The difference between “knowing the truth about God’s will” and “doing” God’s will can be the distinction between genuine faith and unbelief. The letter from James reminds us of this distinction as he writes: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19).
Imagine, the demons know the truth about God. They are as educated in theology as any seminary graduate and are as aware of the will of God as the most sanctified believer. The difference is: demons know the truth and defy it; believers know the truth and embrace it.
Still, the challenge for every Christian is submission to the Word and will of God; knowing so that we can begin doing.
Using the list Paul gave us in Romans 12:2, let’s unpack what it means to understand and obey the will of God.
The will of God is good—this is our divine perspective.
Choosing to believe that God’s will—as it unfolds in our lives— is good demands a heavenly perspective. Let’s be honest, sometimes we look at the world around us, or even God’s will for us, and don’t see anything good about it!
In a previous edition of Heart to Heart magazine, we highlighted this truth from the life of Joseph and saw various circumstances that were agonizing in his life. But what we might interpret as evil, God was orchestrating for good.
Sold into slavery by jealous brothers, falsely convicted for attempted rape, forgotten by all as he suffered in prison, then elevated into prominence because he accurately predicted a natural disaster!
His perspective still amazes me every time I read: “I am in the place of God[.] … You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:19-20).
Joseph was able to view his life— including the tragic moments— as good.
When you are dismissed from your job for something that wasn’t your fault, will you trust that God has something good in mind?
When the doctor calls and your cancer has worsened, can you wait for God’s good will to be revealed?
This perspective isn’t natural; it’s supernatural. It’s the result of our minds and hearts being radically reshaped by the Word of God and the indwelling influence of His Spirit.
The will of God is acceptable—this is our divine goal.
Paul adds that God’s will is not only good, but acceptable. Acceptable can be translated “well-pleasing,” and it relates to having our goals aligned with God’s desires. It reminds me of the baptism of Jesus; when He rose out of the water, the voice of God was heard on earth saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
The entire life of Jesus was oriented toward the will and purpose of God the Father, which included rejection, crucifixion and resurrection.
The reality of this principle is easy to understand: if something is unacceptable to God, it is unacceptable to us.
The reality of this principle is not as easy to apply. It will affect the type of friends you associate with after work; it will determine the position you take on political and cultural issues of the day; it will require making your integrity known in the office or classroom.
If there is an area where you struggle in knowing which direction is “well-pleasing” to God, search the Scriptures for guidance, pray for God to open or close doors, and talk and pray with godly believers for good counsel.
The will of God is perfect—this is our divine wisdom.
Divine wisdom comes from understanding that the will of God will not always be the easiest path, or the one with immediate rewards. The Greek word translated perfect means “complete” or “mature.”
Paul refers to the will of God being perfect because it always leads us into a more complete, more mature lifestyle. Whenever we choose to obey the Lord, we will find ourselves more completely aligned with God’s plan and more mature in resembling God’s character.
The world has its own wisdom. The world’s wisdom will tell you that your way is best; your self-satisfaction should be the goal; your perspective is all the wisdom you need.
The world is wrong.
Beloved, the approval of the world is worthless compared to finding the approval of God. Let us be remembered as people who passionately pursue the perspective, goals, and wisdom we can find in knowing and obeying the will of God.