Below is a letter I wrote after hearing a sermon on “How Can I Know the Will of God?”
Perhaps I’m too logical in my thinking or somewhat of a doubting Thomas and need to mull over new ideas for them to take root in my life. Such is the case with your recent sermon, “How Can I Know the Will of God?” Your message was very clear that God has a specific “plan” for each believer and that it’s the believer’s responsibility to find out what that specific plan is.
You referenced Prov 3:5-6, which in your translation says, “And He will direct your path.” The NIV I have says, “And He will make your paths straight.” To me, there are substantive differences in these translations and subsequent interpretations to be derived. You said we shouldn’t depend on our own understanding and yet we also shouldn’t “deny our own smarts.” And, more than once you said, “You’ve got to trust even when it doesn’t make sense.” How can one ever have confidence to know they’re doing the will of God if they can’t be sure the decisions being made are what God would want done? Specifically, you stated, “He will guide you [referring to any number of things including] career, marriage, dating, and college so long as He’s Lord of all.” I regret that I didn’t hear how it is that we can know when it is that God is guiding us. In addition, because I didn’t come to Christ until later in life, does that mean I might have married the wrong person, have the wrong job, bought the wrong house, am raising the wrong number of children, etc? And that makes me wonder, does God also have a specific will for children and teenagers?
I recently found and a book in the church’s library, Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen. He references three separate aspects of the will of God which include:
- The sovereign will of God
- The moral will of God
- The personal will of God.
From his definitions, it seemed evident that you were referring to the personal will of God in your sermon and to that end, I’d be interested in your take of instances where Paul appears to make decisions without any obvious indication of seeking the Lord’s will:
1 Thess 3:1
1 Cor 16:3-4
Friesen would say that Paul was exercising wisdom and that in non-moral areas where there isn’t a Biblical command or principle, we’re free (and responsible) to make decisions that we think are best. Do you agree with this? Are there other books you’ve found helpful in determining the personal will that God has for a believer?
Certainly throughout the Bible there are instances where God has led individuals. However, it’s my sense that direct guidance was the exception and not the rule. To that end, I’m asking if you think Friesen’s conclusions regarding the “personal” will of God are correct:
- In moral decisions, Christians are to live in obedience to the stated moral will of God.
- And, in non-moral decisions, Christians are free and responsible to choose their own course of action.