The subject of decision-making and knowing the will of God is a contentious one in our day. The rise of hyper-charismatic theology has meant that most Christians are of the conviction that God's will is discernible through dreams, visions, prophecies, words of knowledge, etc. The problems with such an approach are, I trust, self-evident. (If you'd like to know more about the Bible's teaching on the spiritual gifts and the work of the Spirit , may I recommend Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit
by Thomas Edgar for a good Biblical treatment of this subject)
On the other extreme, some have proposed a scheme where, while eschewing the idea of special revelation in making decision, the aim subtly becomes the reading of providence and ultimately one's ability to make decisions effectively is dependent on whether they can follow these few steps accurately.
Either way, the problem becomes: "How can I know what the will of God is for me in making decisions?" I will admit that for a long time, I just figured that the safest (and 'safe' is seriously top of the reference list) thing was to guarantee in my mind that everything would work out and then make a move (my way, of course). In the likely event it didn't work, it was a dumb idea to begin with and next time, I won't even think twice about making a decision, should I be in the same place somewhere down the road. In short - I did something and it didn't work...so we won't be doing that or anything next time.
Enter Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. Prior to having read this book, I had heard some negative things about this book and others like it. For the most part, I heard two basic criticisms: (1) "He's saying God doesn't have a specific will for your life" and (2) "He's saying just do whatever you want - where's the careful thought and discernment in that?" Well, I read it - and neither objection I had heard rings true. If anything, this book lays out a liberating, common-sense and empowering view of guidance which I have been personally encouraged by it.
Pastor DeYoung begins with a "State of the World" review, putting the facts on the table and showing that the majority of Christians deeply struggle with "getting on with it" ever chasing after the seemingly elusive "will of God". Having basically said, "Why aren't we doing anything?", the following chapters are very much like Rev. DeYoung putting the kettle on, opening up a Bible and having a chat about what the will of God looks like and how we "find it". Chapter two deals with the three ways in which the will of God is discussed: (1) God's will of decree, (2) God's will of desire and (3) God's will of direction. DeYoung, in an insightful manner, deals with the relevant texts and then comes to the following staggering conclusion (which I think is right):
This conventional understanding [that there is a specific will of God for every believer and anything less is a fail] is the wrong way to think of God's will. In fact, expecting God to reveal some hidden way of direction is an invitation to disappointment and indecision. Trusting in God's will of decree is good. Following His will of desire is obedient. Waiting for God's will of direction is dangerous.
Dangerous? Seems a little irreverent to say that waiting for God's will is dangerous - but then that assumes the existence of a "will of God" for every individual believer, anything (I will save that for a future blog post.) With a unique mixture of sarcasm, wit and pastoral concern, DeYoung then lays out an uncomplicated scheme for knowing the will of God. God wants you saved, sanctified, Spirit-led and growing in faith - that's His will as we find in the Bible. For everything, apply some sanctified common sense and just do something. If it works out, praise the Lord and keep it moving. If not, learn from it, praise the Lord and keep it moving. DeYoung also dedicates a chapter to the big questions which most - if not, all - young people wrestle through - "What about marriage?" and "What should I do after studying (or should I study at all?)"
I honestly enjoyed this book, even though at points, it was painful and felt like my non-risk-taking, safety-loving heart was being dragged through a briar patch. But then, that was the greatest part - stripping back the tradition and letting the Word be the governing principle. You may not agree with his conclusions initially (and judging by its reviews, neither does half of the Internet) but do the spade-work and test what he is saying. I can definitely say you'll be glad you did.