“. . . My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt” (See Matthew 26:36-42, RSV).
Sincere Christians are genuinely interested in knowing and doing the will of God. A great pastor once said, “To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge, and to do the will of God is the greatest achievement.”
Both Jesus (Matthew 12:50) and the Apostle Paul (Romans 12:1-2) emphasized the importance of God’s will in our lives. Perhaps a question is in order, What do we mean when we speak of “the will of God?”
It is helpful to understand what God’s will is not. As a friend of mine said, “There’s a lot of stinkin’ thinkin’ out there!” God’s will is not some deep mystery that he uses to taunt and tease us – holding us accountable while hiding his will from us. God’s will is not always contrary to what we want – as though it is God’s role to make us unhappy!
God’s will is not some secret formula for health, wealthy, power, and prosperity. God’s will is not focused on trivialities, though no aspect of life is too small for his attention and interest. God’s will is also not always done in our lives.
Theologians have helped us identify and understand the will of God. His judicial will is expressed in laws (like the Ten Commandments).His punitive will is expressed in penalties and consequences for wrong, selfish, sinful behavior. His permissive will is expressed by granting us the gift of free will. His directive will is expressed in guidance. His ultimate will is expressed in eternity. The “revealed” will of God is articulated and communicated to us clearly.
The “realized” will of God is dynamic and unfolding in our lives over time. A second question: How do we come to know the will of God for our own lives? Paul Little suggested the following ground rules. (1) You must be a child of God. (2) You must be obedient to the Heavenly Father. (3) You must be willing to accept God’s will before you know it! There are also some very practical ways of knowing God’s will. We can discover his will for us by reading the Bible, by praying, by allowing the Holy Spirit to operate in our lives, by paying attention to circumstances (open or closed doors), and through Christian friends who are committed to God and who know and love us.
Are you seeking God’s will in your life? A.W. Tozer said, “We should never seek guidance on what God has already forbidden, or in those areas where He has already given a command.” God will help you to realize and fulfill the purpose for your life as you seek and do his will.
Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.