God’s Good, Pleasing, and Perfect WillRomans 12:1-2Theme: Trust and obey.This week’s lessons teach us that our happiness is to be found in following God’s will.
LessonGod has a good, pleasing, and perfect will for each of us. Otherwise, how would it be possible for us to test and approve what that will is? This requires some explanation. Today when Christians talk about discovering the will of God, what they usually have in mind is praying until God somehow discloses a specific direction for their lives – who they should marry, what job they should take, whether or not they should be missionaries, what house they should buy, and such things. This is not exactly what proving the will of God means, nor is it what Romans 12:2 is teaching. The will of God is far more important than that.
You may recall Romans 8:27, the verse that speaks about the Holy Spirit interceding “for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Garry Friesen, a professor at Multnomah School of the Bible, and J. Robin Maxson, a pastor from Klamath Falls, Oregon, have written a very good book entitled Decision Making & the Will of God.1 They distinguished between three meanings of the word “will”: first, God’s sovereign will, which is hidden and is not revealed to us except as it unfolds in history; second, God’s moral will, which is revealed in Scripture; and third, God’s specific will for individuals, which is what people are usually thinking about when they speak of searching for or finding God’s will. These authors rightly accepted the first two of these “wills.” But they disagreed with the idea that God has a specific will for each life and that it is the duty of the individual believer to find that will or “live in the center of it.”
My evaluation of this book is that it is helpful in cutting away many of the hangups that have nearly incapacitated some Christians. Its exposure of the weakness of subjective methods of determining guidance is astute. Its stress on the sufficiency of Scripture in all moral matters is essential. My only reservation is that it does not seem to me to acknowledge that God does indeed have a specific (though usually hidden) will for us or to adequately recognize that God does sometimes reveal that will in special situations.
We may not know what that specific will is.
We do not need to be under pressure to “discover” it, fearing that if we miss it, somehow we will be doomed to a life outside the center of God’s will or to his “second best.”
We are free to make decisions with what light and wisdom we possess.
Nevertheless, we can know that God does have a perfect will for us, that the Holy Spirit is praying for us in accordance with that will, and that this will of God for us will be done–because God has decreed it and because the Holy Spirit is praying for us in this area.
Still, having said all this, I need to add that this is not primarily what Romans 12:2 is talking about when it speaks of God’s will. In this verse “will” is to be interpreted in its context, and the context indicates that the will of God that we are encouraged to follow is the general will of offering our bodies to God as living sacrifices, refusing to be conformed to the world’s ways, and instead being transformed from within by the renewing of our minds. It is this that we are to pursue and thus find to be good, pleasing, and perfect, though, of course, if we do it, we will also find ourselves working out the details of God’s specific will for our lives.
1 Garry Friesen with J. Robin Maxson, Decision Making & the Will of God: An Alternative to the Traditional View (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1980).
Why should we not feel pressured to discover God’s specific will?
What is God’s will as taught in Romans 12:2?
ReflectionGod’s will is that we offer our bodies to him as living sacrifices by refusing to be conformed to the world’s ways, instead being transformed from within by the renewing of our minds. Can you think of areas of your life where this is already taking place? How has your life been transformed so far?
PrayerThink of a few areas in your life in which you continue to think and behave in the world’s ways instead of God’s. Bring these areas before him, and ask him to renew and transform you so that you will be able to approve his will in your life.