if we strive against sin with all diligence in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, it is ironic that the revealed will of God gets a lot less attention than the secret, decretive will of God. This is ironic because we cannot know the secret, decretive will of God and so are not held responsible for “obeying” this will of God, and yet, for many of us, this is what causes us immense concern. My recommendation would be that we focus our energy on being obedient to what the Lord has already revealed as His will and trust Him for the secret things that He alone knows and ordains. But we will talk more about the secret, decretive will of God next time.
SDG rmb 6/1/2020