The Will of God as a Way of Life: Finding and Following the Will of God
Author: Gerald Sittser
View: Wisdom View
This is a well-crafted book. It has the sensitivity of a Henri Nouwen book and the breath of references of an Os Guinness book. On top of that it also holds the correct view of guidance! Sittser quotes from many books on guidance, but it appears that he is not aware of the existence of Decision Making and the Will of God.
The strengths of the book are on harmonizing the moral will of God with the everyday mundane actions of life (chp. 14) and harmonizing God's sovereign will with the suffering and tragedy in the earth (chps 9-10). Sittser's own profound loss of family in an auto crash gives him the sensitivity to approach the subject with insight and his knowledge of Scripture to point us toward edifying answers.
He holds the wisdom view instinctively from his sense of Scripture as a whole. For instance, he defends the sense of freedom in decision making, but never refers to a specific verse on that topic. His discussion, however, fits the flow and heart of the Scripture.
The reader may be confused by his use of the traditional language at times. He does this out of habit rather than conviction. His conviction is the "conventional understanding of God's will" is not biblical.
Conventional understanding of God's will defines it as a specific pathway we should follow into the future. God' knows what this pathway is, and he has laid it out for us to follow. Our responsibility is to discover this pathway--God's plan four our lives We must discover which of the many pathways we could follow is the one we should follow, the one God has planned for us. If and when we make the right choice, we will receive his favor, fulfill our divine destiny, and succeed in life (p. 17).
This conventional understanding is found wanting. First, it focuses attention on future decisions not on the decisions of each day (18-20). Second, it betrays a false and negative view of God who is hiding His will (20-22). Finally, this view betrays our desire to control a future that simply cannot be controlled (22-24). Sittser has three experiences that caused him to question and then reject this approach. He ended up taking a new vocation from what he thought he had discovered as God's will. He faced "catastrophic suffering" which the traditional approach could not explain. Finally, the teaching of the Bible challenged him to discover a different approach to God's guidance (24).
He discovered "Our Astonishing Freedom" (chp. 2) instead of a set of decisions predetermined as God's will. God will not tell us "exactly what to do, where to go, and how to chose (26)." God only requires that "our heart is good, our motives are pure, and our basic direction is right (26)." When we seek God's kingdom first "whatever choices we make concerning the future become the will of god for our lives (30)." There is not just one will, but many options pleasing to God. When we chose His sovereignty makes sure it is the path that will work out God's purposes (30). All that we must do is obey the revealed will of God (moral) which we already know (34).
Most of the book turns to a rich discussion of obeying God's moral will, that is, seeking His kingdom first. "The will of God, then, consists of one clear mandate--that we make god the absolute center of our lives (52)."
Sittser takes an approach like Os Guinness (The Call) to our calling versus our vocation. By creation and gifting God has made us prepared to serve in certain ways. This "calling" is our goal not a particular vocation. Several different vocations could be followed in fulfilling this calling. This calling is revealed by our deepest motivational desires (82), our talents (84), our life experiences (86), what God sovereignly allows (open and closed doors) (87) supported by the community of faith discovering where we best function in the Body of Christ (89). We are to listen to these voices not a mystical feeling about God's will (92).
The final choices we make will be based upon wisdom from God in how to best serve His kingdom. God's sovereign superintendence of the details will assure us that our choices will please God and work together for good (chp 16-17).
This book is the wisdom position stated without many of the Scriptural proofs for the concept of freedom and wisdom. Its strength is applying these decisions to the mundane every day choices and then seeing God's sovereign guidance even when the greatest tragedies crash into our lives. This book is not a good one to learn the way of wisdom. It is best read by the one convinced of the wisdom view. This book then will share valuable insight into the outworking of guidance in the ups and downs of life where the troubles are as common as the sparks that fly upward from a fire.