God’s will determines and causes certain activities and actions, in accordance with and for the benefit of humanity and his purposes. God created us according to his will, for his pleasure, for his purposes, and for eternity. Therefore, when our circumstances change, positively or adversely, we can faithfully abide in whatever comes our way, because we know from God’s other attributes, that his will knows truthfully what is best for us and what he has purposed for us to accomplish. By looking at God’s will as a constant and eternal tool—we evaluate ourselves through the eyes of God—and we let him use us within the context of the world, and all its problems.
Jesus’ brother James encourages us to see all the events of our lives as subject to God’s will. In his letter to first-century Jewish Christians, he wrote, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ To those who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain,’ James says, ‘You do not know about tomorrow… Instead you ought to say, ‘if the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that'” (James 4:13-15).
How many times do we make plans for the future, only to have them disintegrate before our eyes? God’s will doesn’t lead us astray, but don’t get the wrong idea. For example, someone might say, “Well it’s up to God, so I will wait on him to send me a job.” This is silly and shortsighted. God expects us to be active in his will for us. A job doesn’t materialize from God’s will—we have to apply for a job.
Further, in our response to tragic events, such as 911, we should not say, “Well … it must have been God’s will for that to happen.” The blame for the tragic events of 911 does not fall on God or God’s will—these increasing random acts of violence are the result of sin.
God’s will, like everything else about him, is a bit more complex than what we think. It constitutes a “variety of wills” all rolled in to one. For example, God’s necessary will evolves from and includes all that he must cause according to his nature—while his free will has no such prerequisite obligations. He chooses according to his pleasure and purposes. In addition to necessary and free will, God also has secret will and revealed will.
Think about the times you will yourself to do something, such as get more exercise, or quit smoking—but choose not to tell anyone beforehand. Or you may will yourself to further your education or search for a different job and tell your family and friends. Knowing that these examples aren’t consistent with God’s secret and revealed will, they do help us understand.
Furthermore, Scripture speaks to God’s secret and revealed wills. For example, in Deuteronomy 29:29 we read, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” From this passage, we glean two things: (1) God has every right to keep secret whatever he chooses to keep secret, and (2) God is sympathetic to our need for guidance. Therefore, he reveals those things needed to live within his will.
It’s not so surprising that God’s will is comprised of many different aspects. On the other hand, in spite of his complexities, he presents us with straightforward guidance in the Bible, and we respond through our faith.
Until next time…