Decisions and God’s will - extract from foundation module: Gospel living

 

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The Bible speaks of God’s will in two senses.

1. God’s sovereign will

God is sovereign over all things and nothing happens that he does not allow. In this sense, both good and evil events are part of his sovereign will (Isaiah 45:7). We cannot know God’s sovereign will for our lives ahead of time.

2. God’s moral will

God’s will also refers to the godly way of life that reflects his character. It is God’s will, for example, that people should love him and love one another. God’s will in this sense is universal. It is God’s will that all of us should lead holy lives that bring him glory (see, for example, 1 Thessalonians 4:3). God’s moral will for our lives is not hidden from us because it is made known to us in the Bible. We may be worried about whom we should marry or what job we should pursue, but God is more concerned that we be a godly husband or wife and a godly employee.

When we make decisions we need to ensure that we are acting within God’s moral will. We need to ensure that what we decide is consistent with what the Bible teaches.

This not only involves ensuring our actions are godly but we also need to ensure our motives are godly. For example, someone could make a godly decision to pursue a certain career because their decision reflects a desire to serve God. Another person could decide to pursue the same career, but for them it could be an ungodly decision because it reflects a desire for personal glory or greed for a high salary. We need to ensure that our hearts are right with God, otherwise the sinful desires of our hearts will cloud our decision-making. If our actions are godly and our motives are godly then we have the freedom to choose.

Decisions and wisdom

God has made us rational beings. He has made us so we can think. So God does not zap down each and every decision for us as we move through life. Much of the time we are free to decide for ourselves, but we are to pursue wisdom so that we can make wise decisions. The book of Proverbs repeatedly traces the link between actions and their consequences to help us understand the likely outcome of different courses of action. Wisdom is being able to make decisions with a realistic assessment of their consequences.

However, true wisdom goes even deeper: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7). We like to think of ourselves as consistent, rational beings making rational decisions, but the reality is that our reason is shaped by our hearts. We find reasons for doing what we want to do. There is not necessarily anything wrong with this when the desires of our hearts are pure. The problem is that our hearts are not pure. We all too easily ‘rationalise’ impure desires. So true wisdom and wise decision-making begins with the fear of the Lord, a recognition of the holy God who knows the secrets of people’s hearts.

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Beth Butler