Thursday, January 15, 2009

What does God want?

If God had a personal will for our lives, or for each decision that we make, we would assume that he wants us to know it. How else would we find it, or be accountable for it?

Now, he could either make it obvious or not obvious.

I believe there was a time that he made it obvious and when people went along with it, salvation history was being made and the Bible was produced as a record. But this was an undeniable work of God's Spirit, and it could not have ever happened otherwise.

In our day, he could make his personal will for us obvious, but there are some problem to this. First, it could never be more obvious than what has gone before, namely, the revelation of Jesus. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe." Because Jesus has already been revealed, the authoritative word of God is established and nothing could ever match it. Second, there's still the problem of whether we, in our sinful state, would grasp or understand his revelation adequately or correctly in every instance. Lastly, and most importantly, it seems perfectly obvious, that God doesn't make his will perfectly obvious. Almost no one hears audible voices from God. Almost no one has miraculous burning bush or Damascus Road experiences.

So, it seems that if God reveals his will, he does it in a way that is not obvious. He is soft, subtle and often ambiguous. This means that it's up to Christians to "figure" out his will. Let's be honest some more. After all the praying and fasting, the putting out of fleeces, the asking of many counselors, the discerning of circumstances, the dipping in the Bible for divine words stripped out of their context, how many of us can say that God's will becomes perfectly clear and obvious, no room for error. Most occasions, we can say that we "feel" or "sense" God's leading, but it's really not all that obvious. Perhaps oftentimes, God's guidance is so subtle, that it can be easily manipulated through our own desires, rationalizations, suspicions and calculations. Faith, risk, and uncertainty are always involved.

In the end, what can we really know? We're back to what we do know: 1. God is sovereign. 2. God has revealed the commands he wants us to obey. 3. God is good.

What are some implications that we can draw from these truths?

1. Whatever you do, obey God's commands. And when you obey them, obey with fullness of joy and comfort in knowing that this is certainly what he wants you to do.
2. Go for it and make some bold moves for his Kingdom.
3. Don't fret about the decision errors you've made - God doesn't make any.
4. Whatever happens, God is at work to bring you the greatest good and himself the greatest glory.
5. Don't put yourself deliberately into a situation of strife unless you already have a sense of joy and hope in God's end-product.
6. Focus on walking with God. This is the clear thing that he wants us to work on. The rest of life are basically entertainment decisions.
7. At the end of the day, the person who hears voices and puts out fleeces (whether by God's actual intervention or not), and the person who doesn't, will end up in basically the same place.

God's will and why we want to know it

Let's think about the will of God.

We know God has a will. In fact, according to the Bible, there are at least two senses in which the will of God is described. One is his sovereign will of decree, which is his overarching and grand plan that will certainly come to pass in and through the tiny, minuscule happenings of the universe. Every event from photosynthesis happening in algae to 9-11 in New York, God is ordaining all things to happen according to his will, and his plans are reaching a glorious and purposeful terminal point. A second kind of will are his commands. It is his will for us is to be like Christ, to behave according to his moral standards, and to do good works. Unlike the sovereign will, his moral will can be, and is often, thwarted and disobeyed by his free creatures.

We also know that as Christians we want to know God's will in another sense, that is, his will for our lives. Which school should I choose? Which job should I take? Who should I marry?

Let's think about this for a second. First, of all, let's ask: why do we want God to reveal to us these things? Is it because we want to position ourselves most strategically for his Kingdom, to maximize our effectiveness and reach in winning people to Christ? Is it because we want to be in those places that will best challenge us to live holier lives of greater purity? Maybe some people actually do think this way, but most of us don't.

So why do we want to know God's will? I think we simply want to have the happiest life possible. Now, this not the happiness that Christians often equate with sensual pleasure, rather, it's the happiness which comes from being in the right vocation where you're using your gifts and talents to maximum and making an impact on systems and societies; it's the happiness that comes with being with the right person and enjoying lifelong partnership together. We seek the happiness of living life efficiently, smoothly and with little struggle. Let's be real. Isn't this what we all want? When we seek to make "wise" decisions, by following the advice of Proverbs for example, isn't it for the purpose of maximizing happiness and minimizing strife in life?

If this is so, then we think that it would be best if we knew the future. And who's the only person we know that knows the future and is planning its outcome? Exactly. Hence, we seek God's will because of our desire to maximize happiness in life.

Of course, while the Bible has a lot to say about the pursuit of happiness and blessed living, it also has much to say about suffering. So, there's a balance to everything, but for now, let's just admit that we seek God's will to our own personal happiness. It's sounds a little selfish and unchristian, but I think it's true.