At one point or another every Christian will ask themselves one question, and though every Christian will ask this question, not every Christian will be able to answer this question. The question is very easy to ask, but it isn’t always easy to answer.
The question is this: ‘What is God’s will for my life?’
How many of you have asked this question? This is a good question, and it should be asked. I always enjoy being asked this question because when someone approaches me asking this I know one thing very clearly – the person sitting in front of me loves God a great deal and because of that cares a great deal about what God wants them to do with their life. So this is a good question, but where do we look for the answer? In the sky? In our soup? In dreams? Maybe visions? In our own experiences with God? No, all of those things shift like the sand and are never sure.
Rather, we look for the will of God in the Word of God alone. Before we get into the appropriate answer and how it plays out in our individual lives we must do some work to properly define what God’s will is in the first place, because in order to know will of God for our life we must know what the Word of God says about it.
God’s Secret and Revealed Will / God’s Decretive and Preceptive Will
When we are concerned about such things we must come back to a verse we’ve lingered over many times thus far in our study, Deut. 29:29, which says, ‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.’ Right away from this one verse, we see a distinction we can make when speaking of the will of God. God has a secret will and a revealed will. Martin Luther made the same distinction calling them Deus absconditus and Deus revelatus, or the concealed will of God and revealed will of God. These labels are merely an outworking of the reality seen in Deut. 29:29. There are indeed many things about God that we do not know and will not know in this life. But at the same time God hasn’t left us in a dark room, He has revealed much of who He is through His Word.
Another way to speak of the will of God is to make another distinction between His decretive will and preceptive will. The decretive will of God, or will of decree, refers to God bringing to pass whatever He so desires in His sovereign pleasure. The ultimate example of God’s decretive will is the cross of Christ. Before time began God the Father planned redemption, and chose to kill His Son on a cross for His people. God decreed this to happen, and because He decreed it, it must happen in the manner and at the exact time God wants it to happen. No one can stop it from happening or resist this will of decree in God, and more so, no one can ever out of the decretive will of God…ever. On the other hand the preceptive will of God, or will of command, refers to God’s commandments or His Law. While the decretive will of God cannot be resisted at all, God’s preceptive will is resisted all the time, and you can in fact out of the preceptive will of God when you disobey. When we read the Ten Commandments we see 10 examples of God’s preceptive will at work, and once we read them we can obey His will or disobey His will.
So when we come back to our question, ‘What is the will of God for my life?’ we should then always ask, ‘Well, what will of God are you referring to? His secret will, His revealed will, His decretive will, or His preceptive will?’
R.C. Sproul offers good counsel on this saying, ‘If they are talking about the hidden (or secret) will of God, they must understand that it is hidden. Most of those who ask the question are struggling with what to do in particular situations. When I am asked about God’s will in such cases, I reply that I cannot read God’s mind. However, I can read God’s Word, which gives me His revealed will, and learning and conforming to that will is enough of a task to last me a lifetime. I can help people with that…’
This is good counsel for us. We must remind others who ask us, and remind ourselves when we ask the question that we’re not crystal ball readers, and that we should never seek to know the secret will of God or the decretive will of God. Deut. 29:29 says those things only belongs to the Lord. But, we not only can look into the revealed will of God and the preceptive will of God, we should devote our lives to looking into them to learn as much as we can about God’s will for our life.