What is God’s Will?

Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
His dominion is an eternal dominion;
    his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth
    are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
    with the powers of heaven
    and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
    or say to him: “What have you done?”

  • Daniel 4:33-35

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God;

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

  • Colossians 1:9-14

“Most people are not aware that in normal conversation we use the term ‘God’s will’ in three different, yet correct, ways.  For instance, in talking to a grieving friend who has lost a close relative in a tragic accident, you might say, ‘The Bible says that everything that happens is part of God’s will, and though we may not understand why these things occur, we can receive comfort from the knowledge that a wise and loving God is in control.’  In another situation you can be speaking to a Christian friend who is considering marriage to an unbeliever, and you would warn, ‘If you marry her you will be violating God’s will.’  Finally, you might be in conversation with a friend who is contemplating a college education and you ask, ‘Have you discovered God’s will about which school He wants you to attend?’  In each of these statements, the term ‘God’s will’ is used in a different sense.  For the sake of clarity … I will refer to these three different aspects as God’s sovereign will, God’s moral will, and God’s individual will.”

  • Garry Friesen with J. Robin Maxson, Decision Making & the Will of God

In Rev. Dr. Friesen’s book, he defines the three aspects of God’s will, but what each believer is really interested in is God’s individual will.  God’s moral will often comes under question when we wish to violate God’s moral will and we try to find a backdoor to do what we want rather than what God wants of us.  And, when life seems to be falling apart, we might question God’s sovereign will.  If all this bad stuff is happening, where is God in this?

Rev. Dr. Friesen spends time developing the concept of each, drawing two overlapping circles.  Some things are within God’s sovereign will, but not in God’s moral will.  He uses the example of Jesus’ crucifixion.  It was God’s sovereign plan from before the fall of Adam and Eve to redeem his created humans, but killing an innocent life is not part of God’s moral will.  Some might argue with Jesus taking on the sin of the world, Jesus did not appear in that moment to be ‘innocent’ although He lived a blameless life.  Something that we cannot claim.

The example given in the book for something within God’s moral will, but outside God’s sovereign will, is what the Apostle Peter said in 2 Peter 3:9 that God does not wish anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance.  Yet, God allows us to have free will and God knows that some will choose their own will instead of the will of God.  Since God loves them, it might hurt Him, but God is holy, and must treat those who turn away justly.

For the example of something outside God’s sovereign and moral will, outside both circles if you will, the author uses the example in Genesis 20:6 of God coming to Abimelek and warning him in a dream not to sleep with Abraham’s wife, Sarah.  Abraham had told Abimelek that Sarah was his sister out of fear of being killed.  Abimelek must have been really frustrated with Abraham’s family when Isaac did the same thing (Genesis 26).  But what the author is saying he is that something outside God’s sovereign and moral wills just does not happen.

Yet, somewhere in that overlapping area of the two circles, we find that area where God gives the command and the human obeys.  The author used Joshua 11:15 as an example, but there are so many of these examples in Scripture.  And the key is that somewhere within that overlap of God’s sovereign will and God’s moral will is where you find God’s individual will for your life.

How do you find it?  Now, that’s why the book is over 400 pages.  But after reading the book, I had already learned much of what was written in the book.

It boils down to studying God’s Word to understand God’s sovereign will and God’s moral will.  Of course, having God in your heart is an absolute requirement.  Seeking wisdom is needed.  Praying, having patience to discern God’s answers to prayer, and the quiet time alone with God to hear God’s voice.  All of this is necessary.  Then, there are the road signs that the author mentions.  Will the road to God’s will be the smooth choice?  Rarely, but going against God’s individual will for your life on a path that is both within God’s sovereign will and God’s moral will can be frustrating.  Thus, a road sign may spiritually appear, “Detour Ahead.”

I think the biggest thing that I got from reading the book is that God’s individual will can be interpreted in two different ways, if not more.  At least we can look at it macroscopically and microscopically.  From the big picture, macroscopically, God’s individual will for your life could mean your chosen vocation, an upcoming mission trip, or what to do upon retirement.

But God’s microscopic individual will is more complicated.  Let me give an example to which I can certainly relate.  When we moved to Pennsylvania, a lot of my travel within the USA was by driving.  We lived about a thousand miles from my parents, about 1,500 miles from my wife’s mother.  Our children moved around as they left home soon after we moved to Pennsylvania, rarely nearer than a day’s drive.  Practically every trip was a two-day trip, if not three days or more.  For work, a lot of those trips were with me driving a truck with textbooks, other give-aways, and demonstration equipment in the back of the truck.  A conservative estimate of the miles I have driven for work and family trips in the past twenty years is in excess of a half million miles.  I planned every trip.  I scheduled the trips to avoid major cities during their rush hours, looking at that level of detail.  After all, I was a professional at this kind of thing.

When you have taken a trip by automobile to visit relatives that live about a thousand miles away, you may decide to not get a motel reservation at any specific spot.  You may think that when you get to the stopping point where you had planned to stop, you might not be tired yet.  You might want to keep going, giving you more time with the family the next day.

Have you ever wondered, on those occasions, why you got stuck in traffic due to road construction that was not marked on the internet map route or a traffic accident?  Have you wondered why you did not get a good night’s sleep before you left, or something interrupted you during the packing of the car and you started late, which led to being stuck in gridlock in a major city, adding even more travel time?  When you have been stuck in a traffic jam, do your legs start to cramp like mine do, having to press the break pedal for most of an hour or two, making you wonder if you can even make it to the next exit?

As a result, you never made it to the motel that you expected to reach with plenty of energy to go further.  No, you stopped short.  You get frustrated.  You might be a bit grumpy because of the discourteous drivers on the highway.  If you are getting old, like me, you might feel like every muscle in your body is rebelling at that moment that you walk up to the front desk of the motel that is just too close to your starting point to be the right motel.

Then the check-in person takes a little too long to come to the front counter, but you are too tired to even ring the bell, if they have one.  You may hear parts of a conversation emanating from the office about how hard their day has been.  Then they appear.  They ask if they can help you while rolling their eyes, letting you know that they would rather be anywhere than in this spot at this time.  You ask if they have a vacancy and you go through the business of the transaction.  And finally, you have your room key and the WiFi password.

And as they turn to disappear into the sanctuary of the office, you say, “Thank you so much for letting me stay here tonight and giving me the added discount.  I really appreciate that, since I had no reservation.  May God bless you.”  You smile, even though it hurts to do so at that moment – yet the smile is heart-felt.

And they smile back at you.  The first time their frown turned upside down since you met them.

Have you ever thought that God had a hand in the traffic, the fatigue, and the late start from home, just for you to show God’s love to someone who might just be having a worse day than you just had?

That is something that relates to the details of life, not a broad stroke of the brush, and it is within God’s sovereign will, God’s moral will, and God’s individual will.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


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  1. What a vivid description of traveling by road and motels not working out

    Liked by 1 person

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