by Barry Newton
The discrepancy between biblical ideas and popular Christian culture amazes me. One such divergence involves how people speak of discovering God’s will for their life.
To be sure, scripture is replete with passages outlining God’s will. Passages such as Acts 2:23 and 1 Thessalonians 4:3 reveal God’s intention to provide salvation as well as to determine the general characteristics shaping a Christian’s life.
However, where is the teaching that God has prepared a personalized plan for every Christian? Should we be concerned over whether God intends for us to marry Christian A or B? Or do we have freedom and bear the responsibility for making wise decisions within the general guiding parameters of what God desires for his people?
For those assuming that an individualized divine plan exists, undoubtedly a slew of verses will be launched against my questioning.
Did not God direct the apostle Paul to Macedonia and prevent him from entering Bithynia? Do not verses such as Proverbs 3:5 and Ephesians 2:10 prove that God has a personalized plan for each one of us?
Upon closer examination, we discover that to conclude such verses demand God has an individualized plan for our lives exceeds the evidence. In fact, an alternative understanding appears stronger. Consider these few representative observations:
- While it is true that God directed specific choices for prophets, apostles and key individuals like Cornelius at critical junctures regarding God’s kingdom, the Bible is silent regarding God imposing such detailed plans upon the rest of his people.
- In scripture, when God did have a specific path for key individuals to follow, God’s will was revealed by prophecy, dreams or visions, not coincidences, feelings and the type of “evidence” people typically rely upon today.
- The language of Proverbs 3:5 fits into the larger contextual theme in Proverbs of walking in God’s counsel for righteous living, rather than depending upon one’s own worldly wisdom.
- Demanding that the “good works” of Ephesians must refer to specific details such as evangelize this person, rather than to the general principle of being evangelistic is doubtful. Reflect upon the apparent parallel idea that students are a university’s workmanship, created for employment that the university intended beforehand for them to achieve.
Admittedly, this examination is brief. This article by nature of its brevity cannot be conclusive. Nevertheless, I have not found either through biblical example nor through teaching that God has created a personalized plan for every Christian’s life.
If God does not have a personal plan for my life, what would this mean? To be blunt, I can no longer blame unfavorable life situations upon my difficulty in discovering God’s individual will for my life. I am free to use wisdom in making godly decisions. And if I want to live within God’s will, I need to listen to and then obey God’s message.
God’s will for us is not mysterious. Open the Bible and read.