“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
Read: Deut 29:29; Matt 6:33; 1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17; 1 Pet 4:10-11.
“What is God’s will for me?”
Have you ever asked—or thought about—this question? It is usually asked right before a big decision: Choosing what college to go to, asking a person out on a date, accepting a job or considering a career switch, deciding whether or not to move, etc. While this question can be asked before small decisions or when a person feels particularly aimless in their life, it’s generally reserved for those big moments. While in fringe cases it might be a legitimate question to ask, more often than not, this is not the right question to ask or even pray about if you are making a decision. That might be surprising, but let me explain.
A helpful way to think about God’s will—especially as we read verses that reference God’s will—is to make a distinction between God’s will of command and his will of decree. To put it simply, God’s will of command is everything that he has commanded—and what he desires—his creation to do. God has revealed these desires to his image-bearers. These commands may be disobeyed so that God’s will, in that particular instance, is left unfulfilled. For example, God desires (wills) that all people would repent, believe the gospel, and be saved from his wrath (1 Tim 2:4). However, we know that not all will be saved (Rev 20:11-15).
God’s will of decree is everything that he has ordained to come about. This is his determination of everything that will happen, and unless he tells us what will happen (as through the prophets), or his purposes after the fact (as the disciples learned about the significance of some events in Christ’s ministry afterwards), we cannot know it. This is God’s divine, sovereign plan for all things that will come to pass.
Though we are making a distinction here, we have to remember that there is no internal conflict in God. Though he gives commands and desires for his creation, he has ordained—according to his perfect will of decree—that many of them will be unfulfilled and disobeyed. Every command of God’s that is disobeyed is working toward the completion of God’s will of decree. Why did God ordain things this way? Why does He allow mankind to be disobedient? And what does this have to do with decision-making?
For the first two questions, we know that everything is working towards God’s glory (Isa 43:7, 48:11; Ps 19:1, etc.). But why this way? We cannot know, nor should we try to pry.
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.Deut 29:29
God’s will of decree can also be called his secret will because only he knows it. It belongs to him, and unless he reveals it to us (as he revealed that he would send a Savior), it is impossible for us to know it. Even so, God has revealed a lot to us! In the context of Deuteronomy 29:29, God revealed his law to the Israelites that that they would obey and be blessed! The things that he has revealed, he says, belong to them. Through his prophets, who wrote down his words in the Bible, God has revealed to his people his desire—his will—for their lives. They are to live a certain way, think a certain way, desire certain things, and they are—most importantly—to come to Christ and have Him be their greatest treasure and delight in all creation.
What, then, does this all have to do with decision-making?
Well, when people ask the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” right before a big decision, they are usually asking in terms of his secret will of decree. “What has God ordained for my life? Am I to be a doctor or a lawyer? Who am I supposed to marry? Where has God said that I would live?” While those things might be fun to wonder about, they are all things we can never know until after the fact because the secret things belong to the Lord. Nevertheless, these kinds of questions and uncertainties should not paralyze us into inaction. Sometimes we may hesitate to make a decision until we think we’ve received an answer from God that usually comes in the form of an observable sign.
With the writing of Revelation, God’s revelation to his people is now complete. He has told us how history will end, but he has not given us details about how our personal lives will unfold. Nevertheless, he has revealed much and told us to trust him. This means that we must trust him that his commands are good, that a life lived by faith is the only satisfying and commendable way to live, that only in Christ you can have eternal joy, eternal love, eternal peace, and eternal security, and that seeking first his kingdom and his glory in all things will lead you to make the best decisions for your life. So, for the next decision that you have to make—big or small—instead of trying to guess God’s secret will, try to live in accordance with what he has revealed, and humbly trust that his will is truly good.
Discuss and Pray Together: Think about and discuss whether you’ve ever thought about God’s will as his secret will of decree. Have you ever tried looking for a sign from God and basing your decision on that? What instead should people be looking to? (Hint: Ps 119:1-8). Finish by praying about any decisions that you might have coming up in your life. For more on this topic, see our review on Kevin DeYoung’s book, Just Do Something.