Obey God and Do What You Want
Exploring Decision Making and God’s Will
The Individual Will of God
Basic Definition of the Individual Will of God (Traditional View): God’s detailed plan for each individual person that He reveals to the believer by means of inward impressions and outward signs. Other names for this will are: Personal, Specific, Perfect, Undeclared, Detailed, Direction
DeYoung describes what he calls “God’s will of direction” under the heading “Does God Have a Specific Plan for Your Life” (p 22-24). I have summarized his description of what I am calling the Individual Will of God as follows:
1. God does have a specific and secret plan for our lives but He does not expect that we will know what it is before we make decisions. In fact, trying to discover God’s plan is a a bad idea.
2. God’s specific will for our life should not be thought of as a “bull’s eye” that we can miss. This is often referred to as being in or out of the “center” of God’s will. Frissen calls this “finding the dot.”
I am adding some additional concepts:
3. God’s individual will exists only in so far as it is part of His decreed will. As such, it hidden and can’t be known in advance. Searching through the Bible will not result in the discovery of God’s individual will - it is not there. Unlike Timothy (1 Timothy 1:2), your name doesn’t appear in a direct address. And further, God does not communicate His individual will to us by means of inward impressions and outward signs. Hence, we can also say that we know God’s individual will only after the fact. However, often we can know what God’s will is for us by simply knowing what his desired will is for believers or specific persons or people in general. (cf Desired Will p 14-15, #5)
4. God’s individual will is not written down in Scripture for us. Scriptures cited as examples of God’s individual will (see chart below) typically concern God’s decreed or desire will and any supernatural guidance is exceptional rather than normal. Paul’s Macedonia vision is a good example (Acts 16:9).
5. God’s individual will is accomplished when a believer does His desired will. Thus, believers should focus on God’s desired will.
J. Oswald Sanders is might be a typical example of those who hold the traditional view of the individual will of God when he writes: “Does God have an ideal and detailed will and plan for every life? Is this a valid concept or is it only a view that has been read into Scripture wrongly? If there is such a plan (and Sanders believers there is), it is of paramount importance that we get to know it.” (Sanders “Every life a plan of God” 1992 p 10 as cited in Petty p 30)
Comparison of God’s Wills (chart)
Hallmarks of the Traditional View of God’s Individual Will (GF charts p 38-39 First Edition)
1. A detailed plan for all decisions in a believer’s life
2. The believer is able to find and know it
3. Believers are expected to find and know it
4. Believers can miss it by failure to discover or obey it
5. Includes only that which is good and ideal
6. It must be discovered before a decision can be made
7. It is in harmony with the Bible and is always the most ideal decision and so brings glory to God
A Summary of the Traditional View of Decision Making (GF p 110)
- Premise: For each of our decisions, God has a perfect plan or will.
- Purpose: The goal of the believer is to discover God’s individual will and make decisions in accordance with it.
- Process: The believer interprets inner impressions and outward signs, which the Holy Spirit uses to communicate God’s individual will.
- Proof: The confirmation that one has correctly discerned the individual will of God comes from an inner sense of peace and outward results of the decision.
Decision Making in light of God’s Individual Will
1. I will not wait for subjective promptings or supernatural revelations from God in order to know God’s will or serve Him. I am not living in Old Covenant days or in the foundational era of the New Covenant. I possess the written Word of God and the Holy Spirit and that is all I need.
2. I will embrace the fact that I must make most of my important and difficult decisions in life without benefit of a clear word from God. Nonetheless and perhaps counter intuitively so, there is a premium placed on knowing the Bible. And applying wisdom. More on this as we move along in our study.
3. I will make it my goal to know and do God’s desired will. In so doing, I will be accomplishing His individual will for me without knowing so. Consider Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Frankly, I need to focus on 5-6a and let God handle 6b. I think He will do okay!
4. I will abandon all attempts to discover God’s individual will for me in advance. Such pursuit is a monumental waste of time. In fact, I have enough trouble knowing and doing God’s desired will without being frustrated with failing to find His individual will!
5. I will not make my feelings a primary gauge for making decisions. Unfortunately, I have discovered that sin feels good!
6. I will check my spiritual arrogance at the door when it comes to decision making. One person may make a decision based on the principles of the traditional view of the an individual will of God that must and can be known. Another believer may make the same decision based on a wisdom model (more later). I really do believe this is an important matter that speaks to the broader issue of ones view of Scripture. But, at the end of the day, it is possible that there is no applicational difference. So, I tread lightly!
Where the Rubber meets the Road
- Discussion Question: What part, if any, do emotions play in a biblical decision making process?
- Case Study: You and your spouse are entertaining Paul and Paula who are your best friends. During a post dinner game of “Ticket to Ride” Paul and Paula get into a lively discussion that begins when Paul takes a long time deciding on his next play. “Make up your mind”, Paula complains, “we haven’t got all night!”. During the back and forth snipping it becomes apparent Paula makes quick decisions that Paul characterizes as “reckless foolishness” while Paul makes slow decisions that Paula characterizes as “agonizing overthinking.” Finally, they both turn to you, “Help us before this gets out of control.” You and your spouse look at each other with a blank stare - what are you going to say?
- Discussion Question: Let’s pretend that God issued a secret massive document to every believer (digital format of course). It is a catalog of every decision you would face in life. And it contains God’s desire for you regarding each decision. No one else had a document like yours - it is tailor made. Would this be a good thing? Why or why not?
Assignment: Textbook p 41-52; 73-84
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source
Posted on Sun, May 1, 2016
by Joe Flatt filed under