Category Archives: Will of God

How Do We Find God’s Will?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

One of the most insightful books I’ve ever read is Garry Friesen’s Decision Making and the Will of God.  Friesen tackles an important practical need that every Christian has.  When I am making an important decision, how do I find God’s will in the matter?

Friesen documents and builds his case in 500 pages, but I want to give you his basic approach in fewer than 700 words.  Early in Friesen’s book, he lays out his “way of wisdom,” which consists of four principles:

1. Where God commands, we must obey.

In the Bible, the term “God’s will” most often refers to all the commands, principles, and promises that God has revealed in the Scriptures. This first biblical meaning of “God’s will” is best described as God’s moral will. It is fully conveyed in the Bible and so does not have to be “found”—just read, learned, and obeyed. . . .  Yet this simple truth cuts deeper into real life than we usually realize. Every action, thought, motive, attitude, and plan is affected by God’s moral will because its commands go beyond outward actions to search the motives and intents of our most secret desires (1 Samuel 16:7).

2. Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose.

The second principle . . . starts to answer the question, “What do you do when there is no specific command in the Bible to determine your decision?” Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose. The principle actually is not as radical as it may sound. It does not say that God does not care what we decide. It does not mean that there is no further guidance from God (there are two more principles). It does not say that our decision does not matter or that we can do our own selfish thing. It does say that we are morally free to decide. This freedom is God-given. But alongside that freedom is a God-given responsibility to decide.

Grasping the reality of freedom and responsibility has resulted in a very common response to the first edition of the book: “This book is both liberating and sobering. With freedom comes relief that I am not missing God s will. At the same time, being responsible for my decisions means that I cannot blame bad decisions on God.”

3. Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose.

We are never free to be foolish, stupid, or naive. The freedom in the second principle is limited by the guidance God gives through wisdom. Put differently, wisdom is commanded of believers by the moral will of God and must be applied to all non-commanded decisions. I will support this principle by citing numerous biblical commands that exhort believers to act and choose wisely. I will also illustrate it with scriptural terminology and examples. The wisdom books of the Old Testament make a great contribution and can be taken at face value as models of God’s primary method of guidance.  In the area of freedom, it is God who promises to give wisdom when we ask.

4. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.

God’s sovereign superintendence of all the particulars assures that after we have followed His guidance in the first three principles, God secretly works all the unknowns and details together for good. He is involved in the smallest particulars even when He does not tell us exactly what to do. This work of God gives the peace of mind that God is guiding in everything.

There they are, the four principles for finding God’s will.  I hope I have whet your appetite enough so that you will buy Friesen’s book.  I assure you that you will not be disappointed.

Can We Judge God’s Intentions When People Suffer?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Bad things happen to people all the time.  They happen to you and to me, in places nearby and in places far away.  Sometimes when we see a person or persons suffering, and we don’t like their worldview, their moral beliefs, or lifestyle, we Christians do something that we need to stop doing.  We look at the people suffering and we think to ourselves, or even say out loud, “God is punishing them because they are unrighteous.”

There are infamous examples of Christians proclaiming judgment after hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes kill multitudes of people.  Those examples are bad enough, but I want to also call attention to the daily judgments we sometimes make about people who are suffering – people who we confidently believe are being punished by God because of their immoral actions.

Why should we stop judging God’s intentions in this manner?  Because we don’t know, in a given situation, what God’s intentions are.  He simply does not tell us and we need to stop acting like he does.  In addition, and more importantly, Jesus himself denies that we should judge those who suffer or die as more sinful than we are.

In Luke 13:1-5, Luke records the following conversation:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Jesus first refers to some Galileans who were killed by Pilate as they sacrificed.  He flatly rejects the idea that these Galileans are worse sinners than others because they were killed.  Jesus then refers to eighteen people who died when a tower collapsed on them.  Again Jesus denies that these eighteen were more guilty than everyone else.

John Martin, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, explains these verses:

Jesus taught the crowds that calamity can happen to anyone because all are human. Jesus cited two common instances about destruction. The first concerned some Galileans who were killed by Pilate while they were offering sacrifices. The second concerned 18 seemingly innocent bystanders in Siloam who were killed when a tower … fell on them. Jesus’ point was that being killed or not being killed is no measure of a person’s unrighteousness or righteousness. Anyone can be killed. Only God’s grace causes any to live. This point is brought out in verses 3 and 5—unless you repent, you too will all perish. Death is the common denominator for everyone. Only repentance can bring life as people prepare to enter the kingdom.

Next time you think you can judge God’s intentions when people suffer, think again.  Remember that even Jesus refused to make these kinds of judgments.

Does God Have a Perfect Will And A Permissive Will?

Post Author:  Darrell

Over the past few years, I have heard several Christians I know utter statements such as, “I need to find out what job God wills for me to have.” or  “I’m praying to find out who God wills for me to marry.”  These statements are from people who believe that God has a “Perfect Will” for certain aspects of their lives, e.g., what job they should have, whom they should date or marry, or where they should live.  God’s Perfect Will is contrasted with His Permissive Will, i.e., that which falls outside of what He Perfectly Wills for us, but which He permits to happen.  God’s Perfect Will is seen as the goal for Christians, and finding it and living within it lead to blessings, while not seeking it or finding it leads to living inside God’s Permissive Will and missing out on blessings.    

How realistic is this viewpoint?  Does God have a Perfect Will for aspects of our lives such as the jobs we hold and the person we marry?  A couple of months ago I heard a wonderful podcast by Matthew Gallatin on Ancient Faith Radio where he shared a story that illustrates a serious challenge with the idea of God having a Perfect Will versus a Permissive Will.

John is a 24 year old Christian, and Jill is a 23 year old Christian.  God’s Perfect Will is for them is to meet, fall in love, marry one another, and raise a beautiful family together.  After meeting and going through 2 years of courtship, they fall in love, John proposes to Jill, and she happily accepts.  They are both excited for their future and set their wedding date.  When the big day comes, John waits at the altar while beautiful music plays.  However, while sitting in the dressing room, Jill gets cold feet and changes her mind.  She secretly dashes out the back door of the Church and catches the next flight to Las Vegas where she starts a new life.  She walks away from her Christian faith, meets Jack, a casino owner, and marries him.  She spends the rest of her life in an unhappy marriage with Jack.  Eventually, realizing that Jill is never returning to him, John moves on and marries a very nice Christian girl named Tammy.

God’s Perfect Will was for John and Jill to marry and raise a family together.  However, Jill chose to rebel against God and follow another path, living her life outside of God’s Perfect Will and inside His Permissive Will.  As a result, she missed out on the blessings God had prepared for her.  But where does this leave John?  John was seeking God’s Perfect Will for his life, and he found it in Jill.  He made the right decisions, asked her to marry him, and waited for her at the altar.  However, though no fault of his own, John is forced to live outside of God’s Perfect Will and inside His Permissive Will.  Because of Jill’s decision, he will now spend the rest of his married life in God’s Permissive Will, and he too will miss out on the blessings that flow from walking in God’s Perfect Will in relation to his marriage.

Does this seem right? Should John, who is seeking to live His life and follow God, be forced to live the rest of his life outside of God’s Perfect Will simply because Jill chose to rebel?  I would suggest not, especially given the fact that God has promised us that “…all things work together for good to those who love God…”  John loved God and was seeking His Perfect Will, so God would not hold out blessing him simply because Jill chose to rebel.  That makes absolutely no sense.

So what is God’s Will for our lives?  Bill has addressed this in a previous blog post here.  I will just add my thoughts that I believe God’s Will for us is pretty well summed up in Jesus’ High Priestly prayer in John 17:21-23:

That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

God wants us to be one with one another and one with the Holy Trinity.  He wants us!  That’s all… nothing more… nothing less.

Can We Mess Up God’s Plans?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Hardly, yet many Christians seem to forget this fact.  God gives us the privilege of participating in the cosmic drama that is unfolding under his direction, but his script leaves nothing to chance.  We don’t need to fret over whether His plans will succeed; we already know the end of the story.

Theologian Robert L. Hubbard Jr. captures this well in his Joshua commentary.  Speaking of Joshua’s farewell speech in Josh. 23, Hubbard says the following:

The genre of farewell speech reminds readers that God’s plan outlives all of us.  It was in full swing long before we were born and will remain so long after we are gone.  It outlived Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Deborah, David, Elijah, Ezra, Esther, Mary, Peter, Paul, John, Irenaeus, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Jonathan Edwards, D. L. Moody, Mary Slessor, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King Jr.

This blunt reality is both humbling and liberating.  It humbles by reminding us that, however large a swath we cut through history, the kingdom advances without us – and, at times, in spite of us.  It liberates us by reminding us that ultimately its success does not depend on our efforts – that we do not have to get everything done in our lifetime.

Rather, we sow seeds whose harvest others will gather, lay foundations on which others will build, and open doors that others will enter.  We are among the cast of players in the drama of history, but the entire company is huge.  And, of course, the starring roles ultimately belong to God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Well said, Dr. Hubbard.


Is God Hiding His Will?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Many Christians seem to think so.  Why else would they talk about finding God’s will as if it’s a game of hide-and-seek.  We’re told to listen to the still, small voice and to test a possible decision based on the peace we feel.  We’re told to pay attention to the hints God is giving us.  If we miss these hints, these unobtrusive suggestions, we will miss God’s will for our lives.

John MacArthur has this to say in his booklet, Found: God’s Will:

Some apparently think that God’s will is lost.  At least they say they are searching for it!  To them, God must appear to be a sort of divine Easter bunny who has stashed his will, like eggs, somewhere out of sight and sent us running through life trying to find it.  And He is up there saying, “You’re getting warmer!”

When one looks in the Bible to try and find this divine Easter bunny concept, it isn’t there.  When God wanted to communicate to a prophet, his message was almost always loud and clear.  He didn’t drop subtle hints over a long period of time, hoping his clueless prophets would finally figure out what he wanted them to do.  Can you imagine if Scripture had been inspired that way?

So how does God communicate to us what He wants us to do?  MacArthur answers:

Let’s begin with a simple assumption.  Since God has a will for us, He must want us to know it.  If so, then we could expect Him to communicate it to us in the most obvious way.  How would that be?  Through the Bible, His revelation.  Therefore, I believe that what one needs to know about the will of God is clearly revealed in the pages of the Word of God.  God’s will is, in fact, very explicit in Scripture.

There you have it.  The Bible is where God’s will is found.  Let’s start there instead of searching for the hidden Easter eggs everywhere else.

How Should We Determine God’s Will for Our Lives?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

As Christians we all agree that we want to follow God’s will for our lives, but there are two general approaches to following God’s will that I’ve seen in evangelicalism.

The first approach operates under the premise that God has a specific will for each and every one of our actions and decisions, and that we are obligated to discover what that specific will is.

The second approach operates under the premise that God only specifically wills that we obey his commands as revealed in the Bible, and on issues where the Bible does not speak, we use wisdom.

A couple examples may illuminate.

Let’s say that you are a Christian man looking for a spouse.  You have come to know three wonderful and single Christian ladies and you are wondering which one you should pursue for marriage.

If you are a follower of the first approach, you believe that God has one, and only one, of these women chosen for you.  It is your duty to discover which one of these women he has chosen in order to stay in his perfect will for your life.  If you choose wrongly, you will be outside of his will for your life.

If you are a follower of the second approach, you feel free to pursue any of these three ladies for marriage.  You believe that God will be pleased with any of the three women, as long as you choose wisely.

A second example.  Let’s say that you are a looking for a new job.  You have job offers from three companies.  How should you decide?

If you are a follower of the first approach, you believe that God has one, and only one, of these jobs chosen for you.  It is your duty to discover which one of these three jobs he has chosen in order to stay in his perfect will for your life..  If you choose wrongly, you will be outside of his will for your life.

If you are a follower of the second approach, you feel free to pursue any of these three jobs, as long as there is nothing unbiblical about any of these companies (e.g., they produce pornography or something like that).  You believe that God will be pleased with any of the three jobs, as long as you choose wisely.

Now, which of these two approaches do you believe is more biblical?  I have been purposely vague about some terms because I don’t want to lead you to a specific answer.  Just choose the approach you believe is more biblical by completing the poll below.

Also, please, if you can, cite some Scripture to support your choice in the comment section of this blog post.  We are going to be teaching on this topic at our church in a few weeks, and we would like to know what people think about it.  Thanks!!

What is God's Will for You?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Ronnie Jones, a commenter on our blog, recently sent me some insight from John MacArthur about discovering God’s will for our lives.  It is simple and right to the point of the matter.  You may not agree with his view, but you have to deal with it, because MacArthur is a well-respected pastor and theologian.  Here is what he said, as quoted by Mr. Jones:

The will of God is not meant to be a secret we must uncover. God wants us to understand His will far more than we want to understand it. He always makes His will clear to those who seek it with an obedient heart.

Most of the real problem areas in the question of God’s will are settled for us in Scripture. The Bible reveals that it is God’s will for all of us to be:

(1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9)

(Ephesians 5:17-18)

(1 Thessalonians 4:3-7)

(1 Peter 2:13-15)

(Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12)

If all those things are true in your life, you may do whatever you want. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” That means that if you are conforming to God’s will in all the five ways listed above, He will place in your heart desires that reflect His will. So do what you want to do!

Did God Tell You?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

I was once having an impassioned discussion with a fellow Christian about the curriculum of the upcoming discipleship classes to be held at our church.  This Christian brother wanted to focus the curriculum on the subject of prayer, while I was adamant that we should teach a class on the attributes of God, which did not strictly align with the topic of prayer.

During our conversation, my friend made a statement to me which he believed should have ended the conversation, a statement which I sometimes hear other Christians make.  He said, in effect, “I’ve been praying about this and God has told me that the curriculum on prayer is what He wants us to teach.”

My response to him, which admittedly was a bit contentious, was, “God told me to teach about His attributes, so it looks we have a stalemate!”  I knew that a contest between the two of us about which idea God really preferred, based on our own subjective feelings, was pointless, but I wanted my friend to see where his comment would logically lead us.

The truth is that God speaks to us, foremost, from His word in the Bible.  The Bible speaks about both the subject of prayer and the subject of God’s attributes.  Nowhere, however, do you find a verse in the Bible telling our specific church which topic should be taught in the upcoming semester!  Given that we are limited in space, we cannot teach everything and choices have to be made, but those choices will have to be made without pointing to any one Bible verse.

It concerns me when Christians claim God told them something that cannot be found in the Bible, and especially when they are using this claim to shut off debate.  There are many subjects that the Bible covers which are not up for debate, but there are many subjects which the Bible does not cover which are up for debate (e.g., choosing a discipleship curriculum).  For those topics, we should have the debate and pray for wisdom to come to a reasonable answer, but we should not play the “God told me” card.

I am personally very uncomfortable claiming God told me things which I cannot point to in Scripture.  Who am I to represent new revelation from God?  If you are one of these Christians who find yourself saying this kind of thing frequently, ask yourself why.  If it is to cut off debate where debate is perfectly acceptable, then stop!  Argue your point of view, but don’t claim that God is somehow on your side when you have no objective way of knowing that.