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).