Review by Scott Donnan for the church bulletin Feb 2014
Discovering God’s Will by Sinclair Ferguson seeks to provide practical wisdom to believers who are charged with many responsibilities. According to Ferguson the lives of believers, under the care of the Great Shepherd, are strikingly different from their peers as a particular path, direction and destiny are revealed and laid before them by God and not chosen by themselves. For this reason he directs the reader to God’s word as his indispensable revelation to them and claims that knowing, obeying and loving God will result in a growing capacity to understand what His will is for them in any given situation.
In the opening chapter the author’s aim is to establish God’s purposes clearly in the reader’s mind so that any pursuit of God’s will in the particulars can be understood in relation to his ultimate goal. He contends that this ultimate goal is the glory of God, and Jesus is presented as being the exemplar of this pursuit and as our example for imitation. By contrast the author is concerned that many today gravitate towards the errors of either imitating Christ to earn salvation, or diminish the importance of imitating Christ; the image bearing lifestyle Christians are saved unto.
There is no shortage of books and articles claiming to provide wisdom regarding God’s will and these come from diverse doctrinal positions. There are pitfalls like Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life and Joyce Meyer’s God Is Not Mad At You which misrepresent both God’s plan and character. Thankfully, there are also excellent aids like Can I know God’s Will by R.C Sproul, which carefully opens what God’s word has clearly promised. In the midst of many voices, Discovering God’s Will provides doctrinally sound, biblically based counsel and does so in a short readable and concise form that is very appealing and to the point.
The book is structured under the following chapters: 1) God’s Ultimate Purpose; 2) Guidelines for Guidance; 3) Guarding the Heart; 4) A Christian Life-style; 5) Principles of Conduct; 6) Consider your Calling; 7) Marriage?; 8) Wait for the Lord; 9) He Leads Me. The broad range of topics covered is very helpful as any one of these chapters include questions and decisions that every Christian engages with regardless of the main or most immediate concern of the reader. Such clear relevance throughout every chapter contributes to the enjoyment of the book.
As believers we desperately need wise counsel on how to follow our Lord carefully in the manner which he has ordained. Many preachers and teachers have erred by departing from an approach to scripture that takes seriously it’s sufficiency for our every need or who likewise have left the written word only to emphasize subjective feelings. As the book asserts, there are no easy ways to growing in the knowledge of God’s Will, it is only as we follow obediently what is clear to us at present that we receive more light for the path ahead. There are no shortcuts or substitutes for careful study of God’s word, prayerful consideration of its application, dependency upon the Spirit for strength and wisdom, and a willingness to walk the narrow path that leads to life.
Ferguson’s Discovering God’s Will is suitable reading for teenagers and would helpfully equip them as they consider the many challenges that lie ahead. In the same way the book is immediately helpful for those who are older, as in this life we never grow so wise as to not need to clarify and refine what we have previously learnt about walking in obedience to our King.