As a recovering pastor’s kid, I’ve seen and heard all the Christian church has to offer, both good and bad. I’ve been cynical and I’ve been jaded. But I’ve outgrown all of that. Now I just want to help make the church a better place (and the world too, while I’m at it). So I’ll start by examining a phrase that has been used and abused for as long as I can remember: God’s will.
Let’s face it: Christians can get obsessed with discovering God’s will. But what exactly is meant by that phrase? Typically, Christians treat God’s will as a unique script for their lives. That He has an exact plan for every single moment of your life that he wants you to follow. Who to marry, where to live, everything. God has made all of your decisions for you; you just need to act them out.
But it’s an odd notion if you really think about it. And it creates a lot of pressure! I mean, if you get off of your script, then what? Can you get back on the train at a later stop? Does God have multiple scripts for every time you screw up? If you get so far off, are you hopelessly lost? What if God willed you to marry someone but they don’t want you? And even worse, what if God doesn’t have a part for you in his production?
You can see why Christians get so worked up over finding God’s will! I mean, who wants to mess up His master plan? But it makes me wonder: Can you mess up God’s grand design? This is the Almighty we’re talking about! The all-knowing and all-powerful God. Can any one human really throw a monkey wrench into the divine tapestry? Let’s see what the Bible says:
- But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Psalm 33:11)
- What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do. (Isaiah 46:11)
- In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. (Ephesians 1:11)
So it’s clear that God’s plans can’t be messed up. But that opens up a whole new set of questions. Does this mean that when I mess up, it was all according to plan? That doesn’t sound right either. It’s as if God made me mess up. Or that no matter what I do, it’s exactly what He scripted to happen. What about when I sin? Now that’s a problem! So maybe we need a little more clarity on what “God’s will” actually is:
- It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)
- Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Wait, God’s will is just for me to be good? That’s it?! But that’s no fun! Where’s the mystery? The excitement? I want a special plan that’s just for me and no one else! (Sounds a little egotistical if you ask me.)
We need to make an important distinction that many people miss. The Bible talks about God’s will in two different ways. First is His moral desires, for us to be holy and righteous. Second is His master plan which will unquestionably come to pass, but which God is under no obligation to share with us. But don’t worry, we already know how the story ends: God wins.
Do you see how we have it backwards? We want to know God’s secret plans and ignore his moral will. We spend our lives seeking out what is solely God’s business while ignoring His desire for our lives.
I don’t think the Christian life is a divine scavenger hunt where you spend your every waking moment searching for clues. A spiritual connect-the-dots game. That if you miss the signs, you irreparably mess up your life. God’s grace is bigger than any mistake you ever can make. And you definitely can’t mess up his plans.
God has given you talents and giftings. He wants you to apply them with wisdom. I mean, think about it: What is the point of wisdom if God makes all of our decisions for us? Now, has He created you with a special purpose and calling? I think He has, but not a set script. I view it more like guidelines. So generally speaking, how do we know God’s will? Read the Bible and do what it says.
It may take a load off, that there isn’t some grand plan for your life that you’re probably not fulfilling right now. But you still have a responsibility to use godly wisdom and make the best of the talents and abilities He has gifted you with. So stop worrying about finding God’s will and just do it.
For a great, in-depth study on God’s will, check out Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen.