Faithlife Sermons

Finding God's Will? Pt 2

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God’s Providential Will

Does God have an individual will for each believer?

Suppose you say no: How does that view interact with Scripture?
Romans 11:33 ESV
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
If God does not have an individual will for us what must you deny about God according to this verse?
We must deny the infinity of His wisdom and knowledge, why? Because God doesn’t know what is best for us.
Yet, God certainly does know what is best for us, right?
OR, there is something else you could call into question if you don’t believe that God has an individual will for us:
Romans 5:5–6 ESV
5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
So, you acknowledge that God’s wisdom and knowledge are infinite, but still deny that God has an individual will for us. What then are you calling into question about God?
His love and personal interest in us! Why? Well, God has the wisdom and knowledge necessary to have an individual will for every believer. He just doesn’t care what is best for us.
Yet, God certainly does know what is best for us, and He certainly does wish the best for us.

Therefore, if God wishes the best for each believer while simultaneously knowing what is best—that is exactly what it means that God has an individual will for each believer.

What is God’s hidden or secret will?

Most Christians will admit that God does have an individual will for each believer. But, they will say that God’s will is always hidden or secret. So we must ask the question what is God’s hidden or secret will.
The idea of God’s secret will is tied to the doctrine of Providence.
What is a good definition of Providence?
Preserving Providence- God continually preserves and maintains the existence of every part of His creation, from the smallest to the greatest, according to His sovereign pleasure.
Governing Providence- God guides and governs all events, including the free acts of men and their external circumstances, and directs all things to their appointed ends for His glory.
How is Providence different from Miracle?
Miraculous events have no natural explanations.
When God works providentially, however, God works from inside nature.

The doctrine of Providence requires double causation: every providential event has a natural cause, but it also has a divine cause.

Illustration: Christian in a drought-stricken country prays for rain. Within days the sky clouds over and it rains. The believers give praise to God. Yet, a local meteorologist claims that the rain is the result of a cold front that has been approaching for a week—even before the believers begin to pray. Who is right?
The meteorologist who sees a natural cause for the storm, or the Christians, who see the storm as a divine answer to their prayers?
The doctrine of Providence says that both answers are correct, as long as neither excludes the other. The thunderstorm is a genuinely natural event, but it is also a divine answer to prayer. God worked through the chain of meteorological causes to respond to His children’s pleas.
According to the doctrine of Providence, this kind of double causation works both with natural events and with human events.

Behind every human action is double intention. One is the intention of the person who acts. The other is the intention of God.

On the one hand, people genuinely and freely make their own choices and act out their own intentions. Sometimes their intentions are evil. On the other hand, behind these human choices is also a divine intention. God permits the evil acts of sinful human beings because He intends to use them to advance his plan and to bring good to His people.
Can you think of a biblical example?
Genesis 50:20 (ESV)
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Explain this from the thought of double intention?
Joseph’s brothers had their intentions (free acts of men and their circumstances), which were evil! And Joseph never minimized their evil intentions.
Nevertheless, Joseph recognized that God permitted their evil deed because God had his own intention, and God’s intention was good.
So, why did Joseph end up in Egypt? Double intention! Because his brothers intended him evil, and yet even the free acts of evil men are under the providential control of a good God.
God knows not only every event that occurs but also every event that will occur. Sometimes He causes those events directly. Other times He cause them indirectly by permitting bad things to happen. If He wished, He could prevent those bad events. Consequently, whatever happens is within His providential will.
At some level we can say, “This is God’s will for me,” even when we are facing persecution or dreadful calamity. We are never outside of God’s providential will. WE CANNOT BE!

We call God’s Providential will God’s hidden will or God’s secret will. Why?

Providence itself is hidden. Why would we say that Providence is hidden? We usually don’t see God’s intentions as quickly or as clearly as we see the even’ts themselves. Think back to an event in your life where you can clearly see the invisible hand of God at work. Did you realize in the moment that God’s providence was active?
Under normal circumstances we can’t perceive how those events—especially the calamitous ones—fit into God’s plan. That is why theologians often refer to God’s Providential will as His hidden or secret will.
Sometimes they also call it His permissive will, because He chooses to permit evil that He does not directly cause.
God’s providential will encompasses every event in the life of every believer. Everything that happens to us always occurs within God’s will, arranged by Him before the foundation of the world.
These events always work together for good for those who love God, i.e., those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28 ESV
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Here is the rub…because God’s providential will is secret it cannot be known in advance. It is found only in events as they occur, and it may not be understood until we are actually living in the presence of God.
This is something that gives us great joy and peace! God has a providential will for us. He arranges the events in our lives—even the unpleasant ones—so that they work together for good.
What is the problem for our discussion? What is the major question of this study? How do I find out God’s will for my life? What’s the problem? The Providential will of God is secret! It is not something that God tells us in advance. It gives us no help at all in making difficult choices, except perhaps to assure us that God intends to use even our bad choices to produce good for us.

Nobody, can seek the secret will of God or use it for guidance.

Three False Methods, and a True One

Should believers try to seek God’s will for their lives at all?
Wisdom plus nothing proponents answer NO! Why? If we ask for specific direction from God, then we are really asking for additional revelation beyond Scripture.
They claim we do not need to know God’s will specifically. Instead, we must simply exercise wisdom in our choices. Any choice that we make then using biblical wisdom is within God’s will.
This position has much to commend. We really should seek wisdom from the Scriptures when making choices. This position guards against the “just go with you heart” approach.
What do the “follow your heart” Christians imply about following God’s will? They imply that whatever you strongest emotional spasm happens to be at the time- you should allow that emotion to govern your choices.
What is the biblical issue with this position?
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Our hearts are corrupted by sin and therefore they are immeasurably deceitful and desperately wicked.
Proverbs 4:23 ESV
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
What does the word “Keep” mean? Guard! What does it mean to keep / guard / watch over your heart? What does that imply about our hearts?
How would you respond to someone who states that they know they are in God’s will because they are following their heart? How would you respond to someone who says, “I have peace in my heart about it”?
The major problem with the “follow your heart” approach to God’s will is that people assume that whatever they’re feeling must be the voice of God to them.
You can go too far in the other direction- seeing the foolishness of just “follow your heart” some have responded by stating that God does not have a specific will for individual Christians. Just employ biblical wisdom for every choice. This view comes at a significant cost.
What is the cost?
When the stakes are very high and all choices seem bad, we yearn to ask God to help us find a way forward. We realize the fragility of our own wisdom, even when that wisdom is informed by the Scriptures!
We long for some level of divine guidance and direction.
We recognize that the Bible has a back cover and that God is no longer granting new revelation.
Can God still help us, can He provide us with some form of guidance, without endangering the finality and sufficiency of Scriptures? YES
Proverbs 3:5–6 ESV
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
God has provided a way for His children to face choices with confidence that their heavenly Father will direct their paths.
Three wrong ways:

Seeking God’s will through signs and “fleeces

Where do we get the idea of “fleeces” from?
Judges 6:36–40 ESV
36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.
We say that people are “setting out a fleece” when they challenge God to reveal His will through some uncommon event or through some apparently chance occurrence. Such as? flipping a coin or casting a lot.
Illustration: Missionary as interim pastor, wanted to become full pastor. Pulpit committee didn’t agree. Missionary wanted the church body to cast lots to determine who was right.
Why is this a bad approach? What Scripture can we turn to and say- this isn’t biblical?
Did God in the past use some of these ways to reveal His will to people?
Hebrews 1:1 ESV
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
Is there anything in the Bible that indicates God still intends for us to use these methods? What does the Bible teach?
Hebrews 1:2 ESV
2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
How does God speak to us right now? In these last days? He has (already) spoken to us by His Son! Where do we have access to the teachings of Jesus? Only in the Bible!
So when we turn to lots or fleeces to determine God’s will what are we doing to the Bible? We are neglecting the Bible as God’s final revelation to us. Any activity that neglects the Bible is never the right way for us to find God’s leading.
Wrong method #2:

Expecting God to Speak Directly to Us

How? Audible Voice, Dreams, Visions, Or even an Inner Voice.
Why is this a wrong method? To expect these experiences is exactly to seek additional revelation, which we must never do.
Nobody today has a right to claim, “God told me,” unless she or he can point to a verse of Scripture that is addressed to Church saints.
Even if people do hear a voice, that voice is not God’s. How do we know? Heb. 1:2 “In these last days He has spoken (aor. tense) to us by His Son”
Wrong Method #3:

Bibliomancy

What is the practice of bibliomancy? It involves opening the Bible, reading a verse (perhaps at random), and expecting that verse to reveal the will of God in answer to our question.
Illustration: One day a preaching was trying to decide if he should make a move to a new ministry. He told his people he had been reading his Bible and came to Acts 22 16.
Acts 22:16 ESV
16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’
How does this verse begin? Why do you wait? This preacher stated that he knew God was speaking to him through these words, and that God’s will was for him to move rather than “waiting.” That is bibliomancy.
But, doesn’t God speak through the Scriptures? What is the problem with bibliomancy?
The meaning and relevance of any verse must be determined by that verse’s context.
Can anyone think of another common example?
Every part of the Bible gains its significance from its place within the overall argument of the whole. CONTEXT!!!
To tear a text out of the whole, and to seek answers to questions that are foreign to the biblical context, is worse that superstition. It amounts to spiritualized horoscopes, or reading tea leaves, or sheep entrails.
So how should Christians seek to discern God’s will for their lives?
A right approach:

God’s Will Always Accords with Scripture Rightly Understood

Whatever other methods you use to discern God’s direction, the Bible always has the final word. God will never lead contrary to His revealed will in the Bible.
The key phrase is “rightly understood.”
God’s will is different for different individuals at different times and in different places. Example? God’s will for OT Israel is not identical with God’s will for people in the Church. Knowing God’ revealed will requires careful reading of the Bible and skillful interpretation.
That being said certain aspects of God’s will are pretty clear. Examples? Never rob a gas station, murder an enemy, abandon a spouse. God’s will never includes envy, greed, bitterness, deceit, pride, or malice. God never wills His children to neglect their duties. God’s will entails holiness, justice, faith, hope, and love.
Nobody who contradicts the teaching of Scripture can ever plead that they are doing God’s will.
Summary:
God has a specific will for each believer.
God is willing to provide direction or guidance to His children who seek it.
Following God’s leading is not a matter of additional revelation.
God’s will for our lives is not complicated or mysterious.
Our following studies will outline how we can discern God’s leading.
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