A dozen or so of us have been working through a study of Living the Will of God. As part of my preparation for leading that study, I have been reading J. Ellsworth Kalas’ The Will of God in an Unwilling World. It’s very concise and readable.
From J. Ellsworth Kalas, The Will of God in an Unwilling World:
“By no means will I subscribe to the idea that everything that happens on our planet is God’s will. I can hardly imagine a more profane, more obscene idea…… At the same time, I believe that God can bring the divine will to pass, regardless of the ugliness of any situation. While not everything that happens in our world is good, nevertheless, if you and I work with God, good will come from it……. I am confident that no human wickedness or selfishness or stupidity or arrogance is so great that God cannot make it an instrument of goodness and redemption.” (p 9)
Romans 8:28. “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.” So many times I have seen God’s redemption in the midst of difficult, even tragic, circumstances, that this has become very real to me. You would think that, given this reality, that I would be content to just float along blissfully unconcerned about things going on around me, trusting God to just fix everything, all the time…..sort of like Chauncey in “Being There”, delightfully ignorant of the dangers and simply going along minding my own business. But that’s not the case.
Kalas continues later in the book:
“If you believe, as I do, that God’s purpose is to bless this planet and humanity – and indeed, all the rest of the creation – then it is incumbent on us to cooperate with that idea and to seek in every way possible to fulfill the planet’s potential for goodness, beauty, and grandeur of life for everyone…….If God, indeed, has a will for our world, there is certainly a force in our world that is unwilling. Eugene Peterson puts the issue sharply:
There is a spiritual war in progress, an all-out moral battle. There is evil and cruelty, unhappiness and illness. There is superstition and ignorance, brutality and pain. God is in continuous and energetic battle against all of it. God is for life and against death. God is for love and against hate. God is for hope and against despair. God is for heaven and against hell. There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square foot of space is contested.” (p 21)
Kalas adds: “Sometimes when I hear people speak sadly of how the devil is at work in our world, I think that we hardly need a devil; we humans cause enough trouble unaided…..Who needs a devil, when we humans so carelessly go on our way, making disaster possible, sometimes by our support of irresponsible conduct and sometimes by our silence and our indifference…….In truth, most of the pain in our world is not caused by acts of nature; most of it is caused by human beings large and small, powerful and relatively insignificant, who bring hurt to other human beings….Ultimately, the battle on which the issue of the will of God is being decided is the individual human soul. We see the conflict in its most dramatic forms in international warfare and in the halls of power, whether in the financial capitals of the world or in the political arenas. But all of these battlefields are secondary. Ultimately, we human beings vote for or against the will of God. We do so not only for the will of God in our own lives, but for the lives of great numbers of persons who in one fashion or another come into our realm of influence. If the perfect will of God is to be done in our imperfect world, you and I will play our own strategic role. We cannot escape it.” (p 26,27,30)
There is evil in the world. But “no matter how great the evil, no matter how deeply entrenched, no matter how arrogantly evil asserts itself, the will of God is the ultimate phoenix, rising always out of the ashes of burnt-out evil…..I am reassured and strengthened by this knowledge and by the faith that flows from it……. When our lives are affiliated with the purposes of God, there is a providential guarantee of right fortune.” (p33)
“John Wesley looked at Jesus’ words, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own” (Matt 6:34), and commented, “but all trouble is, upon the whole, a real good.” I think Wesley was realistic enough to acknowledge that most of us bring a good share of our troubles upon ourselves. Nevertheless, God seems dedicated to bringing good out of even our own unwitting acts of self-destruction – yes, even some of our deliberate acts, because often enough we are our own worst enemies, our own worst impediment to the will of God operating in our lives.” (p 35)
“God works, too, through the evil others inflict upon us……..The pain we have experienced, whether by sickness or human tragedy or by the intentional or unintentional acts of others, can become a blessing in the process of our own growth and a blessing we can extend to others. It is up to us to accept these unlikely stones and to make of them building blocks of a worthy life edifice. God wills it to be so, because God is on the side of goodness. It is up to us, however, to decide whether we want to cooperate with God and goodness, or whether we will choose to retreat into a cave of self-pity or recrimination and resentment.” (p 36-37)