Why does it seem like finding God’s will is so difficult for me at times?
It reminds me of the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It’s Indy against the Nazis as both are seeking the Holy Grail, the legendary cup that is believed to grant eternal life. They end up in a cavern where the cup is guarded by an old knight. Donovan, the bad dude, has a gun on Indy and wants to drink from the grail first. The problem is that there is a table full of cups…and only one is the Holy Grail.
The old knight says, “But choose wisely, for while the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.” Donovan chooses the the most elaborate cup, bejeweled with costly metal and stones. He drinks and to the horror of those watching, Donovan ages rapidly and disintegrates into dust.
To which the old knight replies, “He chose…poorly.”
“I just want to make the right choice, Lord!”
For too many years I viewed God’s will of direction for me in that way. That of the choices before me, God had one “Holy Grail” for me. Choice wisely? Blessing from God. Choose poorly? I would miss out on God’s favor.
So, if I could, allow me to unpack this idea of God’s will and offer a better way. A more liberating way. And if you want a stellar book to read on this topic, pick up a copy of Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something. I have incorporated some of his ideas below.
To begin, we have to understand what scripture says about God’s will and what it doesn’t. There are three categories to consider.
- God’s will of decree. This is what God ordains. It is unchangeable, absolute, and will happen. It is what we find in Isaiah 46:9-10:
Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’
- God’s will of desire. This is what God commands from His creation. It is how we ought to live based on what God has said. Luke 10:27 is a familiar verse that speaks of God’s will of desire:
And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.
- God’s will of direction. This is the category we typically are referring to when we think of decisions to be made in our lives. This includes questions like…
- Should I stay in the area or move?
- Should I buy this house or continue to rent?
- Should I take this opportunity or defer until next year?
- Should I go to college and major in elementary education or social work?
- Should I stay with my job or go to this other company?
The process of working thorough these can be exhausting. And of the three categories, the last one is the area that seems to trip up people the most. Why? Because, for example, there is no special verse in Ezekiel where a unique arrangements of letters is going to mysteriously spell out the answer to my prayer. We are hoping God will make it easy.
But a faulty view of God always impacts what we do. And it leads to stress of our own making when seeking God’s will for our lives. Examples include…
- We view God as something other than Abba Father. Like a large field of flowers, we hope we find that flower that represents God’s will for us in a decision. Except He is not going to make it easy to find. “Is this one it, Lord?” “Uhhh, you’re cold.” “Perhaps this one, God?” “FREEZING!” And so we keep on searching, hoping God does not get frustrated with us.
- We say we want “God’s perfect will” when really what we are wanting to know is the decision that is going to provide the most comfort, least problems, and most blessing.
- For fear of disappointing God, we live in paralysis analysis and just…do…nothing.
These are poor views of God and they only perpetuate this mindset that “God’s will is too hard too find.”
Scripture really does tell us about what God wills
But God does tell us plenty in his Word about His will. And in spending so much time figuring out His will of direction, we overlook His will of desire:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification. (I Thessalonians 4:3)
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 16-18)
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:17-18)
And there are many others. The point is, though, that it might be to our benefit to pay more attention to what God has already willed for us.
So…what do I do?
So how are we to make decisions when it concerns God’s will of direction about some non-ethical decision? Here are some helpful biblical principles with a liberating conclusion. But know this first: besides God using His Spirit to work in us through Scripture, God does not promise any other methods for guiding us in our lives. You know, that whole dependency thing.
- Seek wisdom. Read the first chapters of Proverbs. And then see that wisdom is personified. It’s Jesus!
- Read the scriptures. The more you read Truth, the more you will get a taste for godliness and thinking like Jesus.
- Pray. Learn more how God operates.
- Get around wise people and be willing to receive input.
And at the end of the day, if you have sought wisdom through the scriptures, prayed, and asked counsel of wise people, what do you do if there is no clear cut answer?
God is more good than we think
Realize there are times when God says, “Antone I see you are seeking me with your whole heart and loving me above all else. You are pursuing truth in my Word. You want to look like my Son. You love others. And as a gift, I have laid out a buffet of choices for you in this decision. Make a choice, my son, and realize I am with you. There will be great blessing and great trial in either direction. But be confident and just make a choice.”
This is how God operates. We make it so complicated by thinking there is only one choice where God will be pleased. God already knows what we are going to choose and He desires dependence on Him.
Let me finish with an example. Back in 2001 my wife and I were living in Oregon, helping with a new church plant. We learned to disciple and be discipled. I was working in downtown Portland and my wife was loving our kids at home, serving in the community, and operating her own business. We loved it there. Then my wife and I had a dinner conversation with someone who asked me to move to Wisconsin and teach at a college.
The process was agonizing, but mostly because I was trying to determine which of the two choices was God’s will. Stay? Or go? And though I ended up in Wisconsin, I look back and realize that my putting God into a box severely limited the joy of the journey of making a decision. I truly believe that I could have decided to stay in Oregon, continue loving people and being invested in, and that God would have been pleased.
I missed the joy of the choice and instead got fearful because I thought I was to figure out God’s choice because He was staying silent.
I love how Kevin DeYoung ends his book:
So the end of the matter is this: Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, wherever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God.
I had to have God correct some wrong perspectives. And how liberating it has been. I hope it is for you as well.