Can I Know God's Will for My Life?

This post is the second in an on-going exploration of God's Will--what it is, if it's knowable, how we discover it, and practical guidelines for discerning his leading. You can read the first post here.

In the first part, I introduced the three-part understanding of God's will that Kevin DeYoung explains in his book, Just Do Something. Moving forward, we will focus our attention on the third, "God's will of direction." This one focuses on the lives of people and God's involvement in our decision making. 

After exploring the three different expressions of God's will, DeYoung affirms the idea that God has a specific plan for each believer’s life but rightly rejects the idea that God keeps it a secret from us. It would be outside his character to insist that we follow his will for our life and then either oppose us in discovering it or simply remain passive and indifferent towards our prayers for direction. God does not want us to spend our lives attempting to discover what we should do with our lives! On the basis of God’s providence and faithful kindness for his people, DeYoung advocates for a means of discerning God’s will, known as “The Way of Wisdom.” This affirms the ordinary ways of decision making that God offers us: Scripture, the church, common-grace wisdom, and our desires. 

While DeYoung affirms the idea that God can still give visions, dreams, or any other means of unusual direction, he insists that we ought not to expect it or seek it. He argues that these supernatural means were unusual, even in Scripture. Pointing to Paul’s statement in Acts 15:28-29 DeYoung says “most of the time Paul made decisions like the rest of us. He used rather tentative phrases like, ‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us’ (Acts 15:28–29).” It is beyond the scope of these posts to examine Paul’s practice of decision making or his language in Acts 15. However, it is worth pointing out that Paul’s language here indicates the opposite of DeYoung’s point: the Spirit was active in Paul’s decision making. If he was not, then Paul’s language here is both misleading and presumptuous.

While DeYoung is a cessationist (meaning, he believes that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer given to Christians), he affirms the same assessment that Bruce Waltke gives: “Too many conservative scholars have no place for God’s special intercession because they have no control over it. We can’t force God to talk, yet sometimes He completely surprises us and talks anyway.” And yet, it seems that DeYoung is unable to provide any help in discerning God’s special intercession or the Spirit’s leading. It seems that DeYoung believes the Spirit is only able (or willing) to offer guidance in unusual, extraordinary ways. Because of that, he maintains that the Spirit’s leading will be so infrequent it is essentially nonexistent.

The ultimate issue here is not about which gifts of the Spirit are still offered today. The real issue is that so few of us believe that (1) God cares all that much about the particular details of my life or (2) that what he wants for my life is going to be painful and only require sacrifice. The issue is the fear, guilt, and shame that dominates the interior life of so many Christians that prevents us from seeking, believing, or recognizing God's leading when he offers it. 

You can know God's will. And in the next post I will share some foundational ideas of knowing God's will.