Hearing the Master's Voice
Author: Robert Jeffress
View: Traditional View with Wisdom Leanings
Jeffress evaluates three models of finding God's will before developing his own. He rejects the normal traditional view calling it the "formulaic approach" (13). It does not provide for weighing the differing importance of the factors (Bible, circumstances, desires) and is helpful only when they all agree, but "that seldom happens" (13). He rejects the "experiential" method where God gives direct revelation like he did to Moses and Paul. "But if we're honest, few of us would claim to have literally heard God's voice" (14). This view incorrectly narrows us to only one of the ways God can speak.
Finally, he rejects the "rational" approach (14) and specifically responds to the wisdom view in our Decision Making and the Will of God. His main criticism is that it denies the reality of God's individual will. God's individual will is logical since God's plans are detailed in creation. God's plan for you necessitates only "one man and one woman who could join together to produce a child with your unique DNA code (29)." Jeffress here inadvertently has switched to defending God's sovereign will. For a believer and an unbeliever should not marry, but also produce children with a unique DNA code.
His biblical argument further defends an individual will. God had an individual will for Christ and for Paul (Rom. 1:10). Romans 1:10, however, is taken to be the sovereign will of God by almost all serious commentaries. I will come "by the will of God" is another way of saying I will come "if the Lord wills" (God's sovereign will). Ephesians 5:15-17 is used for support which we have shown earlier as an example of the moral will of God.
What view does Jeffress take? I have put his book in the traditional view with wisdom leanings. But I also describe the hybrid nature of his view and so he comes very close to fitting the Synthesis of Traditional and Wisdom views. His modifications and his wisdom leanings make the traditional view more workable.
Jeffress summarizes his view. First, "God has a personal plan for each one of us that encompasses everything from whom we marry to the types of ministries we get involved in (139)." He limits God's individual will to the big decisions of life such as marriage and ministry. In the small decisions, it is "predominantly a matter of personal preference (140)." He avoids the frustration of finding God's will for each decision by eliminating the need in most decisions.
The subtitle of the book is "The Comfort and Confidence of Knowing God's Will," but his conclusion falls short of it by design. "Second, we can't always know God's specific plan for our lives ahead of time. Sometimes His plan can be discerned before the fact; other times it can be understood only in retrospect; and sometimes it is altogether inscrutable. Our responsibility is to listen to and obey God's voice when He does speak (139)." Jeffress avoids the frustration of knowing God's will by saying it cannot always be done. So you don't always need to know His will.
Third, "God speaks in a variety of ways (139)." This includes the Bible, prayer, counsel, circumstances, and our own desires. In evaluating these means of God speaking he shows insight and pastoral wisdom. In most cases, he uses the term "speaking" figuratively. Usually, he is gaining wisdom from counsel and evaluating the advantages of circumstances not actually getting an authoritative message from God.
When Jeffress applies his method to marriage it has both the flavor of the traditional view and the wisdom view. He talks the traditional view when he defends that there is only one right person we are to marry (146). But he follows much of the wisdom view in practice. (1) "Know the precepts" includes a good discussion of 1 Corinthians 7, (2) Rely on prayer with the confidence that "if God directs our every step (Proverbs 16:9), isn't it reasonable to assume that He directs our steps down the aisle? (146)." (3) "Take notice of what's practical" -- the wisdom of compatibility (146-147). (4) "Take Heed to Your Preference" acts as if there is an area of freedom, but describes preference as "an indicator of God's will (148)." (5) "Trust in Providence" takes care of all cases when you do not know God's will. If we are following the correct guidelines then God's providence assures that "we've found God's perfect partner for us (148)."
Most of his discussion is really the wisdom view presented using traditional terminology. Furthermore, he avoids the traditional problem of missing God's will for second best by the use of sovereignty, "the shepherd's safety net (173)." He asks, "What if I choose the wrong mate? - God will accomplish His plan for your life." "What if I mistake a random circumstance as God's direction? - God will accomplish His plan for your life (176)." The term "plan" has switched from God's individual will to His sovereign will. We agree with his view of God working out His sovereign plan for good, but in the traditional view it is God's individual will that is the plan we must find.
In Jeffress modification of the traditional view you don't have to find God's individual will for small decisions, don't have to know it ahead of time and can miss it, but everything will work out. He has made the traditional view workable, but only by a hybrid that will not quite convince the traditional view or the wisdom view. It uses the traditional concept of God's individual will as the foundation, but in practice often leaves the foundation to avoid the frustration.