"Should I?" or "Should I not?"
We've all faced situations in which we've pondered both of these questions. Should I take the job offer and relocate myself and my family? Should I pursue THAT young lady? ...or that other one? Should the church shelter illegal immigrants from the government? Should I vote for one of those candidates? Should I study Bible at college, or should I study business just to "play it safe?" Should I have that procedure done? These episodes, and others like them, vary from person to person, but they all prompt us to consider the will of God for our lives.
First, let us park on the wonderful work of God in His people that causes them to actually want to know His will. I mean, none of you (I hope) began reading this post because you wanted to know the will of Michael Conn, right?! What a beautiful admission of the Lord's reign and sovereignty when we make such a big deal about His will. You see, we cannot have a discussion about the will of God without, in some way or another, considering God's sovereignty, for He is sovereign (Psalm 135:6; Jeremiah 32:27; Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37)! We cannot escape this biblical reality... and that's a good thing! And so, when we really boil it down, we really want to know what God's sovereignty means when we face the "should I? or "should I not?" moments in life. There are two key aspects of God's will we must keep in mind as we encounter these episodes.
God's Moral Will: God's moral will is the supreme standard of conduct that is representative of His holy character. When we wonder how we should conduct/behave ourselves in life before God, we are seeking to know His moral will; discerning that which is right, and that which is wrong. God has revealed His moral will through the moral standards established in Scripture: Old Testament law, New Testament commands, and through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
God's Plan: The second aspect of God's will that should be considered is His plan for all events that have ever come to pass or will ever come to pass. This aspect of God's will has been referred to as His "secretive" will, especially in reference to things that have not yet come to pass (Deut. 29:29). And this is precisely where we notice/feel the conflict of the "should I's" and the "should I not's." We stand in front of two open doors, afraid that we could mess our lives up if we chose the wrong one. Well, the fact of the matter is that God providentially directs every aspect of our lives, and it is impossible for you to frustrate His plan or for you to "miss" it. Rather, God gives us the incredible joy and opportunity, as well as the responsibility, to pursue His will and plan. This is special to us because, in many ways, it's for our own good that God has not shown us what He had decreed for the future.
Yet this is where most of life's frustrations and anxieties come from, right? We constantly wish we knew how everything was going to turn out. The problem with this impulse is that it flies in the face of our faith in God's goodness. This compulsion is fleshly and selfish because it actually screams that we think that we are the ultimate judge of what is best for us in our lives; when in reality, it is God's holy providence that can bring the greatest good out of the seemingly most tragic of circumstances (Rom. 8:28). This is why we read over and over again of Jesus calling us to active faith through present obedience. But what does this look like practically? I found John MacArthur's booklet Found: God's Will a very helpful resource when tackling these thoughts myself. In this booklet, he touches on 6 marks of knowing God's will. Perhaps my brief explanation of these 6 marks will be a help to you as you navigate all of the episodes, open doors, and perplexing circumstances of life.
The first consideration in pursuing God's plan for your life is that you be saved. The Gospel at work in your life is the thrust of God's Word. It is the business with which God has graciously busied Himself with, and it is the first step in His plan for man. So, in order for you to understand the plan God has for you in life, you must first be reconciled to Him; you must repent of your sin and put your faith in Christ alone. Don't worry yourself with the following points until you have affirmed this one. For more about the Gospel, click here.
For every believer, this wonderful salvation means a second reality, the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. This "filling" equips you for service in the work of the ministry. When faced with a difficult choice, consider the spiritual gifts that God has blessed you with and pursue ministry! It would do us well to also recognize that "finding" God's will is no more spiritual or holy than "walking" in the Spirit (Gal. 5). If you're walking in the Spirit, it's impossible to wander away from God's plan.
Sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3-7) is the wonderful transformation in the believer's life whereby they are changed more and more into the image of Christ through the Spirit's work in their life through the Word. This is demonstrated by the believer's pursuit of purity and true holiness. When faced with life decisions, we must ask ourselves: do my choices point me in the path of purity? Are my choices selfish and fleshly? Do my choices violate God's revealed moral will? Are my choices really others-serving and Christ magnifying?
Much of God's Word clearly indicates that God places rulers in positions of authority according to His good purposes (Rom. 13; 1 Peter 2:17). This means that true believers are not revolutionaries. Believing sons and daughters are to submit to their parents. Christians should hold to the law of the land, and they should honor the rulers. Only when these contradict God's Word does a Christian breach the law of the land. It doesn't matter if you agree with them. Obey them, and work for change in a gracious, Christ-exalting manner (Matt. 5:14).
Certainly not as popular to consider as the previous points, but Jesus had much to say about what the Christian life would be like and it certainly would include suffering (Matt. 10:22; John 15:18). Now, this certainly isn't calling for us to make ourselves miserable, but it does cause us to consider whether or not our choices actually enable us to identify with God's suffering people. We should ask ourselves, "Am I approaching life decisions trying to find a means of escape from the pressures of true Christian living?" Take heed.
Do What You Want
Perhaps you've prayerfully considered these "steps" in "finding God's will" and you're still at your wit's end as to what choice you should make... by this point... do what you want! That's right, if you're saved, walking in the Spirit, pursuing purity, submitting to authority, and not afraid to suffer for Christ's sake... go ahead and tap into the desires that God has put in your heart and that He has crafted by the delight you have in Him (Psalm 37:4). And while you're at it, be sure you seek the counsel of those who have seen the work of God in your life and who are themselves wise, having stood in similar places that you find yourself now.
No matter the path that lies ahead of you, embrace the loving truth that God's providence has already taken into account your shortcomings and failures. He gives you the grace today to embrace His will and walk forward in faith. You have no need for a fleece, and you have no need to fear.
This article was originally published on pursuingthepursuer.org
Michael Conn is a co-author for the Pursuing the Pursuer Blog. You can read more articles from Aaron and his colleagues by subscribing to their blog or following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Michael now serves as the Assistant Pastor of Calvary Bible Church in Columbus, OH.