Knowing God's Will

By M. Blaine Smith

InterVarsity Press, 1991 | 2nd edition | ISBN 0-8308-1308-X

Reviewed by Merle Harton, Jr.

This is one of those books that you want to pick up and read again every now and then—not only because it serves as a perennial reference work, but also because it continues to surprise and enlighten with every read. For this second edition, Smith has expanded and revised his book, first published in 1979, and added two appendices to tackle some issues of more recent topical interest in the biblical teaching on guidance.

Guidance for the consecrated believer, argues Smith, is one of the Bibleís great promises. God promises us not merely that he will take us to the key points in his plan, but he promises us a shepherdís guidance—protecting, leading, providing, as we are permitted the adventure of seeking his will. Moreover, God will give us the necessary information we need to make decisions within the scope of his plan for us.

If Godís will is not meant to be discerned, but rather affirmed, as Smith discovers, then we should expect that our desires, hopes, and fears all have a place in how we are called to follow Godís plan. Smithís study of the scriptural evidence should allay many misgivings about the place of our emotions in the decisions we have to make, and also the role of prayer, scripture, and our own motives and initiative within Godís will for us. Through many biblical stories and equally diverse examples from Smithís own pastoral experience, we learn the human dimension of Godís guidance, the importance of the personal resources at our disposal, and what happens when we do wander off the Holy Spiritís path. Smith also discusses the place of supernatural guidance, prophecy, and ďputting out a fleece.Ē Although Smith seems not to express a studied appreciation of Quaker teachings on the leadings of the Holy Spirit, he does give careful attention to the role that abilities, spiritual gifts, intuition, and counsel are all called to play in affirming Godís will.

Among the many critical issues Smith encounters and tackles in this thoughtful study, Godís sovereignty and the place of human freedom and responsibility stand at the front and linger in every aspect of the discussion. What Smith finds is that our responsibilities grow as we mature in our Christian walk, and we are asked to take on a greater share in the decision-making process. But we are not asked to take on these momentous choices without a chest full of tools at our disposal. Nor, for that matter, should we fear that we do not also have the Fatherís care, as we step through life.

This is a book that both enlightens and reassures, surprises and persuades, as it leads us by the hand to a solid appreciation of the broader issues involved in knowing Godís personal will for each of us.

Copyright © 1999 by Merle Harton, Jr.

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