“If God has a wonderful plan for my life, then why doesn’t he tell me what it is?”
Kevin DeYoung. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will (2009).
This book has been waiting on my desk for a review for three or four months. To its credit, I couldn’t pass it by even after such a long time.
I had not heard of Kevin DeYoung when a new friend gave me (lent me?) this little book to read as follow-up to a fantastic conversation we had about seeking God’s will. But I found his direct style refreshing and his simple treatment of a murky topic helpful. We’ve all encountered the questions: “How can you be sure that this is what God has for you?” and “What if God doesn’t want me to do [this or that]?” This little volume may be brief, but it manages to challenge our confused theology when we try and answer them.
DeYoung takes as his target audience the younger generation in the church, but it’s a scattershot, resulting in perhaps some helpful strikes at the older generation, too (“This is not a book just for young people” (14)). He begins with diagnostics: “We’re not consistent. We’re not stable. We don’t stick with anything. We aren’t sure we’re making the right decisions. Most of the time, we can’t even make decisions. And we don’t follow through. All of this means that as Christian young people we are less fruitful and less faithful than we ought to be” (12). He points out the growing phenomenon of “adultolescence”.
One of the “most confusing phrases in the Christian vocabulary” (18), that mysterious “will of God”, and the difficulties of knowing precisely what it means (let alone what it is) are dealt with in chapter two. Time is spent making a very helpful and biblical distinction between God’s predetermined will of decree and his will of desire. I don’t know about you, but I have found that all the various meanings of the word “will” tend to muddy the waters of the discussion a great deal.
In chapter three the author suggests reasons why Christians want so much to know God’s will for their lives. Read this book for these reasons alone. DeYoung’s fearless direct style reaches its most insightful and incisive here. One example: “[A] reason we seek God’s will of direction is we are seeking perfect fulfillment in life. Many of us have had it so good that we have started looking for heaven on earth. We have lost any sort of pilgrim attitude” (29). He is also profound on the subject of our fear of the unknown (38): “A lot of prayers boil down to, ‘God, don’t let anything unpleasant happen to anyone. Make everything in the world nice for everyone . . . Tell me the future so I won’t have to take any risks'” (40-41). Chapter four contains DeYoung’s confrontation of our just-under-the-surface thinking, exposing to view some of our assumptions–that we have a “sneaky God” (46), who holds us accountable to perfectly follow his will without having any idea what it is. Is it possible that God doesn’t intend to reveal all things to us in advance? The author’s clear application of James 4:13-15 (“Come now, you who say, today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town . . . you do now know what tomorrow will bring. . . you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that”) to this issue is massively helpful, proving that these verses are in Scripture for a greater purpose than just the rote addition of the phrase “God willing” on the front of every statement containing a verb. (The book does contain some helpful suggestions concerning our language and how we talk about God’s will or following his leading (49).
The second half of the volume is dedicated to insights about how to make decisions and live life faithfully as we hold our choices up before God’s word in prayer. (His third pointer would be seeking counsel, 96.) “There’s a word for this approach to guidance and the will of God,” says DeYoung. “Wisdom. It’s not sexy, and it requires no secret decoder ring” (86) . . .”God says, ‘Don’t ask to see all the plans I’ve made for you. Ask Me for wisdom so you’ll know how to live according to My Book'” (90).
“We should be humble in looking to the future because we don’t control it; God does. And we should be hopeful in looking to the future because God controls it, not us” (47-48).
“Worry is a spiritual issue and must be fought with faith” (57).
“God’s will for your life is not very complicated . . . In short, God’s will is that you and I get happy and holy in Jesus” (61).