Defining God's Revealed Will
Big Idea: God's Will is that we live God's way as revealed in God's Word.
(To listen to the full sermon audio, click here.)
Many Christians have been taught that God’s will is individual and specific, like a bull’s eye that we are to aim for. According to this traditional view, if we can just discover where the center of His will is and put ourselves there, we can be confident of God’s favor and trust that He is controlling every detail.
Some of us are happy with this way of looking at God’s will. If He has one perfect plan for us – the school we’re to attend, the career we’re to pursue, the person we’re to marry – and if we can figure out what it is, we will know we are where God wants us and everything will be okay.
But what if we can’t identify that elusive target? And worse, what if we shoot for the target and miss? Interestingly, the Bible doesn't teach that God has an individual will for our lives.
There is no bull’s eye.
The Bible teaches there are two components to God’s will. He has a sovereign will: a hidden plan that controls the outcome of all things in the universe. And within His sovereign will, He has a moral will: His commands in the Bible that teach men and women how they ought to believe and live.
Inside this framework of God’s revealed (sovereign and moral) will, He allows believers great freedom to make their own decisions. He’s in control of every outcome, but He’s not controlling each step like a dictator. And that is actually a blessing.
So you might be asking, if the Bible doesn’t teach an individual will of God, then what exactly is God’s “revealed will” for my life?
There are three answers to this question found in the Bible. God's will is:
1. That we humbly submit to His sovereign will in matters we can’t control.
"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."
When we presume that we are in control of our own lives, we’re not just arrogant, we’re wrong. Our lives are like a mist (v. 14). To think that we are in control of something so brief is foolish. Only God is sovereign; He alone controls the outcome of all things to accomplish what He intends.
Yes, we should make our plans wisely within God’s revealed will, but if the outcome is different than we expect, we have a choice: Will we submit to, or scorn, the sovereign will of God? In this context, submitting is not an act of begrudging obedience. In fact, it’s not an action at all, but an attitude marked by humble trust that God will work all things out for His glory and our good.
2. That we are sanctified by His revealed will in matters of Christlikeness.
“Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
As Christians, it is God’s will that we be sanctified; that is, that we grow in holiness, becoming more like Jesus as we walk with Him every day. We can be sure that in every situation we face, as we submit to God’s revealed will, He is working to make us holy, no matter what the circumstance.
Though we tend to be focused on the externals of God’s will (where, when, who?), He is focused on the internals (how and why?). God has called us TO and saved us FOR holiness. He works this sanctification in us as we submit to His will, revealed in His Word. As we focus more on who we are, we can worry less about whether we are where God wants us to be.
3. That we are guided by His revealed will in matters of personal choice.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Living according to God’s will is a big deal … and it’s not a mystery. God has given us clear instructions in the Bible so that we can be certain of His moral will. Exercising freedom within those guidelines is God’s will for us.
We are still responsible for the consequences of sinful decisions, but we can rest in the knowledge that in His sovereignty, God controls the final outcome of all that happens and redeems it for His glory. There is no bull's eye we are to spend our lives trying to find and hit.
As we focus on what the Bible has revealed, we can discern God’s moral will and make decisions with confidence. We can experience freedom in decision-making, engage unwise decisions, and evade indecision.
Will you embrace the blessing of God's revealed will and align your thinking with His Word?
Questions for further reflection:
- Where do I need to humbly submit my heart and life to God’s sovereign will?
- How is God’s Word currently calling me to be more like Christ?
- Where do I need to align a current decision with God’s Word?