The Meaning of God’s Will: Discernment
Knowing the Will of God for Our Lives
Pursuing knowledge of the will of God is not an abstract science designed to titillate the intellect or to convey the kind of knowledge that “puffs up” but fails to edify. An understanding of the will of God is a desperately important matter for every Christian seeking to live a life that is pleasing to his or her Creator. It is a very practical thing for us to know what God wants for our lives. A Christian asks, “What are my marching orders? What should my role be in contributing to the establishment of the kingdom of God? What does God want me to do with my life?” lt is inconceivable that a Christian could live for very long without coming face-to-face with these gripping questions.
Having been a Christian for some twenty-five years, with the study of theology my main vocational pursuit, I find that practical question pressing upon my mind quite frequently. I doubt if a fortnight passes without my being seriously engaged by the question, At this point in my life am I doing what God wants me to do? The question haunts and beckons all of us. It demands resolution, and so we must ask ourselves, How do we know the will of God for our lives?
The practical question of how we know the will of God for our lives cannot be solved with any degree of accuracy unless we have some prior understanding of the will of God in general. Without the distinctions that we have made, our pursuit of the will of God can plunge us into hopeless confusion and consternation. When we seek the will of God, we must first ask ourselves which will we are seeking to discover.
If our quest is to penetrate the hidden aspects of his will, then we have embarked upon a fool’s errand. We are trying the impossible and chasing the untouchable. Such a quest is not only an act of foolishness, but also an act of presumption. There is a very real sense in which the secret will of the secret counsel of God is none of our business and is off limits to our speculative investigations.
Untold evils have been perpetrated upon God’s people by unscrupulous theologians who have sought to correct or to supplant the clear and plain teaching of sacred Scripture by doctrines and theories based on speculation alone. The business of searching out the mind of God where God has remained silent is dangerous business indeed. Luther put it this way, “We must keep in view his word and leave alone his inscrutable will; for it is by his word and not by his inscrutable will that we must be guided.”
Christians are permitted, in a sense, to attempt to discern the will of God by means of illumination by the Holy Spirit and by confirmation through circumstances that we are doing the right thing. However, as we will discover, the search for providential guidance must always be subordinate to our study of the revealed will of God. In our search, we must also come to terms with the dynamic tensions created by the concept of man’s will versus predestination. Before our inquiry can lead us into such practical avenues as occupation and marriage, we must face the thorny issues involved in the free will—predestination issue. We have seen what the will of God entails.
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