Most of us in the church at one time or another have been approached by someone in need of advice about a particular decision he or she was facing. All of us know what it is like to face these kinds of decisions ourselves. We want to do the right thing but we may not know how to go about choosing the “right” option. How are we as believers to go about making important decisions and what impact should the concept of God’s will have on those decisions? In the coming series of articles, we will attempt to answer those questions and a few others so that we can be confident that we understand how to make decisions biblically.
Understanding the will of God and its relationship to decision-making is an important issue. The Bible clears commands us to understand God’s will. Ephesians 5:17 reads, Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Not only are we to understand God’s will, but we are to obey it. In Colossians 1:9-10, Paul prays for the recipients, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (cf Rom 12:1-2).
The key question is: to what is the Bible referring when it speaks of “God’s will”? There is a prevailing view of God’s will which states that for the life of every person, God has an ideal, best-case blueprint that the believer may actually miss if he doesn’t correctly discern it. It states that it is the responsibility of the individual to correctly discern God’s will in important decisions so as to be “in the center of God’s will” and not “miss God’s best.” In other words, God has an individual plan for me, but it is my responsibility to make sure that it happens.
Such important decisions might include:
· Should I get married or stay single?
· Whom should I marry?
· Where should I go to college?
· What career should I pursue?
· Should I go into full-time ministry?
· Where should I live? What house should I buy?
· Should I have children? If so, how many?
Those who hold this prevailing view usually assume that the way to find God’s will is through reading a combination of signs, both internal and external, including the Bible, an inner witness, personal desires, circumstances, mature counsel, and common sense. It is frequently accompanied by an attitude of fear – “what if I miss God’s will? My life is going to be messed up forever.” I personally spent years paralyzed by this kind of fear. I was petrified that I was going to go to the wrong college, pursue the wrong career, marry the wrong person, and spend the rest of my life suffering God’s second-best or third-best plan for my life, all because of my own inability to accurately discern His will.
Is this a biblical way to think about God’s will and decision-making? Is God’s plan riding on my discernment? I’m going to argue that the answer to both questions is a resounding, “NO!” We’ll begin next time by looking at the two different concepts of God’s will that we find in Scripture. Between now and then, I encourage you to read through Isaiah 40-48 and consider this question: Does the God described there sound like a God whose will can be thwarted?