I never expected someone to tell me that God’s will for my life is, “Do whatever you want!” (pg. 68). However, this is exactly what respected theologian and pastor John MacArthur posits in his concise, pocket-sized book Found: God’s Will. I failed to mentioned this autonomous freedom is prescribed as the sixth principle in discerning God’s will for your life. Also, the self-will granted by John MacArthur is only applicable if the first five principles are guiding and controlling your life. It is within these six principles (total) that MacArthur provides a biblical case in determining and understanding God’s will for your life. The following review will examine each principle in summary, following the book’s outline.
The Principles of God’s Will
Principle #1: God’s will is that you are saved.
God will not reveal anything to those who have not met the first qualification of His will, salvation. It is those who do the will of God that live forever (1 John 2:15-17). However, the only One who can give eternal life is Jesus Christ, and the first step in walking the pathway of God’s will is that you be saved.
“If you are stumbling around in life and tossing up some periodic prayer 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” (13).
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise… but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:3-4
Principle #2: God’s will is that you are Spirit-filled.
When you were saved, the Holy Spirit took up residence within your soul. 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” The Spirit-filled life is spelled out for us by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5. Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is being Spirit-filled. Giving thanks for all things in the name of Christ to God is being Spirit-filled (Ephesians 5:19-20). Spirit-filled women submit to their husbands, while Spirit-filled husbands love their wives. Spirit-filled parents do not provoke their children while Spirit-filled children obey their parents. Spirit-filled servants work well while Spirit-filled masters will be fair (Ephesians 5:22-6:9).
The apostle Paul includes a similar list in Colossians 3 but links this living to letting “the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16). How do you let the word of Christ dwell within you? You read, study, and memorize it.
Principle #3: God’s will is that you are sanctified.
God desires for all believers to be sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3). In other words, God desires for believers to be pure. Practical purity includes four additional principles found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7.
- Abstain from fornication
- Control your body
- Subdue your passions
- Treat others fairly
Principle #4: God’s will is that you are submissive.
Submission to human institutions such as the government is also part of God’s will (1 Peter 2:13-15). Christians are to be the best citizens of society. When we attempt to reach the world, it is our faults that are often pointed out. Christians are called to remove such faults from their lives and witness to the world by doing right. Peter writes, “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15). Christians are to obey every law of the land.
“The only time beliers are ever to violate the law of the land is when the law either forbids them to do what they have been told to do by direct command from God or commands them to do what God forbids” (pg. 50).
Principle #5: God’s will is that you suffer.
Reading through 1 Peter, one can only draw the conclusion that suffering is inevitable in the Christian life. It is “par for the course” for Christians (52). Peter wrote, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
As Christians, we are called to share in the sufferings of Christ with joy (1 Peter 4:13). This joy is the blessing that comes when others revile us for the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:14). The apostle Paul said, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
“The world would like to get at Jesus. They do not persecute Christians because they dislike them; they persecute Christians because they dislike Jesus. They can’t get at Him because He is in heaven, so they get at you and me” (pg. 64).
Principle #6: God’s will is that you do whatever you want (after you do all five things above).
God is in charge of your life if you allow the first five principles to run your life. “If you are living a godly life, He will give you the right desires” (68). Those desires will then influence your decisions. When God transforms you into the right person, He will guide and direct your decisions with great ease.
“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 here. 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” (75).
Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
As you traverse through life, may you “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).