“I’m not sure what God’s will is for my life!”
i hear this a lot, or some other version of it. And i have spoken about/written on this before, but feels like a good time to bring it up.
YES, YOU NAILED IT, GOD WANTED THAT BABY TO GET SICK AND DIE
possibly the worst scenario this plays out in is when someone gets an incurably disease or a person dies and somebody who is chatting to a friend or family member of the dying or dead person has a moment of well-meaning panic and blurts out, “It was God’s will.”
No, No, No, No, NO! It may have been God’s will that you were a moron [debatable] but i don’t believe that sickness or death was ever God’s will. Not according to His book at least – both sickness and death entered the world after mankind decided to turn its back on God and try and do things for themselves [a game we’ve been playing – badly – ever since].
and it might be good for you to take a moment and think through the ramifications of telling someone that it was God’s will that their baby died because the way you say it, if you join all the dots in all the right [or wrong] ways, it comes out sounding like you are saying, “God wanted your baby to die.” And that doesn’t sound very much like a God anyone would choose to serve.
CAUSES vs. ALLOWS
however, at the same time, i must add the piece that says that i do believe that God ALLOWS people to die [of course He does, if He can create the Universe in a breath or over a millions-of-years period, then surely He has the ability to stop every person from dying] and that i think for some people, this is seen as pretty much the same as He causes all people to die. and that, when a baby dies at birth for example, it is an idea worth much wrestling over to hold on lightly to the idea that ‘God allowed this baby to die.’ Especially when it is ‘God allowed my baby to die.’
i do believe there is a very significant distinction between CAUSES and ALLOWS though, maybe for another post, and that the latter of those is not an easy thing to work through when it becomes personal.
but IF we live in a world with a God and IF we live in a world where there is an enemy of God [in some shape or way or form – that some might refer to as the devil] who has troops or forces of his own [and some measure of power in using them] and IF we live in a world where people have free will, or some measure of it… then we cannot blame everything on God because there are at least three different forces or people or groups at work at any one time.
SO HOW DOES GOD’S WILL WORK THEN?
This is how i understand God’s will to work and it makes a lot of sense to me through my reading of the bible which i see as God’s Word to us.
I describe it as there being two kinds of will in the Bible – God’s general will and God’s specific will.
SPECIFIC WILL: Moses gets a call from God. God tells him to go and tell Pharaoh to ‘Let My people go!’ – Through a series of encounters Moses does that and eventually comes to a point where Pharaoh tells Moses that he can take the people and leave. It was a specific request or commandment or mission that went directly to Moses and no one else.
GENERAL WILL: For the rest of the hundreds of thousands of Israelites, they get a message that they are leaving tomorrow and the choice of coming or not. There is nothing to suggest that each one of them got a specific message from God calling them to follow Moses and leave Egypt. For them it was a general message that covered everyone ad that everyone got to choose to respond to in some way.
The stories that stand out for us in the Bible are those of a Specific Will nature, but if you look carefully, you will see that for the majority of the people, General Will was all that they were faced with. David and Daniel and the prophets get a Specific Will message from God which they then deliver to the people who receive it as General Will and choose how they will respond.
Crowds of people follow Jesus, but He chooses twelve of them and even within the twelve there are a few Specific Will assignments for just Peter, James and John.
BUT DOES GOD CARE ABOUT THE COLOUR OF MY SOCKS?
i have heard some people get so pedantic about God’s will for their life – i asked God this morning what clothes to wear and what breakfast cereal to eat and…STOPPIT, you’re embarrassing us!
but more importantly, i believe that you might be missing the point. and one of the biggest points in the question of ‘WHAT IS GOD’S WILL FOR MY LIFE?’ is that in so many ways, He has already answered that question for you.
a person may open their cupboard and choose one jacket [out of the 4 jackets they have] and get dressed and leave their two bedroom house [that just one couple is living in] and walk past a homeless person begging at the side of the road on their way to buy a ridiculously overpriced coffee [and a brand where the particular farmer involved in that process receives a pittance for his work] on their way to work [for a greedy multinational-corporation which is exploiting its cleaning staff] and spend the day asking God what His will is for their lives. And God sighs quietly to Himself [cos He has tried being louder and more obvious but with no great effect], ‘Why don’t you just open your eyes a little.’
THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION: WHAT IS GOD’S WILL FOR MY LIFE?
This may come as a shock to some of you and you will hardly believe me when i announce it, but i know absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt what God’s will is for your life. Does that surprise you? Do you not believe me? Well, open your mind and give this crackpot a chance to explain…
I know absolutely that God’s will for your life is… that you love Him with all your heart, soul, strength and mind… and that you love your neighbour as yourself [Matthew 22.37-40]
I know for a fact that God’s will for your life is… that you forgive everyone who has hurt you in any way [Matthew 6.14-15]
I know that it is God’s will for you to make disciples of all nations, baptising them and teaching them everything Jesus taught us [Matthew 28.18-20]
I know that it is God’s will to not just listen to the word’s of Jesus, but to actively live them out [James 1.22, Matthew 7.24] and to look after orphans and children [James 1.27]
I know that God’s will for your life is to reach out to those who are marginalised and considered to be the least of these, which in Jesus day were those who were hungry, thirsty, sick and in prison and who in our day may be those who are refugees and sex trafficking offenders and victims and more.
Do i need to go on? Each one of those things [and there are more] are God’s General Will for anyone who calls themselves a follower of Jesus [as well as the ‘deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Me Jesus gave to us in Luke 9.23 – have you taken up your cross today?]
So the answer to your ‘How do i know God’s will for my life?’ question is READ YOUR BIBLE and read it for understanding, or get someone to explain it to you [Acts 8.26-40] if you’ve been reading it for years and not realised all of this.
God has revealed so much of His general will which is for everyone who follows Him. Get that right and finished and then you are more than welcome to start asking for more will from Him. But i suspect He has given us more than enough for a lifetime [and will that is so much easier to accomplish when we do it together, in community]
SO WHERE IS THE SPECIFIC WILL?
Well this is maybe where it gets a little less obvious or a little more tricky as interpretation of scripture definitely comes into play. If you are part of the group that doesn’t believe the Holy Spirit operates any more and that the gifts of the Spirit were only for the people during Jesus’ time then you are going to have to stick with General Will [which, as pointed out, will keep you busy]. But if you believe, like i do, that the Holy Spirit comes and lives inside us and prompts us and directs us and speaks to us and sometimes through us, then that has to lave the door open for Specific Will – i don’t know how to explain that as well as a lot of it for me feels like gut feel or stepping out in faith or taking a chance and hoping it was God, but as i do those things more and more – as i create space for God to speak to me and really try to listen and as i take moments to ask, ‘God is there something you would have me say or do here?’ i see it happen and i step out and i have come to learn through my experiences some ways in which the Spirit does lead and prompt and guide and just try my best to be faithful and obedient to those [while continuing to carry out God’s General Will]
i hope this has been helpful for some of you, and i am certainly open to discussing this further – this is simply how i have come to understand it, but for the most part it feels pretty straightforward and hard to argue with. How do i operate? Well, when in doubt, or not hearing specifically from God, then let the default setting be God’s General Will. What of the things that i know god has already told me to do, do i need to be doing today? Is there someone i need to show love to? Is there someone i am needing to forgive or ask forgiveness from? Is there a marginalised person who could really use a conversation and just someone asking their name and listening to their story. Is there some more simplicity i can bring to my cluttered, expensive, busy, technology-filled life?
Do the General Will. And keep doing it. And invite others to do it with you or seek out others who are doing it well and do it with them. But be always listening for the Specific Will that might interrupt at any time [also the Specific Will is not likely to contradict the General Will – if you specifically hear God saying ‘Don’t forgive that person’, it is probably not God!]
His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. By us. Through His strength and guidance and leading.