How to Embrace God's Will and Count Your Blessings
- James MacDonald jamesmacdonald.com
- 2017 12 May
Embrace What God’s Will IS and Count Your Blessings
Blessing #1: We can conform our beliefs to the teaching of Scripture.
Since there are no Bible passages that connect the phrase “the will of God” to personal life decisions, we won’t make decisions as if there were. There are no Bible passages that connect the matter of God’s will directly to where to go to college, what spouse to choose, what job to take, what house to buy, what vacation to go on, or even the number of children to have. In fact, there are no Bible passages that teach or encourage us to discover God’s will at all! Every time the phrase “the will of God” or “God’s will” is used in Scripture, the passages are talking about either the sovereign will of God or the behavioral guidelines of God’s Word that are incumbent upon every Christ-follower.
Do you want to be blessed and have a successful life? Do you want to be prosperous in the biblical sense of the word? Conform your thinking and acting and believing to what God’s Word actually says. James tells it to us straight: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). We have plenty of God’s Word to keep us busy every day of our lives.
Blessing #2: We can live free from anxiety and guilt about God’s will.
What could cause more stress, anxiety, and guilt than praying for something that doesn’t even exist? What seems like God’s radio silence is actually His letting you choose.
Let’s say that you are looking for a job and suddenly receive three job offers. After thanking God, you might be tempted to ask, “Which one, God, which one? Please, God, tell me which one am I supposed to take!” Instead of thanking God for three possibilities, you may end up resenting God for complicating your life. But if God doesn’t have an individualized will that requires you to choose one particular job, then what happens next? You get to make a decision.
Let’s say you look carefully at the three job opportunities. You practice due diligence and take a closer look at the company cultures. Perhaps you discover that one of the employers may expect you to do some things that seem a little shady. From reading the job description or from talking to other employees, you can sense that you will be pressured to lie or distort the truth in this job. Is that God’s will for you? No. So that job’s out. By simply applying what God has already revealed in His Word, you didn’t need a divine neon sign pointing to that job that reads, “Don’t take this one! It’s a trap!”
So now you are down to two job options. They seem fairly equal on all fronts: pay, commute, advancement opportunities. Both seem to use your gifts and abilities well. Which job should you choose? Whichever one you want.
While there are many personal factors you should consider in the decision, you should not ask, “What on earth is God’s will about this?” Christian friends may ask, “Are you sure this is God’s will for you?” This taps into the fear that motivates much of our fretting over decisions. You can confidently answer, “What I realized is that it’s God’s will for me to make good and wise decisions and that His sovereign will is able to handle what I have decided.”
There are two primary reasons God usually doesn’t answer the prayer, “What’s Your will about this decision, Lord?” It’s definitely not because He doesn’t want you to know. God either doesn’t answer that prayer because 1) He has already answered in His Word, or 2) He has given you the choice.
It’s not that God doesn’t care about the decision you make. He cares very much about your decision. I love David’s description in Psalm 31: “For you are my rock and my for- tress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me . . . and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place” (31:3, 8).
What good news! God has not set your feet in a cramped, little place, like a narrow ledge with a sharp drop-off on either side. God has set your feet in a large, comfortable place. You are not in danger of falling off with God. You’re not in danger of accidentally stepping off the dot and missing God’s best and His blessing for your life.
When we face decisions, we can follow the pattern of Proverbs 3:5–6: trust God, lean on more than just our own understanding, and acknowledge Him as we choose. We’re not stuck in a holding pattern until God finally lets us know which choice He secretly wants us to make.
Blessing #3: We can recognize the validity of equal options.
Sometimes we get two or more options, and they’re all good ones. How phenomenal that God would bless us with equal options. It doesn’t matter which we choose. We can choose the one we like. God does not hide behind every choice to see if we make a wise decision, hoping to trap us in a mistake. God is excited to unfold His sovereign plan that incorporates our decisions, even if we do not fully understand how. Sometimes there are equally good options.
In the traditional view of God’s individualized will, there’s one house you’re supposed to buy and one house you’re not sup- posed to buy, and you had better figure it out and not buy the wrong house. In the biblical view of God’s will, either of the houses may be fine. God will use you on either street. In either place, life will be a mixture of wonderful and hard.
In the traditional view of God’s will, we agonize, “Which car is it, Lord? I can’t decide. I know You have one in mind; show me, God.” Back and forth, back and forth, crying out to God, “Lord, is it the Ford or the Chevy? Which car do I choose? Should it be blue or white?” Could it be that God’s will for somebody is a blue vehicle? Forget all that. We can relax and recognize the validity of equal options.
Blessing #4: We can challenge immature or unwise decisions of loved ones—and be open to having our own decisions challenged.
This gets to the heart of the matter. If God does have an individual will for me, then who decides what His individual will is? I do. And I get to frame my choices with the indisputable claim, “This is God’s will.” With that pronouncement, how can I give permission to wise people in my life to question what I have called “God’s will”? Putting my decisions in the “God’s will” category removes them from objection. The problem is that when you give anyone, yourself or someone else, a way to make unchallengeable decisions, it will lead to chaos and eventual isolation in your life.
When I was in college, I knew a young, immature, perfectly typical couple who fell madly in love. By the end of our first semester, they announced, “We’re getting married in a month!” Many of their Christian friends replied, “Why? Are you sure that’s God’s will?” And they confidently asserted, “We’ve prayed about it a lot, and we know it’s God’s will.”
Under the traditional view of God’s individual will, we were all supposed to say, “Wow, they’ve prayed about it and discovered that God’s will for them violates common sense. How dare we attempt to warn or caution them?” By couching their choice as God’s will, they communicated, “Do you have a problem with God’s will? Who are you to question God? We’re getting married. If you have any complaints, take them up with God.” Claiming God’s will is like the ace card that trumps all argument. “Well, I can’t contradict God,” we’re supposed to say, “So I had better let you drive off a cliff.”
Most sane people (particularly parents) would agree that in general, it is not a wise idea for a young couple to meet, fall in love, and get married in a three-month span. Of course there’s the exception, that rare and special couple who got married after knowing each other thirteen days and just celebrated their sixtieth anniversary. To them, we can all say, “Congratulations, and let’s write ‘grace’ all over that and be grateful!” Despite the rare exceptions, in general, a rushed marriage is not a wise plan, and God is never honored when we blame our lack of wisdom.
When others try to back us off and thus distance themselves from wise counsel or accountability with the “God’s will” defense, we don’t have to be silenced. We can calmly, compassionately say, “What I see in this choice is mostly your will. You’re the one making the decision, and I’d like you to consider that God would never lead you to choose an action that contradicts the wisdom of His Word and His people.” If a decision is truly God’s will, then we cannot question it, but if we see most decisions as expressions of human will (no matter what the deciders try to call them), then we have an opportunity to approach them in love and express a biblical alternative for a potentially wiser choice. Walking in wisdom and helping others to do the same is truly the will of God according to the Word of God.
JAMES MACDONALD is founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, a suburban Chicago church composed of many new Christians that has grown to more than 6,000 worshipers in its fourteen-year history. He has spoken extensively at retreats and Bible conferences and is the author of three other books, as well as articles in noted Christian magazines. He can be heard daily through the half-hour radio broadcast, Walk in the Word, which is aired on more than 500 stations around the country. A new one-minute feature with James, called Listen Up, is now in syndication and is heard on more than 1,000 stations nationwide.
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Publication date: May 15, 2017