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.
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:
- Where God commands, we must obey.
- Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose.
- Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose.
- 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).