God’s will is often seen as right and wrong, black or white. And in many cases it is. In some ways, God’s will is ever clear. The Bible gives concrete instructions on many aspects of life. The question we often face is not “what is the will of God,” but is “will we obey what God has commanded?”
Yet when the phrase “will of God” is used, we often aren’t talking about God’s clear commands. We are wrestling with the question, “Where should I go from here?” While occasionally there is a clear path given in Scripture to answer that question, in most cases there is not. (See: 5 Reasons Christians Don’t Hear God)
In these situations where there is not an obvious command from God, we often make a significant mistake. We assume getting the answer right is more important than having faith. We think the outcome is more important than the process.
Consider a simple 2×2 diagram.
The X-axis shows the line from right to wrong. It could include the obvious issues where the Bible clearly speaks. It could also include the hypothetical scenarios in which maybe there is a right or wrong and maybe there isn’t. For example, God clearly calls us to forgiveness. There is a clear right and wrong. But does God call some people to live in specific town or work a certain job, etc? Some might say yes, others would say no. The Y-Axis illustrates faithfulness. For the purpose of this diagram, faithfulness is in the context of a person faithfully attempting to hear from God and understand His purpose for their lives. Faithfully seeking can include Bible study, prayer, seeking Godly counsel, etc.
Consider the four options:
Quadrant 1: Faithfully wrong. In this quadrant, someone has faithfully attempted to know God’s will, but has missed it. Despite their best attempts, they have chosen a way separate from God’s desire.
Quadrant 2: Faithfully right. In this quadrant, someone has faithfully discovered God’s plan and chosen that course of action.
Quadrant 3: Unfaithfully wrong. In this quadrant, someone hasn’t sought God’s ways nor found them. They didn’t try to please God and they have chosen a way opposite of His desires.
Quadrant 4: Unfaithfully right. In this quadrant, someone has lucked into God’s will. They haven’t sought the heart of God, but they have drifted into the right answer.
In this illustration, it’s very obvious which quadrant we desire and which we don’t. Any follower of Jesus desires to be faithfully right. We all want to avoid being unfaithfully wrong. But of the remaining two quadrants, which is preferred? Neither is desired, but if you have to choose between being unfaithfully right or faithfully wrong, which would you choose? (See: A Dangerous Assumption About God’s Will)
Many Christians would choose quadrant 4. They believe it’s better to be unfaithfully obedient. They think being right trumps all other facts. As long as they are right, they think it really doesn’t matter how they got there.
It’s a poor assumption. If given the choice, it’s better to be faithfully wrong than unfaithfully right. It’s preferred to have sought the heart of God and missed it than to have never acknowledged him and lucked into the right choice.
This is true for three reasons:
1. God desires relationship. This doesn’t imply obedience is meaningless. By no means. Obedience is far more important than we realize. However, he cares more about our hearts than outward actions. He wants the totality of who we are to be transformed into His likeness. He desires that our hearts would become like His, not that we would just have the right answers.
2. Processes repeat. A practical reason quadrant 1 is better than quadrant 4 is because processes repeat. If someone lucks into the right answer by flipping a coin, they will begin to trust the coin. The next time a big decision is required, they will flip the coin again. Choosing a bad process might not lead to a bad outcome in an individual situation, but it guarantees bad outcomes in the long-haul. Similarly, if someone faithfully seeks God’s heart on an issue, even if they get it wrong, the process of seeking God is instructional, encouraging, and useful for the next decision they have to make. If someone continually seeks God, they will find His will.
3. Being unfaithfully right is still wrong. While the diagram above is helpful, it’s very flawed. One flaw is that someone might come to the false conclusion that we can be unfaithfully right. We can’t. In God’s eyes, the heart matters as much as the actions. Even prayers said with the wrong heart are wrong. Giving with wrong motivations can be an abomination. We can’t luck our way into God’s will. Having the right answers doesn’t ensure you are necessarily right with God.
Hardly a week goes by in which someone isn’t asking me about God’s will for their lives. It’s always a joy to know people desire to understand what God would have them do. However, in many instances what the person wants is an obvious answer from God about where they should live, where they should work, or whether or not they should marry a specific person. In most situations, God will not clearly reveal a specific choice. Instead, he desires that we seek Him and in faith make the best choices we can.
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