Sounds shocking at first glance, especially in a book all about God’s will. DeYoung candidly admits there’s no shortage of books on the market telling us how to figure out exactly what God wants us to do. The majority of these, he acknowledges, claim that God has a perfect plan for your life, down to the details of who to marry and what to eat for breakfast.
Nonsense, he argues, and I agree. The idea that God has every detail of my life mapped out is nowhere spelled out in the Bible and is full of logical holes. But God does give us his “general will,” the stuff God wants us all to do regardless of time and place. It’s always wrong to murder and always good to be generous. DeYoung is basically rehashing St. Augustine: “Love God and do as you please.”
How do the general guidelines work themselves out into the details of daily life? Wisdom. Having a heart and mind – character – shaped by God in Christ. As DeYoung says in ch. 5, “It’s about who you are, not where you are.” Let God shape your character and the rest will fall into place.
One example he often uses is relationships. You’re a godly guy looking to marry a godly gal? Fine, he says. Don’t wait for specific signs and wonders to say, “This is the one.” There’s some value to this notion, but more needs to be said about marriage. DeYoung’s thoughts on marriage are definitely conservative. While he’s not opposed to working women, his preference is clear: marry young, stay home, make babies. Choosing your spouse requires more intention than “he’s godly, she’s godly, let’s get together.” Premarital counseling is a good place to start.
It may sound like DeYoung is opposed to seeking God’s guidance in the details. That would be inaccurate. Even when our character has grown in Christ-likeness we can still make mistakes. Again, we need wisdom as part of that character but we also need openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Maybe DeYoung avoids talking about Spirit-led promptings but I’ve learned from Charismatic-Pentecostal sources to welcome regular encounters with God the Spirit. Even John Wesley, the great Methodist pioneer, believed that a Christian could make mistakes, even if her motives were totally pure.
The real shocker is this: DeYoung is a Calvinist! I’m amazed that a card-carrying Reformed (i.e. in a tradition influenced by the Protestant Reformer, John Calvin) pastor refuses to endorse the popular “specific plan for your life” line. In pop-level Christianity, that line of thinking is often used to draw people to Jesus. Again, I agree with DeYoung – ditch that pitch, but it surprises me to hear it from a Calvinist.
We must run in different circles, DeYoung and I. DeYoung has met many Christians who claim they can’t take that crucial next step in life – marriage, job, vocation – because they must discover exactly what God’s will for that decision. If only all churches were paralyzed because they’re so deeply concerned about God’s will! No, my gut tells me we have far more sinister reasons for avoiding the mission of God and life with God in general: apathy, laziness, unbelief. In other words, sin.
I’m sure there’s a healthy hand full of saintly Christians running around (or sitting around, I suppose) afraid to make a move because they don’t know what God wants. Good for them if they are indeed so concerned. But this excuse – “I’m waiting on God’s will” – may be a deviously self-deceptive maneuver. After all, DeYoung is a pastor, and who hasn’t told their pastor what they think their pastor wants to hear.
An encounter between Jesus and the religious elites of ancient Jerusalem comes to mind (cf. Luke 20). They want to know by what authority Jesus is doing all things he’s doing, in short, whether Jesus is doing God’s will. Or so they say. Jesus’ counter-question about John the Baptist reveals the hideous hypocrisy under their thin veil of piety. They’re convinced Jesus is a false prophet leading people astray, but they won’t own up to it. Publicly, they say, “Well, we’re just not sure if it’s God’s will. Let’s wait and see.”
Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. is good reading in the “finding God’s will for my life” genre. I read this book on audiobook and the narrator, Adam Verner, did a good job in his delivery. A little wooden at times but alright nonetheless. Worth a read or a listen.
*This book was provided by christianaudio at no charge for the sole purpose of review.