The Will of God

In Pastor Leslie Weatherhead’s classic book 
The Will of God, he responds to the questions “Is everything that happens in history the will of God?  “If God is omnipotent, how could anything happen that is not the will of God?”  Obviously, this also touches on the concept of humanity’s free will.  The unrest in the aftermath of the recent Presidential elections of 2016 has raised these and many more questions among faithful Christians.
Weatherhead was a British clergyman during the atrocities of WWII and preached a series of five sermons that became the background for this book.  “People were asking impossible questions as the forces of evil marched through Europe … shedding blood all along the way.”  How could the events of the day possibly be the will of God?

Weatherhead proposed that people use the term “the will of God” interchangeably when they actually mean three distinctively different things.  A very abbreviated summation of Weatherhead’s thoughts:

  1. The Intentional Will of God is God’s intention from the beginning. God pours out God’s blessings upon us providing everything we truly need to live as God desires.  The Intentional Will of God is what would happen at every point in history for every person who ever lived if human sinfulness never got in the way.  Because God has instilled free will into the equation of life, our lives are made up of innumerable decisions.  These decisions add meaning to life, but people can always choose something different from God’s desired path for us.
  2. The Circumstantial Will of God is God’s grace at work in response to human sinfulness. If we tried to diagram this, God’s Intentional Will would have had events in history travel the path from point A to point B.  Human sinfulness, however, has caused the events in history travel the path from point A to point C (which is not in a direct line with point B).  God responds to the circumstances with the Circumstantial Will of God providing a new path from point C to point B.

(Of course, there could be and are many other times when human sinfulness enters the picture – points D, E, F, etc. –and God continues to respond to each of these points of diversion with a potential pathway to point B – God’s desired destination for history.)

  1. The Ultimate Will of God would be the same as the Intentional Will of God if human sinfulness never got in the way. The omnipotence of God doesn’t mean that everything that happens in history is the will of God.  The omnipotence of God means that nothing can happen in history which finally defeats the will of God.  Wherever we are as a community and/or as individuals, the Holy Spirit continues to help us see the path to God’s Ultimate Will.  When we choose to follow the path that God sets before us, we are cooperating with God in accomplishing what God desires for us and for history.  The Ultimate Will of God will come to pass whether we cooperate with it or not.
As I reflect on Weatherhead’s message, I am reminded that God gives us 
free will 
because God loves us so much and always wants what is best for us.  If we could not choose, we could not even choose to love God – and choosing to love God is the very best experience we can possibly have in life.  Free choice — giving us the ability to choose — means that we can also make choices that are not aligned with God.  Why would God allow us such a possibility?  Apparently the risk is worth it to God so that we can experience the very best in life – choosing to love God.  No matter where we are in life, no matter our past, the opportunity to choose to love God freely is always a possibility for us.  This is God’s grace at work.  Our response to God’s grace marks every step along the path of life – the path toward salvation and sanctification.
Whatever the circumstances of our lives, we always have the opportunity to cooperate with 
God’s will as we understand it
.  It’s actually quite a privilege God grants us.  God allows us, encourages us, and, perhaps most importantly, enables us to be conduits of God’s love, God’s wisdom, and God’s Word to a hurting world.  Our actions and words as they reflect the transformative power of God’s grace in our lives can be a great witness to our world.  Of course, we can also choose to join in on the anger, hatred,  and despair that is so prevalent in communities across our country.  Or, we can just sit back and observe the events of the day from a comfortable distance.  As Christians, if our response to the circumstances of life are no different than the attitudes and behaviors of the secular world, should we be surprised that so many people in our country think that going to church and being a Christian is a waste of time.
Whatever the circumstances of our lives, we always have the opportunity to cooperate with 
God’s will as we understand it.  “God’s will as we understand it” is in bold face because I feel that we need to continually seek to grow in our understanding of God’s will through participation in Bible study, worship, prayer, and conversation with other people of faith.  And “God’s will as I
understand it” needs to be in the context of community so that the proper checks and balances are in place to prevent my own biases and lack of vision from helping me to see clearly the path that God lays before us. 

Cooperating with God is not a passive response to life.  It’s being willing to speak and act and learn how to better speak and act in the name of God.  There are many opportunities here at Church of the Hills to engage in this journey.  Just look at the weekly church calendar – Sunday morning and weekday Bible studies, Sunday worship, Theology on Tap, Prayer Group, to name just a few.  With seven 24 hour gifts every week, God grants you the privilege of doing all that you can to cooperate with God in ushering in the will of God in our lives as individuals, as a church, as a community, as a country.  The choice is yours.  Aren’t you glad God gave you free choice?  I am!

Peace be with you,

Terry Buchanan