Obey God and Do What You Want
Exploring Decision Making and God’s Will
The Decreed Will of God
Basic Definition of the Decreed Will of God: God’s plan that determines and includes everything in the universe (all events, circumstances, and creatures). Other names for this will are: Determined, Ordained, Sovereign, Secret.
DeYoung describes what he calls “God’s will of decree” as “God Always Gets His Way” (p 17-19). He notes several things about what we are calling the Decreed Will of God and offers Scriptural support. Perhaps we can capture it in two points:
1. God’s decreed will is certain to come to pass; it can not be prevented. And related, all that God decrees will come to pass.( GF = Certain p188)
Isaiah 46:9 "Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure';
Trying to thwart the sovereign will of God is futile. Thus, the basic concept of the decreed will of God is: settled.
We might add:
Daniel 4:35 - “"All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You done?’”
Romans 9:6-29 especially v 19 - “You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”
2. God’s decreed will includes everything. There are no exceptions to this! (GF = Detailed p 189).
Ephesians 1:11 - “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,”
Not one single thing is outside of the sovereign purpose of God. This means that God controls both the good and the bad so that His purpose is accomplished. We can handle the good. It is the bad we have trouble with. We struggle with evil men (think Hitler), or bad circumstances (think Joseph Genesis 50:20), tragic events (think 911), et al.
That also means no one can thwart God’s plans - Pharaoh (Romans 9:17; Exodus 9:34; 14:4); the Crucifixion (Acts 2:23); salvation of His people, the elect (Romans 8:28-30).
Matthew 10:29-30 - "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
So, even the minutiae of life are part of His sovereign plan.
Acts 4:27-28 - "For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”
Historically, evil acts of human beings are part of God’s sovereign will.
Psalm 139:16 - “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
The daily course of our lives were predetermined by God before we were born!
Note: Of necessity, even though there is no “individual will” in the traditional sense (as we shall see in lessons 3 and 4), there is an “individual will” as part of the decreed will. Every decision that I make is the only one that I could have made! And it does not take God by surprise.
In addition to DeYoung’s two notions, we might add three other characteristics of God’s decreed will:
3. God’s decreed will is normally hidden. (GF = Secret p 190-191). We only know what this will is after the fact! Today we learn what yesterday’s decreed will was.
Deuteronomy 29:29 - “"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.”
James 4:14-15 - “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (will make comments p 11)
Romans 9:19-20 - “You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?”
We also learn that God is not obligated to share with us his rationale for doing whatever he does! He does what he wants and need not offer any explanation.
Notice I phrased it, “normally hidden”. The exception to this fact is that when the Bible reveals his decreed will then obviously it is not hidden. This would be true in cases of predictions of future events such as the details of Peter’s death (John 21:18-19) or the eternal damnation of individuals (Revelation 20:11-15).
4. God’s decreed will is mysterious. (GF = Supreme p 191-194).
First, we mean is that God sovereignly determines everything that comes to pass yet does not abrogate human responsibility. Men are still accountable for their actions
Acts 2:23 - “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
This makes it clear that those who killed Jesus were merely carrying out God’s “predetermined plan.” Note how Luke states in no uncertain terms that ultimately God himself killed Jesus!
And yet, Acts 3:13-15 - ”The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 "But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses.”
Notice that wicked men got the blame for fulling the predetermined will of God
Second, we mean that, even though God’s sovereign will includes acts of evil, God is not blameworthy. (See again the crucifixion texts Acts 2:23; 3:13-15 - “you”). And, at the end of the day James 1:13 is still true - “Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”
5. God’s decreed will is always good. (GF = Perfect p 195-197).
Romans 8:28 - “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Nothing is outside of God’s sovereign purpose. No good thing; no bad thing. Nothing! And here is the incredible kicker - God controls the universe for the benefit of believers only (the lovers of God which equals the called of God). Really? How can this be?
Comparison of God’s Wills (chart)
Decision Making in Light of God’s Decreed Will
A key passage is:
James 4:13-15, “Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” Observations from this passage:
- Plan to your heart’s content (v13). Some of you like to plan others not so much! However, planning for the future is wise. We ought to plan. In fact, this passage is an example of both short range (today and tomorrow) and long range (next year) planning. So, think/plan tactically and strategically and make your decisions accordingly.
- Avoid presuming about the future (v 14). Here is the sobering truth - you may be a savvy marketing person but you don’t know squat about whether you will even be alive tomorrow!.
- Always have a eraser handy when making plans and decisions (v 15). We must always plan and make decisions taking God into account. He may have a different idea! And you probably have no way of knowing what it is until after the fact! So, hold your decisions lightly. Flexibility is an asset. Recognize that your plans, no matter how good, godly, or wise they are, will not succeed unless God sovereignly wills it. This concept alone promotes a humble attitude. So, don’t tie your identity to your decisions. Tie your identity to God, the supreme ruler of all. (Note: the word “will” here is the subjective aorist active of θέλω normally meaning wish or desire but here it has the force of βούλομαι normally meaning a settled decision that will happen. However, these two terms are often used synonymously.)
- Make decisions that honor God and leave the outcome to God. That is really what James is illustrating. This is of one piece with General Joab’s attitude about his battle plan during the conflict with the Arameans, “2 Samuel 10:12 "Be strong, and let us show ourselves courageous for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God; and may the LORD do what is good in His sight.”
An additional observation (not from James 4):
- Beware of interpreting providence. Providence is the means by which God governs the universe so that all things accomplish their divinely intended end. It is true that God does control circumstances. There are no accidents. Christians do not believe in luck! What we call “fortune” is really God’s hand of providence controlling all situations and events in the universe. But here is the rub - unless God also reveals the meaning (or His intention) of the providential circumstances in our life (or world), we can’t really know what to make of them. An open door does not necessarily mean it is God’s will (2 Corinthians 2:12-13). The same could be said for putting out a fleece or casting lots (more later). Drawing conclusions is a tricky business. We are prone to making mistakes.
- Biblical example - John 9:2 And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Where the Rubber meets the Road.
Case Study: In the wee hours one Sunday morning oily rags in the janitor closet exploded creating a firestorm that completely destroyed the historic building of First Baptist Church. Among the reaction from the congregation was the following:
- “God must be judging us sin in the congregation.”
- “God is telling us “no” to our plans to expand the pastoral staff.”
- “God is getting even with us for the way we treated Pastor XX.”
- “I told you that God wanted us to relocate”
What observations do you have about this situation?
Case Study: During a Bible Study class on the Christians role in the body politic, the teacher made the case for the USA’s general decline in prosperity, morality, and global influence and then asked discussion groups to affirm or deny with reasons the following statement, “USA is in decline because it is abandoning Israel.”
Your discussion groups conclusion is …
Discussion Question: All planning accepts the reality of risks. What distinguishes a step of faith from presumptuous foolishness? (GF 511)
Assignment: Read textbook p 19-21
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source