God’s Will


Photo credit: Flickr

When Doug and I were looking to buy our first home in 2000, we found two houses that we liked.

We had no idea which house to buy. Which one was God’s best for us?

One night I went to church for a meeting and told a friend about our dilemma.

Her answer shocked me.

She said, “It sounds to me like God is just letting you choose between the two.”

She walked away and the meeting began but I didn’t hear much of what was being said. No one had ever said anything like that to me before. Didn’t God have a specific house He wanted us to choose? What if we made the wrong decision and bought the wrong house?

I went home and told Doug what my friend had said. He agreed with her. So, we chose the house we liked best and moved in shortly thereafter. It was the perfect house for us at the time and we filled it with many wonderful memories.

I thought of that time in our lives this afternoon when I listened to James MacDonald teach a series on God’s will.

According to James, “God doesn’t have a detailed blueprint for your life that you have to figure out.God’s will is not anchored in the minutiae of this temporary life. God’s will is about bigger things, more eternal things. God’s will is about the kind of person you are…’The will of God’ is mentioned 27 times in the Bible and every single time it is speaking about the moral will of God (God’s Word…His prescription for how to live this life)  or the sovereign will of God (He is in control and nothing can thwart His will)…the Bible gives no plan for discovering God’s individual will for one’s life.”

James rejects the idea that there is a “dot” that God has in mind for each of our lives and it is our job to figure out where the dot is and get on it.  This leads to much pain, heartache, and stress, as we worry about whether we’ve found the dot and  then worry about falling off. Rather, Ps. 31:8 tells us that God has set our feet in a spacious place. James said, “You are not in danger of falling off the dot and missing God’s best for your life. Get free from that!” 

God does care about the decisions we all make (Ps. 31:3) and of course, He knows our every single decision,  but His primary concern is our relationship with Him. His most important plan for your life and mine is for us to have intimacy with Him: “You will call on Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:12-13). After all, He is Who we were created for.

What do you think? Is this new to you? Is it freeing to think that God will use you regardless of which job you take or  which college you choose, or which house you buy? That all He asks of you is to live in the security and freedom of His sovereign and moral law and not be paralyzed in fear that you will make the ‘wrong’ decision?

I still have some questions about this myself and plan to talk to my pastor about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “God’s Will

  1. ~marg~

    I have been listening to that message series myself this week. Then, this afternoon, Mike, my son-in-law, put it on our stereo (via his Android phone) and I got to hear it again. It is NOT the way I was brought up. But all that he said made a lot of sense.

    Interestingly, my husband has said the same things throughout our marriage that James MacDonald said. I’d always had “what if” or “what about” questions against that view. James MacDonald answered those questions for me today.

    I also loved the way he explained the verse “I know the plans I have for you…” He made a point several times in his message to remember “context”.

    One quote I took away from this message series is this: “At the end of the day, God wants us to choose the righteous thing that pleases us.” “Righteous thing” is the key to remember. As long as it agrees with Scripture, it’s a go.

    I can’t remember if it was in James’s message or our discussion following listening to it, but there are times when God does have a specific will for a person (Jonah going to NInevah, Abraham sacrificing his son, Mary being the mother of Jesus, Jesus dying on the cross…), but all the examples I can think of got their “orders” very clearly. There was no guess-work involved. No toiling over the issue in prayer. No agonizing over whether it was what God wanted or not.

    I found James’s message very freeing. Thank you for spreading the news about it. If anyone would like to listen to one of the messages from the series, they can find it here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/walkintheword/wxZf

    That link, I believe, will take you to the specific message Susan refers to above.

    ~marg~

    • Thanks for your thoughtful reply Margaret! (And for including the specific link…I couldn’t figure out how to do that! 🙂 ).

      I agree that this message is very freeing and it makes sense. I also liked your reminder that when God did have a specific assignment for someone, it was crystal clear. Good stuff!

  2. ~marg~

    The following are some more points from the same message:
    The blessings of rejecting the traditional “dot” view of God’s will:
    1) conform our beliefs to the teaching of Scripture
    2) we can eliminate anxiety and guilt about God’s will
    3) we can recognize the validity about equal options
    4) we can challenge immature or unwise decisions of loved ones
    5) we can avoid indecision
    6) we can avoid the danger of subjectivity
    Subjectivity: a position taken or a decision made without connection to verifiable facts. It is an emotional decision. Emotions in the train of life make a great caboose; they make a lousy engine.

    (That last statement makes me remember a saying I like: the mind can be a wonderful servant or a lousy master.)
    ~marg~

  3. This message was REALLY hard for me to hear and it was halfway through the message that it dawned on me why—when James said “I’m not saying He doesn’t CARE about your choices…”, it hit me that that was the exact thing I was thinking! If God doesn’t have a specific thing for me to choose, I was interpreting that as not caring, being disengaged, distant, cold, etc. And honestly, I’m *still* wrestling with feeling that way, which just goes to show how ingrained this doctrine is in me!

    Obviously, there are times when He really DOES have a specific plan (Joseph being sold into slavery, Paul being blocked from going to Asia, etc) but it is very freeing to realize that sometimes, He is like a Father watching His kids play on the playground—He doesn’t care if I go on the swings or the slide or the merry-go-round; He just wants me to delight in His provision and gifts! Wow! A real-life example is Mike’s job situation. It’s thrilling to think that God may be spreading out a map of the US and saying, “Pick a state!” 😀 What an adventure!

    But. I am still very much wrestling with the fact that His lack of intended direction does NOT mean He doesn’t care about me…

    • Another insight I had this morning, in the shower where I do my deepest thinking (;)), is that this newfound truth opens up a whole new world of possibility but it *also* inspires a whole new world of fear—suddenly, I’m *responsible* for my choices! o_O It’s not so convenient as being told what to do and then doing it. I have never, ever been good with “free reign”—I’m such a perfectionist, I over-analyze and freak out that I’m going to make the wrong call. Good heavens, even when it came to who I was going to marry, looking back now, I bathed that whole process in “signs” that “meant” God wanted me to marry my husband because I was so terrified of marrying the wrong guy! Now don’t get me wrong—I know I married the “right guy for me”, if there even is such a thing, but the fact is, if I had known back then that God might just let me pick between a few guys, I think I would be single and paralyzed to this day!

      Even now, considering that God might let us choose where to live, I am fearful. What if I hate my choice? What if I pick ABC because of XYZ and it actually turns out to be MNO?! Augh!!

      But then I remember a few things:
      1) The end goal in this life is to be LIKE Christ, and ultimately, WITH Christ. The kind of house I live in, the city I live in, the friends I have—none of that is going to change the end goal OR the end results!
      2) The Bible is very clear that God’s purposes can NOT be thwarted. Freedom! Peace! I can choose and trust God to sovereignly “get in my way” if I’m trying to choose something that is outside His purpose!
      3) “Do not fear, do not be afraid, fear not, behold, I am with you…” Being afraid is not the right response to freedom and the fact that this newfound freedom terrifies me speaks to how little I trust that God LOVES me, that He intends GOOD toward me, that He protects and equips me! So, now the issue is fully illuminated—I need to learn to trust my Heavenly Father to be as intimately involved with my life as He says He is in scripture, even though I can’t feel or hear Him affirming my choices right now.

      It’s scary but it’s freeing, which ultimately adds up to exhilarating. 😀

  4. ~marg~

    Love Fae’s insights! James MacDonald goes on to elaborate some more in following messages and covers some of the things Fae mentioned. I’m still basking in my new-found freedom! It is exhilarating!

    Fae brought out another aspect of it that I hadn’t thought of when she wrote: “I’m *responsible* for my choices! o_O It’s not so convenient as being told what to do and then doing it.” It made me realize that it is yet another vein of legalism that had invaded my life. I hadn’t realized how “bound” I was. Today I reflected on the verse “for my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. That had never rung true for me before! I never knew why. But today I do. His yoke wasn’t easy or light for me because I was constantly in turmoil over finding His precise will for every move I made. Not being in that mindset anymore, feeling freedom to just be me, has made that verse true for me. (I knew it was true all along!! Don’t get me wrong. I knew I was missing something! Now I know what I was missing!)

    What a delight! As long as I keep using His Word as the light to my path, and keep my conscience sensitive to the Holy Spirit, I can be sure of walking through this life in a way that honors and glorifies Him just by being me.

  5. Hi Margaret and Fae!
    I have so enjoyed reading your comments! Thanks for taking the time to record your thoughts.

    Fae, I had to laugh when you said you get some of your best spiritual insights in the shower…I do too! 🙂

    And yes, Jesus cares about every single issue, decision, struggle in our lives. We need only to look at the Cross to remember and rejoice in how precious we are to Him, that He was willing to die rather than to spend eternity without us.

    It was interesting because I had a chance to talk with my pastor this morning about this. He likes James MacDonald and we have done some of his studies at church but on this issue, my pastor believes that he is wrong. He does believe that God has an individual plan for each person. I didn’t have the time to get into a detailed discussion with him, but he said there are plenty of verses in the Bible that speak to individual guidance about specific things.

    Just another perspective to share!

    Ultimately, Jesus did come to give us FREEDOM and as long as we are living for Him and His glory, and by His Word, we are on the right path.

    Thanks again for sharing, ladies!
    Blessings,
    Susan

  6. ~marg~

    I’d be very interested to hear your pastor’s support for individual will.

    Another thing in support of making our own choices is David’s prayer in 1 Samuel 23:10-13 “10 Then David said, “O Lord God of Israel, Your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake. 11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O Lord God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant.”

    And the Lord said, “He will come down.”

    12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?”

    And the Lord said, “They will deliver you.”

    13 So David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah and went wherever they could go. Then it was told Saul that David had escaped from Keilah; so he halted the expedition.”

    That shows that God knows all possible scenarios. Whatever decision David made, God knew what the outcome would be. And David was free to choose. I think this passage also is a fine example of how we should still acknowledge God in all our ways. Since David went to God about it, he was kept from making a “bad” choice.

  7. ~marg~

    Another thought: There is a difference between “will” and “purpose”. I believe God has a specific purpose for each of us. We weren’t accidents. I wonder if your pastor was thinking along the lines of “purpose” perhaps.

    • Good point! I hope to have more time to talk to my pastor about this and I’m sure he can give me some verses. This morning, I only had a few minutes before Bible study started. He is firmly grounded in the Bible and preaches the whole counsel of God’s Word. I really respect his opinion.

      It is a fascinating subject and I certainly don’t have all the answers. As long as we are truly seeking Jesus and His will, He will guide us into the paths He has for us.

  8. machaira9

    Disclaimer: I don’t claim to have any biblical basis what-so-ever for what I’m about to say. I don’t have time to research it right now, but I wanted to share my thoughts/suspicions.

    I listened to James’ messages as well, and was quite intrigued by his stance. It’s definitely challenged my views of God having a specific, individual will for each person, but I think we need to be careful not to take it to the extremes.

    The traditional view tends to say God has a specific will for every single thing in your life (which house to buy, which person to marry, which place to work), and this is the first extreme (which I don’t think is biblical). The other extreme, however, is to say that we can do whatever we want whenever we want, so long as we’re not sinning. The latter is what James seems to be presenting, but if it’s taken too far, it can also become an unbiblical view.

    Personally, I think it comes down to balance (again, this is just my personal opinion). There are plenty of examples in scripture of God having specific wills for individuals, but like others have said, it’s usually pretty darn obvious when that’s the case, and doesn’t involve a lot of tumultuous doubt and uncertainty. However, the key is that we’re still consulting God in our decisions, and seeking His guidance.

    He may very well be offering you several “equal” options that you are free to choose from, but we shouldn’t just assume that’s always going to be the case. We should still pray about decisions (especially big ones), seek wise counsel from friends/family/pastor/etc, and make a calculated decision. If what James is preaching is taken to the extreme, I could see it resulting in people doing stupid/foolish things because they aren’t even giving God the opportunity to guide and direct them. Not that God needs us to *allow* Him to do anything, but I think you know what I mean.

    Take the parent/kids on the playground analogy. True, I think it’s more biblical to say God doesn’t have a specific piece of playground equipment He wants us play on at every given moment, but I think it’s an imbalanced and incorrect view to just assume God is a passive observer on the bench, totally okay with anything we do within the confines of the playground. I see God more as an engaged parent, playing *with* His children on the playground, not just sitting by watching (though He may do that too I suppose).

    If there’s an unsafe piece of equipment on the playground that we want to play on, God may totally block us from getting to it. On the other hand, maybe He’s waving His hands and calling out to us to warn us, but if we’re not seeking His guidance and not staying engaged with Him, we’re likely to miss the warnings.

    I don’t know… I’m having a hard time articulating myself. Overall, I agree with James, and I think the more commonly held “extreme” view is the one he rejects and speaks out against. However, all I’m trying to say is rejecting that view to the extreme could also be bad, so just be careful. Still consult God, still seek His guidance, still ask Him if there’s a particular path He wants you to take, but if there’s no obvious message from Him (directly, through a fellow believer, through scripture, etc) to indicate which choice you should make, *then* I’d say you’re totally free to do whichever you choose.

    So, house example… you have two good options? Cool… pray about it, seek wise counsel, and if there are no red flags, go with either, and *don’t stress about it*. If you are truly and wholeheartedly seeking God’s will and desiring to honor Him, He’ll guide you. If it seems like He’s not pointing you a super-uber-specific direction after you’ve consulted Him, then chances are He’s leaving the choice up to you, and it isn’t a matter of “right vs wrong”.

    However, if you just assume both houses are equal options and don’t even bother giving God the opportunity to direct you to a specific one, then I think that’s dangerous. Sure, He could *force* you to a specific one… but that shouldn’t be what it takes to get your attention.

    It’s like checking your mirrors while you drive. It’s stupid to think you should be looking in your mirrors 100% of the time — you’d crash. But it’s also stupid to never look in your mirrors. You’re free to drive wherever you’re legally permitted, but as you do, you should consult your mirrors as you go.

    For the record, I’m not doing a 1-to-1 comparison of God with inanimate mirrors on a car… hopefully you get the point of my analogy. 🙂

    -machaira9

  9. ~marg~

    Another analogy I thought of: (expanding on something James MacDonald said)
    A child is told they may color. They may not color on the walls, table or floor. They may color in the coloring book and they are given a nice assortment of crayons to use.

    The child who wants to obey God, follows the rules and only colors in the book.

    That same child, compared with the “dot” thinking, is afraid to make a move without explicit guidance from their parent. The child doesn’t know what chair to sit in, how to sit, what picture to color, what crayons to use. The child is virtually paralyzed into inactivity. Child is stressed and not enjoying life. (scenario 1)

    If the child were to parallel James’s teaching, the child could have a delightful time coloring any picture with any crayon in any chair and sitting whatever way they find most comfortable. (scenario 2)

    To take the analogy into what I think machaira9 was pointing out…and I think James MacDonald goes on to talk about in further messages: The child is given the freedom to color. Plain and simple. But the child has at his disposal the wisdom and talents of the parent. If the child chooses to, he could ask the parent for advice on which crayons to use and he could ask the parent to help him color within the lines etc.

    The parent would be delighted to give instruction and help. The two working together could make a much more beautiful picture than the child would all by himself. (scenario 3)

    Scenario 1) child is stressed, nothing is accomplished, time is wasted

    Scenario 2) a low purpose is reached in that the child is enjoying the parent’s kindness and the parent is delighted that the child is having fun while being obedient.

    Scenario 3) a higher purpose is reached: the child is enjoying the parent’s kindness, the parent is delighted that the child is having fun while being obedient, the child is learning some skills, the end product is better than it would have been had the child done about it all by himself.

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