December 20, 2010

The Will of God (Defining the Will of God)

My brother called me in January, 2006 to tell me he had cancer. In May, he died. Was that the will of God? What if the medicines had reduced the cancer and he was able to live another 6 to 9 months, was that the will of God? If his death from cancer was the will of God, were the doctors attending him fighting against the will of God?  If they had been successful, was that the will of God? Obviously you can't have it both ways. There must be a middle ground to help understand what God will's for his children.

A women looks into the eyes of her husband and very calmly says, "I want a divorce." Was it the will of
God that this union sealed with vows that promised to love "until death do us part", be dissolved? Was it the will of God the wife had the courage to get out of a marriage where the love had long gone.  Was the husband thinking it was the will of God because he too wanted out of the loveless marriage but didn't have the courage to speak up. If they had reconciled, would that have been the will of God?

Two nations find go to war for any number of "good" reasons. Many are killed on each side. Were those deaths the will of God? Does God will war so humans can kill each other? Not my God! And yet each side will invoke the blessings of God. Mothers and fathers will send their sons and daughters to war and pray it is the will of God they return alive. If they do return, every one will rejoice and thank God.  If they do not return, many will tell the mourning parents, it was the will of God.

These situations all beg for an explanation. How can we explain the will of God in the face of these contradictions? Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, the pastor of London's City Temple, in the middle of the German bombings in World War II, delivered a series of sermons on the subject of the will of God.  Those sermons were collected in a book of the same name.  I have borrowed his concepts of the will of God for this series.

Dr. Weatherhead discusses three sub divisions to help understand the bigger concept of God's Will. Perhaps I can help illustrate the three sub-divisions from personal experience. My brother, Phillip, was a rebellious youth and young adult with all that implies.  In his adulthood, he began to settle down but still had an addiction to smoking and alcohol. I suspect he rarely entered a church and rarely read the Bible.

So how did the will of God work in Phillip's life? Certainly it was not God's will that he live the life he did.  God's intentional will for Phillip was for him to live a life that enjoyed all the benefits of being a child of God. But Phillip's choices in life reflect his choices not God's.  Phillip faced many hardships in his life, most of which came from his choices. But God did not abandon him. The truth of the verses in Revelation 3:20 (NIV), "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock, if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I come in and eat with him and he with me."  Ultimately, Phillip developed the cancer that killed him. But God was able to use this particular circumstance to bring about the His ultimate will for Phillip's life.  Phillip, perhaps recognizing he did not have the ability to control the situation, opened the door and let Jesus in. About six weeks before his death, Phillip accepted Jesus as his savior. He was baptized in that faith.  In the final analysis, God was able to use the circumstances of Phillip's free will choices to bring about His ultimate will for his life. Amen!

God has an intentional will for our lives. When life's situations do not allow God's intentional will to be done, He is still able to work with us to protect and guide us. While God's will for our lives may be changed by our free will or evils in the world, ultimately God's will prevails and can not be defeated.

Within God's Will, there is the intentional will, the circumstantial will and the ultimate will of God. We will look at these three sub-divisions of God's will in subsequent posts.

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