Finding God's Will, Part 2: What the Christian Scriptures Say About God's Will
As we saw in part 1, a lot of these things that we do to find God's will have a mixed track record. Some have biblical precedents, while others are not biblical. Some of our methods for finding God's will sound like good ideas, and others sound (at least to me) like very poor ideas. But at the end of the day, none of those methods is every endorsed by the New Testament as the one surefire, fool-proof way to find God's will.
So rather than starting with all our ideas about finding God’s will, let's turn to what the Bible does say about God's will. For starters, did you know that the New Testament almost never speaks about finding God's will in the sense that we are discussing? The scriptures almost never suppose that God’s will is something secret that we have to find, and God’s will is almost never something specific to each person (like God’s will for who you should marry, God’s will for which job you should take, God’s will for where you should retire, etc.).
When the New Testament talks about God's will, the picture is usually much broader and more general:
- Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)
- It is God's will that you should be sanctified...(1 Thess 4:3)
- Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:17-20)
- For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. (1 Peter 2:15)
- We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. (Col 1:9-10)
- Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:16-18)
The New Testament speaks almost entirely of God's will as something that is obvious to any Christian: do good, be sanctified, and lead honorable lives that witness to the Lord. God's will is almost never something particularly specific. If the New Testament is our guide, then it would seem that God doesn't care where you go to college, what job you take, how many children you have, or what you eat for breakfast. God's will is about bigger things—that you follow Christ faithfully and that you live a holy life.
The only example that truly breaks this mold is Paul, who often says in his letters that he is called to something very specific. Paul says that he was called to be an apostle by the "will of God." I would argue that in Paul's case the will of God is also obvious. If Jesus appears to you on a road, blinds you, and tells you to be an apostle, it's not very hard to know what you're supposed to do…there’s not much of a secret there!
So to summarize: in the New Testament, the will of God is never a mystery; it is never something you have to agonize over. In the New Testament, you don't have to "find" God's will—you know it already.
If that's what the scriptures say about God’s will, where does that leave us? When we face our individual, specific life decisions, how are we supposed to decide what to do? Check back later for part 3, in which we’ll turn these scriptures into a practical method for following God. And let me know in the comments what you think so far!