|A83 : by Tony Garland |
This is a subject where there seems to be considerable confusion and frustration.
One common view is that there is only one ‘perfect’ path which Christians must discern in order to follow God's will. This can lead Christians into attempting to determine God's secret will, which He is under no obligation to reveal.
"The secret [things belong] to the LORD our God, but those [things which are] revealed [belong] to us and to our children forever, that [we] may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)
We need to be careful to distinguish between that which belongs to us—what God has revealed in His Word—from those things which are none of our business and reflect God's inscrutable workings in history. Attempting to determine God's secret will as it applies in our own life will ultimately lead to great frustration—because it simply isn't revealed! A common Christian practice finds us entreating God to reveal details which He is under no obligation to reveal, and then boldly interpreting our own inclinations as “the will of the Lord” for us.
Lacking any obvious direct intervention by God to communicate specific directions (which is rare in Scripture when the entire sweep of the history it covers is factored in), we are to follow the guidelines established in His revealed will—which is found in the principles related in Scripture. He gives us full latitude to make decisions based on His established principles. So long as we are within these bounds we need not worry we will ‘miss God.’
For example, if there are two women that a Christian man is attracted to and they are both believers, it is my belief that Scripture teaches that either one could be courted with an eye toward developing a relationship that might lead to marriage. There is no ‘perfect wife’ or ‘just one woman’ that God expects us to figure out, as if we could know the exact mind of God on each choice we must make between morally equivalent paths.
If we take responsibility for making decisions based on God's revealed principles (Pr. 16:9), we can rest in the knowledge that His secret will, which is not knowable by us will direct our lives appropriately (Job. 23:13-14; Ps. 37:5,23; 119:133; Pr. 3:6; 20:24; Jer. 10:23). We can be confident that we aren't inadvertently opposing His will for us.
In the example given above, after fervent prayer, the Christian man could choose to pursue a relationship with either Christian woman knowing that God will direct events to either allow or redirect the results if need be. This is much the same as when an airplane pilot flies “on instruments” when he can't see the ground. Walking in God's will involves acknowledging God and continually setting our priorities according to His revealed will (the Bible). Then making responsible decisions within the moral bounds and principles He has given us. We can then trust that He will do His part so we leave the rest to His inscrutable will.
To summarize, if we follow what He has revealed to us, then we can be confident that He will steer the minor details in ways that we can neither perceive nor arrange to bring about His secret will.
A book titled, Decisions, Decisionsa by Dave Swavely which I read and reviewedb some time ago dealt with this subject quite well and included some realistic examples which clarified the difference between our responsibility to make active choices to “steer our life” according to God's principles versus the way in which God brings about His secret will in our lives without or knowledge. I highly recommend it as a resource.
Going a bit further, I believe a biblical case can be made that no creature—even the most vile—can frustrate God's secret will (Job 42:2). He ALWAYS gets His way and works within the inscrutable combination of His foreknowledge and fore-ordination. Thus, Satan in all his rebellion, still ultimately serves the purposes of God on God's timetable. For more on this theme, see The Serpent of Paradisec by Erwin Lutzer. Although none of His creatures can frustrate His will, the goal of the believer is to act in concert with what God has revealed.
As Christians, we want to live in a way where our decisions and paths honor and please Him and then leave the rest up to Him!