What If I Decide Something That’s Not in God’s Will?

(Photo: Unsplash)

A reader asked the question in the title. I appreciate questions like this, not only because it glorifies God to seek His will, and not only because I enjoy ministering to my sisters, but because questions based on the Bible drive me TO the Bible and researching helps me grow as well. The more we ask questions of the word of God, the more that the Spirit through His word will minister to us. Ask questions of your pastor, an older sister in Christ, and directly to the Word. The Spirit won’t answer back audibly, but the word IS living and active, and He will lead you toward holiness and sanctification because He leads us to and points to Christ always.

God’s will is that we strive toward holiness all the time, every day. He wills – commands – that we kill our sin and obey His holy precepts.

“We do not usually hear about a God who commands obedience, who asserts His authority over the universe and insists we bow down to His anointed Messiah.”

~RC Sproul, “Does God Control Everything?”

So often, Christians who want to obey become paralyzed with indecision, thinking if they go to this college, or join the Army instead of the Marines, or marry this woman and not that woman, they will destroy the path God has set out for them to follow. First, we puny humans can’t do anything to thwart God’s will for us. Second, His will is spelled out in Scripture.

Let’s begin with a simple assumption. Since God has a will for us, He must want us to know it. If so, then we could expect Him to communicate it to us in the most obvious way. How would that be? Through the Bible, His revelation. Therefore, I believe that what one needs to know about the will of God is clearly revealed in the pages of the Word of God. God’s will is, in fact, very explicit in Scripture. ~John MacArthur, Found: God’s WIll.

Be saturated with the things of Christ, absorb His Word, be consumed with His person.

That pamphlet explains 5 duties of Christians to follow His will, then a sixth (I’ll reveal it at the end!). As long as we are saved, submitted, striving along the road of sanctification, and periodically suffering, you’re in God’s will. After that, just decide.

Decision making is not a partnership, really, but we do decide things and at the same time, God is providentially ordaining it. We don’t understand exactly how this works, only that all the decisions made, for example, in the case of Joseph and his brothers, the brothers MEANT for evil but God MEANT it for good. He doesn’t just clean up the aftermath of any poor decisions, He ordains them…yet we also freely decide. Joseph’s brothers decided what to do with Joseph. Kill Him? No. Put him in a pit? Maybe. Sell him? Yes. They went through a decision making process, and came to a conclusion about what to do. (Bad decisions, obviously, but here, I’m just remarking that we freely decide what to do on a day by day or moment by moment basis, while God ordains it all for His glory and His plan).

Look in the Bible at how many times Paul said “I decided,” or “I resolved to”. In Titus 3:12 he decided to spend the winter in Nicopolis, he decided between Tychicus or Artemas as Titus’ replacement, he decided to send Onesimus back to Philemon. Paul decided to take Timothy with him (Acts 16:3). He was minutely directed by the Spirit to an exceptional degree as an Apostle, yet Paul still decided things. In 1 Corinthians 7:39 women decide to marry ‘whom they will’ (only in the Lord).

My best advice is to be in the word of God, every day or as nearly every day as you can be, keep praying for God’s will to be done, which includes us making the best, most moral, God-honoring decisions possible based firstly on biblical precepts but also on the best information we can find.

Wherever true religion is, there are vigorous exercises of the inclination and will towards divine objects…

Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections

God slowly aligns our desires with His will. At the end of MacArthur’s book Found: God’s Will, after spending a short amount of ink describing five principles for the Christian in decision-making, the sixth is “Do whatever you want!”

“If the five elements of God’s will are operating in your life, who is running your wants? God is!” he said.

Pursue holiness, seek Jesus, slay sin, and you ARE in God’s will. He will align your desires with His plan. We can’t know His specific plan for our lives, unlike Peter whom Jesus told that martyrdom awaited. But we can know He is ordering our lives according to His plan which will bring Him the most glory.

So otherwise, just decide on that life change, marry that woman, accept that job, and so on. Joseph had no idea that being in the pit, sold as a slave, languishing in jail, and being Pharaoh’s right-hand man would yield saving of the Egyptians and surrounding nations, and the return of his family safe and sound. But Joseph did know who was ordaining Joseph’s steps day by day, and he knew God always has a bigger plan. In his case, he discovered after, it was to keep many people alive.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to do what has happened on this day, to keep many people alive. (Genesis 50:20).

Job never knew what the plan was or why the terrible things happened to him, but he still trusted God for the outcome. Despite his many tribulations, he never sinned against God with his mouth. After it was all over we know that God increased Job’s holdings again and gave him and Mrs. Job more children. Along the way, Job must have decided where to build his new house, and which cattle to breed, and so on. But God was ordaining it from above.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

HE knows His purpose. We’re just called to do His will in the generalities. Leave the specifics to Him, decided for yourself what’s best, and rest easy. And keep on truckin’!

Definition of Keep On Truckin’. Illustration by Robert Crumb

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