How does God’s will and our will differ?



Question: “What is God’s will and our will and how do they differ?”



Bible Answers

The Free Dictionary defines “Will” as “The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action.”


God’s will is supreme

The idea that God is in control of everything is called “God’s sovereignty,” in which God is in complete control of every creature, event and circumstance throughout history. God is in complete control and everything in the world that happens is either caused or permitted by God for His perfect purpose.


The Lord of hosts has sworn, saying, ‘Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, And as I have purposed, so it shall stand (Isaiah 14:24). I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please (Isaiah 46:10).  God knows all things, past, present, and future.  He is in complete and total control of everything.  This does not mean that all evil in the world is because of God, rather God permits evil to exist to accomplish His primary purpose, to draw the greatest part of humanity to His love.  


Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him (Psalm 115:3).  He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" (Daniel 4:35).


Then why does God permit mankind to exercise his will

God is all-powerful and His will is supreme.  He could easily have any of us do exactly what He wants us to do, like little robots. But God is not looking for robots; He is looking for those who want a loving relationship with Him. He has given us certain freedom of will to make choices for ourselves; also called freedom of choice. Within God’s complete control, He permits man the free will to follow Satan’s kingdom or to follow God and His kingdom.


God’s will

We have often heard the statement, “God will not force His will on a person,” but is that true?  We may also ask, does God always get His will?


Does God always get His will

It is God’s will that all men be saved,  but they are not all saved.

It is God’s will that all men love God, but they all do not.

It is God’s will that all men love each other, but they all do not.


Obviously, God does not get all that He wills.  While God could always enforce His will, by His will, he has determined to limit the degree of His will.  As such, He exercises His will differently in temporal situations and eternal situations.


Temporal

Temporal is how God’s will is enforced within those areas that relate to man’s time on earth.  In the OT, we see numerous examples of God inflicting death, capture, pain, and torture on entire nations including Israel.  Was it these people’s desire to experience death, capture, pain, and torture?  


From the emotional standpoint, that may sound a bit severe or even unacceptable, but from the logical perspective of our creator, it is very valid.  If God permits them to die or even orchestrates their death as in the OT, the loss of 20 or 40 years actually makes no difference when compared to eternity.


It appears that God may impress His will upon those temporal circumstances to punish, lead, direct, accomplish, draw, and to bless. Clearly, in the temporal, God may enforce His will on a person.


Eternal

Eternal is how God’s will is enforced relating to eternal matters – man’s salvation.


Apparently God does not force salvation upon a person. He wants man to come to Him by his own desire.  He may create circumstances, people, dreams, vision, the voice of God, and even angelic visits to encourage a person to accept Him.  But He does not force salvation; rather He welcomes and draws by His love. Paul’s coming to the Lord is a good example.  Paul’s greatest desire was to wipe the name and worship of Jesus out of Israel, but as soon as he had an encounter with Jesus, he knew he was wrong and immediately accepted Jesus as his Lord. But Paul could have still said no, God would not have forced Him.


Our will

The same limits that God applies to His will also apply to our will. God does not always get what He wants and neither should we expect to always get what we want.  


God’s Word gives us many promises.  Some say “Ask in my name and you will receive,” while other promises say “Ask in my will, believe, and you will receive.”  Then why do we not always get our will when we pray?


First, we know that if we are praying outside of God’s will, He will never, never, never go against His will and give us what we have asked.  Second, are we asking in faith?  If we are not in faith, if we do not believe, if we are holding unrepented sin or unforgiveness, then we have no right to expect to receive.  


Temporal

Regarding temporal will, those things on earth that do not include salvation can be divided into two categories, non-personal and personal.  First, assuming that we are in compliance with God’s conditions, we can fully expect to receive when related to a non-personal intervention such as a job, healing, casting out the enemy, or similar blessings.  Second, when our temporal will is related to another person, such as a disobedient child or a troubling neighbor, it may be a long fight against the enemy and for God to establish circumstances that will accomplish your will. You must remember that when the situation is one of your will versus another person’s will, even if they appear to be in sin, God’s perfect plan for the other person may likely not be the same as your plans and His timing is almost assuredly not the same as your timing.  


Eternal

Eternal will normally relate to praying for the salvation of a loved one. We can come against the enemy in the name of Jesus and break his power and hold on the person.  We can claim salvation and God’s protection, to pull down strongholds (Satan’s lies that are believed) by God’s divine power, and pray God’s Word, That they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. (Matthew 13:15). We pray that they may see the truth and understand with their heart, as it is the truth of the Word of God than pulls down or destroys strongholds.  And we can pray that God would work out circumstances to bring the person to himself, but God will not force the person to conform to His will and He will not force the person on your behalf.  He calls but He will not force.  But we should not give up praying, as our praying does move the hand of God to keep arranging circumstances to lead the person to Himself. Some have had to pray a few weeks and some have prayed 10 or 20 or more years before the person finally accepted Jesus.  But how many have been lost because someone gave up praying for them?


We do not know the ways of the Lord, but in the end, the one thing that we do know is that we can and should place our trust in the Lord.


There is a difference between the will of God and the way God responds to the way His children misbehave.


God’s different types of will

God’s will exists over the universe and mankind in three levels or types.


1. Sovereign will of God

What God declares and nothing can change it.  His will will be done.


2. The permissive will of God

God’s permissive will are those areas where God states His will, but permits man to operate contrary to His will. But God’s sovereignty says that those who go against His will must either repent or pay the price for disobedience. For example, 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  This is God’s permissive will, He permit it to occur. But that person will later likely pay a price for being married to the wrong person.


Man’s choices or will can only operate within the limits God allows. He allows mankind to sin but their choices will never override God’s sovereign will.  God’s will for mankind is clearly revealed in His Word. And His Word clearly reveals to all of mankind that man is not to break His commandments, but to repent, and to be holy as He is Holy.  Man has free will to disobey, but man will be held accountable for his disobedience.


3.  The secret will of God

God’s secret will or plans for us may be revealed in the future or they may be revealed after they have been completed.  The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).


God’s Permissive will

An example would be Jonah.  God commanded him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh, but Jonah’s will was clearly that he did not want to preach to Nineveh. While God did not force His will over Jonah’s will, He did change Jonah’s circumstances, being swallowed by the whale, so that Jonah finally agreed to obey God’s will and go to Nineveh (Jonah 1).


God’s sovereign will is superior to His permissive will

Nothing that is good can exist which God did not will to be, and nothing that is evil can exist which God did not allow to be. God’s will is supreme to all other wills.


We must realize that making the wrong choice is sinning against God and has repercussions. Sometimes the repercussions are mild; other times they may result in our death or captivity, like Israel's numerous captivities, when the nation of Israel turned away from God.  Captivity was not Israel’s will, but God’s to bring them back to God.


God will provide opportunities to change.  He may change a person’s situation or circumstances, their desires, their view of what is true by opening their eyes, by giving them understanding, or by others crossing their path. He may let them fall into trouble to awaken them, he may do a thousand and one things to convince them to change including persuading them by the Holy Spirit, but in the end they still have a choice.


For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).


The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will (Proverbs 21:1). God can direct the mind of a king so that the king's actions fulfill His intent.  If God can do that with a king, can He not do the same with us?


…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11).


Should we cease to pray for situations that seem hopeless because someone has claimed to have made up his mind? No. God can change the hearts of kings, spouses, and children.


Does that mean that God will normally control the minds of others to have them do things against their will?  No. I don't believe that God normally changes a person’s mind against their will.  But I do believe that He can and does create the circumstances that encourage minds to make choices that are in accordance with His will.  Can they still say no?  Yes, they can.  Can God turn up the heat on them until they change their mind?  Yes, He can.  Will He?  That is one of God’s mysteries.


Salvation

Salvation is one of God’s leading desires.  It is His will that none should be lost.  God’s will is that all should be saved.  But God knows from the beginning who will choose Him and who will not. As such, …are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (1Peter 1:2).


For those who will finally say yes, He keeps calling and drawing them through people and circumstances, through opening their eyes to the truth and filling their heart with understanding, and through giving them sufficient faith to believe.  And sometimes He may use miracle intervention.


When someone comes to Christ in trust for salvation, they have simply quit resisting God and allow Him to save them. Being saved requires God’s action, and our response.  


A good test of whose will

How can we tell if we are being led by our own flesh or by the Spirit? If we are in a hurry, not wanting to wait, then we are operating in our flesh, but if we are relaxed, willing to wait upon the Lord in trust, believing God will bring it to pass in His timing, then we are in the Spirit.


Is God’s will sometimes painful

Behold I have refined you but not as silver. I have tried you in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10).  Why? This scripture sums it up.  Because you are precious in My sight and honoured and because I love you.  Fear not for I am with you (Isaiah 43:4 & 5). God cleanses us and purifies us and sometimes it can be painful, but don’t be afraid, as our loving God is in control. He will never leave you, He will never forsake you. Remember, that all things work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28).


When life is not going as you wanted, be thankful for what God has given you, as you already have more than you will ever deserve.  


Summary

Because of God’s great love for us, He will not force us to come to Him, but He does keep calling those who He knows will finally come.  He gives us free will to follow Him or follow our own desires, but when we go against His will, we are sinning and will be held accountable.



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