I just finished teaching a two month series to our college ministry on the topic of “The Will of God.” For many in the group this was their first exposure to this critical topic and the process of biblical decision making. This age group is facing many important life decisions as they transition out from under their parent’s authority and unfortunately many lack a framework to intelligently face the decisions that they are being called on to make. But college students are not alone in this quandary – through my years of pastoral ministry I have taught on this subject a number of times, having found that it holds wide interest for the church at large – particularly as the winds and waves of subjectivity, mysticism, and biblical illiteracy toss people to and fro.
In preparing to teach the material this time, I read a good little book (128 pages including endnotes) from Moody Publishers entitled “Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will” (ISBN 978-0-8024-5838-4) by pastor Kevin DeYoung. Pastor DeYoung has been the senior pastor of University Reformed Church in Ann Arbor, MI, since 2004. Although he is young, God has given him a breadth to his ministry through writing and conference speaking. I have profited from a number of the things he has written.
In this book DeYoung includes an important statistic which sets the foundation for the entire book (and the reason for my recent series in our college ministry). He writes “In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men completed all the major transitions into adulthood by age thirty. These transitions include leaving home, finishing school, becoming financially independent, getting married, and having a child. By 2000, only 46 percent of women completed these transitions by age thirty, and only 31 percent of men….”Adultolescense” is the new norm” (pg. 13).
In order to address this problem DeYoung introduces a presentation of the two aspect of God’s will, which he entitles God’s will of decree and God’s will of desire. He notes that God’s will of decree is secret (Deut 29:29), while His will of desire is plain and abundant in the pages of Scripture. In chapter three, DeYoung introduces five reasons why people fret over finding God’s will for their lives, and in reason four he hits upon one that is very pertinent to those of us living in the prosperous West – “We have too many choices” (pg. 32ff.). Later on in addressing some of the weaknesess of the mystical view he writes, “Just because you pray [it] doesn’t mean your decisions are beyond objection…if we say that ‘God told me to do this’ or ‘God’s leading me here,’ this puts our decisions out of the reach from criticism or concerns” (pg. 49).
In his chapter entitled “A Better Way?” DeYoung introduces the discussion with a quote from Matthew 6:25-34 in which Jesus rebukes anxiety for the future and commands a pursuit of the kingdom of God and His righteousness, elaborating the meaning by looking at examples in the life of the apostle Paul. Flowing out of that discussion, DeYoung introduces the doctrine of God’s providence and guidance through the clear statements contained in the Scriptures (Chapter six). The book closes out with a chapter entitled “Work, Wedlock, and God’s Will” in which the principles taught in the book are specifically applied to these two important and potentially scary situations.
I recommend this book for a number of reasons. It is short and readable – thus making it accessible to those wanting help in this area of the Christian life but who are not disciplined in their reading and would be turned off by some of the longer works on this topic. I also appreciate the practical examples that DeYoung has salted throughout the book which help the reader grasp the meaning of his teaching. But perhaps most of all I appreciate the book’s subtitle which in and of itself makes this a book that is well worth the price: “A Liberating Approach to finding God’s Will, OR How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky etc.”