Knowing And Doing The Will Of God
Knowing God’s will is perhaps one of the most puzzling topics that Christians have to grapple with. A lot of literature exists on it, dealing with such issues as election, predestination, free will, a permissive as well as directive will of God, right down to the practical specifics of exactly how to know God’s will in specific situations such as: Whom should I marry? What course of study should I undertake at school? What job or career should I take up? Where should I live? The topic bristles with difficulties. But what do the Scriptures say? Here’s a possible framework I believe is biblical.
GOD’S SOVEREIGN WILL …
God’s sovereign will is His hidden plan that determines everything that happens in the universe. God is the ultimate determiner of all things, every event in the whole created universe, from its very beginning. Seen from this perspective, His divine plan has a number of characteristics.
… Is Secret
God’s sovereign will is a secret known only to Him, and He hides it until it happens. If we want to know His sovereign will for the past, we look in the newspapers and history books. The terrible events of September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center in New York City was destroyed in a bombing raid attributed to AlQaeda, are included in it, however much we recoil from the fact. That a holy God allows sinful acts to be perpetrated by His creatures is a paradox which is very difficult to explain. But like most paradoxes, it is nevertheless true.
God’s will for the present is being worked out moment by moment in the unfolding events of our lives, “pleasing or painful, dark or bright,” as outlined so well by W. F. Lloyd (17911853) in his hymn, “Our Times Are In Thy Hand.”*
|Our times are in Thy hand;
Father, we wish them there;
Our life, our souls, our all, we leave
Entirely to Thy care.Our times are in Thy hand,
Whatever they may be,
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to Thee.
Our times are in Thy hand,
|Our times are in Thy hand;
Jesus, once crucified,
Now leads His own with tender care,
Our Shepherd, Guard and Guide.Our times are in Thy hand;
Christ is our Advocate!
No creature power from love divine
Our souls can separate.
Our times are in Thy hand;
God’s sovereign will for the future is known only to Him, but there are some exceptions. The prophetic Scriptures give us a sneak preview of what is in store for the world, “lifting the curtain” for a brief moment. Some events are clearly revealed in the Scriptures, including: the reality of heaven and hell; the existence and permanence of the Church, composed of bornagain believers from Pentecost on; and the glorious millennial reign of Christ on earth. These all comprise aspects of His sovereign will, “mysteries” of which He, in His wisdom, has given us a preliminary glimpse.
… Is Certain
“For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” (Acts 4:27-28 NKJV).
No one can frustrate the sovereign plan of God. All the forces arrayed against Jesus, at the time of His trial and crucifixion, were powerless to alter the determined purpose of God to carry through His will. His will for tomorrow is just as certain as if it had been carried out yesterday. He is allpowerful and totally in control of every situation.
… Is Comprehensive
“In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11).
Everything is included in God’s sovereign will. Nebuchadnezzar – the heathen king responsible for the mistreatment of Daniel and his three companions in captivity – came belatedly to this realization. After his restoration to sanity, he said this about God: “He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Dan. 4:35). The whole of creation, our personal salvation, and the stream of world affairs are all encompassed in His hand. Even the sufferings of believers are included, as Peter wrote: “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Pet. 3:17).
… Is Perfect
“He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Dt. 32:4).
His plan is perfect in every way, because He is perfect in every way. Set against the somber backdrop of sin, His will for the redemption of mankind – giving His Son, the Messiah rejected by Israel, crucified by the Romans, but resurrected on the third day and then ascending to heaven – will ultimately lead to His greatest glory.
… Is Awesome
There can be only one response to this majestic revelation of God’s sovereign will, and that is to fall at His feet in worship. We could do no better than acknowledge Him in awe and reverence with these magnificent words: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! ‘For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?’ ‘Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?’ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36; Jer. 23:18; Job 41:11).
By Ian Livingstone
* Hymn 209, Spiritual Songs hymnbook (Believers Bookshelf, Sunbury, PA, USA).
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org