Ok. So the previous post (hopefully) serves as a helpful introduction to this topic, including my own kickbacks against the typical Evangelical voodoo approach to the idea of the “will of God”, and a search for a better way to make decisions.
Well, there’s probably more than 1 book out there (judging from the endnotes of the book I just read), but one good option for sorting through this issue of making decisions in life in a way that pleases God is the recent book Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung. For good or bad, some will recognize DeYoung’s name from a book he co-authored with Ted Kluck called Why We’re Not Emergent. He also runs a blog somewhere.
First off, if you can judge a book by its cover, then this one had to be good. There’s a dude sitting a chair in the middle of a field in wintertime wearing what appears to be the clothing of a homeless person, but the threads are a little too new—probably a college student. I think many 20-somethings could identify with that position, as they face their futures–wide open but fairly bleak.
One nice thing about the book, especially for high schoolers and college students (the group this book is aimed at), is that is fairly short, easily readable, and fits into your back pocket.
DeYoung begins the book by exploring the morass of young adulthood, especially the ever-delayed entry into marriage, career, family, financial independence, etc. that is occurring. “Peter Pan syndrome” is and will continue to be a major drain on our culture. He connects it, at least for Christians stuck in the same boat, with bad teaching on the will of God, calling it, “an accomplice in the postponement of growing up, a convenient out for the young (or old) Christian floating through life without direction or purpose.”
He spends the second chapter exploring the “will of God” in the Bible, essentially settling on two categories- God’s “will of decree” (people being saved, sending his Son into the world, the kind of stuff where words like “predestination” show up) and God’s “will of desire” (what God wants you to be and do as his followers.) DeYoung tries to leave the “will of decree” unexplained enough in the chapter so that people from various spectrums of the sovereignty-human responsibility continuum will benefit. (I say “tries”; it’s obvious to a theological student where he lands, but the average reader probably wouldn’t notice.) I would personally add a third category, “will of providence”, to catch some verses which don’t really deal with either God’s eternal purposes or his commands. These are places like James 4, “If it’s God’s will, we will go to such and such a place…” or 1 Cor. 16:7, “I will come…if the Lord allows.” Note that Paul doesn’t say, “I prayed and know it’s God’s will to come”, but rather, “I have decided to come; if I make it, then it’s God’s will. If not (like a storm crashes him into Carthage on the other side of the Mediterranean), then God didn’t want me to come.) I just think it’s a helpful category that occurs in Scripture (though less frequently than the two main ones that DeYoung mentions).
DeYoung then spends a chapter outlining five reasons why we want to know God’s will so bad. Good stuff, but you’ll have to read the book to find them! The next chapter focuses on some more reasons–this time reasons why the “tap-into-the-Force” kind of decision-making Evangelicals have embraced is problematic. There’s a pretty hilarious story he tells of a guy who was turned down for a date by a girl under the guise “the Holy Spirit told me ‘no’.” DeYoung comments, “Poor guy–he got rejected, not only by this sweet girl, but by the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity took a break from pointing people to Jesus to tell this girl not to date my roommate.” At the end of the chapter, he leaves us with this question, “If there really is a perfect will of God we are meant to discover, in which we will find tremendous freedom and fulfillment, why does it seem that everyone longing for God’s will is in such bondage and confusion?”
The rest of the book is devoted to discussion of wisdom (God’s major way of helping us make decisions), some more debunking of some “Christian” tactics for finding God’s will (Gideon’s fleece, etc.), and then specific application in the areas of career and marriage (which is why most college students would pick up the book).
The book is helpful and focused. I appreciate that DeYoung doesn’t spend a lot of time on pointless rabbit trails. He knows his audience (he pastors a church across the street from Michigan State) and writes in a way that is understandable but not “dumbed-down.”
If you’re interested in more, read the book. It’s fairly cheap. I plan on getting some for a couple of our seniors at the church before I leave. It’s a good alternative to the other confusing stuff out there that continues to fly off Christian bookstore shelves.