Book Review: Found: God’s Will, by John MacArthur
Compare the title of J.I. Packer’s Finding God’s Will to that of John MacArthur’s book Found: God’s Will. There’s a certain bravado to the latter title that should serve the reader as a signal of the hard-hitting and straightforward tenor of MacArthur’s book. (He even toned it down from the original title—God’s Will is Not Lost.) MacArthur wants to convince the reader that the problem of God’s guidance is really not all that difficult at all. The sentence “It’s not a difficult concept” appears at least three or four times in the 60 page booklet. Page 7 says of the search for God’s will, “You no longer have to worry. The struggle is almost over, the search almost done.” The argument he makes is sound. Granted there are some places where MacArthur is less than careful in his application of Scripture, I think, but he can’t be faulted for the main thrust of his message. MacArthur argues that “what one needs to know about the will of God is clearly revealed in the pages of the Word of God,” (7). After salvation, which is the first step in anyone discerning God’s will, the Christian needs to be “spirit-filled.” I found myself wondering through a few pages wondering if MacArthur was pushing toward a kind of charismatic second-blessing theology, but he concludes with the sentence: “Do you see what the Spirit-filled life is? It is being saturated with the things of Christ, with His Word, His person,” (28). MacArthur is clear that being “spirit-filled” cannot be thought of in terms of the pentecostal “second-blessing.” Being “spirit-filled” is the result of diligent and careful study of the Scriptures. When a Christian begins to give that kind of special attention to the Bible, we find that it teaches us much about the will of God. In MacArthur’s words, “God’s will is that you be saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, and suffering,” (54). He writes a chapter on each of those. Once you have determined that you are in God’s will in those areas, when you are faced with a decision, MacArthur writes, “Do whatever you want! If those five elements are operating in your life, who is running your wants? God is!” (54-55). He cites Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
MacArthur doesn’t leave as much room for subjective impressions as Packer does, although one might imagine that he would include those impressions in the “desires of the heart.” He is certainly not as careful as Packer in his exegesis, the language is sometimes a little haughty, and I was left in an uncomfortable lurch sometimes about what the conclusion would finally be. In the end, though, I think the coaster does come to a complete and final stop.
So how do I decide what to do? According to MacArthur, the most important thing is to make sure that you are living in God’s will as it is laid out in His Word. Make sure that you are saved, steeped in Holy Scripture, living a holy life, submitting to right authority, and prepared to suffer for doing right. If all those are in place, then it is a good bet that your desires are attuned to the will of God. Do what you most desire to do. Never assume that God wants you to follow a desire that is contrary to any principle laid out in His Word.