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Are You in God’s Will?

A comment by Pastor Todd Wilken transcribed from the May 14, 2010 Christian apologetics talk radio show Issues, Etc.:

People are confused about prayer.  First of all they think that prayer has a power in itself.  It doesn’t.  The power of prayer is in the object, that is, the one to whom we pray.  Does God change outcomes? Yes He does.  You say “How can that be? God doesn’t change.  How can He change outcomes?  If God’s will is this, why am I even praying?  If God’s will is going to be done, why am I praying?”  Well let’s answer a few simple questions.

Is God’s will always done?  The answer to that question is, first, “No.”  What’s the biggest example of that?  Your sin.  When you sin, it is not God’s will that you do this.  You are violating God’s will.  Now is God’s will always done ultimately?  Answer to that question – “Yes.”  And here we enter into what we know of God’s will and what we don’t know of God’s will, and believe me, there’s a lot more that we don’t know than we do know.  But what we do know is absolutely essential.  We do know that God works all things together for good.  We don’t know how, or by what means.  We do know that God’s ultimate will is the salvation of every, every sinner.  That is not ultimately fulfilled.  There are those who will die apart from Christ.  God suffers Himself to be resisted even in that greatest of matters.  We know where it’s all going, we just don’t know how He’s gonna get us there.  And, here we need to talk about the hidden will of God, into which we are not permitted, let me say that again – into which we are not permitted to look,  God’s hidden will, that is, how He’s doing it here and now. 

When we pray, we ask that God heal our grandmother of cancer, and some people mistakenly say “Well, if grandma got better that means it must have been God’s will because it happened.”  We do not measure God’s will by what happens.  Otherwise, we’d have to conclude that our own sin, because it happened, was God’s will, and it isn’t.   The mystery of God’s will is largely in that fact that much of it is hidden from us, and God constantly points us away from trying to peak behind the curtain, into His hidden will, and [instead points] to where He has clearly revealed His will for sinners, at the cross of Jesus Christ.

How do you know that God’s will for you, for your mother, for anyone else, whether they get better, whether they don’t, whether they, all the things you pray for are granted or not, how do you know that God’s will for you is good and merciful and gracious?  You only know that, you only know that by looking at a dead Jesus on the cross.  You can’t gauge God’s will for you by how your prayers are apparently answered.  Look, God is way more complicated than we give Him credit for.  We think, “I pray that my daughter was healed, and she was, so He answered my prayer.”  And there’s nothing wrong with piously saying “God answered my prayer.”  But God’s got far more irons in the fire than you know about, and He might well say, I think He does in most all cases, when the outcome is what we hoped it would be, we can only say “Thank you God.” But we cannot say, we cannot say, “Now I know God’s hidden will.  Now I realize what His will was.”  We don’t get that until the resurrection.  And it’s frustrating to have God’s will hidden from us.  And so many Christians live their life in a terrible tyranny of trying to constantly find the bull’s-eye.  They think that God’s projecting some bull’s-eye of His will down into their lives, and that their goal is to stay in the bull’s-eye.  If they’re trying, you know, good faith effort they might stay in the big ring of the bull’s-eye.  But if they’re really really a good Christian, then they can find the center of the bullseye and stay there.  And they believe it’s kind of a moving target – they have to be constantly finding themselves in God’s will.  Are you in God’s will? It’s ridiculous, and it’s a terrible tyranny to live under.  God says “Don’t worry about my hidden will.  That’s my business.  I keep my own counsel.  I don’t ask for your advice – I ask that you pray.”  And praying is primarily the voice of faith that does not base itself on outcomes, or apparent outcomes.  God says “You let me worry about my hidden will.  Your job is to trust me.”  And if you’re constantly looking at yourself, trying to figure out whether you’re in God’s will, you’re looking in the wrong place.  You’re trusting in yourself.  God wants you to look to His Son Jesus Christ.  You say “That’s too simple an answer.”  It’s the only answer He’s given us folks.  It’s the only answer He’s given us.  And you know people who are sick and have cancer realize this.  They realize this.  They realize that the answer isn’t always in their healing, or getting better or worse, but in Jesus Christ and what He did for them.

You can listen to this segment of Issues, Etc. here.