It’s a question every Christian asks at least once on their way to heaven. For many believers, however—especially those currently 35 years old and younger—it’s a question that looms over most of their decisions, goals, and general approach to life. Christians of the so-called millennial generation are finding it increasingly difficult to determine what God would have them do with their lives, so they are asking with greater frequency and fervency about the will of God and how to find it.
But the desperate quest for God’s will has not led to more stability and direction among searching Christians, young or old. Just the opposite has occurred, as Kevin DeYoung observes:
[O]ur search for the will of God has become an accomplice in the postponement of growing up, a convenient out for the young (or old) Christian floating through life without direction or purpose. Too many of us have passed off our instability, inconsistency, and endless self-exploration as “looking for God’s will,” as if not making up our minds and meandering through life were marks of spiritual sensitivity (13).
Yet, DeYoung does not desire to leave Christians with a bleak diagnosis and nothing more. With his brief yet insightful volume, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, DeYoung seeks to remove the mystery from this question and free Christians from the bondage of what he calls, “The conventional approach to God’s will.”
The Two Wills of God
The conventional approach to God’s will—an approach that has gained serious traction among Christians over the past few decades—tells us that God’s plan for our individual lives must be sought for and embraced by Christians if they hope to live the life to which God has called them. In this scheme, there is a secret “will of direction” that God expects us to find so that we might make right decisions.
DeYoung agrees that there is such a thing as the “will of God.” There is, for example, God’s will of decree. Scripture declares clearly and often that God knows all things and has a plan for this universe that cannot be thwarted (Matthew 10:29-30; Acts 4:27-28; Ephesians 1:11; Psalm 139:16; Isaiah 46:9-10). There is also God’s will of desire. The Bible tells us that God expresses his will of desire through commandments that his creatures are intended to keep (Matthew 7:21; 1 John 2:15-17; Hebrews 13:20-21. Unlike God’s will of decree, God’s will of desire can be undermined, as one can easily attest by brief turn to the nightly news.
How these two wills should be understood theologically is not the aim of DeYoung’s book—that’s the divine sovereignty-human responsibility question that has occupied theologians over many centuries . (A good place to start in dealing with this issue would be here.) What interests DeYoung in this volume is showing that Scripture never gives us warrant for believing that there is a secret will of God for our individual lives that we must discover in order to make decisions.
On the one hand, God is concerned about our individual lives, and he is eager to answer our prayers for guidance. But this guidance is called wisdom, and it is often gleaned through searching the Scripture, seeking counsel from godly brothers and sisters, and prayer. On the other hand, looking for God to disclose his secret will to us is an “invitation to disappointment and indecision” (24). Waiting for this will of direction “is a mess,” DeYoung continues. “It is bad for your life, harmful to your sanctification, and allows too many Christians to be passive tinkers who strangely feel more spiritual the less they do” (24).
“Waiting for God’s Will”
So what is a Christian to do? DeYoung believes that the search for God’s will can begin with good intentions. As children of God we want to please our heavenly Father, so we naturally desire to know his will for our lives. But more often our longing for God’s secret will of direction is actually a symptom of our timidity, our desire for perfect fulfillment, our cowardice, and simply the result of facing too many choices. We are too scared to make decisions and live with them, so we chalk up our vacillation to “waiting for God’s will.”
The conventional approach to God’s will also keeps us fixated on non-moral decisions, whereas God would have us give our attention to more important issues like “moral purity, theological fidelity, compassion, joy, our witness, faithfulness, hospitality, love, worship, and faith” (42). The open door/closed door method also figures large in the conventional approach. Open doors, of course, indicate that God’s wants me to do something. Closed doors constitute the divine “no.” But how do we know, DeYoung wonders, whether or not an open door was God’s will or a Satanic temptation? What about closed doors? Isn’t it true that our righteous desires will often be opposed in this fallen world?
A Better Way
There is a better way, DeYoung contends, and it’s laid out plainly in Scripture. Instead of searching endlessly for a secret will of God for our individual lives, we should be laboring to obey God’s revealed will. We are to seek the kingdom of God first and foremost (Matt. 6:33), pursue sexual purity (1 Thess. 4:3), and be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:17). Our motives are important, too: we should pursue the knowledge of God’s will for the sake of knowing him better and bearing good fruit (Col. 1:9-12), not in order to avoid difficulty or hard work.
For Christians seeking guidance, they should pursue wisdom primarily in Scripture, understanding that gut-level impressions are just that: impressions, not necessarily God’s leading. When it comes to the big two questions—work and marriage—DeYoung directs us to search out God’s Word, gather wise counsel, pray, and—get this—make a decision. Yep. Instead of wondering whether you should get a job, you should make sure that the work you are pursuing is legitimate (not within the pornography industry, for example), that you’re qualified for the work, that your motives are in the right place, and just do something. The same goes for marriage:find a Christian of the opposite sex, ask godly friends if they’re a good fit for you, pray for right motives, and get married.
Finding God’s will is not complicated. Our God is not sneaky, and he does not delight in keeping us in the dark. His will is clear, and it’s revealed in Scripture. That’s why DeYoung can end his book with a challenging yet wonderfully freeing conclusion:
So the end of the matter is this: Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like with whomever you like, wherever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God (120).