Sincere children of God are interested in being aligned with God’s will for their life. But does this mean that we find and walk in His perfect will, and any and all other options are inconsistent with His will for our lives. There may be Bible passages which suggest this, such as: Ezekiel 3:16-18 or Acts 16:6,7 where God basically says to Ezekiel and Paul, “Either do what I am telling you to do, or be in disobedience to me“.
But the question remains … does God EVER offer believers multiple options … any and all of which are a-okay with God? Is there ever any latitude with the will of God?
The answer to that question is “It depends on the specifics of the circumstance“. Clearly the Bible teaches there is only way to God. As it relates to salvation, we don’t have options. There is only one way which results in reconciliation, forgiveness and eternity with God and that is through the person and work of Jesus the Christ. That being said, well-meaning people have wrongly concluded that because in ‘some’ of life, believers only have one option … that in all of life there is only one way which brings the blessing and pleasure of God? Taken to an extreme: Those who believe God only has one perfect will for our lives, could easily conclude we should pray about every minute decision of life, so as to be found faithfully in the centre of His will for our lives. (i.e. should I pray to discover which specific shirt to wear today, believing God has a specific shirt in mind for me to wear AND if I wear any other shirt today, I will be outside of the will of God).
So … the question remains: Are there any circumstances in which God offers door one and/or door two and/or door three … multiple options to His children, any of which would be acceptable to God? I do not believe the will of God for our lives is usually narrowly defined as one option … and here is why. While recognizing the Bible does identify specific times and places where God places people in the position of choose life OR death … there are other places in the Bible where God’s will is presented more like a smorgasbord or like a wide highway. Using the highway analogy: There may be a centre line (which represents God’s very best/perfect will for my life), but there is also the entire width of the road on which I can drive and still be found in His permissive will. Then there is the ditches on either side of the road, which represents those places and choices which are entirely outside of His will for our lives.
We see this in passages like 1Cor. 7:39 where God is speaking through Paul to widows. In this passage God is telling the widows they may marry ‘anyone‘ they wish (the breadth of choice) as long as the person is a believer (the ditches on each side of the road). While there MAY be one person who is God’s perfect choice/mate for the widow … the widow could choose any Christian man to marry and that would be acceptable to the Lord (God’s permissive will). What God did not want them to do, was to marry someone who was not a believer (ditch – choices outside of His will). In a similar way, God says in this same passage that a believer may choose to get married and this would be a ‘right‘ decision (this is within His permissive will) … and other believers may choose to remain single for the rest of their life and this would be an even ‘better‘ (His perfect will). The concept seems clear … there are good choices, and even better choices .. not just choices between right and wrong or choices between obedience and rebellion. As it applies to other areas of life and ministry … I believe there may be ONE specific location of ministry (His perfect will) that is God’s ideal choice and fit for us as Christian leaders/pastors; but that there may be multiple places of ministry where that pastor is just as blessable and useable by God (His permissive will).
Then, of course, there are places where God does not want us to go and use the ministry skills He has given us. (I suspect the ditch, would include being employed as the main preacher in a Muslim mosque or Buddhist temple). Thus … for most of life, there is great liberty for the child of God. God’s will is usually not defined as either: His perfect will, and all other choices are rebellion … rather God grants (in most situations) options for us to choose from, and within any of those choices we remain usable and blessable by God. But if God has revealed to us there is only one choice in which we can be aligned with His will, then we need to discover and walk in that good, perfect and pleasing will of God (Rom. 12:2).