L M Grant.
If we are to know the will of God, nothing can compare with considering the blessed person of our Lord Jesus Christ. He could say in perfect truth, "I come to do thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:9). Is it possible for God's will to be done on earth when everywhere men's wills are set in bold defiance of God, with rebellion, confusion and corruption gaining the ascendancy in every nation? The answer is beautifully seen in the lowly Man of sorrows, faithful, obedient, devoted to the will of God in every detail of His life of simple, stedfast faith, and supremely in His offering Himself in sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, that God might be glorified in the salvation of innumerable sinners. What an object to draw the heart of every believer to be deeply desirous of doing the will of God in his own short life on earth!
HIS WILL IN THE GREATEST THINGS
Can we know the will of God? In many things, yes; but we can only know this absolutely as it is revealed in the Word of God. For instance, we can know absolutely that every true believer has been predestinated to the great blessing of sonship "according to the good pleasure of His (God's) will" (Eph. 1:5). Also, concerning the Church of God, "Now God has set the members, each one of them in the body just as He pleased" (1 Cor. 12:18). His Word declares this: therefore we may know it as being absolutely the will of God. Similarly, many other great blessings of God are declared in His Word to be given to believers. He has revealed that it is His own will that has decreed such great blessing for us. We rightly rejoice in the majestic glory and grace and beauty of a will so full of goodness.
HIS WILL AS TO OUR CONDUCT
On the other hand, God has expressed His will in His Word as to many things that have to do with our practical, daily lives. Do we rejoice in His expressed will as to what our conduct should be? These things we may know absolutely also, as for instance, "This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality." Many other scriptures show us clearly what kind of conduct is right and becoming. Let us be well acquainted with these through reading and meditation.
Certainly in all of these we may know what the will of God is, for God has declared it.
The Lord Jesus knew the will of God, but more than that, He did the will of God. We need therefore a word from His own lips, "If anyone wills to do His (God's) will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God" (John 7:17). If we desire to know the will of God, let us first seriously test ourselves as to why. Do we want to find out whether it is acceptable to us or not? Or do we really desire to practise God's will? Of course God knows our motives. When the remnant of Israel came to Jeremiah to ask him to enquire of God, they told him they would without fail obey God's Word when it was given them (Jer. 42:5-6); but God knew that they dissembled in their hearts (v. 20), and only intended to obey if it suited their thoughts.
If we do not have the honest intention of doing the will of God, or at least of being willing to do it, then we shall never be given the firm conviction of the teaching of God's Word. If we desire to do His will, we shall know of the doctrine, that is, the teaching: it will be vital and real to us.
HIS WILL AS TO PERSONAL EXPERIENCES
There is however an area in which God has not specifically expressed His will in scripture, and which is yet a matter of concern to every believer. This has to do with our experience, not questions of moral right or wrong, but rather, of what to do about problems that arise, whether to buy or rent a house, whether to move to another place, whether to visit a certain place or certain people, whether to buy a certain car, whether or how to help a certain person in need, and many other such things.
There are some who are often very positive in regard to these things, saying, for instance, that they know it is God's will that they go to a certain place. But if scripture does not say so, they do not know this beforehand. Why should they tell others they know it? This is only pride in their supposed powers of discernment. We are warned in James 4:13 that all such boasting as this is evil. Time will prove whether it was God's will or not.
Romans 12:2 is most helpful in giving us a right perception of the will of God: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Which is better, to know the will of God, or to prove it in experience? Certainly the latter! But how may we prove it? On the negative side, by not conforming to the world: on the positive side, by being transformed by the renewing of the mind. The world's principles as to wise action are always those of expediency, material benefit, present comfort. If one is offered an attractive job with good salary a long distance from an assembly, he will likely accept it quickly if he is conformed to the world. If he is transformed, he will honestly put the Lord's interests first, for his renewed mind is reasoning from the Lord's viewpoint. Then he will prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
This is the vital principle. If our minds are in this way renewed, we shall be accustoming ourselves to learning the Word of God. When learning the will of God in greater things, these lesser things will also find us more discerning as to His will. For as we read it, God's Word will often be realized as applying in certain cases of concern for our instruction and encouragement, specially as our hearts are exercised to learn.
If we must make a rapid decision as to the "yes" or "no" of a certain matter, it is wise to judge ourselves thoroughly so as to be content with either answer. Then lay the matter before the Lord. He may be fully depended on to give calm peace in regard to the decision to make. He may in fact give no peace whatever in regard to the opposite decision. Yet even then we should not say we know what the will of the Lord is in reference to the matter; but we may have confidence in Him that He will see that we prove His will in experience.
If a matter gives exercise for some time, the Lord may allow this to keep our souls stirred with some real sense of dependence on His mercy. This calls for constant prayer as well as reading His Word with the matter of exercise in mind. In many cases certain things in the Word will be so impressed on the heart as to indicate what the will of the Lord may be; and one may therefore be at rest in the calm confidence that the Lord will definitely lead. It is the servant's place of childlike faith.
Let the believer always have this simplicity of confidence that the Lord may be fully depended on to lead him rightly. This is far from bold self-confidence, just as it is far from the impatience that acts as in a panic. For God is calm and deliberate in the carrying out of His will, and faith in Him will give quiet calmness too.
If we desire to know the will of God, let us much more desire to do it, and therefore prove the preciousness of it in daily experience.
L. M. Grant.