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God’s Will in God’s Word

• Greg Boyd

When searching for God’s will, the first place we should start is the Bible. It contains much of what God wants done in the world. Greg also talks about the difference between God’s ideal will and His accommodating will, prompting many questions about the way God moves in this world.

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There are many legitimate questions when it comes to knowing what is God’s will. Questions of discernment, precedent, and general what if abound when people try to figure out God’s will. It is a great challenge that many good Christians battle with everyday. However, we may be fighting the wrong challenge. Our biggest challenge as Christians is not in discerning God’s will, but in actually living according to his will.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we begin to see the ways in which we want to control our own lives and keep God out. Whether it’s our finances or the anger that we want to hold onto, there are places in our lives that we don’t want God’s will done. And when we do want to know God’s will, it is selectively and usually when we are uncertain or scared. Our prayer should be that God would fill every area of our lives and his will would be first sought. This can be difficult, but there are a few things to understand about God’s will.

The first thing we should understand about God’s will is that the Bible is foundational to knowing his will. Not only do we find God’s commandments, but we also find a way to check what we are thinking might be God’s will. God’s word is a lamp to our feet and lights the path of our life. A person who stays in God’s word will have a better chance of knowing God’s will than someone that doesn’t. The same is true of someone trying to walk a path at night with a lamp or without a lamp. One works well, the other way does not.

The main idea that we learn from scripture is to live in love like Christ. If we’re trying to figure out God’s will, then it should be in Love. If the action or thought isn’t in love, that’s a pretty clear sign that it’s not God’s will. There’s no need to pray for God’s will on questions of arrogance vs. humility, telling the truth vs. lying, or being faithful vs. cheating. God’s will is steeped in love, and it won’t choose anything but love for you. The second thing we should understand about God’s will is that God’s will should be discerned in community. It is dangerous to try and find God’s will individually.

Individually, something may make sense to a person, but when submitted to a community of fellow believers, may not make sense. This is how people decide the end of the world, fly planes into buildings, and other un-godly acts. Before a few hundred years ago, there were very few Bibles in print. Most of the time, the Bible was read aloud by one person while everyone else listened. It wasn’t until the printing press that people started to individually own a bible. A community of believers won’t get everything right, but it will help to understand God’s will.

The third thing we need to understand about God’s will is to not take it out of context. When we read in the Bible about certain acts by God, we need to make sure we understand the context within which God acted. A verse out of context can be very dangerous, especially when trying to apply 2,000 year old texts to our day. They lived in a different time, with different customs and understandings of the world.

The final idea we need to understand about God’s will is the difference between God’s ideal will and his accommodating will. God’s ideal will is that which he wants done. God’s accommodating will is that which he “settles for” when it comes to dealing with broken humanity. We should always strive for the ideal, and we shouldn’t mistake the accommodating as the ideal. God’s ideal will is that marriage would be for life and between a man and a woman. However, God allows for divorce in his law for the Israelites. God also seems to allow for polygamy, concubines, and remarriage, but none of it seems to be his ideal will for our lives. Israel wasn’t supposed to have a king, but that didn’t last long. What we have to learn from this is that just because God accommodated something in the past doesn’t make it his ideal. God may have allowed polygamy, but that doesn’t mean we should become polygamists.

Knowing God’s ideal will isn’t the same as knowing his will for us and our loved ones today. God is working with sinful people, and he knows exactly what we need in our lives. We need God’s guidance to understand that will, and that is best found in Scripture and in community. It can be easy to categorize people when we’re not in relationship with them, but it becomes easier to understand God’s will in context when we are in relationship with people.

Understanding God’s will can be tricky at times. Confusion and questions regularly abound. Yet, God wants us to keep striving to know him and his will. This is relationship, where we try to know the other person and understand them. In turn, we begin to see what God thinks of our life and how he would want us to grow. Using the principles mentioned above, we can begin to understand and search for God’s will in our lives.

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Topics: Controversial Issues, God's Will, Relationships


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Focus Scripture:

  • Colossians 1:9-12

    For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[a] so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[b] to share in the inheritance of his people in the kingdom of light.

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5 thoughts on “God’s Will in God’s Word

    Teresa says: Monday June 27, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    amen!!!

    Reply
    Donald Alexander B. says: Thursday July 28, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    seriously? just one comment? let me add a second then…
    i’ve payed good money for Bible teaching in the past – back in college – and never have i heard anything so real for so free.
    blessings on the leadership of woodland hills church!!!
    thanks for stepping out and putting yourselves on the line.
    after 18 months of podcasts, i can honestly say there has been good fruit as the product of the depth of your teaching.

    Reply
    Benjamin Q says: Sunday August 14, 2011 at 9:46 am

    My wife and I loved the sermon. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom on this Greg.

    Reply
    Tim says: Sunday July 22, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    I absolutely love your ministry and listen weekly but I BEG you to please clarify the last answer about God “accommodating” for homosexual marriage. I’m not legalistic at all as I have failed God miserably and He has graciously restored me. But I can’t find anything in scripture about same gender sex that doesn’t CLEARLY call it an abomination. There are no scriptures I find that allow a plan B. I love your general attitude of tolerance and gentleness toward all people and being “Jesus like” in our attitudes but I feel there are actually some absolutes that God gives us. Can you point to any historical “orthodox” group (including Anna-Baptist or Mennonites)that back up this teaching and/or any Biblical text to help me here. I am really burden about this. Thanks so much 🙂

    Reply

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