Man-Centered vs. Bible-Centered Approaches to God’s Will

You’ve been offered another job but are unsure if God wants you to move. You feel a call to the mission field but want God to confirm where. There are so many decisions we have to make in life. Some are easily found in the Bible such as not being yoked with an unbeliever or engaging in homosexuality. Others are not. In that case, how do we determine God’s will?

I came across this little booklet by Pastor Joel James of Grace Fellowship in Pretoria titled: “Biblical Decision-Making: Is It God’s Will to “find” His Will?” The book is available here for free as a PDF to read which I highly recommend. He offers common approaches that people engage in to make their decisions.
I won’t share them all, but here are the main ones people use that have no biblical basis:
Seeking Peace. If we have peace about the decision then it must be what God wants us to do.
In regards to this the author writes: “Having peace about a decision might say nothing about whether it is a good decision or a bad one, a godly decision or an ungodly one. In fact, as popular as the seeking-peace method is, the Bible never speaks of peace as a ground for decision-making.”
Interpreting Circumstances. Sometimes we think of God as opening or shutting a “door.”
“God does control circumstances. But it is unfounded speculation to decide that certain circumstances mean God wants us to make one decision rather than another.”
-Looking for signs. You’ve been praying about a country to do missionary work in. A semi-truck passes you with a map of Africa on it. Wow! God must want you to move to Africa.
“The interpretation of signs is completely arbitrary. You will interpret them in the way you want to. Moreover, there is no way of determining if an event was really a sign from God or not. To be honest, reading signs borders on divination.”
None of these approaches are found in the Bible. They are produced by man as a spiritual means to make a decision.
The author asks the question: “Are we told in the Bible to make decisions based on finding out beforehand what God has ordained for tomorrow? Are we told to “find” God’s unrevealed will before we make a decision?”
The New Testament has several references to “if God wills” or “by the will of God.” My favorite is James 4:13-15: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” If the apostles didn’t know God’s plans for them tomorrow, why should we expect to?
So what can we do to make a decision?
His five principals are found from the Proverbs:
1. Pray for wisdom (Prov. 16:3)
2. Gather information/Seek Counsel (Prov. 13:16, Prov. 21:5, Prov. 12:15)
3. Ask if the Bible speaks directly to your decision (Prov. 21:30)
4. Ask if the Bible speaks indirectly to your decision
5. All other things being equal do what you want
Were we guilty of using the un-biblical methods in coming here to South Africa? Yes, I have to confess we did but we also followed the other principals. We knew the Bible said “Go! Make disciples…” We prayed, gathered information and sought counsel. For today this is God’s will for us, but we won’t assume upon His will. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. The secret things are the Lord’s.

What are your thoughts?

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