The Will of God
T. J. Lawson, B. A.
Why is it sometimes so difficult to be sure of the will of God in certain matters? Here, we believe, is the answer.
The religion of Islam has over 200,000,000 followers known as Moslems—and a large number of others who call themselves Christians! For “Islam” means “submission to the will of God,” a passive acceptance of, a helpless resignation to, the disposition of Fate. What a contrast to the Christian attitude, which is one of active participation in the purposes of God.
Our Lord Himself set us a perfect example in that respect. We have His own words describing His attitude to God’s will.
It was His Purpose: “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me” (John 6. 38). He recognised that doing God’s will was not an incidental hazard of life, but its whole object: “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God” (Heb. 10. 9). Is that the avowed purpose of the life we now live in Him?
It was His Search: “I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me” (John 5. 30)—a phrase that suggests a going out to meet it, and not just waiting for it to happen. Do we seek God’s will like that, at the expense of our own?
It was His Sustenance: “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4. 34). It was this that sustained Him day by day; He lived for it, He lived by it. For Him, the will of God was not a medicine—something that though perhaps unpleasant, would do you good—but meat—His staple food.
It was His Delight: “I delight to do Thy will, O my God” (Psa. 40. 8). These words, quoted in Hebrews 10 in direct reference to our Lord, suggest a joyful activity, not gloomy acceptance. God’s will is something to be enjoyed, not endured, whatever, its accomplishment may cost. May it become for us our delight rather than our duty, after the pattern of the One who “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12. 2).
It was His Choice: Knowing all that the Cross meant, for Him, and praying for the removal of that cup of bitter judgment, He could yet say, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22. 42); an attitude not of resignation, but of resolve. We can say to God, “Thy will be done” in the spirit in which a difference of opinion between two people is ended by one saying, “Very well, you do it your way,” with a strong hint as to whose fault it will be if things go wrong. But such a difference can be ended by one saying, “Yes, let’s do it your way,” in a resolve to co-operate. So the will of God becomes not a necessity, but our choice, and our response to if, not “It must be,” but “It shall be!”
This, then should be the Christian’s attitude to the will of God. But how can that will be known, with the certainty that has marked the great saints of all ages? “Understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5. 17) sometimes seems harder than accomplishing it. “I would do it, if I knew it,” we may say. You shall know it as you do it,” would seem to be the Lord’s answer; for “If any man will” (or willeth) to do His will, he shall know . . .” (John 7. 17). Our knowledge of God’s will depends, then, on our doing what we already know and being ready to do what is still unknown. That will is stated quite clearly in certain respects.
SALVATION: “God . . . will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2. 4). This is God’s desire. Am I making this part of His will mine also, and doing all I can, as He has done all He can, in Christ, to bring it about? A special encouragement is given to those who try to win the children for Christ, since He has said that “it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matt. 18. 14). It is also part of God’s will that those saved by faith in Christ should never be lost, but should have everlasting life (John 6. 39, 40): I cannot do anything about that part of His will except enjoy it and make it my delight and my meat.
SANCTIFICATION: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4. 3). I must make it the purpose and search of my life to fulfil God’s will in this respect and to live a sanctified, holy life. And the closer I walk to Him, the clearer will be my knowledge of His will in other respects.
THANKSGIVING: “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5. 18). We are not called to give thanks FOR everything, every circumstance: that would sometimes be impossible: It is not always easy to give thanks IN everything: it is easier to praise the Lord in another’s trial than in our own. But God’s will is that, like Job, we should be able to say, even, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1. 21).
WELL-DOING: “For so is, the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2. 15). Criticism which cannot even be checked by words can be silenced by deeds; and a kindly act may convert a critic whom argument would merely confirm in his opposition. So may we do God’s will and God’s work in this, respect, too.
As we know and do the will of God thus clearly stated for us in His Word, we shall find God making His way plain before us; for it is when our wills are set on doing God’s will that we know what it is, and prove it to be “good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12. 2).