Sunday, March 20, 2016


    All my life, I have had, consciously or not, the notion locked in my brain that God's will is this isolated path, His best for us, that we can only discover through prayer and concentrated searching. This was not something I remember my parents teaching, but more of a recurring theme I heard spoken of and referenced as a given fact in my circles and the speaker's I commonly listened to growing up.

     Several months back, my brother described the opinion brought out in the book Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. I have not read the book, so I am not trying to speak for DeYoung, but from what my brother described, I was intrigued. The path he started me down has really changed how I see God's will and leading in my Christian life and in my life ahead.

     For years, I had considered my future something God had planned how He wanted, and it was my responsibility to find that path or else miss "God's best" (if you grew up in the same conservative circles I did, you'll recognize that phrase) for my life, settling for the "good". So I had sweated and prayed and concentrated and thought about who I would marry and what I would do for work with more than a little fear.

     What if I got it wrong? What if I married a girl who was not God's best for me? How could I know what the best was? What if I went into missions when God wanted me to be a pastor or a counselor? Questions like these literally drove any kind of peace of mind far away when I would consider the future, because the future was not hopeful. It was scary! There was one right way and a hundred wrong ways, and God wouldn't tell you what way was right! He would lead you through subtle signs and small indications... always very vaguely described by those who had already passed this point when they tried to encourage you.

     But what I had never bothered to do was examine Scriptural precedent for this kind of view of God's will. Honestly, I'm a little ashamed with myself for not having done this years ago instead of waiting until I was nearly graduated from high school and on to college before doing this! Where in the Bible was this notion of God's will I'd heard mentioned all these years?

     Prov. 3:5-6 was always hailed as the passage of Scripture that outlined this kind of thinking, and at first glance, they did seem to say that, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." Now, in the KJV where I memorized this passage, v. 6 is rendered, "He shall direct thy paths." Subtle word difference, but a major difference in application. In the one, you are walking down a path and as you yield to the Lord's wisdom and bring yourself into subjection to Him, He makes your way clear. In the second, He is pointing to a particular path to go down, seemingly.

     But honestly, this passage was not such an open and shut statement as I had thought. V. 7 adds some wisdom we rarely touched on, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil." This verse seems to further interpret v. 5-6, showing us what it looks like to trust in the Lord and to not lean on our own understanding; namely, walk humbly, recognizing our own ideas, logic, and reasoning should be in subjection to God's Word, fear the Lord and place ourselves under Him, and reject evil. Those are the three applicable ways to live out v. 5-6. this is how you demonstrate trusting in the Lord with all your heart.

    Honestly, the way I had interpreted this passage before made no sense. Did I really believe Solomon was telling us to forget logic and through reason to the wind? Secondly, if we truly are to disregard our own thoughts and minds and instead obey this mysterious will of God that He reveals when we ask Him and ignore our own reason, why are we only applying this on major areas, such as college, career, or spouse choices? Why aren't we doing this when we order lunch at a restaurant or select our clothing for the day?

      I can tell you why I was only doing it in the big things. Because the way I had trained myself to see God's will, God had decided on the best for me, one particular spouse, one particular job, and everything else was less than best. But I had not taken that all the way to its logical conclusion because if I had, it would have been utter foolishness. Surely God gave us minds, logic, and reasoning powers for a reason! Surely He didn't intend for me to make my clothing choices for the day after 30 minutes of prayer for guidance!

      I believe the Bible sets forth a very different story of God's will; namely, that God is a very big and extremely sovereign God who is not limited to good, better, and best. As we go through the Bible, instances are extremely rare of Bible heroes coming to God and asking Him to point them a route before they act. Instead, they ask for wisdom (refer back to Prov. 3:5-7 where it says to trust God rather than our own wisdom) from God to supplement their own and then make a reasoned choice as to what they believe is best.

     Before I have people thinking to themselves that I am saying we should just make major life decisions with no prayer or meditation, I would like to clear this up. I believe prayer is excellent and necessary before this major decisions. But God never intended us to wait on Him to reveal His will before we act. Biblically, since the days of Urim and Thummim when God's will was clearly shown by division of lots, I cannot think of a single case in which God's will was relied on to be shown, particularly not in the NT since the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1 shows the dealing of lots to select a replacement apostle, but since then (and the anointing of the Holy Spirit in chapter 2), the will of God being revealed clearly to a human seems to be rare and supernatural.

     For example, Philip's being led away into the wilderness is recorded as a rare and spectacular event, actually miraculous. According to my former worldview, this was the norm. God was expected to reveal my life decisions by leading, something the NT seems to treat as a miraculous occurrence. Another example would be when Paul is planning to proceed to Asia Minor, and God is specifically said to have withstood him and instead sent him a dream to commission him to Macedonia instead.

     These two examples of revelation of God's will are spectacular, not the norm. They are specifically named and detailed while we know now details about how Paul chose his other missionary routes for a specific reason: namely, this was uncommon. It was worth writing down because it was out of the ordinary! Apparently, Philip was much more used to going about his ordinary business than he was to be sovereignly directed by God to go this way or that. It was unusual enough to be worth noting.

     Paul going into Macedonia... this is the only occasion we see where Paul's route is influenced by God. No other time is spoken of, implying that this was the great exception to the general rule. Paul, someone very in tune with God's desires for him, was simply making plans as usual for leaving Troas and going on to another city, until God actively stepped in and miraculously stopped him. However you see this, it seems to imply that God's will is something that is (while sovereignly decreed in heaven) left open for us on earth; that is to say, there is no one best or one route which we must follow to be in God's will.

     As long as we are walking in obedience to His Word, we are in God's will. One of my favorite examples of this is Nehemiah. The book of Nehemiah is scattered with prayers, quick, desperate cries for help or wisdom... but never asking for God to reveal His will. Nehemiah simply asks for God to give Nehemiah His compassion or to remember him so Nehemiah can make the wisest, most informed choice he can. Nehemiah prays while making educated, logical decisions in leadership, without any prayers for God to point him in a direction or requests for guidance.

     So... what does all this mean? Basically, God has given us desires, interests, passions, and gifts. We use the logic He has give us and the wisdom we request from Him to make a wise, educated decision for a life partner, career, or church. He may close doors, He may, like in Paul's case, send undeniable leading a different direction. But our default should be to choose our courses of action based off what God has already given us, not off subjective leading that we sweat over for years.

     In a practical sense, I've struggled with the idea of how to discern who you are to marry or what you are to do or where to go to college and how to read God's mind on such things. That pursuit is over as of today (actually yesterday when I finally sat down and articulated all this to myself). I'm going to use the principles in God's Word and the logic and the transformed mind He has given me to choose a life partner, life's work that aligns with the gifts and passions He created me with, and a college that fits my beliefs and my desire for the future.

      God gave us gifts and passions as guiding lights toward areas that glorify Him and fulfill us. Those are ways of discerning routes toward His service. He doesn't have this one path and twenty dummy ones set up just to challenge us and throw us off the scent. He's not playing games. He's given us wisdom and skills to serve Him more ably! His will isn't found in dreams or crystal balls. As we conform our lives to Him, we naturally follow after where He would have us to go.


  1. This was posted at just the right time, seriously. I really needed this. I've seen that so often in our church circles, so that that constant fear of missing God's best plagues us in every aspect of life. Good job with this post!

    1. Awesome! It's a freeing idea that God's will is that I follow His Word and follow the passions, interests, and gifts he's given me. :)

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading, Anna! Long time no see, by the way... Glad it was encouraging!