We all have questions. We all want answers. We go to school to learn about our future career? But which career should we pick? When will I find that perfect person to marry? Which car will last the longest? Which house will be best fit? How many kids should we have? Will we have enough money? Should I even get married? Lord, what do you want me to do?
We’ve all been in situations where we wanted God to condescend to our level and whisper into our ears the answer to our situation or to life’s biggest questions. But it can be so frustrating trying to find out what His will is. What Father hides the best from His children? If He’s our loving Father then why do we have to ‘find’ out what His will is? Do we pray harder, read more of the Bible, and try to live a better life?
Waltke starts his introduces his book with 3 points:
1. Theology is Truth: Man does not know everything. To know everything man must either have a continually exhausting understanding of every thing, or else he knows nothing. But we desire certainty, values, and meaning. The Holy spirit tells us the Bible is truth, and we are continually dependent of the Holy Spirit.
2. Theology is Essential to Spiritual Formation: Apart from God’s regeneration and the work of the Holy Spirit we cannot understand the text clearly for it to change out lives. We will be stuck not growing and not wanting to follow God.
3. Theology is a Way of Life: What we believe about God will shape how we live for God. As we are led by the Spirit to understand God more fully, then we will experience “the will of God.”
Is Finding God’s Will a Biblical Idea?
Do we find God’s will through a set of coincidental circumstances? Do we empty our minds, pray, and see what pops back in first? Do we flip to a random page in our Bible, or maybe it’s a sign when that ‘special person’ actually answers the phone? If our heavenly Father really does love us, why would He hide His will from us?
The problem is that we don’t want to make a mistake. We want to know if we should go left or right. Marry her or her or her…. (or for the ladies, marry him or him or him…). Take this job or go to school for that career. What would be the best decision? We want to know that when difficulty comes, it’s at least because we made the right decision. We don’t want problems because we made the wrong decision.
In Acts, when God led men like Paul, Philip, and Peter into a special circumstance, the special guidance was not being sought. When Abraham was to sacrifice his son, he obeyed the Lord (who did intervene). Abraham and the apostles didn’t look for special signs. They walked close with the Lord and obeyed.
Waltke asks if we can we ever know God’s will? He examines many practices that some Christians pass off as divine guidance: following hunches, casting lots, looking for signs, dreams, audible words from the Lord, etc. He doesn’t completely discount these things. God could certainly speak to us in a dream, audibly, or by the flip of a coin if He wanted to, but this is not always the case. In fact, it is not usually the case. Waltke points out that the ‘wisdom’ in James 1:5 isn’t speaking about a ‘special revelation’ on a certain decision, but wisdom is a way of life: purity, peacefulness, and gentleness (James 3:13-17).
Waltke spends chapters 2-3 talking about the ways pagans sought, through divinations, the will of the gods, and how God’s will was (rightfully) sought in the OT. In chapter 4 he says that we don’t need to do those things anymore. I won’t talk about them much so as to not give too much more away, but he elaborates on God’s program of guidance: Reading your Bible, prayer, developing a heart of God, seeking wise counsel, looking for God’s providence (sometimes circumstances do/don’t go in a certain way), if the situation makes sense, and divine intervention.
Totally. Waltke talks about the wrong ways to look for God’s will and the correct, “common sense” ways to do it. The point isn’t just to come to God when you’re in a tough spot, get the answer, and then go on with life. It’s to have an ongoing relationship with God. Life will always be filled with tough decisions, gray areas, and seemingly impossible paths. What do you do? Well, following Waltke’s advice won’t clear all of life’s difficulties, but as you are conformed to Christ the more likely you are to know and make the right choices.
My only Spoiled Milk is that Waltke says after Pentecost in Acts 2, no one ever sought the Lord’s will. I would have liked for Waltke to have elaborated more on different times in Acts when Paul (and Barnabas) sought the Lord. But the reason is probably that Paul probably didn’t have to because he and Barnabas didn’t try to “divine” the will of the Lord. They simply walked with the Lord, fasted, prayed, and used some common sense here and there.
Only by walking with Him will we have the heart of God and know what pleases Him.