God’s Will and God’s Desire
This book is the culmination of a ten-year journey. I didn’t start out intending to write a book at all. But it’s funny how some little projects can take on a life of their own as God directs the times and circumstances of our lives. My “first draft” of this work was just a college paper for a theology course I was taking at Ontario Bible College (now Tyndale College) in Toronto, Ontario. Wanting to get my money’s worth from the course, I chose to write my term paper on Calvinism (an idea I was really struggling with at the time). I wanted to verbalize and clarify my thoughts about the subject and was hoping to get some constructive feedback from the zealously Calvinistic course instructor in the process. The paper was returned to me with a grade of “A-plus.” Yet that left me frustrated, because the instructor wrote remarks at the end of the paper that left me thinking he didn’t even understand the position I was trying to prove, let alone decide whether or not I actually did a fair job of defending it. So why the “A-plus”?
In frustration, I asked my pastor to look at it and tell me what he thought. Having read it, he told me that he basically agreed with my position, but had never seen it written anywhere before. Now that was an interesting statement, to be sure! When Christianity has been around for two thousand years, you have to tread cautiously if you seem to be the first one to say something new.
So I reworked and expanded it into a booklet. I started handing it out to people when the topic would come up in conversation. As more and more people read it, I began to realize that there were other Christians who saw it this way, too. They just never saw it presented in this fashion before. When people would read it, it sometimes helped them make sense of some of these difficult issues. Christians with strong Calvinistic leanings usually had a particular response, too. This was something distinctly different than they had ever heard before. Many told me that it gave them a serious reason to rethink their Calvinistic views. The feedback I usually got (from Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike) was that it was an important booklet and that it needed to be published.
I have told my kids before that if someone calls you a donkey, you should ignore it. But if two people call you a donkey, you need to ask why. And if three people call you a donkey, maybe you need to get yourself a saddle! It seemed a fair philosophy for the booklet, too. I never saw the booklet as vital reading for all Christians. But I did believe that an understanding of the concept it presented was a vital concept for all believers to grasp. And since I was not aware of any other book that presented the concept this way, it seemed that perhaps it was, therefore, a somewhat important piece of literature. So, I expanded the booklet into its present form to make it more readable and complete. I hope that I have presented my case well.
I believe any Christian will benefit from reading it. But the person I have on my heart when I write—my target audience, I suppose—is the person I would define as “the reluctant Calvinist.” He is the Christian who recognizes that lost men do not seek God and that he came to faith in Christ because God first did a transforming work in his heart. Yet he struggles with the fact that the sovereign God of the Bible seems to desire that all mankind should come to faith in Jesus Christ, and yet chooses in His sovereignty to save only some. He reads in the Bible that the ones God chooses, He chose from before the foundation of the world. And so, though he prays for the lost to be saved, he is left wondering whether it really makes a difference in the end.
For years, this was my struggle. I have long considered myself to be Calvinistic, yet I was troubled for years with that very problem. I could never understand why a sovereign God would want to see all men saved, and then limit Himself to saving only some. If this describes you or someone you know, then I would encourage you to read on. You are not alone in the struggle. The problem is not without an answer; in fact, I believe the answer provides a wonderful hope for the believer. But I also hope you are challenged by the answer as you come to recognize that it means your prayers and obedience are a real and vital part of the process of narrowing the gap between God’s will to save some and His desire to save all. It is my enthusiastic prayer that as you read this book, you will come to a new appreciation of our God and of His passion to seek and save the lost through you. And I pray that you will want Him to build His passion for the lost into your heart as well.
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