God's Will: Forget the 'Dot'

I recently pulled a book off my bookshelves that has gathered dust since the 1980s. It’s a book I’d always meant to read. How I wish that I had. I've found such freedom in its words.

Garry Friesen and J. Robin Maxson wrote Decision-Making and the Will of God to combat the anxiety and frustration many Christians find in the traditional view of seeking God’s Will. The book was one of the “Critical Concerns” books with a strong commitment to the authority of Scripture, addressing contemporary issues like caring for the terminally ill or transparency in communication. Friesen and Maxon’s book presented a biblical alternative to the traditional view of decision-making.

The authors explain that in the traditional view, God has a sovereign will, moral will, and individual will. It is the “individual will” that they challenge. Space does not allow me a thorough review of the book here, but let me share some basics.

As I read the book, I found myself sighing … or rather, relaxing. I grew up with threats that if I missed “the perfect will of God”—His perfect individual will for my life in every decision—I’d have to be content with God’s permissive will. Miss the dot? Second best. Bummer!

The authors say that the idea of an individual will of God for every detail of every person’s life is not found in scripture. There were cases of divine guidance, but they were the exception to the rule, given to people who played strategic roles in world evangelization or during the formative years of the church—and it was always communicated by supernatural revelation. For the great body of believers, they say, specific guidance is not offered for the little practical choices of life: "Which blouse do I wear, the red one or the blue?" "Who do I marry?" ... except that we are to marry believers. "Do I live in a condo or a ranch house?" "Do I pick sweet potatoes or rice for dinner?"

The authors explore the original language of popular “direction” verses, and show that God’s will really is revealed in scripture—in His moral will—and we are all also subject to God’s sovereign will.

The alternative view of decision-making, which they call “The Way of Wisdom,” is not a matter of finding the perfect “dot” of God’s will, but rather, an area of freedom” within the circle of God’s moral will. Areas that are specifically addressed by the Bible are to be obeyed, but where the Bible gives no command or principle (non-moral decisions), the believer is free and responsible to choose his or her own course of action—just as Adam and Eve were given great freedom to choose within God’s established boundaries (Genesis 2:16-17).

Within God’s boundaries, we can analyze, evaluate, judge and discern wisely, and then freely determine our choices. For God’s children, the authors state, “all things within the moral will of God are lawful (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23), clean (Mark 7:19; Luke 11:41; Rom. 14:14, 20), and pure (Titus 1:15).” In non-moral decisions, then, the goal of the believer is to make decisions based on what is best to get the job done (Rom. 14:5, 10, 12).

The believer’s attitudes should include humility and submission to God in advance, plus the willingness to seek God’s wisdom (James 1:5-8). The authors quote Canadian theologian J. I Packer: “Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.” Other helpful attitudes in making decisions are a teachable spirit, an ethic of diligence, and a heart of faith and uprightness.

This “Way of Wisdom” takes away the anxiety of decision-making and leads to greater excitement in making choices!

How about you? What do you believe the Bible teaches about decision-making?

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