“Do your best, and forget the rest,” is a favorite motto of Tony Horton (Beachbody trainer for programs like P90X). While he uses this catchphrase to encourage people to keep showing up, pressing play, and working out to his videos, I think it applies to the Christian life as well. Let me explain.
The average adult makes approximately 35,000 conscious decisions every day. As Christians every one of those decisions ought to be made with a view to glorify God and love our neighbors. That’s a tall task.
So, what do we do? Well, normally we don’t sweat the small stuff: what to eat, when to brush our teeth, which shoe to put on first, etc. And by and large that’s fine. However, it’s the bigger life decisions that we stress out about: which college should I attend, who should I marry, where should I live, etc. In these cases we do things such as: pray about it, seek wise counsel, look for God’s providential direction, and try to get a feeling/vision/word from the Lord about our future.
Now, for the most part that’s all well and good, but I take issue with the last thing on that list. That is, trying to ascertain from the Lord what our ‘ideal future’ is, what his plan has in store for our life. This task is especially stressful for believers. Many become paralyzed, because they haven’t ‘heard’ from God. But I want to liberate you from this burden. Why? Because Scripture doesn’t require us to do so.
Now, let me be clear: I am not denying that God knows what your future holds. In fact, he knows every detail of every choice and circumstance of every day of your life. Nor am I denying that God 1) has the power and prerogative to intervene in someone’s life in an extraordinary way or 2) has in fact done so in the past. What I’m claiming is that the Bible nowhere obligates Christians to receive from God (by whatever means you can imagine) the knowledge – or even a fraction of the knowledge – that he has about our future, in order for us to make decisions today.
You see, the Bible has two major ways of referring to God’s will. Theologians explain these two ‘wills of God’ with various terms. The first goes by names such as: God’s sovereign will, his secret will, his will of decree, etc. This will includes whatsoever comes to pass in all of history, and cannot be broken. The second goes by names such as: God’s moral will, his revealed will, his will of command, etc. This will includes all the commands (thou shall’s and thou shall not’s), admonitions, warnings, encouragements, etc. in Scripture – it’s the way in which God has said he wants us to live (or not live, as the case may be). And, unlike the first will, this will can be broken (in fact, we break it every day – it’s called sin).
So, here’s the Bible’s basic approach to decision-making: obey God’s moral will and be wise where he has not spoken directly (that’s why the Bible includes wisdom literature – Proverbs, for example – to guide us in ‘gray areas’). Notice there’s nothing about his sovereign will. Why? Because we live by faith; and if God told us everything before it happened, we’d turn into de facto robots, making every decision based on what he told us is going to happen. While that might feel like it would take some pressure off us (which we might appreciate), it’s neither the way God intends for us to live, nor the way he ordinarily works.
Let me put it this way: in our decision-making, Scripture does not obligate us to discern the sovereign will of God, rather we are to devote ourselves to his moral will, being wise where Scripture does not speak directly, and entrust ourselves into his care to work out the rest.
In all of life’s decisions, God’s desire for us is to focus, first and foremost, on his moral will. If the decision we’re facing is not directly addressed by Scripture, then we ought to consider what wisdom would dictate (and absolutely, this might also include praying about it, seeking counsel from others, and looking at how God has led us to this point). This approach to decision-making liberates us from the unbiblical burden of figuring out God’s sovereign will, and makes us both free and responsible to live our lives for God’s glory.
At the end of the day, as Kevin DeYoung has written, “Just do something.” Walk by faith, and believe that God is in control and working all things together for your good. Do your God-given duty, but don’t try to do God’s. In other words: do your best, and forget the rest.