Recently, I conducted Question & Answer sessions during our weekend services at Adventure Church. People asked questions via email, text or notecards during the services and I attempted to answer as many as I could during each service. There was a HUGE response to this activity and many suggested that I blog some of the questions and answers as well. So, here’s the first one.
The actual Question: “How do I really know if God wants me to move my family?”
This question, and a few similar ones, has to do with God’s will for our lives. It’s a common inquiry. And, it should be. Of course we should all want to be within God’s will for our lives and to do our best to direct our families to be within God’s will. So, how can we know God’s will? The answer comes in a few parts.
God’s Hidden Will
It is only logical, and reasonable, that there are some things about God and His will that are not now known, and will not be known presently. At first that statement might confuse you or even anger you because we can sometimes feel that it is our “right” to know everything. But, if you really think about it, is that your right? And, is it even necessary? The short answer is: of course not!
God is God. We are not. He gets to decide what He reveals about Himself and His will. We don’t get to decide. He’s the Creator. He’s the One in control. He’s God.
He even reminds us of this in His Word in the book of Job where God essentially says “Who do you think you are? Did you create the world and everything in it? Were you there?” (see especially chapters 38-40)
But, don’t fret. God is also perfectly just and perfectly loving. He’s not going to hide something from us that He desires us to know. Why would he? Even I, an imperfect father to my children, wouldn’t hide from my children knowledge that I want them to know. It just wouldn’t make any sense to do so. So, whatever is within God’s hidden will should be hidden, and it will stay hidden until God decides otherwise. And, it does not and should not affect anything about our present day living.
God’s Revealed Will
Then, there is God’s revealed will. This is His will that can be known by us. And, when you really search for it, you can find it. See below.
God’s Universal Will
Part of God’s revealed will is called His “universal will.” That simply means that whatever is within God’s universal will is God’s will for everybody. There is a lot of God’s universal will in nature – for example – oxygen to breathe, gravity to bind us to the earth, and sunlight to provide energy. There are also other things that are clearly God’s universal will – for example, it is His will that all would come to know Jesus as Savior for He sent Jesus to the world because “God so loved the world …” See also, 2 Peter 3:9.
Outside of God’s Will
Then there are some things that are clearly outside of God’s will. Sometimes these can be easy to identify. It is outside of God’s will for me to murder someone, to steal, to cheat on my wife, or to be selfish with my possessions. When we are outside of God’s will, we are committing sin. God has given us the Bible so that we can know what is outside of His will.
God’s Specific Will and God’s Permissible Will
At times, God has a “specific will” for us. And, at times God’s will is what is called “permissible will.” This is where most of our questions about “God’s will for me” come from. I hope that I can explain these for you to ease some pressure for you and to get you to focus on a better question for your life.
First, let me explain the difference between specific will and permissible will.
“Permissible will” choices are those choices / decisions that God allows us to make on our own, that are not outside of His will (i.e., sinful). Most things in life (that are not sinful) fall within this category.
“Specific will” means that specific calling that God has for you at a particular time and place. Frankly, most decisions we make are not really within or outside of God’s specific will. I’ll explain more below.
If God has something specific for you — i.e., a decision that He desires for you to make, a choice to choose, or a path to take — we would further define that as a “calling.” When God is calling you to something, He is going to specifically gift you to accomplish the goal or to meet the challenge. He is going to give you passion for whatever it may be. And, it is going to further His kingdom specifically in some way. (That’s the kicker and is often the difference-maker between specific will and permissible will). Some things that may be included in this are being called to the mission field, called to the pastorate, marrying a Christian if you are going to marry, etc.
However, all other choices, as long as they are not sinful, are going to be within God’s permissible will. That simply means that God allows us to make a choice and whatever choice is made, He can bless that choice and use us within that choice. By far, most choices that we make (that are not sinful) are permissible will choices. Here are some examples: who you marry, whether to take the job at company A or company B, whether to live in Louisville or New York, whether to buy a house or not, which prom dress to wear, what gift to give your wife for her birthday, etc. Those are all permissible will decisions because no matter what we choose (as long as it’s not sinful), God can bless that choice in a special way.
Where I have seen people get hung up, and stressed out, is thinking that a permissible will choice is somehow a specific will choice. I’ve seen someone truly fearful that she was going to be outside of God’s specific will by choosing to take a job at Starbucks instead of working at the local mall. Believe me, God is a very big God and he can use you at Starbucks or the mall so either choice is permissible!
So, relax. Spend your time in prayer, studying the Word, and seeking advice from other Christians on the important question in all of this “will” stuff: is this decision outside of God’s will or not? In other words, if I make this decision (this choice) will I be sinning? If we all spent more time on that question, the rest of our decisions would be a lot easier, and, frankly our lives would be a lot less complicated and a lot more holy.