When Is It Not? A Meditation on God’s Will

randomlychad  —  September 2, 2011 — 7 Comments

Sometime ago, I had friends who spoke often about getting this, or that, “word from the Lord.” Usually, this was in reference to God’s will for them, and specifically in regards to what He wanted them to either do, or not do. His perfect will for their lives.

Problem is, oftentimes these things didn’t work out.

Consequently, the faith of my friends was repeatedly shaken, because God had somehow let them down.

Oh, this was never explicitly stated, but certainly was implicit in the bewildered looks when something fell through.

This gets to the heart of how we discern God’s will. More specifically, how we discern God’s will for our lives. But I’ve got to wonder: is this even the right question? Does God have a specific, individual will for each one of us? Does the Bible even teach this?

My contention is that it does not–there is, in the words of Dr. Garry Friesen, no missing “dot.” God’s will is not a bullseye on a dartboard that we have to hit precisely to win at life. (Oh, don’t get me wrong: there are a great number of things outside of His will, which the Bible calls sin).

If God’s will can at all be likened to a dartboard, it’s more like:


(image credit: Dr. Garry Friesen)

The implication being that God’s moral will applies equally to all (whether believer, or unbeliever–though they don’t necessarily acknowledge it). Within His moral will is the area of freedom and responsibility–the area where we free to choose–wisely–this, that, both, or neither. Remember: Galatians 5:1 tells us that “it was for freedom that Christ set us free.” If God sent His Son to die to purchase our freedom, don’t you suppose that something purchased at so high a price means something to God?

Now hear me out: I don’t mean at all to diminish the work of the Spirit in our lives. He does indeed convict us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He comes along side to (according to John 14:26) “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” What we need to ask ourselves is the Holy Spirit ever going to teach us anything that is unwise, or in any way contrary to God’s Word, the Bible? I contend that He does not, and will not.

And that is the great danger of extrabiblical revelation, namely that “I had an “impression” to do thus and such,” but what happens when it doesn’t work out? Who’s to blame? God? God forbid!

It’s our faulty exegesis that’s truly at fault here. I think much of this really has to do with all the Evangelical-speak foisted upon us; I mean: “Come have a personal relationship with Christ.” Where does the Bible use that language? Oh, certainly we are invited into a “relationship” with Jesus, but it is one unlike any other: never can we see, feel, or talk to Him directly like we can with spouses, children, friends, coworkers. “God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Spirit of course means incorporeal, without a body.

If I had to boil this all down to a simple syrup, it would be this: we want God to give us a word (beyond what He’s given in His Word), we want Him to speak to us personally and directly because we don’t feel special. And thus having special revelation fits the bill nicely. Makes us feel special, makes us feel spiritual. But I gotta tell you: sometimes impressions are just impressions.

Back to the example of my friends: the wife became convinced that God had given her a word–apart from any qualifying biblical criteria–that she was released from her marriage. The fact of the matter is that she had been unhappy for sometime, and merely sprinkled a little God dust on things to validate her feelings. Which is a dangerous, dangerous place to be.

In conclusion, let me ask this: when is not appropriate to obey God’s commands? (Yes, I know we don’t stone witches or adulterers anymore. This is because the law of grace tells us that, as long as someone lives, there is hope for repentance). The answer, according my friends, is apparently when God tells one that “it’s ok, My child, you don’t need to respect…”

Which to me is blasphemous.

(On a related note, it seems to me that we’re often guilty of playing the “calling” card to get out of things that are clearly mandated in God’s moral will. You’ll hear such things as “I don’t feel lead,” or “that’s not my calling,” or “I’m just not gifted in that area.” Um, when is it ever not God’s will “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8b).

When is it not? Your thoughts in the comments, please.

(Please note: this was not intended to be a thorough exegesis of everything the Bible says about knowing God’s will. For a more exhaustive treatment, please see Dr. Garry Friesen’s website).

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randomlychad

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Christ-follower, husband, dad, blogger, reader, writer, movie buff, introvert, desert-dweller, omnivore, gym rat. May, or may not, have a burgeoning collection of Darth Vader t-shirts. Can usually be found drinking protein shakes, playing with daughter, working out with his son, or hanging out with his wife. Makes a living playing with computers. Subscribe to RandomlyChad by Email

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  • JBen

    Love it, Chad. Best line in the whole thing? "we want Him to speak to us personally and directly because we don’t feel special." Yowza!

    Great stuff. I don't know if you are a Greg Boyd fan, but he has done some great sermons on "God's Will Hunting" recently.

    • Thanks, Ben! You got me ruminating on some things I'd been thinking about for awhile.Not familiar with Mr. Boyd--have to check him out.

  • steve40004

    I do Lectio Divina which is a direct interaction, through prayer with the scriptures. I believe that we can talk to Jesus as a friend because he is still human and still divine. That is why he ascended in his body. Discernment is absolutely necessary to determine God's will in our lives, and that is why spiritual direction is so important. Feeling led to something must be supported by external evidence that it is indeed God's will for you. Without that external evidence then we have very little go on. Whenever I have felt moved to something I waited for the external, and if it came, I acted, if not, then it was just my mind. Still, I believe that we can and should talk to Jesus as a friend. Good entry!

  • steve40004

    What do you mean extrabiblical sources? Like what? Me kornfused

    • What I mean is there are a great number of people who exalt external guidance above the written word--they live by impressions, and trust those above what God has already revealed as His will in His Word.

  • steve40004

    Gotya. I agree, that is why I do Lectio Divina, it is the only way I can trust that God will communicate to me instead of some feeling I get. It is dangerous to base our faith on a feeling. After all, we are not defined by how we feel.