“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
Needless to say, the topic of decision-making and the will of God is very important to the Christian life. As I wrote yesterday, I do not believe this proverb speaks primarily to seeking the will of God; rather, it is an admonition to know and obey the will of God. It is not telling us to seek to discover the hidden purposes of God; rather, it is telling us to acknowledge and trust God’s purposes.
The Lord has given us 66 books that are packed with declarations of his purposes and principles. What more do you need to know? Why do so many Christians constantly pray and ask the Lord: “Please show me your will?” Why don’t Christians study the revealed will of God, seek wisdom, and then set goals, make plans, and take action? Why do so many Christians act as if God’s purpose and will are hidden?
The majority of Christians believe (and have been taught) that God has a specific plan for their life, and that plan includes where they should live, what job they should have, who they should marry, etc.. Therefore, Christians are constantly asking the Lord to "show them his will," especially with respect to what are regarded as the "big decisions."
However, the Bible does not indicate that God has scripted our life, nor does it instruct us to engage in mystical mechanisms in order to discover his will for what he wants us to do. Yes, God loves us and wants the best for us. But it does not follow that God therefore has a will or preference for where to live, what job to have, or even who to marry.
It is quite unfortunate that this view has been so ingrained in so many Christians for so long. It just doesn’t seem to be biblical.
God is sovereign. He makes happen what he wants to make happen. God has communicated his moral will in scripture. He has revealed to us the way he wants us to live and work. In those areas of life where God has not given clear command, he gives us freedom and responsibility to choose. He does not have a secret or hidden or special will that we need to somehow "discover." In fact, it is God's will that we apply wise thinking and decision-making skills in the “non-command” areas of life. Where God has spoken, we are to obey. Where God has not spoken, we are to exercise wisdom.
I don't know a better example of this than Ephesians 5.15-17: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
The key to "big decisions" is to choose and act within God's revealed limits, to trust in his sovereignty, to seek wisdom from the Lord, and to use effective thinking and decision-making principles. With regard to non-command areas of life, scripture does not tell us to seek God's will; it tells us to seek God's wisdom.
Freedom and responsibility within the boundary of God's revealed will is what scripture teaches. It can be illustrated with a circle. Inside the circle is obedience to God's revealed will. Outside the circle are things contrary to God's revealed will. As a follower of Jesus, you are free to choose anything inside the circle. You are free to choose anything within the limits and boundaries of God's revealed will. If you choose outside the circle, you are out of alignment with God’s will and there will be consequences. Sometimes the consequences are delayed, but there are always consequences.
Any choice outside the boundary of the circle is contrary to God’s will.
What is hard for some people to accept is that there is no "special plan" or "special will" for us inside the circle. The truth is that God’s plan is for you to learn how to think, choose, and take responsibility for your choices. His plan is that you learn how to apply scripture to your thinking and decision-making. His plan is that you obey his Word and seek his wisdom in the way you live your life, do your job, and make decisions.
This is why I wrote in the devotional last week that God’s will is not a secret. The Lord is not some kind of cosmic Easter Bunny who has hidden His will in the spiritual backyard, requiring us to search for it while using "open doors & closed doors" and "feelings of peace" to give us clues if we are "getting hotter" or "getting colder" in proximity to what he wants us to do.
When a person uses this mystical methodology and has finished interpreting the indicators and has made a decision about God’s will for a particular decision in their life, ask the person how they know that the decision is indeed “the will of God.” What precisely did God say to them and how did He actually say it? The answer you get is very subjective, highly suspect, and definitely not clear. Yet the person will say with tremendous confidence, “The Lord led me to go here, do this, say that, etc..”
To be totally candid, I think it is deeply embarrassing (and more than a bit frightening) that so many Christians invest so much time and effort trying to “discern God’s will” with this method. There is nothing in the universe more important than the will of God. To trivialize it with this kind of subjective mysticism is a mistake of the highest order.
Frankly, it dishonors God.