Rev. Eriks is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Loveland, Colorado.
During the course of our lives each one of us must make many important, agonizing decisions. We have important decisions to make every day. Parents must decide how to rear their covenant children. They decide where to send their children to school. Parents form rules for their home, decide how to enforce those rules, and determine the consequences for disobedience. A husband and wife make daily decisions about how they will treat each other. The man on the job makes daily decisions about how he will do his work. When he has a bad day at work, or the mother has a stressful day at home, they decide how they will respond. We make decisions about when to eat and what to eat. When planning a vacation, we make decisions about where we will go and what we will do. If we are away from home over a Sunday, a decision must be made about what to do on the Sabbath. There are decisions to make concerning what we do in our recreation and leisure time. When sickness comes, we must decide what treatment to receive. These are just a few examples of the many decisions we must make in our daily lives.
Young people and young adults especially have important, agonizing decisions to make. They must decide, by making confession of faith, of what church they will be confessing members. Weighty decisions about a vocation and marriage are often constantly on the minds of young people.
In Scripture it is evident that God’s people have many decisions to make. Consider David. When he was fleeing from Saul, David had to decide where he would go. There were times he made the wrong decision. After receiving bread from the table of showbread and the sword of Goliath in Nob, David fled to Achish, the king of Gath. This was a wrong decision because he left the land of promise, the land of Canaan. He did not trust Jehovah to protect him from Saul in the land of Israel. He made the wrong decision to stay home from battle and then to commit adultery with Bathsheba. But at other times in his life, David made good and right decisions.
How are we to make these decisions? This is the question we face in all the decisions we make. It is certainly true that God has determined all things in His eternal, sovereign counsel. God governs all things that happen in the world and in our lives according to that counsel. But this does not mean the decisions we make are irrelevant. Before God we are responsible for all our decisions. Although we do not know what God has determined eternally for us until it happens, we do have the written will of God for how we are to live. Our decisions must be made according to God’s written will. Psalm 119:105 makes clear that God’s Word is our guide in making the many decisions we face in life: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
When Scripture speaks of God’s will, it speaks of two different aspects: the will of God’s decree and the will of God’s precepts. The decretive will of God is the eternal counsel of God by which He sovereignly determines all things that happen in creation and in our lives.Ephesians 1:11 says, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” God’s sovereign will is so exhaustive and comprehensive that not even the smallest details of the creation and our lives are outside of His decree. In the Rocky Mountains, God determines where each one of the millions of trees grows and which one dies. He determines where every drop of rain falls and where each falling leaf lands. So also God certainly determines everything that happens in our lives. God determines whom He will save. He also determines every event in life that works for the salvation of His people (Rom. 8:28).
Everything God determines in His eternal counsel comes to pass. Man cannot alter or change the will of God by the choices he makes. Never can a man be outside what God determines for him. Whatever a man chooses to do is the will of God’s decree. There are those who think they can trick God by making a choice different from what God decreed. This is impossible. God decrees all things that happen in the world.
Living our lives in this world is like finding our way through a maze. We don’t know what is around the corner. The future is something we don’t know because it is not revealed to us. What we find around the corner in life can be so completely unexpected. Suddenly the job that provided for the needs of the family and the church is taken away. The health we took for granted is replaced by sickness. The death of a family member takes us by surprise. In all these things we have the comfort that God sovereignly determines them for our salvation. What a comfort God gives to us in our sorrows and afflictions. God comforts us with the words of Psalm 73:24, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”
Yet, we have decisions to make. In life we must not sit back saying fatalistically, “Whatever happens, happens. I cannot do anything about it anyway.” At different junctures in our lives, we have important decisions to make. When we are faced with decisions, whether great or small, we ask, “What is God’s will? Do I go this way or that way?” In the way of making a decision we find out what God’s will is for us. God has determined the whole of our lives, and He so guides the decision making process that His will is done. However, when we make these decisions we are answerable to God for the decisions we make. We are responsible to God. Because we are responsible before God’s face for the decisions we make, it is vital that we make good and right decisions. This is where the will of God’s precept or command comes in.
The will of God’s command is the rule of what man must do. This is the will of God that He gives so that we know how to live our lives in obedience to Him. Of this will of God we read in Psalm 40:8, which says, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” In the New Testament, Ephesians 6:6 speaks of this aspect of God’s will: “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” This is the will of God revealed clearly in Holy Scripture. All God’s people know this will of God’s precept because they have God’s law within their hearts. The confession of the Psalmist in Psalm 40:8 must be the confession of all God’s children.
Just as the will of God’s decree is sovereign, so also the will of God’s precept is sovereign for us. This means that as the Lord of His kingdom, God alone has the right to determine how the citizens of His kingdom must live. All citizens of the kingdom have the calling to live their lives in obedience to the revealed will of God. Therefore, our decisions in life must be made according to the will of God’s precept. This is vital! It is certainly true that many of the decisions we make do not come down to two choices, one of which is right and one of which is wrong according to God’s Word. Sometimes God’s Word does not determine between the two choices we have to make. However, the Word of God governs all of our decisions. God speaks to us in His Word. In prayer we ask God, “What wilt Thou have me to do?” The answer is not written across the sky. The answer is not whispered in our ear in the secret chamber of prayer. We are called to study prayerfully the Word of God. In all our decisions we must be sure to do what God calls us to do. We must be sure that our decisions do not oppose the revealed will of God in Holy Scripture.
Before we consider the use of God’s Word in regard to the decisions we must make, we should first consider the right focus and attitude in our decisions. Considering the will of God in our decisions places our focus on the One who must be the focus of our whole lives: God. What motivates you in the decisions you have to make? Do you consider first what is best for you? Is your focus what you want to do? This is wrong! This is the humanistic thinking of the world today. The wicked world makes decisions based on their selfish motives. They have no desire to serve God. They want to please only themselves. We must guard ourselves from such thinking.
Our focus and attitude must be that which is expressed in Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do thy will, O my God….” It must be the focus of the end ofEphesians 6:6, “as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” Is your desire, in all of life, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” This must be the desire of parents in the training of their children. This must be the desire of husbands and wives in marriage. This must be the desire of young people as they choose a vocation and look for a godly spouse.
We desire to do the will of God because we love God more than anything else in the world. God demands this love from us in the Ten Commandments and in the whole of His Word. We are to love Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. The child of God is governed by this law of love in all of life. This must be the constant desire of the child of God in all the decisions that he must make. Is this true of you?
The fundamental truth behind this calling is the purpose of God in creating and saving us. God has created and saved us to glorify Himself. The purpose of God in our salvation is not that we enjoy salvation. Certainly those who are saved enjoy the blessings of salvation in Jesus Christ. But God saves to glorify Himself in the way of our loving Him and living a holy life to Him. Ephesians 1:4 speaks of the purpose of God in electing the church: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” The purpose of God in election is that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. This is the purpose of God in salvation so that God is glorified in our salvation.
Doing God’s will begins with remembering who God is and what He has done for us. Remember what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Jehovah God sent the Son of His love to suffer and die on the cross in the place of His people. Not only did He bear the brunt of wicked man’s hatred, but also He bore the fullness of God’s wrath for all the sins of His people. This is the unspeakable gift of our salvation.
Remember what God has done for us through the working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit assures us that Jesus Christ died for all our sins on the cross. The Spirit opens our eyes so that we personally know Jesus Christ and the benefits of His work on the cross. The ability to seek God’s will and to do God’s will is, then, all God’s work in us through the Spirit.Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
As those saved by grace, we must do the will of God!
Making decisions according to God’s will requires that we trust Him to lead us rightly. If we trust in ourselves to make the right decisions, we will always make wrong decisions. Proverbs 3:5, 6 instructs us, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” To lean upon our own understanding is foolish because our own understanding is defiled with sin. Proverbs 28:26 makes clear that those who trust in their own hearts are fools. We can, of ourselves, choose only the way of sin. Instead, we must rely completely on our sovereign God. We must trust that He will guide us through life. We must trust that in the decisions we make God will guide us to do what is right in the way of seeking Him.
The child of God who trusts in God to lead him casts his burdens upon God often in prayer (I Pet. 5:6, 7). Prayer is a vital aspect of how we come to know God’s will for us. When we face a difficult decision, we must first pray that God will make known to us clearly what His will is for us. We must constantly cast our burdens upon Him, for God demands that we ask and seek and knock repeatedly.
In the way of praying, God answers us. How does He answer those prayers? Does He whisper it in our ears? Does He write the answer in the night sky with the stars? Will He perform some miracle to show us the right way? No! He makes known His will for our lives in the way of studying His Word. The correct way of making right decisions before God is to pray and to study Holy Scripture. This is the God-ordained way of making decisions. We must go to God’s Word and ask, “What does God have to say about this situation, this decision?” We will consider this more fully next time, the Lord willing.