Follow God’s four universal wills to trigger His unique will.
by EMERSON EGGERICHS
AS HUSBAND AND WIFE, you may wonder, Are we missing God’s will in our marriage?
Or, as an individual in a troubled marriage, you may wonder, Is this marriage preventing me from doing God’s will for my life?
The answer is no, given you are following the four wills of God. These four are unparalleled or matchless texts of Scripture.
BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40, NASB, emphasis added).
ABSTAIN FROM SEXUAL SIN. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3, NASB, emphasis added).
GIVE THANKS IN EVERYTHING. “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18, NASB, emphasis added).
SUBMIT IN DOING RIGHT. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2:13-15, NASB, emphasis added).
In these four passages, God clearly identifies His will with a defined behavior. It is as though God highlights these in gold and declares, “Start here.”
Though there is more to God’s will than these four, if we ignore these four, we will, in all likelihood, ignore the rest of His will revealed in the Bible.
The good news is that when we follow these four, we are in God’s will.
Would you permit me to ask four questions?
No matter the condition of your marriage …
Do you believe in Jesus Christ? As a couple or as an individual, you may have uncertainty about God’s unique plan for you. That’s OK as long as you are fixing your eyes on Jesus Christ or beholding Him. (See John 6:40 and Heb. 12:2.)
There was a godly woman in the 1700s who, by our standard of living, would be considered very poor. But listen to her words: “I do not know when I have had happier times in my soul, than when I have been sitting at work, with nothing before me but a candle and a white cloth, and hearing no sound but that of my own breath, with God in my soul and heaven in my eye … I rejoice in being exactly what I am — a creature capable of loving God, and who, as long as God lives, must be happy.”1
This woman was not missing God’s will but doing it!
In gazing at Christ from the eyes of our heart, as husband and wife or as an individual in a troubled marriage, we are doing the Father’s universal will. Though we can feel stuck in our circumstances, we can enjoy Christ’s presence as we actively behold Him and believe in Him.
Do you abstain from sexual sin? As a couple or an individual in marriage, we may be disheartened by a lack of clarity regarding what God intends for us to do between choosing door A or door B. Though we are praying, God is not providing clear answers. Even so, as we stay pure in heart without marital unfaithfulness, pornographic viewing, and romantic fantasies toward a neighbor, we are in the center of God’s will. We are obeying His universal will.
Even if we choose door B over door A and wonder if it was the right choice, we need not fret. We are not missing His universal will but doing it as we walk through door B as a sexually pure person. (See 1 Thess. 4:3.) This brings God pleasure, and we can derive pleasure as well from simply pleasing Him. (See 1 Thess. 4:1.)
Do you give thanks in everything? When we practice giving thanks to the Lord in everything (see 1 Thess. 5:18), we are doing God’s will. And this isn’t just for the abundance of stuff, but during tough, uncertain, and scarce times. We give thanks because we believe God will cause all things to work together for good. (See Rom. 8:28.)
My wife, Sarah, loves to give thanks and would often ask me, “Have you given thanks?” Sarah has a right to ask me because her life embodies 1 Thessalonians 5:18. She lived out this verse while having cancer and a double mastectomy. Sarah did not know if she would die from cancer. She did not know God’s unique will for her. What she did know is God’s universal will to give thanks, and in giving thanks, she entered the center of God’s will for her, and there she found peace and joy.
As couples or as individuals, we may feel like we’re in a fog concerning God’s personal leading. However, the moment we authentically give thanks while in the fog, we are in God’s will even if the circumstances do not change.
Do you submit in doing right? Each day, we can submit in doing the right things. (See 1 Pet. 2:13-15.) We don’t need to cheat on our taxes. We can tithe to the cause of Christ. Husbands can submit to their wife’s need to feel loved. (See Eph. 5:21,33.) Wives can submit to their husband’s need to feel respected for who he is as a human being created in God’s image, even though he falls short. (See 1 Pet. 3:1–2.)
None of us is perfect in doing what is right. However, we do not consciously and willfully choose the wrong thing to do.
As couples or individuals, we may not have received any special guidance from the Lord to do this or that. Yet each day, we seek to submit in doing right. When we do, we place ourselves in the bull’s-eye of God’s revealed will.
Sarah and I start again and again with these four wills as various issues and decisions arise. We have known these four wills for nearly four decades. Each week, if not each day, we “start here” again. Even if we do not receive uniquely what we ask, we know we are in the center of God’s will as we actively believe in Jesus Christ, abstain from sexual sin, give thanks in everything, and submit in doing right.
These four wills form an acronym — B.A.G.S. This is the godly baggage each of us is to carry! Believe. Abstain. Give thanks. Submit. Carry each on your earthly journey, and you will do the will of God until death, including in your marriage.
1Mary Tileston, Daily Strength for Daily Needs (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1997), 21.
EMERSON EGGERICHS, Ph.D. is the author of The New York Times best-seller Love & Respect. He and his wife, Sarah, present to live audiences around the country in their Love and Respect Conferences. He and Sarah have been married since 1973 and have three adult children.