With precision and insightful candor, Pastor Kevin DeYoung paints an all-too-accurate picture of the unstable, uncertain, and otherwise paralyzed generation of Christians who, under the guise of spirituality and waiting for God to reveal his will, have chosen to do nothing but keep scurrying around frantically searching for God's plan for them. Being one of those "church kids" and a graduate from a Christian College and Seminary, I can relate to his diagnosis. While it appears to be a really committed and deeply spiritual practice of waiting on the Lord, in reality this timidity with which we have approached God's direction for us is anything but a practice of devotion and trust. We have applied this type of "discernment through paralysis and contemplation" to every major and minor decision of our lives. College and Career and Spouse and Ministry outlets are the frontrunners, but others find their way into the grid as well. And we ask things like "Is this God's will?" or "How can I be sure that I'm doing what God wants?"
In addition, while locked in this holding pattern of indecision, DeYoung points out with clarity and convicting accuracy that we have found ways to skirt responsibility for our decisions or lack thereof, essentially blaming God for what we have chosen or not chosen. "God told me not to date you" or "God hasn't given me peace about this." Again, on the surface this appears to be spiritual, but in reality it's a cop-out. It's the easy way of saying "it's not me, it's you" or "no, I don't want to go into business with you because you're not trustworthy" or "no, I don't want to work for you because I want to see if something better comes along."
It was indeed a liberating and challenging read, driving me to pay careful attention to what God has already revealed for us in His word. Below are some summary points that I'm taking with me (and I hope you take with you too). Do me a favor though and, in the words of my childhood companion LeVar Burton (before the Star Trek days), "don't just take my word for it...."
1. God's Will for your life is not some mystical secret that he's hiding from you, that only the "really" spiritual people who are most adept at hide-and-seek can discern. He's not hiding from you until you get yourself fixed and holy so you can finally understand Him. That's garbage. He has chosen, by Grace, to reveal Himself to us in His word and His Son. He is anything but hidden. Those of you looking, like me, for some mystical experience with angels singing and harps playing and Charlton Heston voiceovers to "show you the Way" are placing undue expectations on God and setting yourself up for failure. He's not hiding. He's not dangling some "magic key" in front of you that will unlock this plan for your life. That's not who He is.
2. God's will for your life will always be in line with His revealed word. Start there. God has revealed to us in His word His plan or will for the Redemption of mankind. He has communicated clearly who He is, what He is like, and what He desires of us - to be reconciled to Him through the grace of Jesus by faith. He wants us to be sanctified, and set apart for His glory. He wants us to be involved in a church, serving the body through the exercise of our spiritual gifts and natural propensities. If you are doing those things, then you're in the will of God. Make some decisions. Use your head. Seek wise counsel. Do something.
Some of the best advice I ever received came from a former college Professor. I was inquiring about a ministry opportunity in upstate NY. Should I go? Is this God's will? His advice was great. He asked if I was actively pursing the things that God had revealed to me in His word? Was I growing in my faith? Was I loving my wife like Christ loved the church? Was I serving the Lord through His church? If so, he said, "do what you want." Trust God to change your course if need be.
3. All of this waiting to discern God's will reveals a deep, core-level presupposition. Namely, that perfect fulfillment is to be found here in this life. And here is where the real issue is with all of our indecision. We really believe that Heaven and Utopia are available for us here on earth if we can just find our way to the perfect will of God for us. Then we'll have the house, the cars, the cookie-cutter American family, etc. We have forgotten entirely (due to our comfort and ease) that this world is not our home, we are just passing through. In essence, we're just afraid that we'll choose wrongly and walk through Door 1 instead of Door 2 and "miss out" on God's best, like a reality-based version of "Let's Make a Deal." We don't want to be left high and dry holding a goat when we could have won a Corvette. Really? How much trust does that demonstrate? Do we really believe that God knows the end from the beginning? That He knows the plans He has for us? That if He's willing to clothe the lilies of the fields and feed the sparrows, He'll surely care for us? Convicting and challenging all around.
Powerful little book. I recommend it to all of you. It will be a primary resource for me in future counseling on God's will. Buy it - or not. Pray about it first and then see if He gives you peace. If not, then consider it His perfect will - or maybe not. Maybe just bad lasagna last night. (read it)