In our article entitled “The Will of God,” we looked at the good and pleasing and perfect will of God. We saw that God’s plan for all mankind was a transition through supernatural metamorphosis from God’s good, to God’s perfect will.
Unfortunately, many, many Christians find themselves in the “permissive” will of God. Now this description is not used in the Bible explicitly, but it can be inferred implicitly.
This being the case, let’s look at one sample of this permissive will of God in action from the Old Testament record of Abram, later to be called Abraham. Now Abraham was beloved of God, “and he believed in Jehovah. And Jehovah counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Abraham had a unique relationship with God, as Genesis 17:1,3-4 says, for,
“… When Abram was ninety-nine years old, Jehovah appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am the Almighty God! Walk before Me and be perfect’ …. And Abram fell on his face. And God talked with him, saying, ‘As for Me, behold! My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. Neither shall your name any more be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham. For I have made you a father of many nations.'”
Without doubt, we can see that Abraham was in God’s will, else he would not have been held as righteous, or made perfect, or blessed with a unique covenant.
Where then if the ‘permissive’ will of God? Let’s go back a few years when as Genesis 15:6 says of Abraham, “he believed.” Just before that, in Genesis 15:1, God came to Abraham in a vision and promised him a great reward. But Abraham sought understanding from God, as he had no children of his own onto whom to bequeath any inheritance,
“Abram said, Lord God, what will You give me, since I am going childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
And Abram said, Behold, You have given no seed to me. And behold, one born in my house is my heir.
And behold, the Word of Jehovah came to him saying, This one shall not be your heir. But he that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir.
And He brought him outside and said, Look now toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them. And He said to him, So shall your seed be.”
God promised that Abram and Sarai his wife, would produce children, their own natural children. However, the years passed and Sarai did not conceive. Then in her old age, when Abram was 75 years old, Sarai told Abram, “Behold now, Jehovah has kept me from bearing. I pray you, go in to my slave woman. It may be that I may be built by her. And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai” (Genesis 16:2) and a son was born to Abram and Hagar, the Egyptian slave, and his name was Ishmael, “because Jehovah has heard your affliction” (Genesis 16:11).
Abram and Sarai his wife had been given an explicit promise by God that not only would they have a child, but that his seed would be as uncountable as the stars in the heavens. However, despite this promise from God, they grew impatient of “waiting upon God” and decided to take things into their own hands and fulfill God’s promise by the works of their own hands. Not only did Abram and Sarai become impatient with God, Sarai blamed God for her inability to conceive, saying “Behold now, Jehovah has kept me from bearing!”
Yet, immediately after all this transpired, God came to Abram and blessed him (Genesis 17:1,3-4 above) and again confirmed that he and Sarai would have a child, at which “Abraham fell upon his face and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born to him that is a hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear?” (Genesis 17:17). Then God again said, “Sarah your wife shall bear you a son indeed. And you shall call his name Isaac. And I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him” (Genesis 17:19). Then as we know, “Jehovah visited Sarah as He had said. And Jehovah did to Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son that was born to him (whom Sarah bore to him) Isaac” (Genesis 21:1-3).
This is what the Permissive Will of God is all about. It is about being impatient and settling for that which God will permit (ergo permissive), rather than waiting for the Perfect Will of God and God’s perfect plan and destiny for one’s life.
Because “Jehovah … heard your [Sarai’s] affliction” and had mercy on Sarai, Jehovah permitted the birth of Ishmael, though it was outside His perfect will and intent. Today, mankind is still fighting wars which originated from Abram’s settlement for the permissive will of God, instead of His Perfect Will. Each day, hundreds of Christians are being killed and martyred because of Abram’s settlement for the permissive will of God all these four millennia ago.
When we look at Church congregations, we can see that they are filled with Christians, and nominal-Christians who have long since settled for the permissive will of God on their lives, instead of His Perfect Will. Paul and the author of Hebrews call on all Christians to “run the race”; as Hebrews 12:1-2 says “… let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God.” Note how we are to run: “with patience!“
For God, it matters deeply, how we run the race. Our hearts matter to God, and so do our actions, for our actions reflect the Fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) which is, or is not within us. The fruit of our actions reflect the roots of our character.
I remember reading of a vision from God to a prophet. He saw a broad lush plain surrounding a wide steep, tall, stepped mountain, its summit, hidden in cloud. As he started toward the mountain, he was assailed by worldly people who told him that this was the land of saved Christians! As he passed through their midst, they argued with him, telling him he there was no reason to climb the mountain; that he should settle for being saved and enjoy all the bountiful worldly goods. The prophet dismissed them and kept going, and reaching the mountain, he started to climb. Almost exhausted, he reached a small plateau with more people, though fewer than at the base of the mountain. They seemed a little more spiritual than the others, and perhaps a little less worldly, but they too insisted he say there with them, instead of climbing higher.
The prophet bade them farewell and began climbing again to the next plateau, and the next and the next and on until he was in the clouds. Now he was sure, as a small inner voice called him onwards, that at each level there were fewer and fewer of God’s people. He also noticed that at each level up, their worldliness decreased while their spirituality and Godliness increased.
Eventually the prophet reached the top, a wide expansive plateau, with very few people. There were no signs of worldliness there, only the heavy presence of our relational God.
As Hebrews 12:26-29 says, God’s “voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will not only shake the earth, but also the heavens.” And this word, “Yet once more,” signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, so that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for also, ‘Our God is a consuming fire.'”
In closing, the Lord once again gave me Romans 12:2 as He says to us: “… Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.”