Finding the Will of God – A Pagan Notion?

Ever wonder what you are supposed to do with your life? Ever had a decision to make and you just weren’t sure what to do? Well, if you’re a Christian, then this problem has probably been compounded by wondering if what you choose will be “God’s will” for you life. I know, for myself and many others, we spend time praying and trying to find God’s will, when in reality, we are simply asking God to make a decision for us.

In his book, “Finding the Will of God. A Pagain Notion?” Bruce Waltke does an amazing job with helping Christians see that God is not some con man running the three shell game on a street corner, trying to hide his will from you, but rather he is a loving father who cares for you (p7). From here, Waltke begins to explain that much of what modern Christians write off as trying to find the will of God is, in reality, nothing more than a replication of pagan divination. We “cast lots” as we play bible roulette. We “put out a fleece” as we ask God for signs to make our decision for us. However, Waltke points out that, post Pentecost, we see no indication from scripture that this is the way for us to make decisions. In fact, the last time we see lots cast in the life of believers is in the selection of Matthias in Acts (just before Pentecost).

So, if these forms of “divination” are not for Christians, how are we then to make decisions that we can rest assured are “God’s will.” Well, Waltke offers several suggestions to Christians.

  1. Read Your Bible
  2. Develop a Heart for God
  3. Seek Wise Counsel
  4. Look for God’s Providence
  5. Does This Make Sense?
  6. Devine Intervention

Waltke says that these steps must be made in order, starting with #1. The supposition here is that we begin to see and know God’s will through his word. It is here, in scripture, that we will most clearly see. Not only that, but it is here, in God’s word, that we are transformed more into his image. As we are transformed by his word, his will becomes more and more clear.

After this Waltke says to develop a heart for God. He says, “…if you are walking close to the Lord, and He shapes your character and influences your life, then he is also shaping your desires” (p86). Here Waltke quotes Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Unfortunately, this verse has been butchered by many to mean that, if you delight in the Lord He will give you whatever you want. However, the verse really means that as you find more and more delight in the Lord he will actually give you desires. For example, the more I grow in my relationship with the Lord I have noticed my desire to care for other people. It is a desire of mine. This desire was not there until I began to know the Lord. I was extremely selfish. However, God has given me a desire to care for people as I have delighted in him.

Ultimately Waltke’s point here is that, as you know God through his word and begin to delight in him, it is ok to use your desires as an indicator for knowing his will. This might be new to some Christians, but you can actually do things you desire. For me, that looks like studying in seminary. As I know God through His word and delight in him I begin to desire to study history and theology in greater detail that I might be able to help others. This is a desire that I have. Now that desire alone does not mean I should take seminary classes, but it is a good and safe indicator.

Step 3 is to seek wise council. I think Waltke is great here in putting this third in the process. Much like our “divination” to find God’s will we also, often, seek to get answers from other people. The problem is that this neglects the hard work of knowing God personally and growing in character. We simply want someone else, who obviously knows God better than us, to tell us what to do. This is really dangerous. Another good point Waltke makes here is that your council can often be wrong… Just read the story of Job. His good friends had lots of council but, in the end, they all missed it BIG TIME. So, while council is good and important, it is only in the context of step one and two that it should be understood.

After knowing God and delighting in Him and seeking council, Waltke recommends we look for providence. Essentially, Waltke points out that situations around us can be an indicator. Again, here you must be cautious of making decisions based on circumstances, but built on steps 1-3, situations might help you gain a better understanding of God’s will. Remember, God is God.

The second to last step is kind of a no-brainer. Does this make sense? A great example is that I can say, with some level of confidence, that God will never call me to be a carpenter. Anyone who has seen my handy work will attest that I am far from skilled in this area. So, while God might actually call me to that, in the context of all the previous steps, I need to ask if it makes sense. Ryan a carpenter… probably not.

The final step is divine intervention. Here again, God is God. He very well may just send an angel to tell you something… he might sky write a message to you… he might give you dreams or visions… God is God. That said, remember, these steps build off one another. So don’t go looking for the heavens to part if you don’t even listen to God through his word. A great example of this is with a close friend of mine who was planning on attending a certain graduate school. He knows and loves the Lord, sought council, looked at God’s providence in his acceptance, and everything made sense… Then, about a week ago he found out that the program was shut down and he will not be able to attend… Divine Intervention. This young man desires to honor God and do his will. He took great care in making this decision. However, in the end, God’s will has something other than this school in mind for him.

In conclusion, this is a really good book. I found it personally helpful, biblically based, and well communicated. I think it would be a worthy investment for anyone, and more specifically for anyone trying to make major life decisions.

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