What is one of the most commonly asked questions by restless teenagers, fearful young adults, successful businesspeople, lonely single parents, and frail grandparents? The answer is: "What is God's will for my life?" Much of pop evangelicalism gives advice often mystical, ethereal, and downright Gnostic in seeking God's will. That is why Kevin DeYoung's book Just Do Something is a breath of fresh air. DeYoung gives profound insight as well as biblical wisdom to struggling pilgrims living a life filled with emotional and physical suffering in this present evil age.
The problem, as DeYoung states, is that "our search for the will of God has become an accomplice in the postponement of growing up, a convenient out for the young (or old) Christian floating through life without direction or purpose. Too many of us have passed off our instability, inconsistency, and endless self-exploration as 'looking for God's will,' as if not making up our minds and meandering through life were marks of spiritual sensitivity" (15).
DeYoung's answer to this problem is that God is not a magic eight ball, a cosmic genie, or a divine butler. Rather, "We have no promise in Scripture that God will speak to us apart from the Spirit speaking through His Word" (69; Heb. 1-4). What a comfort to rest in God's providence, which is "the almighty everywhere present power of God, whereby, as with His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth, and all creatures; and so governs them, that leaf and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things come not by chance, but by His fatherly hand" (Heidelberg 27).
Any discussion about God's providence must be grounded in three different uses of the term "the will of God." First, God's immutable, fixed, and sovereign will of decree cannot be thwarted. God's will of decree is not accessible to finite humans (Deut. 29:29), which humbles us as we realize we are not the center of the universe! God has perfect, archetypal knowledge, while we as Christians have the ectypal, revealed knowledge of pilgrims as given to us through Scripture. We should not try to climb into the secret things of God in an effort at divinization.
The second use of the "will of God" is God's revealed will as delivered in his law. This is God's will of desire, or "the way things should be." God is not the author of sin, but in his will of decree God sometimes ordains for things to happen that he disapproves of in his revealed will, such as the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). DeYoung says, "The most heinous act of evil and injustice ever perpetrated on the earth–the murder of the Son of God–took place according to God's gracious and predetermined will" (20). So any discussion of the will of God must be grounded in the cross of Christ.
The third use of the term "the will of God" is God's will of direction. Many Christians dive into endless anxieties as they seek to figure out God's will of direction for them in finding a spouse or choosing a career. DeYoung wisely says that God does not have a secret will of direction for us to find out before we proceed with making a big decision. We are to make decisions without dreams, casting lots, or liver shivers as we seek the Scriptures for biblical principles, pray for wisdom, and seek the advice of wise, mature Christian friends. DeYoung says, "Trusting in God's will of decree is good. Following his will of desire is obedient. Waiting for God's will of direction is a mess" (26).
A biblical understanding of the three uses of the "will of God" will help to free us from indecision. For example, we don't have access to God's secret will of decree in order to determine who to marry, nor do we wait around for God's will of direction to decide who to ask on a coffee date to Starbucks. Rather, we see that God's revealed will, as given to us in his law, tells us to look for a godly woman. This means there are a number of possible Christian girls to marry. So guys, get off of the couch, turn off the Wii, and pursue a Christian woman with whom you are compatible. And pray less that God would show you who is the right wife and pray more to be the right kind of husband (106). Then, get married, have children, and love, serve, and sacrifice for her as long as you both shall live.
So, what is God's will for our lives? DeYoung says we are not given step-by-step instructions in life, but we are to look to God's Word for guidance and wisdom. In the Bible, we see that God's will is for us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Colossians 1:9 says we are to bear fruit and know God better by hiding his Word in our hearts that we might not sin against him (Ps. 119:11). God's will for his people is our sanctification (1 Thess. 4:3), so we ought to pray we will make decisions based on "faith, hope, and love–and not the praise of man and greed and selfish ambition." That is, we should pray that we will follow God's will of desire, as revealed in the law, rather than praying to figure out his will of direction (102).
Once we understand that God speaks to us through his inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word, our anxious hearts can find comfort. God's will for our lives is his law, which slays each one of us. God's good news is his gospel, which is the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Now that we have been justified, we are continually being sanctified through the means of grace. As justified sinners, the law is now a guide for us in gratitude, not a checklist on how to become acceptable to God.
Just Do Something helps to show us that the Christian faith is not first and foremost a mode of behavior, but a message to be believed. It is through a fundamental understanding of the law-gospel distinction that we find answers to the most important question we should be asking: How can I as a wretched sinner be acceptable in the sight of a holy God who demands a righteousness as perfect as his own? That question is much more important both now and for eternity than asking, "Should I ask Jane or Jill to dinner?" or "Should I attend Wheaton or Westmont?" By understanding the law and the gospel, we also realize the world doesn't revolve around us! God's Word isn't about how to live my best life now, but rather about how God has condescended to us in the person of Christ to save a people for himself through the blood, merit, and righteousness of the God-man.
Just Do Something is an encouragement to the church. The saints at the United Reformed Church here in Boise, Idaho, have been greatly edified by this book. In particular, our teenagers were challenged as we discussed it together. High school kids often wonder about whom they should marry, where they should go to college, what they should study, where they should live, and what job they should pursue. DeYoung helped me to help our kids seek biblical wisdom rather than a crystal ball, and to live as pilgrims by faith in Christ rather than striving to live the purpose-driven life in an effort to control our future.
By reading Just Do Something, God's people are sharpened so we might know better "what we believe and why we believe it." This book provides comfort for Christ's suffering, confused, and discouraged sheep. I heartily recommend reading Kevin DeYoung's book Just Do Something. I believe it to be a great encouragement and blessing to Christ's flock.