The will of God is not a thing that is lost, in need of finding; in fact, it is quite an easy thing to discover. This is the opening point of John MacArthur‘s book Found: God’s Will which – as the subtitle asserts – aims to help the reader find the direction and purpose God wants for their life.
In this straightforward little text, MacArthur works to reorient the reader’s understanding of what it means to find or be in God’s will. The popular conception is that one must work to discover what that specific thing is God wants you to do with your life through great self-reflection and a healthy amount of wise discernment, with maybe a little mysticism thrown in for good measure. MacArthur’s point is that figuring out what God’s will for your life is is much simpler than it has been made out to be.
In laying the groundwork for this point, MacArthur first argues that the primary will of God for your life is your salvation. This requirement, above all else, must be met if one wants to know anything further about God’s will. As MacArthur argues “If you are stumbling around in life and tossing up some periodic prayers to God but have never come on your knees to the foot of the cross and met Jesus Christ, then you are not even in the beginning of God’s will. God has no reason to reveal to you anything particular about your life because you have not met qualification number one: salvation.” (p.13)
Following this MacArthur lays out four other things that the individual must do if they are to know God’s will further. They must: become Spirit-filled, where “The only way to [become Spirit-filled] is to study that book that discloses all He is!”(p.33); become sanctified, by remaining pure, subduing the passions, treating others fairly, etc; become submissive, ie, submit to lawful authority; and suffer, as “if you are a Christian who is living a godly life in an ungodly world, you will suffer.”(p.54)
With this foundation laid, MacArthur moves to make his primary point, that is: “God’s will is that you be saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, and suffering. God’s Word makes all of this clear… If you are doing all five of the basic things, do you know what the next principle of God’s will is? Do whatever you want! If those five elements of God’s will are operating in your life, who is running your wants? God is! The psalmist said, “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). God does not say He will fulfill all the desires there! If you are living a godly life, He will give you the right desires.”(p.67-68)
That is to say, if you are properly pursing God in your spiritual life, if you are striving towards holiness, then God will place His will in your heart, such that your specific desires will match his specific desire for your life. Thus, if you are striving for holiness, you should do whatever you want, because your wants and desires for your life will match God’s wants and desires for your life. Thus: “Get into the mainstream of what God is doing, and let Him lead you to that perfect will.”(p.71) because “You see, the will of God is not primarily a place. The will of God is not, first of all, for you to go there or work there. The will of God concerns you as a person. If you are the right you, you can follow your desires and you will fulfill His will.”(p.74)
MacArthur does a good job of convincingly laying out his argument through this little text. His point is short, simple, and yet with great depth, and overall makes for an enjoyable and edifying read.
Apart from the central point of the book, MacArthur also gives a helpful tip for becoming familiar with the Bible. Instead of reading one set of verses or chapter a day until one finishes a book, MacArthur suggest reading through an entire book (or section of a book, if longer) every day for thirty days. Thus, one would read through the entirety of 1 John every day for thirty days, at the end of which one will have a very solid understanding of what 1 John says; one then continues this same pattern with the other books (again, breaking the larger books into sections).
“When will the Christian realize that they have everything?”-22
“If you are waltzing through life comfortably, it either means that you are not living a godly life or you are living it out in the bushes in a place where the ungodly world cannot see you.”-55
“If the truth offends, then let it offend. People have been living their whole lives in offense to God; let them be offended for a while.”-63
As laid out by the book How Then Should We Choose: Three Views on God’s Will and Decision Making, MacArthur’s approach to finding the will of God most closely resembles what the books calls the ‘Relationship View’, in which one’s relationship with Christ provides the context for the discernment of God’s will. MacArthur has his own nuance, but the basic point is that if you pursue God in holiness, he will align your will to His specific will for your life. This gives it much in common with the ‘Specific-will View’ presented in the book, which argues that God has a specific will that the individual must in turn discern. MacArthur and the ‘Relationship View’ essentially replace the criteria ‘discernment’ with ‘holy living’, each of which will in turn lead the individual towards God’s specific will for their life.
In opposition to these two views, I am much more likely to lean towards what is termed the ‘Wisdom View’ by the book. This view posits – much like MacArthur – that God’s primary will is his moral will as revealed in Scripture and needs to be obeyed; thus, one God’s will is that one be saved and pursue sanctification, doing everything to the glory of God. This view asserts that, in turn, God provides wisdom to those who ask in order to make good decisions, yet ultimately asks the individual to trust in the sovereign [specific] will rather than attempt to discern it.
Thus, the Wisdom View posits that God’s will for you life is your salvation, and that you pursue holiness, that’s it (an idea worked out well in Kevin DeYoung‘s book Just Do Something). That is what God’s will is for your life. God’s will is that you be saved and pursue holiness, living your life to glorify God. This is much in line with Martin Luther’s idea of vocation, where it does not matter what job you have in life, just that you do it to the glory of God.
Thus, in opposition to MacArthur, I would tend to argue that getting saved and living a holy life not cause God to plant His specific will for your life in your heart (ie, take this job or do this thing); rather, getting saved and living a holy life is God’s specific will for your life. Getting saved and living a holy life is not a means to the end goal of entering into God’s will; getting saved and living a holy life is God’s will, it is the end to which we strive. Thus, if we are saved and living a holy life, we can do whatever we want. Yet, unlike MacArthur, we don’t do whatever we want because God has made us want some particular thing that he wants us to want. Rather, we do whatever we want, because God simply wants us to glorify Him in whatever we do.
As long as both choices are morally righteous, God doesn’t care whether we take this job or that job, marry this person or that person, do this or that; he simply cares whether – when we take this job or that job, marry this person or that person – that we do so to his glory. We work at whatever job we take in such a way to glorify God. We conduct the relationship with whatever person we marry to glorify God.
God has a sovereign will for our lives, but we simply trust in this fact, rather than taking it upon ourselves to figure out what God has in store for us. You cannot be outside of God’s sovereign will, so there is no need to discern it, there is only need to trust in it. But you can be outside of his moral will, therefore, that is the thing that matters in discerning God’s will.
Ordained PCA | MDiv
May or may not be a Time Lord