The term, “God Willing” has been used as a type of hashtag (#) by Christians, even back when a hashtag was simply a pound or number sign. Many add it to the end of a sentence when they are sharing things they want to do that may be considered either life changing or possibly out of their reach. A quick search of #godwilling on Twitter can show numerous examples like these:
Just finished interviewing for the teaching position!!! #godwilling
Big news on the way! Let’s see if all of these singing lessons pay off… #godwilling
I’m finally able to afford to go on a mission trip, but waiting on the Lord to release me! #godwilling
Mom’s heading into surgery. If you pray, pray for a miracle. #godwilling
All of these situations, even though they are all based on different hopes or desires, have one thing in common. They desire God’s will to be in line with their own, and they leave enough room in their hopeful prayer to respect that the Lord is still in control, even if it doesn’t go the way they hope. Each situation shows an expressed belief that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives yet reveals that they believe we are called to do something along with Him until we get to the point where it’s out of our hands. From then on, it’s God’s will if the outcome happens the way we want, and it’s God’s will if it doesn’t.
But is this actually what it means to seek after the will of God? Maybe we need to step back a second and see what the Bible means when we read passages talking about the will of God.
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What is the Will of God?
The Bible seems to indicate that there are 2 different ways of understanding the will of God.
1. The Moral Will of God
This is what we know to be the things the Lord calls of us to do, or not to do, and holds us accountable for our choices. Paul speaks about moral will in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 by saying how we should abstain from sexual immorality, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 by pointing out how we should give thanks to God in all circumstances. This type of the will of God, while revealed to us so that we may follow it, is still given with a choice to follow it faithfully or to give into temptation and follow another way outside of God’s moral will.
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"Joseph’s decision is to flee so that he may uphold the moral will of God."
An example of someone trying to uphold the moral will of God is found in Genesis 39. It’s here where we find Joseph physically running away from the adulterous requests of the wife of his master, Potiphar. Joseph clearly states that he desires to honor his master and that giving in to her requests to be with her is something wicked in the eyes of the Lord. Joseph’s decision is to flee so that he may uphold the moral will of God.
This characteristic of Joseph is found with him throughout his life. He is shown as a diligent and hard worker for whoever he is placed under, and he humbly uses his gifting of dream interpretation to help those over him. There is one instance where he seems prideful when explaining a dream of the Lord to his brothers and parents about how they will one day all bow before him (Genesis 37:1-11). While this is quickly rebuked by his father, there is never any idea given that Joseph was committing the sin of pride. It may just be a young man’s excitement to share what the Lord is showing him. Most interesting of all is the idea that all of Israel may have died in the upcoming famine if Joseph did not share his dream and cause his brothers to finally rid themselves of him! That touches on the second aspect of God’s will.
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2. The Sovereign Will of God
This is what we know to be the things that the Lord has willed to happen and there isn’t anything we can do or say to change His mind. The Apostle Paul mentions this aspect of God’s will when hoping to visit Christian brothers and sisters during his time spreading the gospel of Christ (Acts 18:21, Romans 1:10, Romans 15:32). Paul desires to go, has made it known to both God and man that he desires to go, but has given it over to God’s will if it is to actually happen.
Another character example of this is again, found in Genesis 39. Potiphar’s wife becomes so enraged that Joseph would not be with her that she falsely accuses him to her husband saying that Joseph was the one trying to have his way with her. Because of these accusations Potiphar has Joseph thrown into prison. Yet, even during this horrible turn of events for Joseph, we see something very interesting happen when he gets there. Something that has followed Joseph wherever he goes.
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"No matter what happened to him...the Lord always shows him favor and causes him to prosper wherever he goes."
Verse 23 says, “the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” If you follow the story of Joseph, you will find that no matter what happened to him (being thrown in a well, sold as a slave, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and finally thrown into prison), the Lord always shows him favor and causes him to prosper wherever he goes. This favor eventually places him as the second in command of all of Egypt and saves his family’s heritage. As I mentioned before, this is something that may not have happened unless he shared his dreams with his family! Joseph shows that he understands this when speaking to his brothers that have come to him for food. Remember, these are the same brothers that threw him into a well and sold him as a slave. He tells them in Genesis 50:19-21,
“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”
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Our Decisions and God's Will
We see two things at play in the life of Joseph concerning the decisions he made and God’s will for his life. We can use these to gauge our thoughts and ideas concerning the choices we make while also seeking the will of God for our lives.
1. Joseph Sought to Uphold the Moral Will of God
We find in Joseph a man that sought to honor God in following his commands and to honor man in working with excellence in the gifts the Lord had granted him. Joseph was shown to be faithful and trusting, and while the Bible never reveals that this was the reason God favored him, there are plenty of biblical verses to show that God is for us when we seek to live with His moral will as a guide (Deuteronomy 4:39-40, Deuteronomy 5:29, Proverbs 3:1-6).
What Joseph teaches us is that even though God will be for us if we keep his commands, it does not mean that others will necessarily be for us, or that what happens to us will be easily understood given our limited perspective. We may have those that will turn against us, natural disasters may destroy all we own, or we may be diagnosed with cancer, but it is always right for us to continue to make our decisions with God’s moral will in mind.
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2. Joseph Never Lost Faith that God was with Him
Joseph never seemed to second guess God despite what was happening to him. He was a man that understood not only his earthly father’s love for him, but also his Heavenly Father’s love. And he continued to live with the knowledge that he would not be forsaken no matter what he endured. He may have been given a small idea of what the future held for him in his dreams, but he was never told what he would have to go through to get there. He simply believed and lived a life guided by that belief.
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"We become scared that our decisions...will be the determining factor for whether God uses us..."
While we can know God’s sovereign will in that He will overcome the evil of this world and share eternity with all who believe in Him, we are limited in knowing our part in reaching that conclusion. This is hard for us, and with good reason. We all seek to not only live a life that is our best for God, but also to be someone that God has favored to live a life as important as Joseph’s.
We become scared that our decisions about what job we pursue, whom we marry, if we have children, where we will live, and other choices we will have to make will be the determining factor for whether God uses us to fulfill his plan for our lives. This causes us to second guess what we’ve done, what we are doing, and what we are desiring to do. The panic robs us of our present potential in what we are doing or stops us in our tracks from doing anything at all.
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So How Do I Know if My Decisions are in God's Will for Me?
The bottom line answer is that you will never 100% know the answer to that question this side of Heaven, but it can be a question that you never have to ask again. Is that really possible?
Yes, it’s very possible!
When you have a heart to follow God’s moral law (along with a repentant heart for when we sin) and a faithful understanding in the truth that God loves you and is for you, we never need to second guess if we are outside of God’s will for our personal life. Even if we fall, and the fall seems great, we have a God that is faithful and just to accept us when we call upon His forgiveness and restore us. It may not be restoration to what we were doing before, but it can be in another aspect that God can use us. Remember, He is not surprised at what happened, so we can know that whatever is next is still in His will for us! It doesn’t mean that God wants us to sin to move us to another area, but it does mean that God is a redemptive God that can use anything for His glory.
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"There is an effort that we have to make with the talents and gifts we are given."
With this all said, I’m in no way implying that you should not continue to seek God in prayer for the choices in your life, nor should you do nothing while you wait to hear from the Lord. We are called to pray at all times (Romans 1:10), to work for the food we eat if we are able (2 Thessalonians 3:10), and to never be tired of doing good (Galatians 6:9). The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 shows that there is an effort that we have to make with the talents and gifts we are given. If you don’t move because you are afraid of what God might do, or that you may do something wrong, then it’s best to remember that doing nothing is what should concern you.
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"...You are very important to God."
God’s love for you is great, and we need to believe He cares about us as much as we think He cares about others. I sincerely believe that what we all want to know is if our lives our important to God. To that, I simply say that you are very important to God. While you may not have a life that is written down for us to study like Joseph or Paul, if your name is written in the Lamb’s book of Life (Revelation 20:11-15), then you will share in their reward as one that followed the will of God.
Richard Lee Sorensen is a certified Life Coach and helps people overcome the often emotionally overwhelming process of decluttering at Declutter Planning. He also writes on his blog, Fiction and Fatherhood.
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