Pastor Leslie Weatherhead helped me to understand the will of God when I was angry and in pain (see my blog on August 31). He explained that there are three distinctive phases in God’s will:
- intentional (God’s ideal plan for man—his original creation)
- circumstantial (God’s plan within certain circumstances—what we experience in our lives in this world)
- ultimate (God’s final realization of his purposes to bring man back into harmony with him forever)1
After reading this, I went to the Bible and explored Pastor Weatherhead’s observations–an important step when you hear a new teaching. As a result, my image of God grew bigger and bigger. I invite you to do your own digging into God’s word to see what He has to say about His will.
READ the text below and IDENTIFY which part of God’s will is being expressed (NLT). Do you see the progression that happens when we understand God’s will this way? His intent—a perfect plan followed by our choice of sin, his involvement in the circumstances in our lives that bring us closer to his ultimate will—perfect relationship with him for eternity.
- For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day. John 6:40
- So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy,always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. Colossians 1:9-12
- It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 1 Peter 2:15
- [Jesus said,] “Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:35
- Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:15-17
- So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised... Hebrews 10:35-39
BRING THIS UNDERSTANDING INTO TODAY through the following examples or use examples out of your own lives. Discuss this with family and friends.
- Parents mourn for their son who was killed when his Humvee was destroyed by a land mine in the Middle East. The anguished mother says, “I am trying to understand the inscrutable will of God, but it is so hard.”
- What is her understanding of the phrase “the will of God?” Does it match yours?
- Was her son’s death the will of God or the will of the enemy or the evil forces he was fighting?
- Would it help her at this point to give her a detailed lesson on the will of God? Why is it important to understand this before disaster strikes?
- A man mourns for his son who died of Aids contracted by a blood transfusion. “I have to accept it; it is the will of God.” His pastor replied, “Suppose someone crept up to the bed of your sleeping daughter and injected her with the same germ culture that killed your son. What would you think about that?” The father answered, “Who would do such an awful thing? If I caught that person, I would kill him without thinking twice about it.” The pastor’s response: “Isn’t that just what you accused God of doing when you said it was his will?”2
- What do you think of the pastor’s response to his friend? Was the bereaved father really identifying the will of God as a criminal act?
- Where instead could the father lay the blame for the death of his son? Mass folly? Mass sin? Communal carelessness? Imperfect testing?
PRAY WITH ME: Lord Jesus, stay with me, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be my companion in the way, kindle my heart, and awaken hope, that I may know you as you are revealed in scripture and the breaking of the bread. Grant this for the sake of your love. Amen.3
1Leslie D. Weatherhead, The Will of God, (Nashville: Tennessee, 1972), 28
3Phyllis Tickle, The Divine Hours, Prayers for Summertime, (New York: 2000), 226