Smack Dab Where I Need To Be (ATP)
My question is on Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, acceptable and perfect will of God.” I’ve heard this verse as God’s will can be divided into 3 separate parts: 1. Good 2. Acceptable 3. Perfect. I find that telling Christians, “you might be in His will, but not in the perfect will” can cause anxiety and a feeling of defeat. It seems to me this verse is just reiterating the same thing 3 ways… that if you renew your mind to the Word, you’ll be able to determine God’s plans for your life. I see in the scripture there are levels of fruitfulness “30, 60, and 100 fold”, but not necessarily levels of God’s will. Is this true?
My wife said I would like this question and she is right. There is a whole lot to unpack here so let’s begin in the beginning. What we first need to do is ask this:!scripturally speaking, does God have a plan or you could say a will for your life?
I believe wholeheartedly that the point of all scripture is that He does. He has a plan for sure but to say “a plan” do we mean only one? That’s where we can get confused. If He has a plan, when does it begin and does it or can it change? I believe it can. If God’s plan is not reached by a certain age, will He alter it? I believe He will. Is there a point where His plan is not achievable? In some ways, I’d say yes. Allow me to explain.
If God’s plan is open for a person in their 20s but they don’t know it until their 80s, obviously the plan would have to be adapted. An 80 year old simply does not have the time to accomplish what a 20 year old could. You may make a case that since God knows all things that maybe His plan only covers that person when He knew that they would be faithful. The problem with that is that it would remove the ability for free will. Though He may know all things, they still have to be given the choice even if they will reject it. If the choice is not real, only hypothetical, it was never really a choice. It would not be free will but pre-established. His knowledge of the future cannot have less options because then it enters into the realm of determination.
So then we have to ask which plan is perfect, the 20 year plan or the 80, or anywhere in between? The answer is, His plan is always perfect but sometimes the perfect is according to the circumstances. It’s perfect for the given situation to accomplish the greatest effect that He can bring about. This is the issue with doing things in a fallen world through humans that are less than perfect. That, however, is perfectly in His plan. I would conclude that God’s plan, by design has to be as malleable as the ones He chooses to accomplish it through, all the while intending the greatest results possible.
That said, I agree with the idea that the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God are not talking about three different levels. For one thing, let’s look at how these words are used elsewhere. As far as good, this same word is used in Luke 6:45 (a good man from the good treasure of his heart brings forth good) and again in Luke 10:42 (Mary chose the good part). In both of these places, the Lord was using good as in very good, not just ok. Acceptable means fully agreeable or well pleasing. Look at how it’s used in Ephesians 5:10, “trying to learn what is pleasing (acceptable) to the Lord.” Also in Hebrews 13:21, “equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing (acceptable) in His sight…” Do any of those occurrences appear as of lesser importance to you? I’d say no, and yet they are all the same Greek words.
Now let’s look at the 30, 60, and 100 fold fruit located in Matthew 13:23, but I also want to draw in another scripture, Matthew 25:15, “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.” I’ve heard so many try and teach that these levels (30, 60, 100) show what is achievable. I disagree (believing the Holy Spirit showed me but you judge), mostly because the Bible doesn’t say that. Similar to the talents I want you to focus on an aspect of that scripture. He said He gave, “each according to his own ability.” As a pastor I have learned, some people will only grow to a certain point and not by fault but by ability. To illustrate this further, does every maple tree live exactly the same years and reach exactly the same height as the others? The answer is no, and neither do people. God doesn’t care if you can only reach 30 as long as you are faithful with 30. And just because you reach 30 doesn’t mean you qualify for 60. In fact, in these scriptures He says nothing about it being better to reach one over the other but it does say each of these are good ground. Each has an ability, each has a limit. In saying this I believe it is important and also up to us to maximize that limit.
To further back this point up look at 1 Corinthians 12:29-30, “All are not apostles but all are called to serve God.” The apostle Paul was given the honor of writing so much scripture, yet Peter was not. Does that mean Peter somehow produced not as much as he should have? Certainly we wouldn’t say that. Peter fulfilled his call as Paul did his. You cannot judge your achievements or failures for the Lord based on what others do or don’t do. This is dangerous Christian thinking. That same mindset can cause people to fail because after all,” I did way more than so and so!”
In conclusion, the heart of the teaching I believe is to encourage people, as much as it’s up to them, to seek and fulfill the most they can for God. That is what we should do daily with the understanding that daily it could change. Not measuring ourselves against another but against our conscience and the Word, looking for God to reveal to us through His Spirit if what we do is pleasing to Him. Romans 14:5 says, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” The heart of the New Testament I believe is to have a relationship enough with God that you can be fully convinced. Not to use it as an excuse to do less, but direction to know that it’s just right!