Monday, July 20, 2009

How do we know God's will?

This past Sunday, our pastor (JD Greear) preached on this very issue, and I would strongly encourage you to listen to it if you have the time, even if it means putting it on your iPod or a CD and listening while you drive somewhere. Click here to download it. The sermon is called "The Path of Hokma."

It made me think about my life, both in the past and in the present. I can’t tell you how many times I have wondered what God’s will was in a certain situation and asked Him to reveal it to me. I would search for His will, as if it were actually lost, and as if God was some sort of magic 8 ball who would spell out His answer in the clouds. I found that it was easier to seek His will than it was to actually seek Him.

The question then becomes, why don’t I spend as much time trying to know God as I spend trying to know His will? One obvious answer is laziness. It’s a lot easier to randomly ask God what to do in certain situations than it is to seek Him daily. How can we expect to know His will if we don’t even know Him? That would be like picking a total stranger out of a crowd and expecting to know what his likes and dislikes were. It would be nearly impossible!

As our pastor pointed out, most of us (including myself oftentimes) think of God’s will as if it were a door. We say to ourselves, “If I only knew which door was the right door. Is it A, B or C?” But Scripture presents God’s will as a path or a way of life, not as isolated decisions. Proverbs 4 says, “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men…The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”

Understanding that God’s will is a way or a path is particularly helpful when making decisions about things that specifically aren’t laid out in Scripture, like “should I marry this person” or “should I take this job” but for many issues we face, God’s will has already been given to us in his Word.

Besides laziness, we are often passive instead of active in our response to God. It’s easy to sit around and wait for God to “open doors” for us (and even pray while we’re waiting), when we should be out opening them for ourselves. Sometimes it is possible to hide our disobedience behind a wall of prayer while we spend days and days, or years and years, trying to figure out what to do.

If God commands me to care for the poor, why would I sit on my hands while asking God whether or not I should actually help them?! God has already made that abundantly clear in His word, so do I need to pray about whether or not to help? I am ashamed to say that I am very guilty of acting like this all too often. It is a waste of the precious time I have been given.

Instead, I should have the attitude that I will do the things God wants me to do (as revealed in Scripture) unless He stops me. One of JD’s examples puts this clearly into perspective. Suppose you’re walking down the street and suddenly come across an infant on the railroad tracks. A train is approaching, so do you stop and pray for a sign about what you should do? Of course not! God says in His word that he values life, so of course you shouldn’t wait for Him to open another door or give you a sign that you should save the baby! You just save the baby!

The same thing holds true for telling our friends, family and coworkers about the Gospel, for caring for the poor, the orphaned and widowed, and for so many other biblical commands. And all of these are commands. They are not optional. It’s not as if some of us are called to do these things and others are not. If God tells us to care for the orphaned, why would we wait for Him to “open the door” for us? Instead, consider asking yourself some of the following questions: “Do I have a safe and loving home to offer? Am I willing to share the love I have experienced in Christ with a child? If I can’t adopt, is there another way I can help?”

If the answers to these questions are “Yes” I would encourage you to take action! And by “action,” I mean ACTION. I pray that you will not be frozen by indecision but spurred to do something in response to the grace you have freely been given. If you have a home to offer, pray that God would stop you from adopting if He doesn’t want you to, as opposed to waiting for Him to spell it out for you in some sort of magical sign. And don’t let yourself fall into the trap that I did, believing that it’s a good thing to do…for everyone else.

You can also explore ways to financially support orphanages, adoption agencies and families who wish to adopt but are faced with financial challenges. But whatever you do, please do not let yourself become paralyzed. Do something! Bad things happen when good people do nothing!

With all this being said, I do not want to give the impression that we just jumped onto the adoption train without hesitation. We are often in this same boat. I feel like I can write about the above only because of my personal experience. We struggled with our decision to adopt. And it is a big decision; one that isn’t made overnight.

As I said earlier, I thought adoption was a good thing so long as someone else was doing it. I am ashamed that I was content to hide behind someone else’s action. I am ashamed of my fear and mostly ashamed of my lack of trust in God, and that’s what it boiled down to. Where there is a worldly fear, there is a lack of faith.

I was scared of the financial commitment. I was scared of the racial and cultural implications. I was scared that I wouldn’t know how to be a godly father. I too, was paralyzed, and it is only by God’s power that Heather and I made the decision we did. Our power and goodness are not behind anything. It’s through God and Him alone that our adoption is possible and is happening. He deserves 100% of the credit.

So when it comes to His commands and His will given to us in Scripture, why have I waited and not acted on some of them? Do you ever ask yourself why you hesitate? Please join me in praying that we, as believers, would be passion-filled, and that we would be active in our pursuit to know and glorify God!



  1. thank you for your post. what an important truth. thanks you for your honesty in sharing the your fears about adoption, too. makes the journey that much more incredible. i'm excited to walk this journey with y'all, get to know y'all in person, can't wait to watch you and Heather be handed your baby (as it is very likely that we could be traveling together!)