Sometimes the issue isn’t really the issue.
Take, for example, an argument my friends and I had in high school. We were good youth group kids, so we spent time in Bible studies and accountability groups, and since I was discovering the world of theology and biblical studies for myself, I felt pretty smart. During one Bible study we got into a huge argument about whether God knew — or cared about — which specific Cheez-It I was about to pull out of the box, or whether my choice of Cheez-Its over Pringles was divinely predetermined or left up to real free choice.
On the surface we were a bunch of teenagers who felt like we were conquering the world, flexing our theological muscles and throwing around big ideas for the first time (and hopefully impressing the ladies in the room). The real issue, though, wasn’t parsing God’s sovereignty; the real issue was that life is actually pretty complex and uncertain, and as we approached high school graduation, we all felt big life decisions looming larger and larger. We wanted to know: Does God already have these answers pinned down, and if so, is He going to reveal these things to us? How can we know when He shows us the answers?
How does God make His will known to us? Does He have a perfect will for each of our lives, and if so, how do we base our daily decision making on that perfect will? Is it possible to fall out of God’s will, even when we think we’re making righteous or good choices?
It’s my experience that questions like these sit beneath the surface of almost every existential or spiritual crisis that Christian twenty- and thirty-somethings face as they learn, grow and change. Our beliefs about the will of God and decision-making affect every area of our lives. We typically surface these questions when faced with specific, big decisions: Should I consider marrying this person? Does God want me to be single forever, or should I put effort into meeting people (or maybe online dating)? Should I accept this job and move to a different city? Is God calling me to missions? Which church should I join? How can I know if my passions are from God, and should my passions inform my career?
Beyond all this, sometimes we’re haunted by the nagging suspicion that we’re not doing what we should with our lives, that there’s something more; or maybe we believe we’ve missed out on the best God has for us.
Even when we’re not facing large decisions or crises, our convictions about what it means to be guided by the Holy Spirit can greatly affect how we read the Bible, whether we engage or avoid certain conversations and how we spend our free time. Even if you haven’t spent much time thinking about these questions specifically, you’ve probably assumed some answers without even realizing it.
I’d like for us to think about these things together for my next few blogs. I’ve found that considering what the Bible teaches about knowing and doing the will of God can be both refreshing and freeing. Despite the complex nature of life in the 21st century, I believe it to be true that in Christ, God “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). We’ll spend some time walking through Scripture and theology, talking about how the Holy Spirit guides us and focusing on passages from the Bible that shed some light on this area.
I want to hear from you (not start a debate!) so I get a sense for who’s listening and engaging as we move forward with this conversation. So don’t be shy; let me hear your thoughts and stories.
What do you think about the will of God? What do you believe about how the Holy Spirit guides us in making decisions? Do you believe that God has a perfect individual will for each believer, and if so, how do we know it?
What Scriptures are helpful to you in thinking about this? What stories do you have about God’s guidance or the Holy Spirit’s direction in your life?