15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Not too long ago, I found a re-run of a show called “The Love Boat” on TV. Enjoying the kick of nostalgia, I tuned in for an episode and watched a show I’d not seen in decades. If you’ve never seen it, this scripted show followed a pretty predictable pattern. Each episode, the crew of the massive cruise ship “The Pacific Princess” would welcome aboard a collection of guests (usually a collection of well-known guest stars) who would come aboard, deal with whatever emotional turmoil was hounding them, and resolve their personal drama (often because of, or sometimes in spite of the well-meaning efforts of the dedicated crew) just in time to disembark to their happier ending, each better off for their time on the ship.
I’m sure you can find clips of the show, but be warned: this show was the epitome of cheesy, made-for-tv drama and comedy. The problems ranged from the serious (a marriage on the rocks) to the absurd (a ventriloquist arguing with his dummy). The celebrities and costumes, not to mention the morality, are definitely relics of their times, but you might find a laugh or two — that, or wonder if the people who made the show or its fans were crazier. For the most part, though, it had this going for it: by the time each episode ended, the ship was back in port, and the situations of the week were nearly always wrapped up neatly. They were always wrapped up, one way or another.
Today, we’re starting to look at the enigmatic topic of the Lord’s will.
How’s that for an abrupt transition? “Why are we talking about the Love Boat and God’s Will in the same breath?”, you might ask. Not a bad question. If I didn’t know me, I’d wonder what I was talking about, too.
For those who’ve seen it, and even now have the theme song rattling around in their heads, you might suggest that watching reruns of The Love Boat might be the opposite of “making the best use of the time”, and usually, I would agree with you. (Sorry about the song, though.)
I’ve noticed an unusual comparison between God’s will and the Love Boat. Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. Hopefully, by the end of this post, it’ll all make much more sense. If not, maybe I should just try to write the scripts for the Love Boat reboot Hollywood is sure to be planning.
(Bonus points will be awarded to the first person who can respond to this post or find me and tell me the name of the actor and his character’s name of the Captain of the Pacific Princess. Extra bonus points if you don’t need to use the internet to find the answers. — Sadly, I did not need the internet to answer either question. Even more bonus points if you find any watch any episode of the show and can tell me the plot.)
In fact, God’s will is actually a lot like travelling on a giant cruise ship like the Pacific Princess. Stay with me, now. The Bible reveals a lot about the will of God, and reveals that some of it, which I will call his declarative will, is going to happen whether we like it or not. Some people also call this the immutable, or unchanging, will of God.
Imagine yourself on the Love Boat as a passenger. Picture the massive ship making its way to its destination, with you onboard. You, as a passenger, have no say in the speed or direction the ship travels. You can’t stop the boat or turn it. By the end of the voyage, you will be at your appointed destination.
The part we can’t control, that’s God’s declarative or immutable will.
According to the Scriptures, He put us here, He ordains the beginning and the end of our journey, and the galaxies dance at His direction. Here are some of the major facets of His unchanging will:
- God created us to have a relationship with Him
- God set the standard for what is right and what is wrong
- God offered us the freedom to choose that relationship or reject it
- God knew each of us would choose to go our own way and reject Him
- Christ came to rescue us from the devastating consequences of rejecting Him
- Christ declared Himself to be the only way to be reconciled to God
- Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice in our place
- Christ left to prepare a new eternal home for us
- The Holy Spirit came to help us live a life set apart for God
- Christ will return to reunite us with God
- God will honor the choice we made in this life, and either welcome us or allow us to forever go our own way into darkness, based on our choice to follow Christ or reject Him.
There is nothing any of us can do to change the facts of this declarative will. Eventually, our ship will come in, and we will be held responsible for our choices. We don’t have to like it, we don’t even have to agree. Whether we do or not, each of us will give an answer for how we responded to as much of God as we have seen.
What does this unchanging, declared will of God tell us about Him?
He is clearly concerned with truth, and He wants us to know what it is, or He wouldn’t have protected and provided the Scriptures, sent Christ as a living example, or sent the Spirit to guide us. He definitely loves us, or He wouldn’t bother with us when we choose to go our own way. He shows us mercy and offers guidance from the Scriptures, the life of Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He respects us enough to allow us the choice to go our own way even if that choice isn’t what He would want for us. He surely has a strong sense of justice, as He refuses to leave us to do whatever we please with no consequence. He offers us hope for the future return of Christ and the joys of an eternity with Him.
What does this unchanging, declared will of God tell us about us?
I suppose the answer depends on how we have responded to Christ, to this point. If continue to reject Him, we are not going to get the happy ending at the end of the voyage. We won’t even get to experience the smallest benefits of the journey, either. We will completely miss out on the cruise of a lifetime, as if we’d locked ourselves in our cabin and let the entire trip pass us by. We will never enjoy the trip, and our final destination won’t be any picnic, either.
If we have responded to Christ, even then we are not “done” with God’s immutable will. Quite the opposite, in fact. If we have come to understand the unchanging, declared will of God, we should understand how much is at stake for the other passengers on this journey. The guy in the cabin across the hall needs God’s love. The lady three cabins down needs Christ’s healing. The family of five staying on the deck below needs His peace. What are we going to do about it?
Since we know this journey will end for each of us, and our answer to Christ’s question of “Who do you say that I am?” will determine whether we get the happy ending or not. Those of us who have already found help in Him ought to be urgently seeking to help as many as possible find their happy ending, too.
See, God’s unchanging will is only part of the story. We cannot redirect the ship, but we can decide what we’re going to do with ourselves while we’re on the cruise. Whether we walk down the gangplank at the end to the warm welcome of our happy ending or not — that’s up to us. Next time, we’ll talk about that aspect of God’s will, the part we can do something about.