The Will of God

The Will of God

James Irwin

(Read Matt. 6:10, Acts 16:7-10, Rom. 12:1-3, Eph. 1:5, 9, 11; 5:17, Col. 1:9-10, 1 Thess. 4:1-10, Heb. 10:9, 1 Pet. 2:13; 4:12-16).

The will of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures is one of the most profound, yet one of the most personal subjects that can claim our attention. Because of how it should effect our lives from day to day demands an important place in our thinking.

Some believers confuse the will of God with the purpose of God. The latter is absolute and unalterable; the former may be frustrated by our disobedience.

The will of God is, variously, defined as desire, wish, gracious design, or goodwill. All of these meanings are necessary for a complete and comprehensive understanding of our subject.

There are at least three aspects of the will of God in the Bible: The providential will of God, in life and experience; The secret will of God, in prayer and in spirit; The revealed will of God in the Written Word.

The Providential Will of God

The providential will of God is something we do not always understand or appreciate. It is wrapped up in a degree of mystery. The word used to denote this aspect of God’s will is derived from a root meaning — to provide or to foresee. This aspect of the divine will deals largely with circumstances and things in life.

As Christians do we ever stop and consider the overshadowing circumstances of our lives, how we ever came under the sound of the divine Word, how finally we were led to a saving knowledge of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ? We cannot possibly explain adequately the happenings of divine providence, but we can see the Hand of God in His dealings with us. We might well ask, “Why was I born to be the recipient of God’s eternal grace?” The hymn writer puts it in these words:

“Why was I made to hear His voice,
And enter, while there’s room,
While thousands make the wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?”

William Cowper gives voice to the mystery that surrounds the providential will of God when he says:

“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.”

He concludes his beautiful poem, “Light Shining out of Darkness”

“Blind unbelief is bound to err,
And scan His works in vain.
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”

The Book of Esther is probably the best biblical illustration of the providential will of God, while Matthew 6:25-34 and Acts 17:25-26 bear out its glorious truth.

The Secret Will of God

Whereas the providential will of God may not be fully understood by the believer, the secret will of God can only be understood by one of His. The revelation of His will for us comes to us in our daily experience through the medium of prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. God has a gracious design for each of us and it is our sacred duty to seek it out. Our prayer should be, “What wilt Thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6 ) .

It is very easy to say glibly, “God willing, I will do this or that.” There must be a holy exercise of heart before anything is undertaken for God. Much of our failure is due to our attempts to serve Him from fleshly impulse. It is not only the servant of God who leaves all to work on the secret will of God. It is for every one of us to know His will.

The Revealed Will of God

This aspect of the will of God is clearly discernible for it is found in His Holy Word. If we wish to know the will of God in this respect it is imperative that we read and study the Bible. All the great truths concerning our witness, walk, and worship are to be found there. How little we know of this!

Let us now consider the will of God in relation to the Saviour, the Saint, and our Service.

The Saviour and the Will of God

The key-note of this beautiful relationship is the delight the Saviour found in doing the Father’s will. Hebrews 10:5-7 reveals the complete agreement between God the Saviour at His birth, His incarnation. In the temple at Jerusalem, at the age of twelve, He confounded the wise of His day with His questions and answers. At that time He could say to His mother, “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). At Sychar’s Well, He reminded His disciples of His complete subjection to God when He said, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Then at the close of

His earthly ministry, when the shadow of Calvary lay dark across His pathway, He raised His voice to His Father in those memorable words, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

So it is, whether at His virgin birth, in His boyhood years at Nazareth, during His earthly ministry and service, in His redemptive work on the cross, or in His triumphant resurrection and ascension, the will of God was paramount in Christ’s life. What wonderful lessons we can learn for ourselves, if we but take time to study the Holy design of God in Jesus Christ, our Lord!

The Saint and the Will of God

What is the will of God in relation to the saint? Galatians 1:4 tells us that He “gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” How precious! We are delivered, not only from the penalty of sin, but from its power, that we might live unto Him as a witness and light-bearer.

In every phase of our lives, God’s will plays an important part. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, the will of God is linked with moral purity in the life of the saint. 1 John 3, that beautiful chapter on love as a guiding principle in Christian experience, tells us that, “this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He gave us commandment.” And again in Ephesians, where our walk is so fully treated, we are reminded that God chose us before the foundation of the world, “according to the good pleasure of His will” (1:5), to walk circumspectly in light.

Not only should our behaviour and pattern of life conform to the mind of God, but it is His will that we should continue to “give thanks for everything” (1 Thess. 5:18). Thus our prayer life comes within the compass of His holy design. Finally, Romans 12:1-4 makes it clear that the extent of our devotion should serve to prove the “good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” How all this emphasizes the truth: we are created for the pleasure of the Father.

Service and the Will of God

This topic has been a problem to many, especially to young Christians. How do I know I am in the will of God? Take courage; even the beloved Apostle Paul was exercised about this vital question. Note Acts 16:7 where he planned to go to Bithynia, “but the Spirit suffered them not”.

At this time, the Apostle was guided by the Spirit, the vision, and the circumstances. When all these were taken into account, he came to a conclusion, “assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the Gospel unto them” (vs. 10). Some contend that this was a special case where the Apostle was called to take the Gospel to Europe for the first time. However, divine principles remain the same in every age.

The word here translated, “gathering” is translated “knit” in Colossians 2:1. Thus, there is the suggestion of a divine pattern. Prayer, the Word, and the circumstances should all be taken into consideration when contemplating avenues of service.

The Psalmist says, “The meek will He guide in judgment: and the meek will He teach His way” (Psa. 25:9). Abraham’s servant said, “I being in the way, the Lord led me.” Surely there is a lesson in this for us. It requires a meek and humble spirit, yet a readiness to act and a preparation for the task. Self determination, in so far as it is the product of the flesh, can prove disastrous. On the other hand, availability may be proved by preparation.

Scripture contains guidance in the all important matters. In Acts 21 we see many circumstances operating before Paul saw his way clear to go to Jerusalem. In Romans one he made it a matter of prayer as to his journey to Rome.

Obedience to God’s will in service, may bring upon us reproach or even suffering. This is the subject of Peter’s words in 1 Peter 4:12-19. If we are called upon to suffer for righteousness sake and the Gospel, happy are we, but if we suffer for our own folly, there can be no praise in it. How careful we should be to see that any reproach or suffering that befalls us in serving Him is according to His will, and not the result of our own false pride.

In relation to those in authority. Scripture teaches us to pray for them, and even to give thanks, for this is “good and acceptable in the sight of God” (1 Tim. 2:2).

We have by no means exhausted this topic. The relationship of the will of God to the Nations, to the Church, and to the Kingdom could be explored with profit. Then, too, much might be said about the good pleasure of His will (Eph. 1:5), the mystery of His will (v. 9), and the counsel of His will (v.11), but space forbids. These are, indeed, water to swim in.

We close this study with the words of the poet:

“I bow me to Thy will, O God,
And all Thy ways adore,
And every day I live I’d seek
To please Thee, more and more.

“He always wins, who sides with God.
To him, no chance is lost.
God’s will is sweetest to him, when
It triumphs at his cost.

“Ill that God blesses is our good,
And unblest good is ill;
And all is right that seems most wrong
If it be His sweet will.”