Last time we saw that it is unwise to put out fleeces a la Gideon and expect to get any direction from the exercise. This is because a. Gideon had a vast army to go up against, and, b. because we are to walk by faith, not by sight. So let us pursue this question of the specific will of God further.
2. How Then Can I Know What God Wants Me To Do?
In his helpful book Decision Making and the Will of God, Garry Friesen puts forth what he calls “the Wisdom View” (p. 199). Friesen defines his view thus (I have clarified some of his wording and added some thoughts of my own):
a. The revealed commands and principles of God’s Word (i.e. God’s ethical code), are to be obeyed. Thus, where we know what God requires of us (e.g. the Beatitudes, the Armor of God, The Ten Commandments minus the Jewish Sabbath, etc.) we should be striving to please Him. This is the burden of passages like 1 Thess. 4:1f. or Rom. 6:11.
b. In those areas where the Scriptures give no specific command or principle, and it is not a question or morality per se, the believer is free to responsibly choose his or her course of action – provided they do not violate God’s ethical requirements as set forth especially in the New Testament (e.g. Eph. 4:1-5:21). All decisions must be faith-decisions, since “whatever is not of faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23).
c. The objective of the Christian always to make wise decisions, decisions both spiritual and practical. Thus, the Book of Proverbs comes to the fore here. See e.g. Prov. 3:5-6; 16:3.
Earlier in the book Friesen gives J. I. Packer’s definition of wisdom: “Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.” Wisdom, (Chokma – which denotes practicality as well as problem-solving), is discovered by those who fear the Lord (Prov. 9:10). This fear forces God into every decision and compels pride and self-centeredness to leave (or at least to take a subordinate place). The culture of pragmatism and the obsession with image which permeates not just secular America but Christian America too (and to the same extent!), means that the thoughtful believer who truly wishes to know God’s guidance will be careful to keep the fear of God always as a mark before him.
To this definition I add these comments of John Stott: “The [general] will of God for the people of God has been revealed in the Word of God. But we shall not find His ‘particular’ will in Scripture. To be sure, we shall find general principles in Scripture to guide us, but detailed decisions have to be made after careful thought and prayer and the seeking of advice from mature and experienced believers.” – John R. W. Stott, Authentic Christianity, 248.