It should be readily apparent that doing the will of God is emphasized in Scripture, and that knowing the will of God is of paramount importance to those who follow Christ.
The problem comes when I seek to “know the will of God for my life” in terms as significant as who I should marry and those as mundane as what I should eat for breakfast.
Scripture is clear that God wills. Some of his willing he has revealed to us “ahead of time” in the demands for holiness and moral living that he places on his people. Some of his willing he does not tell us “ahead of time” and we never know until after the fact: as the old saying goes, if you want to know God’s will for next Tuesday, wait until next Wednesday.
But nowhere in God’s word do we find any instruction to find God’s will for our lives, other than his moral will. We are not promised to know God’s preference for each decision we make or for each choice we face before the deciding and choosing.
This does not mean, however, that God doesn’t have a revealed preference for how we choose. Broadly speaking, God’s preference for us is to live our lives and make our decisions following the way of wisdom. In so doing, we reflect the fact that despite the fall we still bear God’s image, which includes the mandate to have dominion over the earth. As we become conformed to the image of Christ, we conform our will to his, and can, as Augustine quipped, “Love God and do what we please.”
In the meantime, there are guideposts in the Scriptures to help us think through our daily decision-making. I suggest we think of these guideposts as the Two Directives and Five Demands.
The Two Directives: Moral Will and Mission Instruction
Informing and guiding the trajectory of our lives, including how we make daily choices, are the grand themes of God’s 1) moral will and his 2) mission instruction. God’s moral will is his demand that we be holy, for he is holy, including the Ten Commandments, the “be” commands, and all the other instructions for how we are to live while on the earth. God’s moral will is further delineated for us in the Five Demands, which I will discuss in a later article.
People are on earth for a purpose. God’s people are on earth and are his for a purpose. This “chief end of man”, as the Westminster Catechism describes it, is to love God and enjoy him forever. Specifically, while we are “between the times” of Christ’s first advent (the inauguration of the kingdom) and his second advent (the consummation of the kingdom), we are to carry the message of man’s chief end and the means to that end — the gospel of Jesus Christ — to all people on earth.
The primary statement of our mission instruction is the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20.
So, when we are faced with decisions regarding which school to attend, what course of study to pursue, who to marry, where to live, we should be thinking how the options we have either further the mission or impede the mission.
There are, of course, more details to consider, which we haven’t space to discuss here. But the point is that the believer should always be thinking of the mission — the Great Commission — and his responsibility in it before God when living life. We should be constantly resisting the common default decision-guiders, such as obtaining the dual-income-dual-garage-dual-kid life, pursuing the “American dream,” “finding oneself”, or even the rather wispy concept of “happiness”. (This pursuit of “happiness,” after all, is what frequently provides justification for the middle-aged man to leave his wife and children for another woman: hardly God’s will in any sense.)
Like soldiers on the field of battle, believers searching for guidance do well to consider the completion of the mission.