God is not a Magic 8-Ball

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As part of my re-reading project this year, I’m going back and reading a number of books I really enjoyed and looking at them again with (hopefully) fresh eyes. The most recent on the list is Kevin DeYoung’s little book, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will.

One of the things I love in this book is DeYoung’s ability to lovingly deconstruct our sometimes goofy notions about how to know God’s will. His major beef? That we think we “need” to know God’s specific plans for us at all:

God is not a Magic 8-Ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience and invites us to take risks for Him. We know God has a plan for our lives. That’s wonderful. The problem is we think He’s going to tell us the wonderful plan before it unfolds. We feel like we can know—and need to know—what God wants every step of the way. But such preoccupation with finding God’s will, as well-intentioned as the desire may be, is more folly than wisdom.

The better way is the biblical way. Seek first the kingdom of God, and then trust that He will take care of our needs, even before we know what they are and where we’re going. (26)

As much as we think we need to know God’s specific plans for our lives, we really don’t. Instead, can—and should—enjoy the freedom given in His explicit command: seek first the kingdom. God will take care of the rest.


photo credit: somegeekintn via photopin cc

The shocking secret to finding God’s will

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The other day I was speaking to a young guy who is currently unemployed. He wants to get a job, and has been told about a particular one he should apply for. But he wasn’t sure if he should.

“I’m just not sure it’s what I should do with my life,” he said.

I get where he’s coming from. When you’re looking for a job, particularly if you’re in the under 35 crowd (which I’m almost not anymore), the goal seems to be looking for your “calling,” that thing you’ve been uniquely made to do. And this causes a great deal of handwringing, particularly among young Christians.

After all, what if we take a job that’s not God’s will for us?

(Cue the Spirit keys. Wait, no…)

Discovering God’s will is one of those topics that Christians (at least, North American ones) never seem to tire of. We want to know if what we’re doing is what God wants for us, his “best” for us, if you will. There are tons of books on the subject (only a couple that are worth reading in my opinion, though), lots of sermons and blog posts. And, honestly, if you read most of them, you’d think there was some sort of big secret—that God was leaving his will for our lives shrouded in mystery.

A mystery you must solve in order to have your best life now™.

Or something.

But God has not left us to flounder on this, as if we were to wander about aimlessly with no hope of finding an answer. But he’s also not provided an answer that will satisfy some to the degree they’d like.

Instead, God directs us to his word, where he’s pretty clear-cut about no less than five things that are his will for our lives, which are helpfully detailed in John MacArthur’s book, Found: God’s Will and Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something:

1. God’s will is for us to be saved. God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (1 Peter 3:9). Simply, he wants us to be Christians, to know and worship Jesus.

2. God’s will is for us to live Spirit-filled lives. Our lives will be guided by the Holy Spirit as we are careful to study and listen to God’s Word and persist in prayer (see Acts 4:8, 13:9; Eph 5:18).

3. God’s will is for us to be sanctified. God’s will for our lives is that we grow holiness, putting sin to death and growing in Christlike character (Romans 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).

4. God’s will is for us to be submissive. God’s will is that we obey the authorities he has placed over us, whether godly or ungodly. This is crucial to our witness as Christians in the world. The only time when we may disobey is when those authorities command us to do what God forbids, or to not do what God commands (see Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-25; Acts 4:19).

5. God’s will is for us to suffer for the sake of Christ. God’s will for our lives is that as we follow Christ in this world we will suffer for Christ. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you,” said Jesus in John 15:18.

There’s nothing about secret whispers, visions or any of that stuff. There’s not even anything about looking at your passions and strengths as a person. Just believe in Jesus, live a Spirit-filled life, pursue holiness, obey God’s Word and the earthly authorities over us, and embrace the suffering that comes with being a Christian.

That, friends, is the totality of God’s revealed will for our lives.

It seems God is more concerned with revealing his intentions for our character and our heart’s condition than declaring a particular vocation. This isn’t to say that God doesn’t care about such things—after all, he has ordered every detail of our lives, appointing the time and place in which we live. God is in absolute control over the events of our lives—but he doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in acting like someone who spoils your favorite TV show on Twitter.

So instead of spending a great deal of time trying to figure out the details of God’s secret will, maybe we need to spend more time considering what he already has revealed.

Or am I crazy?

(Audio)Book Review: Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

Title: Found: God’s Will (Find the Direction and Purpose God Wants for Your Life)
Author: John MacArthur
Publisher: David C. Cook (Revised Edition: 1998)

“What is God’s will?” So many of us ask this question at various points in our lives. Searching for a new job. Considering marriage. Ministry opportunities. College.

But can we know for certain what is God’s will for our lives, specifically? Yes, says John MacArthur in Found: God’s Will. In fact, the answer will seem so shocking that you might need to “jump up out of your seat and shout!”

So what is God’s will for our lives? In this very short book, MacArthur carefully examines the Scriptures and reveals that God has made His will quite clear.

God’s will for us is that we are to be:

  1. Saved. God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (1 Peter 3:9);
  2. Spirit-Filled. Our lives will be guided by the Holy Spirit as we are careful to study and listen to God’s Word and persist in prayer (see Acts 4:8, 13:9; Eph 5:18);
  3. Sanctified. God’s will for our lives is that we grow holiness, putting sin to death and growing in Christlike character (Romans 6:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:3);
  4. Submissive. God’s will is that we obey the authorities He has placed over us, whether godly or ungodly. This is crucial to our witness as Christians in the world. The only time when we may disobey is when those authorities command us to do what God forbids, or to not do what God commands (see Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-25; Acts 4:19); and
  5. Suffering. God’s will for our lives is that as we follow Christ in this world we will suffer for Christ. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you,” said Jesus in John 15:18.

These five principles are crucial elements to God’s will for our lives. MacArthur handles the Scriptures with great care (as is to be expected). What impressed me though was MacArthur’s brevity. Found: God’s Will clocks in at a mere 64 pages. This is impressive on two fronts.

The first is that there are no wasted words. MacArthur stays on point and makes every illustration relevant. The second I’ll get to in a moment. [Read more…]