Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.
~ 1 Corinthians 14:20
The following story is a conglomeration of several real stories of real people put into one fictitious character.
Enter Jack Jones. He’s a twenty-two year old college student who has just finished his undergraduate degree at the University of Florida.
Jack has just become a Christian. His conversion was dramatic. It was one of those conversions where the person’s life is utterly changed and turned upside down. Jack is completely devoted to Jesus Christ.
Jack begins attending a church in town. The pastor of his church is giving a series of sermons entitled, How to Know the Perfect Will of God for Your Life. Jack is present every Sunday morning, taking copious notes on every word. Here’s what the pastor is teaching:
God has an individual will for every individual believer. He has a detailed blueprint . . . a comprehensive road map for your life. It’s like a train track. Each track represents every decision you will ever make.
The wonderful thing is that God has promised to make His perfect will known to every believer. As a Christian, you have two main responsibilities. One is to discover God’s perfect will for your life. The other is to follow it.
If you follow it, you will have joy and peace in your life. If you miss it, you are outside of God’s will, and that’s not a good place to be. The way that you know God’s perfect will is by reading the Bible. But there are many decisions that you will face that are not addressed in the Bible.
In those cases you must look for outward signs and interpret those signs. These signs are like road signs on the highway of life. These signs will point you in the direction of God’s will. The Lord will also lead you by inward impressions. By these two things you will know the perfect will of God for every decision you face.
Jack is thrilled by the pastor’s teaching. So he launches off and begins to lay before God some of his personal decisions.
Jack just graduated from college, and he’s always desired to get his Masters degree. The University of Florida does not offer a Masters program for Jack’s major, so he must enroll in another school. Just before becoming a Christian, two schools accepted Jack into their Masters program. Florida State University and the University of South Florida. But now after being introduced to “the perfect will of God,” Jack feels compelled to bring the decision before God.
And so he prays. “Lord,” Jack reverently asks, “Which school do you want me to attend? Both have accepted me.” Jack spends several days praying and asking the Lord to show him what His will is in the matter. The days go by.
Jack is seeking inward impressions. He’s reading his Bible. He’s looking for signs. Several weeks pass, and Jack is not sure which option to take. God has not revealed anything to him. He feels the pressure because the deadline is approaching his door. Jack must make a decision quickly. But he’s frustrated because God has not revealed His will.
Under the pressure of time, Jack ends up deciding on Florida State. But with that decision comes fear and guilt. He is afraid that he may have missed God’s will. He feels guilty because he believes that if he were more spiritual, the Lord would have shown him His will in this decision . . . just like He shows His will to all the other Christians in his church who give testimonies every Sunday about God’s direct leading in their lives.
Jack feels like there’s something wrong with him. He must be disobeying God in some way. God must not be happy with him for some reason. Jack is unsettled about his choice. But he doesn’t know what else to do about it.
In his first year at Florida State, Jack gets involved with an on-campus Christian organization where he meets a young lady. He is very fond of her, and she’s very fond of him. Her name is Sarah, and she and Jack spend a lot of time together. The more he gets to know Sarah, the more he likes her.
Sarah has everything that Jack has been looking for in a girl ever since he was a teen. She’s very intelligent. She has sharp wit and a great sense of humor. She has a good head on her shoulders, and she’s strikingly attractive. What is more, she is a Christian who is deeply committed to the Lord. Sarah and Jack have many of the same interests, and they are the best of friends.
Jack begins bringing her to the Lord to see if it is God’s will for him to pursue a relationship with her. Since the Bible doesn’t tell him whether or not to date Sarah, he begins looking for inward impressions and outward signs.
On his way to school one day, Jack turns on the radio. He tunes into a Christian radio station and hears a preacher talk about how God will often demand us to let go of the things that we love.
Immediately Jack thinks, “Maybe God is talking to me! Maybe this is a sign from Him.” A few days later, Jack is flipping through the TV channels late at night, and he stumbles upon a television evangelist. The evangelist is delivering a sermon on how God doesn’t always give us the desires of our heart. And we must be willing to accept His will when it crosses our desires.
Troubled by this sermon, Jack falls asleep thinking that God may be telling him to not pursue Sarah. That very night, Jack has an interesting dream. He dreams that Sarah is no longer interested in him. In the dream, he is married to a young woman named Jill who is part of his church. (Jack barely knows Jill.) The next morning, Jack thinks to himself, “God probably doesn’t want me to be with Sarah. That would be just too good. Sarah has got everything I want. The Lord’s way is hard. It’s the way of suffering and the cross. I think the Lord’s will is that I get to know Jill.”
On the heels of this dream, Jack begins spending less and less time with Sarah. And he begins making attempts at getting to know Jill.
Interestingly, Jack is not attracted to Jill at all. But he figures that if it is God’s will for him to marry her—as the dream seemed to indicate—he will eventually fall in love with her.
The weeks go by. The months go by. Jack finds it quite difficult to get to know Jill, though he is trying. She often drives home on weekends, which is a two-hour drive. And she often misses church . . . the main place where Jack talks to her.
Six months go by, and Jack hardly ever talks to Sarah anymore. She no longer attends the Christian organization where Jack met her, and he rarely bumps into her at school. They’ve gone their separate ways.
Jack finally spends some quality time with Jill. But he still has no physical attraction to her.
As this is happening, another drama unfolds. Jack’s uncle Sam is a wealthy businessman. In fact, he’s a multi-millionaire. Sam has a reputation of always making sharp decisions in business ventures. That’s how he made his money.
Sam approaches his young nephew saying, “I’ve got a great opportunity for you, Jack. There’s little risk to you. You can’t lose anything significant. But if you join with me in this new business adventure I’ve undertaken, you very well could make enough money within a year to pay off your entire school debt. You’ve got two weeks to decide on it.”
As is his custom, Jack brings this job opportunity to God immediately. He waits on the Lord’s guidance and even fasts an entire day to get His will on this matter. Two weeks go by, and Jack has not received any direction at all. He has no inward impression, and there have been no outward signs. He is just as unclear as he was when he was first approached by his uncle.
Sam calls and asks Jack about his decision. Jack tells him, “Uncle Sam, I have to be honest with you. I’m a Christian now, and I submit all of my decisions to God’s will. He has not shown me anything on this so I’m going to have to pass.” Sam accepts the decision. Jack continues his studies at school.
It has been nine months since he first met Sarah. And this is what has happened. He discovers that Sarah is now engaged. His heart drops when he finds this out. To make matters worse, he learns that Jill is not even a Christian. And she has just reunited with her old high school boyfriend who lives in her home town. (Part of Jack feels relieved by this news because he was never attracted to her.)
But here is the clincher. Jack’s father calls and says, “This is going to hurt, son. But I do think you need to know. Your Uncle has made $70,000 over the last month. Half of that money would have been given to you if you would have gone into business with him.”
Jack is stunned. He’s confused. He begins to battle two conflicting thoughts. One is that God doesn’t really care about him. The other is that he may not really be a Christian after all. He begins questioning his entire relationship with God.
What his pastor taught him just doesn’t seem to be working in his life. It seems to work for others, but not for Jack. He has spent many nights agonizing over God’s perfect will for his life. And he has lived almost daily with the haunting question, “Am I in the center of God’s will, or have I missed it?”
In short, Jack sinks into depression.
A week passes. One day while driving to the supermarket, Jack flips through the channels on his car radio. He is suddenly arrested by a preacher who is delivering a message. The message is about discovering the will of God. Jack ends up listening to the message for twenty minutes. The effect?
It profoundly rocks his world.
When the message is over, Jack parks his car off the side of the road. He takes his hands off the wheel and leans back in his seat. He is astounded. With mouth slightly open, Jack feels as though 3,000 lbs. have just been lifted from his shoulders. In quick reverse, his mind begins to replay the last nine months of his life. Everything suddenly becomes clear. Jack’s eyes begin to tear up as he mutters under his breath, “I understand now. You really do love me, Lord.”
Jack has just been given a brand new view of God’s will. And that view has utterly and completely set him free. His life will never be the same.
Now why did I tell you that story? For one reason.
It is because what Jack heard that day is the very message I wish to share with you now . . .
This is the Introduction to Frank Viola’s FREE eBook, Rethinking the Will of God, which can be freely downloaded by joining Frank’s Thursday UNFILTERED email list. Just click the button below to join the list and get your copy.