I grew up like some of you trying to live in “the will of God,” and searching for it when it was not obvious. Sometimes it tied me in knots.
“Be sure you know what college is God’s will for you!”
“Don’t ever marry someone if you are not sure she is the one God has for you!”
“Are you sure it is God’s will for you to be a pastor?”
I was taught you could miss God’s “perfect will” for your life and live in his “permissive will.” Holy smokes. I put myself in Gideon’s class – not a bad association – and was putting out fleece so that God would clearly lead me. One time as I was graduating from seminary I decided that if the next car that came down the road were a red Rambler – that’s an ugly car you could not miss, and there weren’t many of them – I/we would know it was God’s will for us to go to Africa as missionaries. We had already passed the missions board, and we also had an invite to go to Wooster as an associate pastor with a good veteran, or to teach writing at Grace, or to keep my full-time job as a writer-editor for a Christian publisher.
Yikes! A blue Rambler came! Serious. Did that mean we should go part-way, maybe to Paris!
Another time, after 17 years as a pastor, I admit with some shame, I lost 20 pounds in 12 months worrying about leaving the church in Ashland we loved so much to take the giant one in Akron. Worrying about hurting feelings, but mostly, What does God want me to do?
Proceed to today. Now I like to give talks on the will of God, and try to free other people from the bondage and crush of their past pressures about “God’s will” as people defined it.
Here are my main points, in very abbreviated form, with high hopes they will be as freeing to you as they still are to me:
The Bible is God’s will for us. Study it and obey it, because we are accountable for that. We have freedom to choose in the areas not covered in the Bible.
“Love God and do as you please.” (That’s a quote from Martin Luther — and you do know you should quote either him or C.S. Lewis or N.T. Wright at least once a month.) And of course
Luther meant that when we love God we obey him as to his clear revealed Word, including its principles for applying and seeking wisdom. And we will thank him for free will on matters of liberty, which by its very label says we are free to choose.
“You can’t make a mistake.” That’s what my friend George said to me when he was helping me make a prison break from the worries ingrained in me from childhood, as I was deciding about Akron. And he clearly meant what I now mean, that if your motives are to glorify God and love others, you can and will do that no matter where you live or what you do.
“The windshield is often foggy but the rear-view mirror is clear.” God is so great, kind, loving, and understanding, that he will guide us with his overall sovereignty and invisible shepherding, so that we will rejoice in our decisions and his will and our freedom all of our days. And we will know that he was with us, giving us the desires of our hearts.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” What we will hear when we see him, if we will put him first and not our handcuffs of tradition and worry.