The Will of God
Understandably, this subject arises with great frequency on most Youth Fellowship schedules. Young people face major decisions with regard to church, career, and family. It is commendable and spiritual to want to know the Lord’s will as we make those decisions. However, for some, this desire is just a quest to know the future. For others, there is a reluctance to use their minds and to make godly decisions in light of Bible principles.
Scripture uses the concept of the will of God to denote His revealed will more often than His secret will (e.g. 1 John 2:17, Matthew 7:21, Hebrews 13:21, Luke 11:2, Romans 12:2). All things happen according to the sovereign will of God (Ephesians 1:11); yet we are not told the future and much regarding it is not revealed to us. Thus “the secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
Having said this, the Lord does guide and direct His children. He places desires and burdens in our hearts. These burdens arise from the Word, and must be tested by the Word. God then opens or closes the doors to pursue those burdens. Proverbs 3:5-6 provide helpful counsel.
An Assurance to Accept
When considering a major decision, the temptation is to panic. Why, when we have an assurance as clear as this? “He shall direct thy paths.” The Lord does not promise that we will see all the way to the end of the road. Psalm 37:23 states: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD”. Often God makes clear to us just the next step. But the promise is there and we must take God at His word. He has our good and His glory at heart.
God’s direction is often in the opening and closing of doors in His providence. God so moves details in our lives that, at times, He is directing our paths and we are hardly aware of it. Watch for God’s hand in life’s routines, but beware – your interpretation of providence is not infallible. Jonah might have presumed the availability of a boat signified God’s blessing on his flight (Jonah 1:3).
An Attitude to Appropriate
‘What does God require of me so that I may know His leading in my life?’ We must cultivate an attitude of “trust in the Lord”. The promise of direction is conditional on this. To trust the Lord is to place your life in His hands, believing that He is reliable, able to do what He promises. Asa expressed this trust: “help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God” (2 Chronicles 14:11).This is where consideration of the subject of knowing God’s will must begin. God abhors self-sufficiency. He would have us place our lives under His control. We do not seek His guidance with the attitude ‘I’ll do it my way’, but rather with an attitude of trust and utter dependence. ‘I am trusting thee to guide me; Thou alone shalt lead; Every day and hour supplying, all my need.’
This trust is demonstrated by acknowledging Him in all our ways. In each step and each decision, we recognise that God is Lord of our lives and that we must consult Him. This is to realise the importance of prayer, “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” (James 1:5) We should beware the attitude that prays for God to rubber stamp our decisions after we’ve made up our minds. (Study Jeremiah 42:1-3, 10, 19-22 for an example of this). Make it your business to seek God first in your decisions. Have the attitude of David: “And David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up?” (2 Samuel 5:19)
Are you prepared to leave your life in God’s hands and prayerfully acknowledge Him? Are you willing to do what God wants? The trusting heart is the heart that believes that God knows best. The will of God may involve hardship, poverty and shame. His will is that His children bear the reproach of Christ. Some will go anywhere, do anything – except…! In seeking God’s will, are you willing to wait? To trust is to accept God’s timing, patiently waiting for Him.
An Arrogance to Avoid
We are told “lean not unto thine own understanding”. This doesn’t mean switching off our brains! Scripture shows that Christians are people who use those minds renewed by God (Romans 12:2). His will is for us to use our minds in making godly decisions.
Having seen that our trust must be entirely in the Lord, it naturally follows that we bring our understanding under the authority of the Word of God. If we lean on our own understanding, we trust it to be our guide. Jeremiah 17:5 warns that the one who trusts in man departs from the Lord. Thus the opposite of leaning on our understanding is listening to the Lord. ‘How does God speak to Christians today?’ The Catechism has the answer: “The Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.” (Answer 2, cf 2 Timothy 3v16-17).
God directs through principles revealed in His Word.
It is as you read regularly through Scripture that God brings principles and instruction to light. The Bible is not a horoscope! It needs to be read carefully, diligently, with an open heart and mind. God speaks through regular Bible reading and it is important that we take care how we read. It is true that God may speak through particular verses, confirming His will. But there is a danger that we can use the Bible to say whatever we wish. It is not wise to read searching for a verse. It is possible that, having made up your mind, you go and find the ‘right’ verse.
We often look for easy answers to tough decisions. God has spoken in His word. To understand what He is saying to us requires work. We must search out the principles contained in the Word. Take marriage – it is not God’s will for a Christian to marry an unbeliever. Nor is it God’s will to pursue a career that causes us to break God’s law. God’s will never requires disobedience of His Word.
God directs through the preaching of His Word.
The Lord uses His servants to open the Book and teach God’s will for His children. Selfish desires can be exposed and godly burdens can be kindled. If you want to know what God would have you be and do, then get under the sound of the faithful preaching of the Word!
God directs through people who understand the Word.
If we are not to lean on our own understanding, we must also listen to other wise Christians. This is often neglected. “For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 24:6) God has placed advisors and counsellors around us. You ought to discuss your decisions and issues with older, wiser Christians – parents, ministers, elders. We need those who will give the straight answer, even if it’s not what we want to hear. “He that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”(Proverbs 12:15)
So, young person, don’t panic! Trust the Lord to direct your paths through engagement with His Word.
Dr Stephen Pollock.