When people try to find the will of God, they are usually concerned with making right decisions according to God’s overall plan for their lives. This is true whether we are making decisions for ourselves or helping our loved ones make critical life decisions. These decisions can include which college major to choose, whom to marry, when to have children and how many to have, how to educate our children, which church to join, where to live, and which medical treatment to pursue.
These matters are important, and we ought not downplay their significance. Nevertheless, taking them seriously does not mean trying to figure out the mind of God so that we can be sure we have made the right decision. The reality is that we cannot figure out the mind of God, and we cannot know God’s hidden or decretive will (will of decree), which is His sovereignly established eternal plan for all creation. On the other hand, we can know God’s revealed or preceptive will (will of precept), which is what God has sovereignly revealed to us in Scripture regarding Himself, His ways, and His law for us. The preceptive will of God tells us what God finds pleasing according to His holy character.
Knowing what we can and can’t know of God’s will frees us to make decisions according to God’s Word.
Knowing what we can and can’t know of God’s will frees us to make decisions according to God’s Word. When we look to God’s Word to help us make decisions, we learn to ask the Lord for wisdom and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit; to walk by the Spirit in humility and holiness; to seek wisdom from trusted, wise counselors and elders; to listen to and honor our fathers and mothers; to consider our gifts, priorities, and means; not to walk through a door merely because it is open and sometimes to knock down a door when it seems closed; to sometimes just do something, and to sometimes wait on the Lord until our path becomes clear. For, as Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is cotranslator and coeditor of A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin.