Different Parts of God’s Will

God’s will is much more complex once we begin to discern the meaning. I discovered a resource written by a liberal Christian theologian Leslie Weatherhead (1893-1976).* In his book, The Will of God, he explains the following.

God’s Intentional will:

  1. Take illness and death as an example. I must accept it, it is the will of God.
    1. Was the doctor all this time fighting against the will of God?
    2. Had she recovered, would we not say that was the will of God?
    3. Her death and her recovery cannot both be the will of God in the sense of it being His intention.
    4. Confusing thoughts: “I suppose I must accept it as the will of God, but if the doctor had come in time he might have been able to save her.”
    5. Suppose a missionary’s daughter dies of cholera.
      1. Many might say, “It’s the will of God, that’s all it is”
      2. But suppose someone crept into her room last night and deliberately put a cotton swab soaked with the cholera germ under your little girl’s mouth as she lay there?
      3. The reaction may be, “I would kill him, the snake, what do you mean by suggesting such a thing?”
      4. The argument is the same for God, “Isn’t that just exactly what you accused God of doing?”
      5. Call it mass ignorance, contaminated water, an accident, bad drains, but don’t call it the will of God.
      6. It is not the will of your Father in heaven that any of these little ones should perish (Matthew 18:14) .
  2. God’s will divided into three parts.
    1. The divisions.
      1. Intentional: God’s ideal plan for mankind.
      2. Circumstantial: God’s plan within certain circumstances.
      3. Ultimate: God’s final realization of His purposes.
      4. The trouble is that we use the phrase “The will of God” to cover all three.
    2. Biblical illustration.
      1. Jesus came with the intention that men would follow Him, not kill Him (Matthew 4:19).
      2. Then came the cross and the one whom the Father wanted men to follow was put to death; God’s intentional will was stopped.
      3. When the circumstances brought by evil put Christ into the dilemma of either running or dying, in those circumstances, the cross was the will of God.
      4. Problem: Jesus is the Lamb who was lain before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8, John 1:29, 1 Peter 1:19-20, 1 Corinthians 2:7).
    3. Practical illustration.
      1. In a nation that is at war, and a father says to his son, “I’m glad you are in the army.”
      2. This does not mean that the army was the father’s intention from the beginning: Perhaps his intention from the beginning was for his son to be a doctor.
      3. In those circumstances set up by evil, the army became the father’s will for his son.
  3. God’s ultimate goal in Christ: redemption of man.
    1. In spite of evil, the same goal would have been reached if God’s intentional will would have been carried through.
    2. God cannot be finally defeated: not everything that happens is His will, but nothing can ultimately defeat His will.
  4. Dissociate from the phrase, “The will of God” all that is evil, unpleasant or unhappy (this is covered in circumstancial will) .
    1. A father longs to give good gifts to his son (Luke 11:11).
    2. Can you picture a father sending mean things to his son, and the son with tearful, hurting eyes saying “Thy will be done?”
  5. Two difficulties:
    1. Do people really get comfort believing their tragedies are the will of God, their compassionate, loving Father?
      1. Tragedy is hard to bear if it all was just a ghastly mistake.
      2. But, there never is any real comfort in a lie.
    2. Some of the greatest qualities in people are brought by suffering, so is not suffering the will of God?
      1. So, warfare and persecution is the will of God?
      2. The war did not make courage, but revealed what was there all the time.
      3. Logically–Does God needs evil to produce good?
      4. NO, evil does not make good qualities, but reveals them and gives them exercise.
      5. God made everything good, evil can be defined as the absence of good. Evil take the good, and twists it.
  6. Catch these words of Jesus (Matthew 23: 37) “O Jerusalem, I longed to gather you… but you would not.”

God’s Circumstantial Will:

  1. Remember, the father’s circumstancial will for his son during wartime was to be in the army. His intention was medical school.
  2. Man’s free will created the circumstance of evil that cut across God’s plans: Basically a will within a will.
  3. There are two parts of God’s circumstancial will:
    1. The natural.
      1. There are the laws of the universe, which are an expression of God’s will, which were not set aside even for Jesus.
      2. The rain falls on the just and the unjust.
      3. The forces of nature carry out their function and are not deflected when they are used by the forces of evil.
      4. Jesus did not call to God saying, “It’s not fair!”
    2. The spiritual.
      1. Even in evil circumstances, we can react positively and creatively to find good out of evil.
      2. The cross is not just a symbol of capital punishment, it is a symbol of the triumphant use of evil in the holy purposes of God (the cross becomes a throne, a crown of thorns becomes one of glory) .
  4. Illustration: a baby fallen out of a high rise window: Is it the will of God? Yes and No.
    1. YES, His circumstantial will.
      1. His law of gravity should operate.
      2. His baby is made of flesh and bones.
      3. The body will be broken if it hits the pavement, or else the baby would have been made of something else (like rubber).
    1. NO, His intentional will.
      1. The baby’ s death is not the will of God.
      2. It was not His intention that the baby be allowed to fallout the window at all.
  5. Disease: is it the will of God?
    1. NO, God’s intentional will is health.
    2. Yet there is a will of God within evil circumstances.
      1. The ultimate will of God will be reached if we make the right reaction to these circumstances.
      2. Disease is an invasion of germs, a reminder that we live in Satan’s domain.
    3. How does one react to disease?
      1. Joni Erikson Tada  and her neck injury as a teenager.
      2. So many healthy people are spiritually asleep and not co-operating with Him at all.
      3. I am sure that the battle against disease is the will of God. Disease is not His intention: Jesus regarded it as part of the kingdom of evil (Luke 13:16)., yet He can work through evil circumstances.
  6. One could say, it’s a bit casual of God to allow these things to happen if they are not His intention.
    1. God’s ways are not often clear to men (1 Corinthians 13:12).
    2. Think of a little child who has hurt his knees.
      1. Will he say “It’s rather casual of you to allow me to hurt myself like this.”
      2. We do not say, “Look at my knees!” but rather, “Look at my frustration, disappointment and pain.”
      3. There is much that we do not understand, but I know that my Father loves and cares for me.
    3. Jesus did not say, “I have explained the world.” but “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) .
      1. If we will only trust where we do not see.
      2. Walk in the light that we have (like holding a lantern rather than using a headlight).
      3. We will find peace in our hearts even before we see Him face to face.
      4. Suffering often brings us to our knees like nothing else will.

God’s Ultimate Will:

  1. I know you can do all things, and no purpose of yours can be restrained. (Job 42: 2).
  2. Picture a child damming up a stream:
    1. He never prevents the water from finally reaching the river.
    2. We may divert God’s plans for a while, but we will not finally defeat them.
  3. Omnipotence does not mean that God gets His way by an exhibition of His superior might;  then freedom is an illusion.
    1. It does not mean that nothing can happen unless it is His intention.
    2. It means that nothing can happen that finally defeats Him.
    3. He will reach His ultimate goal even if man diverts the stream.
  4. If God can use evil as well as good to reach His goals, then nothing we do really matters.
    1. No, Paul said to the Romans, Are we to continue to sin that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1).
    2. Here is a proper perspective:
      1. This evil has been done, how will I win good from it?
      2. NOT, I will deliberately do evil in order to win good from it.
      3. With evil intent, men crucified the Son of God. Within six weeks, other men were preaching about the cross as the instrument of salvation.

* Regarding Weatherhead being a liberal, I don’t throw the “liberal” handle around lightly, but it is documented that he dismissed the virgin birth, promoted Zachariah as the father of Jesus and Mary (a temple prostitute) and denied the atonement. Weatherhead’s theory that Jesus was the son of Zechariah later became part of the teachings of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. Encountering this teaching in Weatherhead’s The Christian Agnostic, Young Oon Kim adopted it as the best explanation of the birth of Jesus in her work Unification Theology, a standard textbook of the movement. Ruth A. Tucker comments in her book Another Gospel: “Kim’s Christology is a prime example of liberal theology…. By diminishing the role of Jesus, Kim paves the way for the exaltation of Sun Myung Moon.”

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