Introduction

What is the will of God like? How does it relate to the notion that man was given free will by God? These are one of the most complicated question found within Christendom. The “Will Of God” is also the most commonly abused term in the Christian world.

Once in a bible study group there was a person who claims that God’s will is to send him to South Africa to work. He received a job offer from the company there. Interestingly, 2 days later the fickle minded God now wills him to work in England. Finally after 1 week of consideration God finally decided to ask him to stay put where he was when his present company offered to renew his contract.

If you ask any Christian “What is the will of God? their answers may vary greatly.  Some will reckon that as long as God does not put a stop to it, it must be his will. Some will tell you that as long as you feel peaceful and happy while doing something it must be his will.  Some will tell you to wait for the inspiration from the Holy Spirit before acting, that will be Gods will.

Once I had a army buddy who tells me “Everything that happens in life is part of Gods will.” That includes him waking up late, missing the bus, failing to report to camp  and almost ending up being charge for being AWOL. (Absent Without Official  Leave)

Indeed the idea of God having a will sometimes bring about an irresolvable contradiction. For if God had absolute authority over everything, then the idea of the free will of men is non existent. But if man have a free will to do what he wants, then it will appear as if there is a flaw in Gods omnipotence, for there are areas in life  that are outside the control of God.

So how do we resolve this contradiction? If there is, how will it affect our understanding between the will of God and the free will of men?  Let us take a closer look at the matter

Understanding The Limitation Of Men to Fully Understand God

The first step to the problem is to acknowledge that man can never fully understand the ways of God.  For God once spoke through Prophet Isaiah

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
  Nor are your ways My ways,”
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
  So are My ways higher than your ways,
  And My thoughts than your thoughts.” – YHWH (Is 55:8-9)

Isaiah understood that the will of God is difficult to understand. Many of the Old testament saints understood it. For King David once said

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
  It is high, I cannot attain it.” – David (Ps 139:6)

Here David was talking about the will of God, and it is something too wonderful and too high and he cannot attain it. Therefore as men, we must first acknowledge that Gods will is something hard to understand. For even David, a man after Gods heart, finds it hard to understand the will of God.

Therefore once we have the right attitude, we can begin this study.

Can Anyone Understand The Will Of God?

So now does that mean that no one can ever  understand the will of God? Does that mean we give up and not think about the matter anymore? No, in fact Jesus once told us something about the will of God

“I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven
  and earth, that You have hidden
  these things from the wise and
  prudent and have revealed them
  to babes.” – Jesus (Matt 11:25)

Here Jesus was also talking about the will of God. It was hidden from the wise and prudent yet revealed to babes. God did not show his will to the wise but yet choose to reveal them to the babes. Actually, babies do not know how to talk, they are unable to comprehend the issues of the adults. How could they understood the will of God?

The bible once recorded of Mary visiting Elizabeth the mother of John The Baptist. When Elizabeth saw Mary she was filled with the Holy Spirit and the baby within her leap. For the baby knew the will of God.

So from here we know that if God choose to reveal his will, it will be so simple that even the babies could understand. So one of the best way to understand the will of God is to look into the bible. So what does the bible say about the will of God?

The bible described two types of the will of God. Let us examine them one by one

Type 1: The Laissez Faire Will Of God

Dictionary Definition;
Laissez Faire :
1. a policy that allows businesses to operate 
     with very little interference from the government
2. a philosophy or practice characterized by a usually 
     deliberate abstention from direction or interference
     especially with individual freedom of choice and action

The first type  is recorded in Ex 4:21 when God spoke to Moses

“When you go back to Egypt,
  see that you do all those wonders
  before Pharaoh which I have put
  in your hand. But I will harden
  his heart, so that he will not let
  the people go. “ – YHWH (Ex 4:21)

Over here God had allowed the Pharaoh to be hardened in his heart. In a way God had willed that the heart of the Pharaoh to be hardened. It is not that God made him so, but God allowed him to remain unmoved.  Therefore that can be said to be a will of God

But this type of will is not one that Christian ought to have. Paul talked about it in the book of Romans

“Therefore God also gave them
  up to uncleanness, in the lusts
  of their hearts, to dishonor their
  bodies among themselves

  For this reason God gave them 
  up to vile passions. For even
  their women exchanged the
  natural use for what is against
  nature.

   And even as they did not like to
  retain God in their knowledge,
  God gave them over to a debased
  mind, to do those things which
  are not fitting;” – Paul (Rom 1:24,26,28)

Over here God gave them up to their Passions. It can be said to be a will of God. But it is not the type of will that we would like to be following. God allow them to do whatever they like since they were disobedient to him since the beginning .

This is why sometimes we see Christians committing evil and we wonder why did God not punish them for their actions. Interestingly we see other occasion where God is swift to punish the same type of sin.

Example : Judas Iscariot
This type of will is best illustrated if we consider the story of Judas. Jesus tried very hard to turn him back from his sin. He even washed his feet, dip the bread and pass it to to expose his intention. Yet Judas was unrepentant and he continue to asked the Lord “Lord, is it I?”

Finally Jesus gave him up to sin and told him “What you want to do , do quickly” and from then on Jesus allowed him to do whatever he pleased.

Type 2: The Predestined Will Of God

This is the type of will that we need to follow.

This type of will could be seen in the garden of Eden. Where God’s will is for Adam to tend the garden of Eden. During that time Adam named the animals (Gen 2:19).  God brought all the animals before Adam and he is free to name them.

But we need to note that this predestined will had a limit and a boundary. As God instructed Adam

“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;
  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
  you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of
  it you shall surely die.”- YHWH (Gen 2:16-19)

This is the freedom God gave to Adam and God told Adam the consequences of the choice he makes. This is a freedom from God  is very different from the freedom we know today.

The modern form of freedom is often interpreted to be one without any bounds or control.  The modern form of freedom could go beyond the constraints of law and order. Where one could go all out to do what they want without any regards for rules and authority. They could even break the law of the sake of freedom

But this is not the freedom that was recorded within the bible. That was not the freedom that God gave to Adam. Even though God had absolute authority over everything in the life of man. But he grants autonomy to man to make his own decision

Man could do whatever he wants and he can make decision himself without having intervention by God.But God did warn Adam of the consequences for trespassing the boundaries.

God had given man the right to choose but it must be within the boundaries set by God. Therefore as Christian we ought to better understand the will of God. That is why Paul one said this in Athens

“And He has made from one blood
  every nation of men to dwell on
  all the face of the earth, and has
  determined their preappointed
  times and the boundaries of their
  dwellings, “ – Paul (Acts 17:26)

Here it tells us that God still have controls over the boundaries of our life, he know our days on earth, where we are born and where we will live. They will be within the boundaries set by God.

Understanding The Control Of God Over Our Lives

But didn’t God give men the right to decide? Why then did God set boundaries for us not to trespass? it may seem as if God was being unreasonable.  But God does not control us like a robot. He does not decide what we eat today or tomorrow.Whether we wake up on time or late.  For if God controls a man like this, life would not be worth living.

That will just be like a bossy parent controlling every detail of the life of their children and the children would be devoid of a mind on their own and will only need to follow the will of the parent.

That is why Paul said that God had determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.

In simple words, it is because of God that is why today we have the freedom to make decision . But that decision will be constraint by the boundary given. For example.

All of us have the freedom to choose whatever job we like to do, but we must make the decision base on the constraints such as our education qualification and the our immediate surrounding. Those boundaries are in the control of God and there we do not have much control over them. So we have to work according to the constraints that God had given us.

Many Choices That Are Within The Will Of God

So therefore we can have free will because God allowed us to work within his boundaries. As long as we make our choices within the boundaries it will be safe. So therefore when we think of the will of God, let us not think that there is only one choice that is his will.

As long as we are in the boundaries that God set, there may be multiple  choices that we can choose. But we need to understand that among the choices, there are some choices that are better than the others and among them there is also the choice that produces the best outcome.

If we fail to make the best choice , even though our action may still be aligned to the general direction of the will of God. But the choices we make may comes with certain consequences that we must bear.

The Example Of Esau And Jacob

The best example to illustrate this is the story of Esau and Jacob. We know that Jacob was not he first born son but he got his birth right by trading it with Esau over a bowl of red pottage. Later on he followed the scheme of Rebekah his mother to trick Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau. Jacob resorted to  treachery to get the blessing of God.

But what was God’s will regarding Esau and Jacob? Paul once talked about it in the book of Romans

“(for the children not yet being born,
  nor having done any good or evil,
  that the purpose of God according to
  election might stand, not of works
  but of Him who calls),  it was said to
  her, “The older shall serve the
  younger.”- Paul (Rom 9:11-12)

Paul tells us that before the children are born before they have a chance to choose between good and evil. God already told Rebekah their mother that the older shall serve the younger.  This is a fact that both Isaac and Rebekah knew. In fact Isaac was going against the will of God when he choose to bless Esau instead of Jacob.

But I believe if Jacob choose to rely on God. The promise of God will still be given to him . The result of that story will be good for God had his will set in the beginning. God will grant him the right of the first born and God will grant him the blessing of Isaac. Esau will be willing to give them up peacefully in one way for or another.

This is similar to how David choose to remain the King of Hebron for 7.5 years and not fight the house of Saul. David allowed the children of Israel to slowly acknowledge him as King. Eventually God will make good his promise in his time and he became King. As the result David ruled for 40 years , in Hebron he reign 7 years 6 month and he ruled in Jerusalem for 33 years. (2 Sam 5:4-5)

But we know that Jacob followed the advice of his mother and he choose to do the will of God in the way he wanted. God did not stop him because it is still the will of God for him to get his rights and the first born and to inherit the blessing. That is the freedom that God gave to Jacob to choose. For either way the will of God will still be done.

But if he choose to wait on the Lord, it would have been a much better, the middle east may have been a more peaceful place than what it is right now.  So we can safely say that the choice of Jacob is not the one that produces the most desirable outcome .

For there are many ways to fulfil the will of God. The only question is which is the best way with the best result. The choice of Jacob (As well as Rebekah)  brings about much consequences to their life. Its effects are all recorded in the book of Genesis, where they must pay for the consequences that resulted from their actions.

This decision cause Esau to hate Jacob and forces Jacob to flee his house at the approximate age of 70. Rebekah had to send her beloved son away and Rebekah never got to see him again. For when Jacob return, Rebekah was no longer around. Jacob got a taste of his own medicine when Laban his uncle exploited him and took advantage of  him using treachery.

All these things that happen does not change the fact that God had already willed that Jacob to receive the first born status and to inherit the blessing of Abraham.  The events of that story are still according to the general direction set by the will of God.

The Conclusion So Far

Sometimes a simple illustration of how it works can be seen in our lives. For example. We have a mango tree in the garden and the fruits will eventually enter our stomach. But we can choose how we want to do this.

Some would choose to cut the fruit down from the tree before it is fully ripe. As the result the taste of the fruit will not be as good as waiting for the fruit to fall down from the tree naturally. But the outcome of the matter is still the same, we ate the fruit. The only question is which way produces the most tasty fruit?

Indeed the direction of the will of God remains the same. He had set them as a boundary in our lives. Within which he had given man autonomy to choose what he can do. But man should only act within the boundary set by God. Within that boundary, there are  many ways in which the will of God can be done. Some of the ways  carries more consequences than the other. Among them will contain one that give us the most desired outcome.

I hope by now we will understand the 2 types of God’s will. One is the will of God where God allowed man to do what they please without any intervention from God. This is bad as God had given up and had allowed man to do what they please and to continue in their sin.

The other will of God is one that is predestined. Set within his boundary. This is the type of will that we ought to be doing. Within it there are many ways to accomplish this will. But the question we need to ask is “Which is the best way?  How would we know which one gives us the best result?

We will continue to think about this in the next blog entry.

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