Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Will God's will be done?

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9, NIV)

Don Carson writes, '[p]erhaps no area of doctrine has been more consistently debated throughout the twenty centuries of Christianity's life than that of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility.' While we may struggle to reconcile God's sovereignty and human responsibility, the Bible is unembarrassed to place these two truths side by side. The above verse, from the book of Proverbs, is a startling reminder of the extent of the sovereignty of God. We can talk about God's 'sovereign will', in terms of the things that he has determined will happen, and say that 'God's will' will be done.
There is another way in which we can speak of the 'will of God'. This is in terms of the things he commands people to do. We might call this God's 'moral will.' The instructions of Scripture reveal God's moral will to us. For example, it is God's will that we would love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Sadly, God's moral will is not always done. We know the many ways each of us has let God down and failed to do God's will. We pray 'your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven' and feel the personal burden to see this prayer answered in our own lives as we follow him.
What about God's will for my life?
In one sense God's will for my life will be done. It is not as if God sat down one day and thought 'I'd like Paul to marry Gemma', but then Paul got God's leading wrong and ended up marrying Caroline. If such was the case I would find that I am now on God's plan B for my life, and with every other failure to read God's leading I would end up on plan c, d, z, z179 etc. God's sovereign guiding of my life comforts me in the fact that I am actually living God's plan a.
In another sense God's will for my life brings me a challenge. As a Christian I want to be obedient to God's moral will. I want to obey him in every area of my life, not because if I don't I will no longer be in the centre of his plans for me, but because I want to please him. There is too the awareness that our actions have consequences. Although doing God's moral will does not necessarily mean comfort and ease (in fact it may bring the opposite), we should rather take whatever comes from doing good than that which results from doing evil.
On one hand we are always at the centre of God's will, we will not thwart his sovereign will. On the other hand none of us is at the centre of God's will, for none of us perfectly obeys him.
What is God will for my life? I can say that God's will for my life is all that has taken place, is taking place, and will take place. Yet I can also say that God's will for my life is the call to obey him in everything.

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