Brief Conversation with Youth by David Nyvall

Missionsförbundets Ungdomstidning, November 18, 1913

translated by Elder M. Lindahl

We are so often exhorted to learn to know God’s will, and Jesus Himself taught us to pray to God, saying, "Your will be done," but what are we to understand by God’s will? What is the will of God? Paul in Romans 12 gives an interesting and comprehensive answer to this question when he in verse two puts the phrase, "the good, the acceptable, and the perfect," as an appositive.

"Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).

God’s will is everything good, everything true, and everything beautiful. Not only in the sense that God wills all which is good, true, and beautiful, but that it is in God’s will that the good possesses its character of goodness, the true its character of truth, and the beautiful its character of beauty. God is the lawgiver of all these realms. What we call natural law, health laws, and laws of thought are most really seen in none other than in God’s will.

They are not only God’s thoughts, but God’s will. God wills all that He knows. God’s thoughts are therefore laws and commands. He thinks them not only in Plato’s sense where knowledge is merely an ideal knowledge. His Kingdom is not only a kingdom of ideas. God wills them, He establishes their validity. He is Himself back of His laws in order to apply them. His truths are promises, His truths are threats.

Knowing God’s will is a presupposition for doing God’s will. No one lives better than he knows, although many live just the same. To learn to know God’s will is therefore a great and indispensable good. It is that which orders what concerns our present, bodily life. To live right bodily means to live according to the highest knowledge of God’s will in nature. It embraces all industry’s progress and victories. It embraces steam and electric-ity, express trains, telegraph and telephone, and all our modern devices. It embraces in itself the possibilities of airplanes and wireless communication and other possibilities which are as yet impossible. An inventor is one who in some special point dis-covers and reveals God’s will. Even in the material realm when we attempt something against the truth, it is against God’s will. We can only do what God wills. And our own progress, great or small, is God’s will. God desires that we discover and utilize natural resources, that we progress materially. And those who dedicate themselves to this development and promote it through their discoveries and their work are God’s servants in the same sense as a debt collector or person in authority is God’s servant.

On the whole, this Divine service is carried on willingly and well. One cannot criticize humans when they seek eagerly and persistently to know God’s will and to work that out in material enterprises. In this, humans are simply doing a great work that has, so far as we can see, God’s approval and acceptance.

Unfortunately, it is not so when it concerns God’s will and counsel for our salvation. God’s will, as concerns this interest, which we call in the very most special meaning, God’s kingdom, God’s will in Jesus Christ. God’s desire for the sinner’s forgiveness, peace, righteousness, hope, and eternal life is a thousand times more important to know than the natural laws. The spiritual is higher than the temporal and God Himself is more indispensable for us than is nature. It would be different in the world if this which is first were actually given that priority. God’s kingdom first and then all the rest! Rather than hindering material development, it would make it more noble. It would be taken from the service of hate and violence and be placed in the service of love. Then it would not triumph at the expense of humanity making us more inhumane as we become, as often happens, more civilized. That is not the will of God! God wills both, but He desires that the first shall come first.

Elder Lindahl (d. 2015) was a well-known North Park University professor and long-time contributor to Pietisten.

See all articles by Elder M. Lindahl