The Permissive Will of God

Sometimes troubles may occur in the believer’s life not because of God’s chastisement, but due to His higher hand and plan for the believer. This is what is known as the permissive will of God.

The permissive will of God is best seen in the example of Job. Here was a man whom God Himself described as “a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil”, of whom “there is none like him in the earth.” (Job 1:8) Thus, we can be sure that the afflictions that had fallen upon Job were not due to any sin.

Nevertheless, Satan proceeded to falsely accuse Job before the LORD:

“Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.” (Job 1:9-11)

God responded by permitting Satan to take away all the possessions of Job. However, he forbade Satan to lay any finger upon Job. Though Satan is powerful, he cannot do anything to the believer outside of God’s permission!

With God’s permission, Satan proceeded to strip Job rapidly of all his possessions. He provoked the Sabeans and the Chaldeans to take away all his oxen, asses and camels. Fire fell from heaven consuming all of Job’s sheep. Finally, a whirlwind came from the wilderness, causing the house to fall upon all of Job’s children when they were feasting. These things were taken away from Job all in one day!

How did Job react? “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:22) Job did not sin and com-plain against God for the loss of his possessions.

Subsequently, God permitted Job to be afflicted with boils. The condition of Job was so severe that he had to take a potsherd to scrape himself withal as he sat down among ashes (Job 2:8). Seeing his affliction, Job’s wife urged him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). “But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)

Why was Job able to retain his integrity amidst such troubling circumstances? It was because he understood God’s sovereignty and the permissive will of God. Whatever occurs in the believer’s life will ultimately work out for good. These trials served to further strengthen Job’s under-standing of God’s wisdom, greatness and sovereignty. It was to perfect the faith of Job.

Similarly, Joseph understood that God permitted his brothers to sell him to Egypt in order to preserve the lives of the children of Israel in an age of great famine. He was thus able to forgive his brothers. “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20) If someone did wrong against you and your family, will you forgive? If we have understood God’s permissive will, we will never seek vengeance but leave all things to the Lord’s vindication.

Consider the testimony of Rev. Timothy Tow of his counselling experiences:

“Oftentimes I have counselled women in their matrimonial troubles. Many are bereft of their husbands, being stolen by some more attractive persons that cut into their lives. As a result these troubled souls turned to the Lord. So I comforted them, “If you have not met with this trouble, you would not have become a Chris-tian. Now while you have lost a husband, on the other hand you have gained Christ! He will take care of you better than a husband and be a Father to your deserted children.” God sometimes has to permit such heartbreak in order to save a soul, and more than one, when the children are also saved.”

A New Testament restatement of the permissive will of God is found in James 1:2-4. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” These troubles are permitted in our lives so that we may grow in spiritual maturity. As we exercise our faith in the midst of such trials, we will increase in our understanding and appreciation of the goodness of God. Just like diamond is made from carbon under extreme temperature and pressure, so is our faith perfected by God’s permission of such tribulations in our lives.

In addition, God also permits us to go through these challenges in life so that we will also be able to comfort others who are struggling under similar circumstances. This was the encouragement of the Apostle Paul to suffering saints in the Corinthian church. “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

If all were easy, if all were bright,
Where would the cross be and where the fight?
But in the testings God gives to you,
Chances for proving what He can do.

(Keep on Believing, RHC #335)

May this doctrine be of comfort to all readers. Amen.

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew