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Q148 : Discerning God’s Will

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Q148 : Discerning God’s Will

Tony,

Do you believe the Bible teaches that God has an individual will for each person? I have struggled with seeking and praying for God's will in my life with many decisions. Recently it was suggested I read Garry Friesen's book, “Decision Making and the Will of God.” It was very interesting and informative and really challenged my thinking — can we “hear” God’s voice, do we have to seek and know His will for big decisions in our life? Is there more than the sovereign and moral will of God?

A148 : by Tony Garland

The topic of how God’s will works out in history and in the life of the individual is complex with many aspects which are difficult to convey in the limits of a relatively short written response, but here are some things that I would mention.

I do believe God has an individual will for each person which, ultimately, is part of His sovereign plan. But His individual will for each of us is made up of two components, each of which operate in our lives: His inscrutable secret will which we cannot find out and the choices we ourselves make.

I do not believe that God has a single “perfect path” which he expects believers to discover and walk in. This would be akin to divination on our part to try and discern aspects of His “secret will” which He does not reveal (Deu. 29:29). It is my observation that many Christians get caught up in the stress of trying to discern aspects of God’s will for their lives which He has not revealed. Instead, what I see in Scripture is an emphasis on being open to His leading but also trusting that if we follow His principles that He fully expects us to make godly decisions without having to “hear” from Him at every juncture. In other words, in the same way that a mature child is able to be trusted with some measure of independence, we are allowed independence in our own choices so long as they fall within the guidelines and principles taught by Scripture. Therefore, we are free to make decisions within those guidelines without having to worry constantly that somehow we’ve “missed God’s will” for our lives. This also recognizes God’s sovereignty in our lives — that He will get us where we need to be if we are walking in obedience to His principles.

Of course, it is always wise to pray and consider God’s principles when making decisions. But I’m not sure that many of the decisions that we consider to be “big decisions” are truly the big ones. God often leads through small seemingly inconsequential “coincidences,” some would say “God-incidences” which we rarely pay attention to. (As some Rabbi’s are reported as saying, “‘Coincidence’ is not a kosher word!”) So we get overly burdened with what we think are “big decisions” and overlook small things in our lives through which God ultimately may direct us in even more significant ways.

A book I mention in a previous Q/A response does an excellent job of going into this aspect is Decisions, Decisionsa by Dave Swavely.

Too often, what happens in Christian decision-making is we try to go beyond what He has revealed to divine His secret will for our lives — which He has not revealed to us. Then we take our own hunches and inclinations, stamp them with the authority of “God told me . . .” and then proceed forward in something which is more often of our own concoction, all the while representing to others that we heard from God. This can lead to much heartache and often undermines the character of God in our witness before unbelievers when they observe our haphazard lives and the confusion which results.

Unfortunately, I’m unfamiliar with Garry Friesen’s book so am unable to comment on it.

You may find my answer to a related question, Question 83b, to be of further interest.


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