I’ve always wondered how to find God’s will for my life. Especially in the last couple years, as I graduated high school, officially became “an adult” and started having to make some big decisions…finding God’s specific will for my life became a perplexing problem, to say the least! I desperately want to live my life as the Lord would want me to and much of the direction for that is found in the Bible, but it doesn’t cover the things where the answer is different for everyone (i.e. who should I marry, what do I do after graduating high school?, etc.).

Many of my friends and acquaintances seem so sure in their decision-making and quite a few say that God “told” them to choose this particular thing or go down a particular road in life. About a year and a half ago, I attended a five-month-long discipleship training school with a certain missions organization. One of the main ideas touted by this organization was that God would “speak” to you about anything, in some way revealing everything from who you were supposed to talk to that day to who you are to marry.

I tried to believe that and would’ve loved to have it be a daily occurrence in my life — decisions would be so easy then — but it didn’t seem to work that way for me. I asked and begged the Lord to show me what “He wanted me to do” in everything large and small, but never really received a specific answer. It’s a little hard to discuss with friends how to find out what God wants you to do if the pat answer for everything is “Ask Him and He’ll tell you.” When I further questioned them as to how God tells you, it was usually something very ambiguous, such as a random thought they “knew” was from the Lord, or an impression in their “heart” or “spirit”.

After this answer, I struggled with knowing whether a thought or impression was from the Lord or just my emotions, flesh, etc. The whole issue was very much a struggle for me, one that often resulted in tears of frustration as I so desperately wanted to do what was the Lord’s will for my life, but I didn’t know what that specifically was. And, according to this view that permeates much of modern Christianity, if I couldn’t “find the Lord’s will” or “couldn’t hear Him” then it was my fault. Either I wasn’t close enough to the Lord or there was some sin blocking my communication with Him or who knows what else? Yet, I didn’t see how those things could be the case; I was daily striving to draw nearer and searching and asking the Lord to reveal any unconfessed sin in my life, but it was to no avail. The search and struggle continued.

Decision-Making and The Will of God

All that to say, when a friend told me about the book, Decision-Making and the Will of God, I was intrigued. From her description, it sounded like something that was completely contrary to what I had heard from mainstream Christian culture my whole life. Yet, in relationship to the struggle that I had and continued to have with this issue of the will of God, the view presented in this book made much more sense. Maybe the reason that I couldn’t “find” God’s specific will for my life, was because this find-able will didn’t exist! This opposing view definitely sounded interesting, so I ordered a copy of the (revised twenty-fifth anniversary edition) of Decision-Making and waited for it to arrive.

From the beginning, this 500+ page book held me. The main author, Garry Friesen, writes the book in a very conversational tone and doesn’t confuse the reader with a lot of extra, unrelated theology. However, he definitely practices what he preaches when he says, “Either prove it from Scripture, or discard it as unnecessary.” He takes many of the Scriptures that apply to God’s will and gives a detailed exegesis (analysis of the text), sometimes going back to the original languages to help the reader understand the passage. Many, many Scripture references are interspersed throughout the whole book, so that the reader will (hopefully) search God’s Word itself to discover what is the Truth in this issue.

Decision-Making is divided into four parts, along with several appendixes and other helps. The first part outlines the main points of the “traditional view.” This designation, the “traditional view,” refers to the commonly-held view that God has three wills: His sovereign will, “God’s secret plan that determines everything that happens in the universe;” His moral will, “God’s revealed commands in the Bible that teach how men ought to believe and live;” and His individual will (the one that Friesen takes issue with), “God’s ideal, detailed life-plan uniquely designed for each person.”

The second part of the book is a critique of the traditional view, arguing from reason, experience, Biblical example and Scripture. Everything is clearly presented with many Scriptures references given. Every so often in this part and throughout the entire book, Friesen will summarize his main points in charts and those are wonderful! Many ideas are covered and Scriptures analyzed and it is a great help to see everything succinctly summarized. The charts are great to reacquaint yourself with the main points of what you just learned, instead of being lost in a flood of information!

The third and longest part explains “the wisdom view”. This is the name that Friesen has given to his understanding that, instead of three, God only has two wills: His sovereign will and His moral will. Friesen has four principles of decision-making that sum up “the way of wisdom”. They are:

  1. Where God commands, we must obey.
  2. Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose.
  3. Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose.
  4. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.

Friesen dedicates one or two chapters each explaining these four principles, using reason, experience, Biblical example and, above all, Scripture.

The fourth and final part of the book is about applying the wisdom view to “the big ones”, decisions faced by almost every person at some point in their life. Friesen covers the application of the wisdom view to singleness and marriage, ministry, vocation, education, giving (tithing) and what do “when Christians differ”. There is a chapter or two devoted to each of these, and again, everything is back extensively by Scripture.

After reading Decision-Making, I realized that, Scripturally, God doesn’t have a specific individual will for my life that it’s my job to discover…and that realization was incredibly freeing! It’s a wonderful freedom and makes me rest the more in the Lord’s sovereignty, but it is not without its responsibilities. I still need to use wisdom in making decisions, but there is not the agony of writhing over why I can’t seem to figure out exactly what God wants me to choose or do when faced with a particular decision or situation. Now, I just have to trust…trust that the Lord will give me the wisdom I need (James 1:5).

I guess I do know exactly what to do when faced confusing decisions: trust the Lord and remember that “we know that all things work together for the good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

13 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow, that’s what I needed right now. Thank you, some very good thoughts.

  2. I was never really taught about how to make decisions, but my actual experience in making them backs up Jessica’s post in many ways. Up until two and a half years ago, I had no problem making decisions, because I was almost always sure I was correct. I would pick what seemed the most logical choice, confident in the fact that my mind would discern it. At that time 2.5 years ago, however, I finally gave over everything to God. Jesus became, not just my Savior, but my Lord. So I began asking Him for guidance in everything. And at first, He seemed to give it. I was on a spiritual high, and I just “knew” what I was supposed to do and when.

    After about half a year, I guess God decided that I needed to learn to walk instead of being carried all the time. So things stopped being so obvious. I tried to figure out – are these fleeting feelings, or that same certainty I had before? I cried and shouted to God, “What do you want from me?? Tell me! I can’t do it unless you tell me!” And then I realized, He has. It’s called the Bible.

    The Bible says, if we ask for wisdom, God gives it. Wisdom is an understanding of how the world works, and how it should work according to God’s plan. If we understand these things, then we slip back into our places in that plan, and choices become simple. Like in Psalms 119, we pray to know God’s law, and it is revealed. We pray for patience, and we find ourselves able to wait for the revelation to occur.

    After saying all that, though, I have to add that every situation is different. Quite often, I feel the certainty that a particular choice is correct. I feel this more frequently than ever before. But that is because, as time goes on, I understand a lot more of the factors that go into the world’s working. I can discern what God wants me to do, because I know more of what His Word says that He wants. The perfect certainty is a feeling, but it is more than that. It is emotion and reason working in harmony.

    Conversely, when I am upset and disturbed in my soul, it is often because some part of me knows what I should do and has rejected that choice as preposterous.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hello again Jessica!

    Wow, another YWAM friend! It is amazing that you did a DTS at the Montana base – a few of my friends did as well. I went to the Denver base in Spring of ’04. The speaker who taught my class about seeking God’s will expressed similar views to those you shared. I, too, had difficulty with a few things I was taught, but I can honestly say that our faithful God shaped my life and heart so very much during those months.

    It is wonderful to meet you!
    – Mary

  4. Ladies,

    I discovered “Decision Making” in college, and it cured me of a certain terror in discerning God’s will. It also heightened both my respect for God’s Word and a healthy respect for my own heart. I second your commendation, and am thrilled to see you promoting this excellent resource.

  5. Natalie Marie Nyquist says:

    great discussion girls. I never realize ahead of time I am going to spark such (it’s not my intent necessarily) but I don’t think it’s all bad…when you can do it while still being friendly and loving.

  6. Sovereignty vs. freewill. The age old debate begins again! =)
    Seriously, scholars have debated this for centuries and there is a wide spectrum of beliefs on the topic.
    For us, wherever we believe the balance lies between these two, whatever we believe about the fulness of the extent of God’s individual will…both Natalie and Jessica have graciously made a point that we need to take away as daily application to our lives: we DO have a personal responsibility to obey God and to make wise decisions. And God *has* given us His word and given us–promised us–wisdom for the asking as well! These gifts to us in our day to day life need stand in no denial of sovereignty: let’s not forget that God can *always* tell us “no.”
    God is big enough to work past our human-ness and our sometimes-faulty decisions. If our heart is right before Him, and we sincerely desire to walk in His ways, we need not stand before Him in doubt and fear and anxiety as we approach decisions. Our conscience and the “closed door principle” still work too. =)

  7. A note: God knows what we will choose. He works in us so that we choose it. He works with our choices once we choose them. There are times when we have to choose between two equally good things. When we do, we should rest assured that which ever one we chose is the one God planned on us choosing. We can rest that God knew our choices before hand. So even if he didn’t will everything exactly, he still knew everything exactly. Take comfort in the fact that you can’t blow His plans.

  8. Natalie Marie Nyquist says:

    May I gently request that you read Jessica’s post again? It is quite clear that God DOES have a sovereign plan for history. We are not saying that He does not reign supreme over the universe. However, this in itself does not then lead to the conclusion that he has an exact plan for each of our lives. As Jessica shared above, we are given the free will and *responsibility* to make choices with the wisdom God has given us…wisdom we must also desire and pursue.

    I know this is a very new idea to some of you but I would strongly encourage you to study it diligently before you throw it out the window. Ask your parents their perspective…if you get the book you can enjoy a full stud of the Scriptures.

  9. Anonymous says:

    If God doesn’t have a specific will for your life, then what’s the point of living? Do you not believe that God has a Sovereign plan for the universe and individual lives? I would like to see verses which would back up this viewpoint as I think it is pretty clear from Scripture that God has a plan laid out from Eternity past for each of our individual lives — it is not supposed to be left up to our own human reasoning.

  10. Hello Mary~

    Yes, it was a YWAM DTS! Though I do disagree with the God’s will issue in YWAM along with a couple other things they believe…I very much enjoyed my DTS and the Lord used it do ALOT of work in me! I did mine in the Fall of 2004 in Montana…what about you?

    Have a beautiful day!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hello Jessica! Just curious – might you have participated in the discipleship training school through Youth With A Mission? I am a “YWAMer”, and always love meeting others! Anyway, though, thank you for the well-written article!

    Blessings,
    Mary

  12. That was a very helpful book review! I need to put it on my list of books to read. I think it would help me very much, because often I get so frustrated or second-guess my decisions, afraid I missed the will of God, even if my decisions were well thought through and prayed about!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for sharing, Jessica. This is EXACTLY what I am going through right now…trying to determine the will of God. And I’ve definitely had many “tears of frustration” this past month.
    God bless!

    PS – Natalie, I so appreciate all the thought-provoking articles posted and everyone else that contributes. I’ve been a regular reader for a couple years now. Keep it up, it’s a great blessing!
    Anna -GA

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