Why won’t God reveal his special will for my life already?
Because he doesn’t intend to... So says Kevin DeYoung in this punchy book about making decisions the godly way.
Many of us are listening for the still small voice to tell us what’s next instead of listening to the clear voice in Scripture telling us what’s now. God does have a will for your life, but it is the same as everyone else’s: Seek first the kingdom of God. And quit floundering.
With pastoral wisdom and tasteful wit, DeYoung debunks unbiblical ways of understanding God’s will and constructs a simple but biblical alternative: live like Christ. He exposes the frustrations of our waiting games and unfolds the freedom of finding God’s will in Scripture and then simply doing it.
This book is a call to put down our Magic 8-Balls and pick up God’s Word. It’s a call to get wisdom, follow Christ, be holy, and live freely. To just do something.
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About the Author
KEVIN DEYOUNG is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He serves as a council member at The Gospel Coalition and blogs on TGC's DeYoung, Restless and Reformed. Kevin is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte) and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. He has authored several books, including Just Do Something, The Hole in Our Holiness, Crazy Busy, Taking God at His Word, and The Biggest Story. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children: Ian, Jacob, Elizabeth, Paul, Mary, Benjamin, and Tabitha.
Read an Excerpt
JUST DO SOMETHING
A LIBERATING APPROACH TO FINDING GOD'S WILL
By KEVIN DEYOUNG, Jim Vincent
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2009 Kevin Deyoung
All rights reserved.
The LONG ROAD to NOWHERE
I grew up playing with Tinkertoys. Like most Americans over the past one hundred years, our family had the classic long tube full of sticks, wooden wheels, and colored connectors. Hitting the market in 1913, Tinkertoy (now owned by Hasbro) has sold about 2.5 million construction sets per year for almost a hundred years. The impetus for Tinkertoy construction sets—which initially sold for sixty cents and were called by the less-than-catchy name "Thousand Wonder Builders" —came from Charles Pajeau and Robert Petit, who dreamed up the toy as they watched children tinkering around with pencils, sticks, and empty spools of thread.
With almost a century gone by, there's still nothing fancy about Tinkertoy sets, especially in a digital age where children seldom go anywhere without microchips of entertainment close at hand. Kids still like Tinkertoys because kids like to tinker.
And apparently, so do adults.
In the book After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings are Shaping the Future of American Religion, Robert Wuthnow describes twenty-one to forty-five-year-olds as tinkerers. Our grandparents built. Our parents boomed. And my generation? We tinker. Of course, as Wuthnow points out, tinkering is not all bad. Those who tinker know how to improvise, specialize, pull things apart, and pull people together from a thousand different places. But tinkering also means indecision, contradiction, and instability. We are seeing a generation of young people grow up (sort of) who tinker with doctrines, tinker with churches, tinker with girlfriends and boyfriends, tinker with college majors, tinker living in and out of their parents' basement, and tinker with spiritual practices no matter how irreconcilable or divergent.
We're not consistent. We're not stable. We don't stick with anything. We aren't sure we are 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.
Granted, youth tends to come with a significant amount of youthfulness. And with youthfulness comes indecision and instability. Young adults who tinker are not confined to any one generation. Baby boomers, and probably even builders (the generation that grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II), tinkered around with God and life when they were young adults. The difference, however, with my generation is that young adulthood keeps getting longer and longer. It used to be that thirty seemed old and far removed from youth, but now it is not uncommon to hear of folks "coming of age" at forty.
Consider this one statistic: In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men completed all the major transitions into adulthood by age thirty. These transitions include leaving home, finishing school, becoming financially independent, getting married, and having a child. By 2000, only 46 percent of woman completed these transitions by age thirty, and only 31 percent of men. It's stunning for me to think that less than a third of men my age are done with school, out of the house, married with kids, and have a job that pays the bills. "Adultolescence" is the new normal.
Now, I know there are lots of good reasons why someone may still be in school past thirty. After all, multiple college degrees take time. And I realize there are legitimate reasons why a thirty-year-old might have to live with his parents (e.g., illness, unexpected unemployment, or divorce). Concerning marriage, maybe you have the gift of celibacy. And as for a family, maybe you've been trying to have kids but can't. There are lots of reasons for delayed adulthood. I understand that. Just because you've been on the planet for one-fourth to one-third of your life and still haven't completed "the transition" to adulthood doesn't mean you're automatically a moocher, a lazy bum, or a self-indulgent vagabond.
But it could mean that. It is possible that your "unparalleled freedom to roam, experiment, learn (or not), move on, and try again has not made you wiser, cultured, or more mature. Perhaps your free spirit needs less freedom and more faithfulness. Maybe your emerging adulthood should ... I don't know, emerge.
But let me be clear: This is not a book just for young people. I'm not going to attempt a generational analysis of my fellow thirtysomethings. I'm not issuing a new manifesto for baby busters and mosaics. This book is much simpler than all that. This is a book about God's will—God's will for confused teenagers, burned-out parents, retired grandparents, and, yes, tinkering millennials ... or whatever we're called.
I bring up this whole business of adultolescence because it is related to the spiritual issue of God's will. You'll find in this book some of the typical will-of-God fare—how to make wise decisions, how to choose a job, whom to marry, etc. But answering these questions is not really the aim of this book. My goal is not as much to tell you how to hear God's voice in making decisions as it is to help you hear God telling you to get off the long road to nowhere and finally make a decision, get a job, and, perhaps, get married.
The hesitancy so many of us (especially the young) feel in making decisions and settling down in life and therefore diligently searching for the will of God has at least two sources. First, the new generations enjoy—or at least think they enjoy—"unparalleled freedom." Nothing is settled after high school or even college anymore. Life is wide open and filled with endless possibilities, but with this sense of opportunity comes confusion, anxiety, and indecision. With everything I could do and everywhere I could go, how can I know what's what? Enter a passion to discern "God's will for my life." That's a key reason there is always a market for books about the will of God.
Second, our search for the will of God has become an accomplice in the postponement of growing up, a convenient out for the young (or old) Christian floating through life without direction or purpose. Too many of us have passed off our instability, inconsistency, and endless self-exploration as "looking for God's will," as if not making up our minds and meandering through life were marks of spiritual sensitivity.
As a result, we are full of passivity and empty on follow-through. We're tinkering around with everyone and everything. Instead, when it comes to our future, we should take some responsibility, make a decision, and just do something.CHAPTER 2
THE WILL of GOD in CHRISTIANESE
If God has wonderful plan for my life, as the evangelistic tract tells us, then why doesn't He tell me what it is?
After all, our lives down here arc a confusing mess of fits and starts, dead ends and open doors, possibilities and competing ideals. There are so many decisions to make and none of the answers seem clear. What should I do this summer? What should my major be? What kind of career do I want? Do I want a career? Should I get married? Whom should I marry? Do I want kids? How many kids? Should I play sports or sing in the choir? Where should I go to college? Should I even go to college? Should I go to grad school? What job should I take? Should I stay in my current job? Should I be a missionary? Should I be a pastor? Should I volunteer here or there? Should I leave home and test the waters elsewhere? Is now the time to buy a house?
For some there arc serious money, relationship, and even retirement questions. How should I spend my money? Where should I give my money? Where should I go to church? How should I serve my church? What should I be doing with the rest of my life, and where and with whom should I be doing it? When should I retire? What should I do in retirement?
With so many questions to face in the next years—or sometimes in the next several weeks—it's no surprise so many of us are desperate to know the will of God for our lives. Which brings me back to a rephrasing of the question that began this chapter: If God has a wonderful plan for my life, how can I discover what it is?
A lot of books have been written trying to answer this basic question, and my answer may not be what you expect from a will-of-God book. My answer is not original to me, but it is quite simple and, I hope, quite biblical. I'd like us to consider that maybe we have difficulty discovering God's wonderful plan for our lives because, if the truth be told, He doesn't really intend to tell us what it is. And maybe we're wrong to expect Him to.
ARE YOU CONFUSED YET?
"The will of God" is one of the most confusing phrases in the Christian vocabulary. Sometimes we speak of all things happening according to God's will. Other times we talk about being obedient and doing the will of God. And still other times we talk about finding the will of God. The confusion is due to our using the phrase "the will of God" in at least three different ways, typified in the previous three sentences. Two of these ways are clearly demonstrated in Scripture; the third is a little more complicated. So we'll start with the first two.
GOD ALWAYS GETS HIS WAY
if we examine the Bible, we see that God's will has two sides to it. On the first side is God's will of decree. This refers to what God has ordained. Everything that comes to pass is according to God's sovereign decree. And all that He decrees will ultimately come to pass. God's will of decree cannot be thwarted. It is immutable and fixed. God is sovereign over all things—nature and nations, animals and angels, spirits and Satan, wonderful people and wicked people, even disease and death. To steal a line from Augustine, "The will of God is the necessity of all things." In other words, what God wills, will happen, and what happens is according to God's will. That's what I mean by God's will of decree.
God's will of decree is taught in numerous passages of Scripture:
Ephesians 1:11: "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will."
God works out everything—the big picture, the little details, and everything in between—according to His own good and sovereign purposes.
Matthew 10:29–30: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered."
God micromanages our lives. He doesn't just plan out a few of the big ticket items. Praise the Lord, He knows the smallest sparrow and the grayest hair. And neither falls to the ground unless our heavenly Father wills it.
Acts 4:27–28: "For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place."
Every human lamentation and woe must look to the cross. For there we see the problem of evil "answered"—not in some theoretical sense—but by pointing us to an all-powerful God who works all things for good. Shocking as it sounds, the most heinous act of evil and injustice ever perpetrated on the earth—the murder of the Son of God—took place according to God's gracious and predetermined will.
Psalm 139:16: "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them."
Our lives unfold, open and close, according to God's providence. As the crafters of the Heidelberg Catechism put it so eloquently back in the sixteenth century, "Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty-all things, in fact, come to us not by chance, but from his fatherly hand."
Isaiah 46:9–10: "I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'"
God knows all things and sovereignly superintends all things. God's will of decree is absolute. It is from before the creation of the world. It is the ultimate determination over all things, and it cannot be overturned.
GOD POINTS OUT THE WAY
The other side of the coin is God's will of desire. This refers to what God has commanded—what He desires from His creatures. If the will of decree is how things are, the will of desire is how things ought to be. I realize that I am not dealing with the massive question of how God can decree all that comes to pass while also holding us responsible for our actions. That's the old divine sovereignty and human responsibility question. The Bible clearly affirms both. For example, God sent Babylon to punish Judah, but God also punished Babylon for acting wickedly against God's people (Jeremiah 25). Likewise, God planned the death of His Son and yet those who killed the Christ were called lawless men (Acts 2:23). I believe there are theological categories that can help us reconcile divine sovereignty and human responsibility, but diving into these ideas would take us far beyond the scope of this short book. I am simply noting that God is sovereign, but He is not the author of sin. We are under His sovereignty, but we are not free from responsibility for our actions.
Both sides of God's will are in Scripture. God's will of decree —what He has predetermined from eternity past—cannot be thwarted. God's will of desire—the way He wants us to live—can be disregarded.
Let me highlight a few passages that speak of God's will as His will of desire:
1 John 2:15–17: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."
The will of God in this passage does not refer to the way God ordains things, but to the way God commands us to live. Walking in the will of God for the apostle John is the opposite of worldliness. Doing the will of God means we say no to the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and our pride in possessions.
Hebrews 13:20–21: "Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."
The will of God, as His will of desire, means that we do what is pleasing in His sight.
Matthew 7:21: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Again, we see the will of God is shorthand for obedience to God's commands and walking in His ways—this time from the lips of Christ Himself.
Deuteronomy 29:29: "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."
This is the closest we come to finding the will of decree and will of desire side by side in the same verse. God has secret things known only to Him (His inscrutable purposes and sovereign will), but He also has revealed things that we are meant to know and obey (His commands and His Word).
DOES GOD HAVE A SPECIFIC PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE?
There's a third way in which we sometimes speak of God's will. Most of the time what we really are looking for is God's will of direction.
We hear it in those questions we asked at the beginning of this chapter: What does God want me to do with my life? What job should I take? Where should I live? Those are the questions we ask when we seek God's will of direction. We want to know His individual, specific plan for the who, what, where, when, and how of our lives. We want to know His direction.
So here's the real heart of the matter: Does God have a secret will of direction that He expects us to figure out before we do anything? And the answer is no. Yes, God has a specific plan for our lives. And yes, we can be assured that He works things for our good in Christ Jesus. And yes, looking back we will often be able to trace God's hand in bringing us to where we are. But while we are free to ask God for wisdom, He does not burden us with the task of divining His will of direction for our lives ahead of time.
Excerpted from JUST DO SOMETHING by KEVIN DEYOUNG, Jim Vincent. Copyright © 2009 Kevin Deyoung. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. The Long Road to Nowhere, 9,
2. The Will of God in Christianese, 15,
3. Directionally Challenged, 25,
4. Our Magic 8-Ball God, 41,
5. A Better Way, 53,
6. Ordinary Guidance and Supernatural Surprises, 61,
7. Tools of the Trade, 73,
8. The Way of Wisdom, 85,
9. Work, Wedlock, and God's Will, 97,
10. The End of the Matter, 113,
Study Guide, 127,
What People are Saying About This
"God told me that He wants you to read this book. Actually, that is one of the many mistaken notions about God's will that Kevin DeYoung wants to correct."
Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition
"DeYoung explains so well what Oswald Chambers wrote a century ago, 'Trust God and do the next thing.' Sadly, our wrongheaded search for the elusive 'will of God' often prevents us from doing both. This book will help correct the problem."
Gerald L. Sittser, Professor of Theology, Whitworth University
"I try to keep a stack of these handy because it’s my easy-to-read, practical, go-to help for people discerning God’s will for their lives."
Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman
"One of the best books on guidance I've read."
Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church
"False understandings of God's will infect so much of popular Christianity. The church desperately needs a rescue from this confusion. Thankfully, Kevin DeYoung offers that much needed rescue in 'Just Do Something.' Live the title to God's glory, but read this excellent book first."
Albert Mohler, President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
DeYoung writes hard but sweet truth to those seeking the lord's will in the current generation. My only regret is that i did not read this book until i had finished my undergrad!
Best explanation of God's will.
I was impressed by Andrew DeYoung's "Just Do Something." The title captures the thrust of his book: Christians should stop sitting around, worrying about divining God's will, and get on with their lives. Sounds shocking at first glance, especially in a book all about God's will. DeYoung candidly admits there's no shortage of books on the market telling us how to figure out exactly what God wants us to do. The majority of these, he acknowledges, claim that God has a perfect plan for your life, down to the details of who to marry and what to eat for breakfast. Nonsense, he argues, and I agree. The idea that God has every detail of my life mapped out is nowhere spelled out in the Bible and is full of logical holes. But God does give us his "general will," the stuff God wants us all to do regardless of time and place. It's always wrong to murder and always good to be generous. DeYoung is basically rehashing St. Augustine: "Love God and do as you please." How do the general guidelines work themselves out into the details of daily life? Wisdom. Having a heart and mind - character - shaped by God in Christ. As DeYoung says in ch. 5, "It's about who you are, not where you are." Let God shape your character and the rest will fall into place. DeYoung has met many Christians who claim they can't take that crucial next step in life - marriage, job, vocation - because they must discover exactly what God's will for that decision. If only all churches were paralyzed because they're so deeply concerned about God's will! No, my gut tells me we have far more sinister reasons for avoiding the mission of God and life with God in general: apathy, laziness, unbelief. In other words, sin. I'm sure there's a healthy hand full of saintly Christians running around (or sitting around, I suppose) afraid to make a move because they don't know what God wants. Good for them if they are indeed so concerned. But this excuse - "I'm waiting on God's will" - may be a deviously self-deceptive maneuver. After all, DeYoung is a pastor, and who hasn't told their pastor what they think their pastor wants to hear. "Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc." is good reading in the "finding God's will for my life" genre. I read this book on audiobook and the narrator, Adam Verner, did a good job in his delivery. A little wooden at times but alright nonetheless. Worth a read or a listen. *This book was provided by christianaudio at no charge for the sole purpose of review.
You can read the full review here: wp.me/p3JhRp-8y spoiledmilks [.] wordpress [.] com/2014/01/20/review-of-just-do-something/ "If there really is a perfect will of God we are meant to discover, in which we will find tremendous freedom and fulfillment, why does it seem that everyone looking for God's will is in such bondage and confusion?" (p. 54). DeYoung starts his book with Tinkertoys. It's been popular for a hundred years because kids like to tinker. And so do adults. We have a generation of people who can't stick to their guns. They don't want to go through difficulties, to be stuck in the `wrong' job, state, family. For the Christian, life after high school is often filled with never-ending unlimited possibilities. A world full of choices. Too many choices. And they float around waiting for "God's will" to show them the safe way to everlasting peace and fulfillment. By and large, we expect too much out of life. Everything has to 'fulfill' us. We expect everything to be amazing, and when it's not we're severely disappointed. ¿God is not a Magic 8-Ball. The Bible doesn't light up when that special girl walks by. Is he or she "the one"? Not if you don't talk to them. God expects us to make good decisions, confident that He already knows what's going to happen. Why would God give us His Word to teach our brains about seeking, finding, and applying wisdom to our lives, if all we really have to do is ask God for guidance in our every decision? **A Better Way God's will doesn't involve you waiting for a "liver-shiver." It's being Christ-like in all of your actions. Chapter 6 is on ordinary means by which God guides us, while chapter 7 are the "interesting" ways that we should stay away from. Read God's Word or set out a fleece? Seek out godly counsel or follow the verse my finger lands on when I flip open my Bible? Wait for visions and impressions? Or perhaps realize that those things don't happen quite as often as they did (or as we think they did) in the New Testament. **The Chocolate Milk + I enjoyed DeYoung's approach to this highly misconstrued topic. There were times when DeYoung seems to have a heavy hand against those who are just meandering around life. It causes you to sit there and reflect, "Is this me?" This isn't a book that you read for mere information. It is freeing. ¿ Chapter 8 is on the way of wisdom: the fear of the Lord. Knowing He is above all, and not listening only to yourself. Chapter 9 is on what to look for in a job and in a spouse, and how to be wise in your decisions. Chapter 10 is on a final discussion with Grandpa DeYoung and Grandpa Van, and both had a very easy way at looking at God's will. His will `will' be done. Fear God, not the future. Reading Level: High school and up [Special thanks to Janis at Moody Publishers for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]
Just wanted to let everyone know that there's a lifegroup at lug eighth result!! Its christian, but anyone can come!!;) see you there!!!:) - ari
I found out that we frustrate the will of God because our eyes aren't truly on Him. Through all the seeking of God's Will in making the right decisions in my life, I have never found a book more clear, and understandable as this one by Mr. DeYoung. Although it is relatively short, it is packed with much biblical insight, applicable illustrations, tasteful humor that makes the author enjoyable, and drives me to hardly wait for the next chapter. I will continue to reread this one as it now finds its way in my "inner circle" of favorite spiritual growth books. Praise the Lord that His Will is NOT complicated, and thank Mr. DeYoung for his ministry in writing this book. Every believer wanting God's blessing or guidance ought to read this book.
Very freeing view of Gods will. Can be a little harsh at times because kevin is so honest. READ IT.
It's a great christain book
Excellent! It will be a great help to you.
Being a bit more mature in age, I found the material more directed at the younger (late teen and early 20) crowd. It does not make the book less important to read, only that the examples and such are for this crowd. I think the actual topic is one that is very relevant for our generation as most are seeking "the will of God". Coming from a solid Bible teaching church, the things taught in this book are discussed and taught from our leadership.