The Will of God

In the words of missionary James Hatton, “All else being equal, go for buff!” This statement was made as a part of a message on decision making and the will of God wherein he addressed the many theories of discerning God’s will. In Scripture, we see that God has a sovereign will which is certain to happen. (Proverbs 16:9) This sovereign will of God touches everything and everyone. Scripture also speaks of God’s moral will. (Ephesians 2:1-3) There are certain things which God has said are right and those things which he has said are wrong. The moral will of God is not certain to be fulfilled, for though God has given the 10 Commandments as an expression of his moral will, they are not always obeyed. (Hebrews 1:1-2; Genesis 2:16-17) The moral will of God is general, allowing for freedom and liberty within boundaries.

As a college-age student with decisions to make about school, about finances, about work, and life in general, I often question what God “wants me to do.” It seems that the answer to this comes back to the concept of freedom within boundaries. In making decisions about college, work, and even marriage, perhaps we should not be looking for the secret and sovereign will of God, but rather his moral will. Here God says, “Here, take this and go and make your decision.” God, as revealed in Scripture, is not so much interested in where you live, where you go to college, what your job is, or even who you marry, as he is with how you live. Why do we seek God’s will? We need to know his will so that we can live in a way worthy of God’s name.
(Colossians 1:9-10) We want to know his will to please him.

A.W. Tozer wrote, “The many choices that we Christians must make from day to day involve only four kinds of things: Those concerning which God has said an emphatic no; those about which He has said an equally emphatic yes; those concerning which He wants us to consult our own sanctified preferences; and those few and rare matters about which we cannot acquire enough information to permit us to make intelligent decisions and which for that reason require some special guidance from the Lord to prevent us from making serious mistakes….Now, a happy truth too often overlooked in our anxious search for the will of God is that in the majority of decisions touching our earthly lives God expresses no choice, but leaves everything to our own preference. Some Christians walk under a cloud of uncertainty, worrying about which profession they should enter, which car they should drive, which school they should attend, where they should live and a dozen or score of other such matters, when their Lord has set them free to follow their own personal bent, guided only by their love for Him and for their fellow men. On the surface it appears more spiritual to seek God’s leading than just to go ahead and do the obvious thing. But it is not. If God gave you a watch would you honor Him more by asking Him for the time of day or by consulting the watch? If God gave a sailor a compass would the sailor please God more by kneeling in a frenzy of prayer to persuade God to show him which way to go or by steering according to the compass?Except for those things that are specifically commanded or forbidden, it is God’s will that we be free to exercise our own intelligent choice. The shepherd will lead the sheep but he does not wish to decide which tuft of grass the sheep shall nibble each moment of the day. In almost everything touching our common life on earth God is pleased when we are pleased. He wills that we be as free as birds to soar and sing our Maker’s praise without anxiety. God’s choice for us may not be one but any one of a score of possible choices. The man or woman who is wholly and joyously surrendered to Christ cannot make a wrong choice. Any choice will be the right one.” (The Set of the Sail, A.W. Tozer)

I’m still not sure entirely what I think about this philosophy. It seems extremely freeing…yet it is so many ways different from what I have been led to believe for the majority of my life…I am almost frightened by it. Scripturally, it seems to hold up. Practically, I’m most positively scared. Perhaps living by this philosophy would require me to trust God far more than I do currently. I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts and comments…especially if you have Scriptural reasons to disagree with such a philosophy of decision making.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Kelsey K. says:

    That’s an interesting perspective. I can’t say I really agree with A.W. Tozer like you said, but I haven’t given the matter a whole lot of Scriptural thought. I’ve been raised reading the Wisdom Booklets that talk about how no decision is too small to ask God to help you make a decision. Like the toothbrush story. I’m in kinda a decision making stage of my life as well, so it’s interesting to see the other side.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jody says:

    Abby, thanks for sharing!

    This is a topic I have certainly spent much time considering over the years. I, too, grew up thinking that God needed to direct every little decision as He would a big one… But in recent years He has been showing me that He has given me principles to live by, a brain to reason through things, etc.

    It isn’t that I don’t need Him; I ask for His direction and wisdom daily. However, I think He is more concerned with HOW we live, with our hearts – desiring that we delight in Him, than that we agonize over decisions. If we are obedient to Him and genuinely listening to Him through Scripture, etc. He will direct our steps. And sometimes that means trying something we aren’t “sure” about.

    While I think the LORD does use small decisions and choices in interesting ways, I believe He has given us the freedom to choose inside His moral will (knowing THAT is hard some days, not everything is spelled out). Ex: I could have kept living at home, attended college, or moved to CO. I don’t know that there was one “best choice” in that mix, but I chose to move to CO. And the LORD has blessed that in a lot of ways. It has certainly been a learning experience! The main thing is seeking Him, worshiping Him, knowing Him, and being vulnerable enough to let Him know us (as if we thought we could hide ourselves from Him anyway!).

    Sorry, I didn’t use a single bit of Scripture for that… What got you started thinking this direction on this topic?

    ~ Jody

  3. abigailsnyder says:

    I’ve been pondering this since I heard the DVD of James Hatton’s talk while in Papua New Guinea this January. I came back to it because of other decisions I’ve had to make lately.

  4. Frank Henard says:

    Hey Abi,

    I enjoyed “Decision Making and the Will of God.” It is a very similar view to A.W. Tozer’s. He really backed up the argument with scripture.

    However big decisions are still very tough. Decision Making book talks about how when we have choices, we should use spiritual expediency, or wisdom with the intention to glorify God. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what is spiritually expedient. Some opinions say that Decision Making book is too mechanical. There are other books on decisions, but I think A.W. Tozer’s view and Decision Making are a good alternative to the popular “feeling” God’s leading. God Bless. I enjoy your blog.

  5. Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesenis a rather exhaustive book, but it seems to hold water scripturally. There is a similar yet simplier (you know i like that) one titled Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung and Joshua Harris. Additionally, i have a lecture set that is based off of Decision Making and …. It is by Greg Koukl. Rev went through it a few years back and it immensely helped me in this regard. I have both the book and the lecture set if you want to borrow either of them.

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