Now I suspect that many of you have been reading up to now and thinking, “Yes, yes, that’s all true. The Bible does talk about God’s will that way. But what about God’s will for my life?” And if you’re asking that question, then you’re asking about the third category, what I’ve labeled God’ Directive Will. God’s directive will isn’t so much His will about right and wrong decisions as it is about right and left decisions. Does God have that kind of specific will for each one of us? My answer is a qualified “Yes.” It’s a qualified yes because we don’t see very many New Testament examples of God giving specific direction for individual situations. There are a few times when that happened; for example, when Paul had his vision of the man from Macedonia who urged him to come share the Gospel there, and when Ananias had his vision telling him to go see Paul. But remember that these are unusual circumstances, even in the lives of people involved. God doesn’t, as far as I can discern from Scripture at least, normally give people visions about more mundane things like which car to buy, which person to marry, or which school to attend. Having said that though, I do think that God does provide us with his leading for our lives, but that some conditions have to be met for us to have it:
- We must not be seeking God’s will about things which He has spoken clearly. Should I attend church? Should I give to church? Should I marry a non-Christian? Should I start dating again, even though I'm already married? These things (among thousands of others) are things about which God has already told us.
- We must have a willingness to obey. If we ask God to lead us in making a decision about something, either big or small, we need to ask while being willing to actually do what He tells us. As James says in chapter 1 of his letter (vv. 5-6), “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” You can’t be asking God to do something you don’t actually intend to do anything with. What would be the point of giving it you then?
- “Seeking God’s Will” must not be an excuse for laziness. Believe it or not, there are some people who don’t so much want God’s will as they want an excuse for doing nothing. The Christian author Kevin DeYoung put it this way: “our search for the will of God has become an accomplice in the postponement of growing up, a convenient out for the young (or old) Christian floating through life without direction or purpose. Too many of us have passed off our instability, inconsistency, and endless self-exploration as “looking for God’s will,” as if not making up our minds and meandering through life were marks of spiritual sensitivity.” What those things are is the mark of a lazy, immature person who is using “finding God’s will” as a spiritual sounding way of refusing to obey what God has already said to them in His word. So when you ask them to serve, even if they aren’t doing anything else, they say, “Let me pray about it and see if it’s God’s will.” And amazingly, even though God’s word says that each person has received a spiritual gift they are to use in serving others, God never seems to tell them that they should say “Yes” and start using theirs.
- We must remember that sometimes, God does give specific leading through His Holy Spirit. God does reveal his will in our circumstances and through the counsel of others. Sometimes He speaks to our hearts directly, and we get the very strong sense that He wants us to make a particular choice. When we have that, we need to follow it and obey it.
- God’s directions may not be as clear as we sometimes wish they were. Let me give a couple examples. In 1 Corinthians 7, we find God’s most explicit instructions about finding a mate. He says, first of all, that not getting married is also a good choice. Then he says, that getting married is a good thing, and a person who wants to get married should “marry whom [he/]she wishes, only in the Lord.” In other words, even about one of the most life-altering decisions of life, we have tremendous freedom. God doesn’t say specifically to me if I should marry Betty or Sue, or if a woman should marry Ken or Bob. We get to marry anyone we like, as long as we are marrying an opposite sex Christian person. We are also free to choose to be single, so we might serve the Lord unencumbered by family responsibilities. In the same way, in Acts 15:28, we get this marvelous statement by the Jerusalem Council: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” which I take to mean that they had searched the Scriptures, prayed, and then decided to do what seemed wisest and best, recognizing that the Holy Spirit is working through their decision-making and desires to enact His will.
- Remember that God is good, and won’t punish us for making a “wrong” choice when it’s a right or left decision. He doesn’t sit in heaven saying, “Well, if you had married Sue, you’d have had a happy marriage, but since you married Betty instead, you’re condemned to a life of misery. God is good and loves us. Our freedom is real freedom, not an excuse for God to play some sort of cosmic, sadistic, whack-a-mole.
- Remember that following God does not mean that there will never be pain or struggles. Just because something winds up painful, does not mean it wasn’t God’s will. How else, but through pain, could we be transformed into the likeness of His Son?