How do I know the will of God? Now there’s a question! Someone may say, “It’s simple; just read your Bible.” I’d suggest that that’s an oversimplification of things. Yes, we see God revealed in nature – Natural Revelation. And it’s true of course that we have communication from Him in Scripture – Special Revelation. Yet, let me hasten to say, the entirety of “God’s will” is not revealed in the Bible.
That’s a given – isn’t it? Certainly God is bigger than His book. The Psalmist said long ago: “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (Ps. 147:5) While it certainly is true that we have a portion of His will revealed in Scripture, such does not even touch the vastness of mind of a Supreme Being.
With that being the case, doesn’t it go without saying that finite humans ought to “tread lightly” when it comes to speaking for God? “God told me to….” someone may say. Are you sure? Is it possible to look at things in life and to draw false conclusions about the will of God? Certainly so. Here’s a sobering thought: if and when we do (draw a false conclusion concerning God’s will), we may very well end up accepting as “God’s will” that which Satan has inflicted upon us. And that is a serious mistake because such a conclusion tarnishes the character of God.
Although our vantage point is limited, there are several things we can nail down in regard to God’s will. First, there is His Permissive Will. This pertains to the things in this world that He allows. In a broad sense, this includes everything that happens, since God chose to create the world with free agents. In this sense, by creating them free, He allows everything those free agents choose to do, including rebelling against Him. God does not revoke their freedom when they rebel. But this is not to say that every action humans and angels take is specifically allowed by God–that God foresees it and says, “Ok, I’ll allow that because it fits with My plan.” No, Satan is really at war with God, not merely one of His pawns.
Next, there is what is called His Sovereign Will. This is essentially what God ultimately accomplishes. At the end of the day, God is God and He will do what He wishes to do. At present Satan is able to resist God’s plans, sometimes with success (e.g., Daniel 10). As a result, you can’t simply blame God for everything that happens in the world. (“God allowed me to get sick.” “God allowed my child to get hit by a drunk driver, etc.”) The devil is truly doing things that are contrary to God’s will. However, Satan has already been defeated by Christ and it is certain that he won’t win the war.
Finally, there is His Ideal will. This is the one that sometimes I think we fail to appreciate or remember. His Ideal will has to do with what God ideally desires, whether or not it will ultimately take place. God’s ideal will can be thwarted because of the free will of another being. For instance, God wishes that all men be saved: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Pt. 3:9) But will that happen?
Not according to Jesus. Matthew records the Lord to have said: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Mt. 7:13-14) So, the omnipotent (all-powerful) God, Creator and sustainer of the world, desires for everyone to someday be saved and enjoy eternal fellowship with Him, yet because of their choice such will not come to pass. Not even God gets “His will” all of the time!
While much time can and will be spent in our attempt to figure out WHAT the Lord’s will is in various points in our lives, the primary thing with which we should be concerned is learning what He has revealed and DOING it.
You are loved,