Without doubt, one of the most difficult things about being a Christian is to find, understand and know the will of God. But in a certain sense, it is not all that difficult. As I understand it this morning… (and this is definitely not the final word about it, for we can never stop thinking about it and discussing it), there is an “easy” and a “difficult” side to knowing the will of God. The easy side is found in His word and in what we know! What is God’s will with regard to…
- our enemies? Must we love them?
- our desires? Especially if they take over our lives to the extent that we can even contemplate murder? (James 4: 1-4)
- divorce – God hates divorce (Mar, 2-16)
- care of the poor, widows, children etc.
- adultery, honesty, theft, fraud, idolatry, anger and slander, drunkenness and avarice.
In other words, there are certain things that are clear, and explicitly addressed in God’s word. We do not have to struggle to determine the will of God about these things. His word, His spirit and His will are never in conflict with each other, as this would mean that God was simply not trustworthy. He cannot forbid x in His word, and then have His Spirit prompt me to do them. No, it is my sinful nature that prompts me not to listen to His word or His Spirit within me – the two can never be in conflict with each other. And I have often experienced this in my own life, and in others that sometimes ask “I have been led by the Spirit to do x ” …. but a clear standpoint on this x can be found in the Bible. My answer is usually “go and pray and ask again, because His Word and His Spirit can never be in conflict with one another.”
However, a word of comfort……if you have acted in conflict with God’s word, this is usually a sin, but not an unforgivable sin. Naturally, God forgives again and again. It is through His abundant grace and mercy that we are received back into His arms. We must move away from the concept that God is a punishing God: he is actually my loving father. The only time when God will be a punishing God , is when He, one day, will constrain those who have consistently denied Him to the end. But precisely because of His love and mercy, He has postponed His second coming…(2 Peter 3: 9) “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (NIV The Bible: new translation c1983 (electronic edition).
There is also a second category: what is God’s will about those things where there are no clear guidelines? What is God’s will about….
- use of alcohol ( not the abuse of alcohol for which there are clear answers)
- is this the right partner for me for the rest of my life?
- my choice of career, etc.
In these cases, I believe, we must make deductions from the Bible within the context of the question. It is therefore important to know what God says; what is His will for mankind? What is the golden thread running through the Bible; because the correct interpretation and understanding of this, and even of dogmatic/philosophical concepts, is part of the answer. For example, to know and understand that God created us in His own image, as His representative, has implications for even the smallest decision that we one day will or must take. To know that Jesus had two identities (dogmatics) at the same time (not sometimes God and sometimes man) has implications for decisions I must take, because this defines the “big picture”, the golden thread of our understanding of the Bible. (This is why I am still promoting the use of Greek, Hebrew and Dogmatics, because these are the foundations for my understanding of the world and God’s working in the world and what influences me.) To understand that God is not a determining God (philosophical, dogmatic), that He is indeed involved daily, dynamically, creatively and re-creatively with His creation, (and I and my life are part of His creation), will determine whether I believe in co-incidence or luck. I think this is quite clear.
So how do we determine what the will of God is in these circumstances? I will try to make deductions from that which is clear. for example smoking. What we know is that:
- my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that I should not damage it
- any substance that has the power to cause me to become addicted, or has already caused me to become addicted, literally limits my freedom and self-control (never allow yourself to become addicted to anything)
- the fruit of the Holy Spirit is, among other things, also self-control: control over addictions that would take away my ability to choose, etc.
Therefore, everyone must make deductions from Biblical information. And if you make an incorrect deduction – relax! We can never know everything about everything! We may make decisions based on our insight on that particular day, and date, which, with hindsight were incorrect. This is fine, because this was what I understood and believed in that kairos moment. Secondly, even if it was wrong, the abovementioned comfort is still available…. God forgives (and understands our incomplete answers and knowledge) again and again. And naturally, this is a reason why we may not judge others for the choices they make, while it was a choice made while wrestling before and with God. Even if the choice was made without wrestling with God, we do not know that and we have no right to judge where another person is, in his/her walk with God.
Other things that I have found to be useful in assessing the will of God in “difficult” situations, are:
- apart from the word, a sense of peace “that passes all understanding” when a right decision has been made;
- the community of believers. God speaks to us through others (collective intelligence). And if everybody is not in agreement, you might have to go back, pray and ask once more, because the Spirit is not divided in Itself;
- logic. I have intelligence and can reason things out for myself.
Your decision must make sense for you;
- signs. Yes, God can and does speak to us through signs; and I believe we may ask for signs, as long as we follow the guidelines mentioned above. The same rule applies: God will not give a sign that we may steal ……
Another word of comfort: what if it was a wrong decision? It does not matter! Ask for forgiveness and carry on! Even in our wrong decisions, even in and through our sins, God forgives and can use anything to work out for good (Rom. 8: -28 ) If I had to get married, it is not the end of the world for me or my child – neither of us is doomed to be a failure, rejected, or lead un happy life, or be consigned to hel (move away from the concept that Gode is a punishing God). No, God forgives and restores LIFE, yours and your child’s and everyone that is affected by it, and can make everything work together for good and to His honour and glory.
God wants to bless us. God carries our happiness and joy on His heart! God wants to lead us in all our decisions. I think that God takes more pleasure in our dependence on Him, than in that we should always make the right decisions!