I posted already from Heibert, et al, Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices Baker Academic, 1999), one of several points they make about misconeptions people have about God’s guidance and what church and missions leaders can do to help those caught up on folk religous practice, even folk Christianity understand the nature of divine guidance such as knowing God’s will. In that post it was asserted that we do not have to “guess God’s will” for our lives for knowing the will of God is not a guessing game but something that is revealed to us and that flows out of our relationship with God.
I want to blend the next two points Hiebert et. al., offer abot God’s guidance. How I want to precent it is different from the book, only because it think it might work better this way. The next misconeption I want to talk about here is the notion of God’s perfect will verses his permissive will. Hiebert, et. al., write:
The third misconception is that God has one perfect plan for his children, and if they stray from God’s will for their lives they must settle for God’s second, third, or fourth best. So Christians seek the perfect marriage partner, the perfect job, the perfect life, and in so doing miss out on a relationship with the planner. Life should flow out of relationship with God, to know him and love him forever. If the plan is the focus, it is doomed. From Scripture, however, it is clear that God begins with believers where they are, and has his plan for their lives whenever they turn themselves over to his leading. This does not mean that past losses are undone. It means that Christians can be sure that they are living in God’s will for them now (191).
This is where I want to note the second point but thought it would better follow the third point than proceed it. The second point they offer is:
The second misconception is that God will show his will to those who trust him as one option among many to be seriously considered. God does not do this. First, he asks Christians to make up their minds whether they will do his will when he reveals it. Only when they are commited to doing so does he show the way (191).
So in a nut shell, God does not want you to take a lot of time praying about if you are going to follow him, and his direction in your life, wholeheartedly or not – God has a will for your life and wants you to live it out before him and in relationship with him – more importantly than what you do or how you do it, is that God is more interested in us and in a relationship with us, than he is in the things we do or how we live out his will in our lives (ie: what kind of vocation you go into or don’t go into). This is why I am not convinced there is a “perfect will” verses a “permissive will” – I think God just has a will and purpose for you (that is more ethical than anything else) and he wants you to be fully committed to him and his purposes than anything else. Besides, if we were fully consecrated to him, living before him as “living sacrifices” then why would you even be concerned about a second, third, or some other lesser permissive will anways? I think this mentality is a bit like the whole “shoot for the stars, land on the moon” way of thinking – it is as if God is okay with us living less than fully consecrated to him – he is not. He is merciful and gracious to us, but still – what is his will? It is that we live lives of full consecration to God not settling for second best or cutting corners.
Look, I understand it is not always easy to be fully committed to God – that is why we need the Holy Spirit who lives in us and enables us to live for God. Much of it is a process and it takes time to grow in it.
I heard a missionary to Russia once share about his calling to follow the Lord to live in Russia – he did not want to do it – no way – not there, anywhere but there. Yet he talked about the transformative experience he had in learning to be willing to be made willing. If and when we come to a place where the Lord’s will is revealed to us and we shirk back at obeying that direction for us – be willing to be made willing. There is no better place to be in life than in the center of God’s will and purpose – nothing. It may not be easy – but it is possible. It isn’t always easy for us here living in the Grand Canyon National Park – especially after the whole ordeal with living in a moldy house and our daughter mercy being so sick from it all – I was ready to leave and get out – go somewhere else. I had to learn to be willing to press on in what God has for us here.
Living in God’s will does not mean life will be free of hardship and full of blessing – often it is full of hardship and blessing comes from knowing God is with us in and through the hardship living out his will for us. This of course doesn’t mean life has to have hardships or that those who do not have them are not in God’s will – we just need to all walk in God’s grace (favor) for us living out fully consecrated lives to him – that is his will for us and for you!