Everyone wants to know what we’re supposed to do with our lives. We all want direction. For the Christian, it may be particularly important to know “God’s will” for his life. This excellent analysis by Kevin DeYoung points out that we may look at that question the wrong way, especially in light of scripture.
After a brief foreword by Joshua Harris (which I found ironic due to his rather passive approach to dating), Just Do Something begins by exploring the different things believers mean when they speak about God’s will. The author explains that there are actually three different aspect to the will of God as we describe it: His will of decree, His will of desire, and His will of direction. It’s not as technical as it sounds. The will of decree describes the truth that nothing will happen unless God allows it to, therefore it is His will. The will of desire describes His will for all people as revealed in the instruction of the scripture. Lastly, when someone is referring to God’s will of direction, they infer that He desires a particular path or set of events for their life. DeYoung leans heavily on the first two but is skeptical of the third. Most believers would agree that God’s ultimate will for history will be accomplished, and that He has clearly shown us His over-arching will for man, but there is less scriptural evidence to support the idea that God has one particular path for each individual’s life. This quickly turns into a much deeper discussion about free will and God’s sovereignty, but I tend to agree with the author. If there truly is just one exact outline God wants for each person, then anyone can irreparably foil their own destiny and that of others. Kevin gives the example of marriage. If “the one” exists for every person, what happens if I use my free will and take someone else’s soul mate? The whole house of cards comes down. Yet if we are given the freedom to choose whom we marry, and there are several with whom we can form a godly household, the stress of choosing the singular “right” person evaporates. From this perspective, God retains His sovereignty in that his will of decree still cannot be violated, but humanity also retains free will. I believe this best describes reality.
After defining terms, the book goes on to examine how various figures in scripture viewed the will of God and sought direction for their lives. The audible voice of God is incredibly rare in the scope of human history if one stops to think about it. Though it is relatively common in the Bible, it is still infrequent, even within the focused story of God’s people. Most importantly, DeYoung points out that the voice of God always appears without being sought; He speaks when He wants to speak. This gave me pause as I evaluated times in my life when I begged God to just tell me what to do, asking Him to speak clearly into my life, whatever that looks like. There doesn’t seem to be a scriptural precedent to support this. Yes, we are admonished to seek wisdom (James 1), but we should not expect to have God’s explicit, personalized instruction at our beck and call. The author resolves this tension by stating that God has given us rational minds capable of wisdom and understanding, and He expects us to use them. He will still instruct and give counsel through the Spirit, but to ask for signs may actually signify a lack of faith in God’s will and goodness. For example, the quintessential illustration of Gideon’s fleece takes place in the book of Judges, a time of marked disobedience in Israel’s history. It can be seen more as a second-guessing of the message delivered to Gideon than an act of faith. This can be a tough pill to swallow, but with the biblical references cited, again I believe this to be the view most consistent with scriptural truth and my experiences.
A section of Just Do Something which particularly struck me was when DeYoung notes that the idea of “seeking God’s will for one’s life” is utterly rare in the scope of humanity. Wealthy Westerners are really the first people to have the luxury of asking this profound question. The thousands of generations before (and most in the world today) don’t have the paralysis caused by an over-abundance of choice as we do. Even the author’s grandparents didn’t wrestle with this most important question; it’s a development of roughly the last half century, fifty years in the scope of tens of thousands of human history. With that in mind, perhaps what my generation needs most is simplicity. Rather than agonizing about whether to go to med school or marry a certain person, we should follow our inclinations, use our God-given minds, make a decision, and stick with it, all along pursuing God’s will of desire revealed in the Word. This worked for the countless people who came before us, and indeed almost every person in the Bible. For me, this is a very liberating revelation. If I can’t violate God’s will of decree, there are few wrong paths as long as I foremost obey His will of desire. Seek first the Kingdom of God.
I recognize this can sound somewhat like a Deist worldview, that God doesn’t actively intervene. The author does not espouse such a viewpoint. He is quick to say that the Lord can do whatever He pleases, and He does answer prayer. Indeed, it is Jesus himself who prays “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Yet, we are not to sit around waiting for God to speak to us as our short lives tick away. Instead, we should actively and passionately pursue His will for creation as so many before us have, not passively wait for the right circumstances or the answer we want. It is challenging to shoulder such responsibility, but as image bearers equipped with the revelation of God’s goodness, I believe it is our calling.
In conclusion, this is an excellent book for anyone who questions what they are supposed to do with their lives. It lends a wonderfully broad perspective of that question, leaning on scripture all along the way. Even if one does not end up agreeing with the author as I have, it poses great questions to think about in regards to God’s will. For its clarity, accuracy, scope, and brevity, I give it four out of five stars.
You can find Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung on Amazon.