How God's Will helps you understand the purpose and meaning of life
An Illustration - The Persian Rug
Think of an expensive Persian rug. If you flip it over on its back, the threads appear to be woven together in a hap-hazard manner. However, when you flip it over on its front, the rug has a beautiful and orderly design. God's permissive will, unrevealed will (will of decree) and revealed will (what He intented to make known) function in much the same way. Whenever we flip the rug of His Ultimate or Sovereign will to the front we see a beautiful design.
A Quick Review
We were concerned with the areas of responsibility we have in doing those things that He has revealed to us. We had begun this current series by noting the four essential elements necessary for knowing God's will: Word of God, Indwelling Holy Spirit, Living Obediently and Loving your fellow believer. In today's blog we're going to briefly trace out the various distinctions that exist within God's will as God exercises His Sovereign will in the lives of people in general and Christians in particular.
Beginning with a further description of God's Ultimate Will
When we refer to God's Sovereignty, we are referring to - "His Comprehensive Reign over all people, places and events". Ephesians 1:11 gives us a very clear understanding of God's Sovereign Will: "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". It is by this Sovereign Will (or what we termed His "Ultimate Will") that God excercises His rule and reign in history and salvation. God's will is mentioned some 40 times in the scriptures, and it is a theme that is helpful in understanding life's purpose and meaning.
With this big picture idea, how then does God work forth His will in your life? The Apostle Paul gives us the story of how God worked His will in his own life in Galatians 1:13-16. My prayer is that this will help you to understand how God's Ultimate Will typically will function in your own life. So how does the Rule of God's will work in your life? Please note the following distinctions:
1. God's Permissive Will,
Galatians 1:13-14 "For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers."
Why was Paul, who was called before his conversion "Saul", able to persecute the church? Furthermore, how could he perpetrate such evil without being immediately destroyed? Was it God's will for him to do this? Clearly God permitted Paul to do this, for in Acts 8 we read that such persecutions caused the church to scatter throughout the world and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God permits what he hates in order to accomplish His own good purposes. Romans 8:28 tells us this: "28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." God's Sovereignty does not preclude human responsibility - rather he includes the choices of his creatures. Truly what Paul (Saul) meant for evil, God was using for his ultimate good.
2. God's Will of Decree (His Unrevealed Will), Galatians 1:15 "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace"
Did Paul choose Christ, or did God have His purposes set on calling Paul? Paul reveals here that God had decreed to call Paul to His service. If you will recall, we noted God having an unrevealed aspect to His will, meaning that there are things that are known only to God that He chooses not to reveal. Obviously when He does reveal His will, it then becomes His revealed will, as expressed in scripture. (compare Deuteronomy 29:29) God had Paul picked out before He was born, a fact that at least for Paul was unrevealed until the time of his conversion. God desired for the Gospel to be spread among the Gentiles, and Paul was to be his chief instrument. We know from passages such as Jeremiah 1:5, 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 1:2 that God's will of decree extends all the way back before creation. Despite Paul's sinfulness, God had chosen to set His affection and purpose on calling this persecutor of the church to be the church's great apostle. As God called Paul to himself, with Paul then responding by faith, it was clear that what was previously decreed or unrevealed had become revealed.
3. God's Intentional Will (His Revealed Will) Galatians 1:16a "To reveal his Son in me..."
That word "to" speaks of intention on God's part. God had intended a particular purpose, namely to reveal Christ in Paul's life. Again you may recall how we talked yesterday of God's revealed will. God's intentions, desires or wishes are at the center of His will: whether we are speaking of His permissive, unrevealed or revealed will. The reason I chose to include this term "intentional" to describe the revealed aspect of His will is because God has "intended" to make His heart known to His people. Whenever we speak of God's intentional will, we must make sure we include the other aspects of His will. God had intended to reveal Christ in Paul, but He also permitted Paul to first persecute the church, and He had decreed to ultimately call Paul prior to his birth. These first three aspects of God's permissive, unrevealed and revealed wills interrelate with one another. Many times in your own life, you'll will not always see how they relate.
4. God's Ultimate Will, Galatians 1:16b .."that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:"
Did God have an ultimate purpose in putting Paul through the trials and triumphs that accompany Christian life and ministry? Notice the underlined word "that". "That" is a word which speaks of purpose. God indeed has an ultimate will. At times we may see what His ultimate will is for a given situation in this life. Then there are those situations where the purpose is not realized until after we have passed off the scene. Joseph was able to testify of god's ultimate will in His life in Genesis 50:20 - "20But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." However, God's ultimate will for Abraham was not realized until after his death, as we see in Hebrews 11:13 "13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."
Dear friend, whatever your situation is in life, remember, God's rule is at work. He has an ultimate will, which includes some unrevealed aspects, some revealed aspects and then those things He was willed to permit in your life. God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass but he has also at the same time included your responses and choice in the fulfillment of His purposes. Let me close with these words from Jeremiah 29:11 "11For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." That is the joy of God's rule in your life.