Spotlight Interview with Emerson Eggerichs: The 4 Wills of GodApril 5, 2018
We talked with Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect, about his new book The 4 Wills of God: The Way He Directs Our Steps and Frees Us To Direct Our Own. As a result of studying the Scriptures for 30 hours each week for years, he began to see God’s universal will for his people organized into four clear mandates. And then he observed that following God’s universal will often led to clearer answers on His unique will for individuals.
Carmen LaBerge: Hey friends, welcome back I am Carmen LaBerge, you are listening to Connecting Faith, my conversation partner is Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, he may be best known to many of us as a New York Times best-selling author of Love and Respect, he and his wife Sarah present to live audiences around the country in their love and respect conferences, Dr Eggerichs spent more than two decades in pastoral ministry in East Lansing, Michigan, immersed himself in the word of God at least for 19 years in what he describes as 30 hours a week, which I think we might have to talk about. In all of that he has discovered some very simple, clear truths about God’s will. That’s what he’s going to share with us in his new book, The Four Wills of God – The way he directs our steps and frees us to direct our own. Dr Eggerichs, welcome to Connecting Faith.
Dr. Emerson: Thank you Carmen, I’m excited. Thank you for having me.
Carmen LaBerge: Can I just start with this personal question about this 30 hours a week over 19 years spent in the word of God? Is this in the context of pastoral ministry or after you were a pastor?
Dr. Emerson: Well the ministry of Trinity Church, East Lansing, Michigan – college town, home of Michigan state university, a lot of professors, I was brought in to be a bible expositor and they wanted me to study the bible 30 hours a week for the teaching ministry and so it was a great privilege, they also probably saw me as slow so I needed more time. We are grateful for that, that was a great 19-year run. That gave me an opportunity to think a lot about Scripture, also pastorally helping people. That’s my background, I’m very grateful for that nearly two decades.
Carmen LaBerge: Wow, the fact that a church has a philosophy of ministry that includes, “Hey, let’s be sure that we prioritize the time that it takes for a pastor to exposit the Scriptures, to handle the word of God rightly in order that the Word of God might be rightly understood and expressed through our life together, that could bring a renewal in America if we could have that happening in churches across the country.
Dr. Emerson: That would be very, very exciting, in fact, that’s partly the backstory on how I discovered love and respect, from Ephesians 5:33. I didn’t set out to do marriage conferences or write a book on marriage but I saw something in the Bible because of all the study I had the privilege of doing I suddenly began to sense and see some things that I didn’t see before and I felt perhaps some of us were overlooking. I see myself kind of as a systematic theologian for laity. I tried to write Love and Respect really kind of as what God’s Word is saying to the Christ-follower on marriage. That book now, the Four Wills of God also comes out of the opportunity to study. I’m up against being the marriage guy, so people might think, what’s the guy got to say to me about the will of God when he’s the marriage guy.
Dr. Emerson: More I’m a pastor, teacher, who hopes to share things that have really influenced my life as a result of those hours studying scripture.
Carmen LaBerge: Now that we live in a culture dominated by singleness and every individual struggles with the question of what God’s Will is, what’s God’s Will for me in this moment, what’s God’s Will for me in this job or in this relationship or for this week or for this year, or long term, what’s God’s Will for me as an overarching concept? That is really what you are seeking to address in this new book, the Four wills of God: The way He directs our steps and frees us to direct our own. Let’s jump into this conversation. You make a really dramatic claim when you say that there’s a simple answer to finding God’s unique will for my life. That simple answer turns out to require frankly an understanding of and obedience to the universal will of God. So tell us what you mean by the universal will of God, so that we can start unpacking the Four Wills.
Dr. Emerson: Excellent question, let me touch on something you said earlier about people longing, what is God’s Will for me? Should I go Door A, Door B, marry this person, take this job? This is a real tribute to the heart of many Christ-followers. They really want to know God’s Will and as I say, is there anything more important? Even our Lord’s prayer, we talk about God’s Will being done. This is deep in the hearts of many. This is a very complimentary thing when people say, “I want to know God’s Will for my life” I just applaud that. Now the question is, how do we discern that, how do we discover it, how do we find that?
Dr. Emerson: Again that privilege of studying the Bible for all those hours, all the years and it’s not new to me, others have seen this but I’ve applied this for 40 years to my pastoral ministry, there are four passages in the New Testament, Carmen, that identify God’s Will. We know there’s more to God’s Will than these four passages but as I always say, if I ignore these four I’ll probably ignore the rest, but if I start here, I’m discovering something, I’m going to find something very powerful and precious, but these are unique. If God highlighted these four passages in gold and said, “I want you to know, this specifically is my will” and so I used the word universal meaning this applies to all believers in all cultures through all ages. It is something that all of us must hear. For instance, First Thessalonians 5:18. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you and Christ Jesus.”
Dr. Emerson: We all know we’re supposed to give thanks but perhaps many of us didn’t know that that particular passage is identifying God’s Will in the area of giving thanks. This is exciting because this is the point that I then make. If I follow God’s universal will, I’m putting myself in a better position for the Lord to begin to lead me uniquely. This is based on First John 3:22 where most of us are familiar with the idea, John says, “In whatever we ask, we receive from Him” -Which is that unique experience of God, “Whatever we ask from Him we receive from Him” because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight, and there you see it. There is this unique experience of God in our lives, He knows us by name, we are His sheep, our name is written in the book of life. He knows us personally. He is going to lead us uniquely, though it may be similar to other people there is a uniqueness to it.
Dr. Emerson: He knows Carmen, He’s leading Carmen, but why is it that there is this unique experience that Carmen is going to have? Because she’s keeping the universal will of God, she’s keeping the commandments. Of course, when I read that First John 3:22 I thought, the ten commandments, the sermon on the Mount, I suddenly felt overwhelmed, but then when I discovered, hey you know what? These four passages, I can start here, there’s more to it than this, but I can start here and let’s see if I begin to actively act on these, then I begin to pray, whether the Lord will respond to me and I have just seen through the years, there has been this triggering, or activating, in response. It’s very exciting and I have story, after story, after story in the book of people who encountered the unique will of God as they followed the universal will of God.
Carmen LaBerge: Alright friends, the book is The Four Wills of God and so you’re saying to yourself, alright there’s four wills, I need to know what those four are. When you talk about these four universal commands, believe in Jesus Christ, give thanks in everything, submit to doing right, and abstain from sexual sin. It’s simple and yet it’s incredibly complicated. There’s a lot going on there, I immediately say, I can’t possibly do that. So tell us how you’ve grown in your own understanding, apprehension and integration of these four wills, these four commands of God in your own life.
Dr. Emerson: Well I think to your point, what does it mean to believe in Christ, John 6:40 and to trust Him, you said most of us are going to have moments of doubt and difficulty but at our core, are we trusting Christ? I have to believe that every believer would say is there a day that I can simply say I don’t trust Christ, or believe Christ or I doubt who He is, that’s a serious issue. Hopefully most of us have come to that point where we say I do trust Christ, I believe who He is. I am trusting Him actively in my life as best I know how, I’m not trying to lean on my own understanding, but I’m trying to trust Him. Do I fail? Absolutely, but I rebound because at the core, I don’t want to live any other way. In terms of First Thessalonians 5:18, giving thanks. I’ve asked people through the years myself, is there anything about which you’re not thankful, that you’re bitter, you’re unforgiving, you’re resentful.
Dr. Emerson: We all know, the psalm says, if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord’s not going to hear me. Psalm 66:18. If I’m bitter, if I’m shaking my fist at God and other people, every believer I think would say, you know what? I’m probably depriving myself an opportunity to experience God because He’s not going to respond to me, I have to at some point come to a point where I say, “Lord I don’t understand everything but I thank you. I thank you that you work all things together for good, like with Joseph I thank you that even though my brothers intended evil, you’ve intended this ultimately for good” We don’t thank God for the intrinsic evil but we thank God for the fact that He’s in control, He’s sovereign. If I don’t have a thankful heart, if I’m bitter and screaming and unforgiving, you’re depriving yourself of the fellowship and the leading I believe of God.
Dr. Emerson: The same thing in the area of submitting to doing what is right. First Peter 2 talks about this idea that it is the will of God that we submit to in doing what is right, what does that mean? That I don’t consciously, willfully choose to do wrong even though it’s going to be to my benefit. I’m not going to cheat on my taxes even though I could, I’m not going to lie to somebody even though I could, I’m going to submit myself in doing what is right. Is that easy? No. The result of submitting and doing what is wrong puts us in a position of jeopardy in so far as God responding to us. Part of the excitement is, when I do these things, and we’re all going to fail, my conscience is clear, I have a confidence and that’s what John is saying. If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence in whatever we ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments.
Dr. Emerson: We’re putting ourselves in the best position for God to respond to us and again in the book I talk story after story of when people made a commitment to do that, God things began to happen and I don’t want people to deprive themselves of that, and even though there’s a price to pay, there’s a price to pay on the other side of the equation, what happens when we deny Jesus Christ, what happens when we shake our fist at God, what happens when we submit in doing what is wrong all the time? That’s not going to result in favorable things in my opinion either.
Carmen LaBerge: Exactly, friends the book is the Four Wills of God, the way He directs our steps and frees us to direct our own. It’s actually coming out very soon on April the 2nd, is that right?
Dr. Emerson: It is.
Carmen LaBerge: Do I have your release date correct?
Dr. Emerson: Exactly.
Carmen LaBerge: That’s exciting, so folks can be looking for it here in the coming days. You can actually preorder it if you want to. That would be a great thing to guarantee yourself of in terms of your access to this excellent- this is an exposition of Scripture in a way that makes the things of the faith easy to apprehend, this is not difficult stuff in terms of the way that you presented it and the content, it’s difficult in terms of my willingness to integrate it into my life, so we’re going to talk about that right when we come back from the break. I am Carmen LaBerge, you are listening to Connecting Faith, and we’ll be right back.
Carmen LaBerge: Hey friends, welcome back. This is Connecting Faith, I’m Carmen LaBerge, my conversation partner today is Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, he is the author of Love and Respect but he is most recently the author of the Four Wills of God, the way He directs our steps and frees us to direct our own. This is a book about knowing, understanding and then doing the will of God. Both the will of God for all believers in all circumstances and all cultures over all time, which he refers to as a universal will of God but also discovering God’s unique will for you, as an individual. So, Dr. Emerson let’s jump into that part of the conversation because we sort of unpacked these universal commands, believe in Jesus Christ, give thanks in everything, submit to doing right and abstain from sexual sin.
Carmen LaBerge: Recognize that there are folks who are listening that are saying, “I can do the first two but those last two, man I’m still struggling there. To bring my life into conformity with the will of God as he has revealed it in the word of God” So let’s pause for a moment on the resistance that we have to submission and let’s pause there before we jump into the conversation about discovering God’s unique will. I think that we can’t skip over the submission question because we want to get to the, “What’s God’s will for me” Question.
Dr. Emerson: I think, again, I went to military school for five years from 8th grade to 12th grade and so, one of the challenges on submission is a big one. How do we submit in doing what is right? That’s what Peter is saying in First Peter 2 versus 13 through 15, that has pushback from some of us. Particularly we think, well are you asking me to submit in doing evil? I unpack those qualifying questions, but I think at the core, one of the things that I have found is that many of us just rebel against doing things that inconvenience us. Part of the challenge here is to trust that if the Lord is going to use us and open up doors for us, he’s gonna wanna know that He can trust us to submit to His leading, sometimes He’s gonna call us to do things we don’t want to do.
Dr. Emerson: He’s looking for individuals who are looking to align themselves with that. I think of Billy Graham, the Modesto Manifesto that they committed to as evangelists not to compromise on certain things that would undermine the faith in Christ and the call of Christ, he submitted to doing what is right for all those years and there was never any stain on Billy Graham’s life, he was committed to these four wills, we see it and we see how God used him. All of us have to come to a point where we say, do I want to be of use to God? If so, then I need to align my heart with the things that are on his heart. On submission, the question is, what’s wrong with submitting and doing what is right.
Dr. Emerson: It’s not submitting and doing what is wrong, I just found in life, when I am in a situation where I’m asked to do something that is rightfully required of me, and to do it respectfully, I rebel. I do, I rebel against it as everybody rebels against it at some level. I’ve just learned if I enter in to that, then I’m obeying one of the wills of God and I’m putting myself, and this is what Peter says, “When you do this, this finds favor with God.” Twice in that context he says, “This finds favor with God, this finds favor with God.” My call has been to appeal to people to get excited about what the Lord is going to do in response to that, does that make sense?
Carmen LaBerge: Yeah it absolutely does, I think sometimes we’re tempted to ask the question about God’s specific will because we would very much like to avoid what we already know God has revealed to be his universal will in some of these issues.
Dr. Emerson: Well yeah, that’s the point that I make, people are saying, “I want to know God’s will for my life” I said that’s tremendous, but I think there’s a question you need to ask before that, they say what’s that? What is God’s Will?
Carmen LaBerge: Amen.
Dr. Emerson: There’s a difference between saying what is God’s Will and what is God’s Will for my life? The second question kind of is, should I marry this person? Should I take this job and make a million dollars? We all kind of hope that God’s Will for my life is going to be very exciting and very positive and it could very well be, but the other side is, hey, let’s just begin with what is God’s will for you Emerson? As well as for every believer on the planet, Emerson for instance, are you willing to give thanks right now in your life? Is there anything in your life that you’re not thankful for? This is a struggle through years I’ve counseled, people who have been horribly abused, it’s a very tough go, “Are you saying I’ve got to be thankful for this abuse?” Absolutely not, but if you’re going to be bitter you know you’re undermining something here. What you’ve got to do is finally trust that God is going to make you a wounded healer, he’s going to use this somehow, he’s going to work this thing together for good and are you willing to give thanks, are you willing to begin to give thanks and try to do this?
Dr. Emerson: The Lord is gracious, He’s patient with us, but you need to head in that direction in order not to deprive yourself of God’s response to you individually. Again, in the book, I talk story after story of people who finally came to that point where they made that decision and God things began to happen.
Carmen LaBerge: That’s the second time you’ve said God things begin to happen, I don’t want people to miss that because the God things that happen are things you want us to take note of, so let’s talk about what do God things look like when they happen?
Dr. Emerson: The Scripture talks about signs, wonders and miracles. Miracles would be the blind man seeing, blind men don’t see. That would be scientific miracle. There are also signs, cast the nets over the side, “Lord we’ve fished all night” Cast them over, now that wasn’t a miracle because carpenters on the shore’s edge might have said, that’s just a coincidence and it could very well have been a coincidence. It was a sign to the fishermen, they knew it was pointing to something. One of the things I believe, we may not always experience the miracles that we want, certainly in the old and new testament, miracles happened far apart from each other, it wasn’t like every day these things were happening, sometimes it’d go for 30 to 40 years with some of the prophets before another miracle would happen. There was always this sense of the sign, the leading, that sense. There is an exciting response from the Lord, He begins to direct our steps in those ways that point to things, those would be some God things I say to people, don’t deprive yourself of this, we can’t always prove it but coincidence after coincidence after coincidence is no longer coincidence.
Carmen LaBerge: Alright I want to ask you one final question and thank you so much for joining us today, in chapter 11 in this book, the four wills of God, that chapter is entitled, “Does it work?” I feel this sort of addresses the pragmatism that is real for all of us. Does this work? Can I really have total freedom if I’m in fact operating fully within the four wills of God as you describe, can I have total freedom then in walking by faith?
Dr. Emerson: Well, absolutely. Absolutely. Here’s one of the points that I make in the book that we haven’t made at this point, that if we align ourselves with these four wills, start here and we’re gonna fail but we confess and we start again, start again, start again. I started again every day with these things, and I’m excited about doing it because I’m in the center of God’s Will when I do these four wills. A person says, I really want to know what God’s Will is and I’ve got a tender heart, just do these four things and you’re doing his will, you’re in the center of His Will and relax, there have been many times I haven’t known, which way to go but I give thanks, I know in the giving of thanks I’m touching the heart of Christ, I’m in the center of His will so I can relax.
Dr. Emerson: This has been a tremendous, relaxing exercise for me that I don’t have to bite my nails fearing that I’m missing God’s Will, but if we do these four wills and we’re not getting any direct leading. Should we go door A Lord, should we go through door B and there isn’t any indication, and I make the case in the book, many times the apostles didn’t have clear leading. So you had to do what seemed best, what seemed good and I unpacked that whole idea. Here’s one of the liberating points I make in the book, if you’re aligned with these four wills and you don’t know if you should go left or right, you’re free to go left or right, you don’t have to bite your nails or enter into a paralysis of analysis and lock up in a frozen state, you’re free to move forward based on your gift mix, your passions, your preferences, why? Aren’t I going to make a mistake?
Dr. Emerson: Well if you’re doing the four wills of God, you’re in the center of his will, you’re doing the core things that matter to him. But Emerson, if I’m free to go this way or that, might I end up choosing sin? Not if you’re doing the four things, it’s not a license to do evil, you can just relax. There are people out there that just need to be freed up. My daughter talks about the fact that she wanted to know, should I move from LA to Oregon? I said, how are you making that decision? She said, I’ve been looking for Oregon license plates in Southern California. I said, “Why don’t you start looking for Ohio license plates? You’ll see what you look for” I shared with Joy, my daughter, these four wills and I said, if you’re aligned with this you’re free to go to Portland or come back, as long as you continue to respond to these four wills, relax, the Lord is very capable of directing you away from Portland to use you there first of all, are you doing the four wills, if so, just relax.
Dr. Emerson: You’re touching the heart of God, you’re bringing him pleasure and you can find pleasure in pleasing him.
Carmen LaBerge: I love that, I love this series of sentences. You need not fret and worry that you’re missing His Will, you’re doing His universal Will and pleasing Him. As long as you are believing in Jesus Christ, giving thanks in everything, submitting and doing right and abstaining from sexual sin, you are free to do as you wish based on your judgment about what seems good and best. I think part of that is that we have good judgment, we are good judges of what is good and what is best, if we’re aligned with God in these ways that you’ve described, this is a beautiful gift to the church, this is a beautiful gift to your Christian brothers and sisters that you would just so clearly lay out for us in a very simple way, this is God’s Will for you and then to say, within that Will if you are at the center of His Will, you then have total freedom to operate and walk by faith, day by day, because you’re going to be walking in step with the spirit in every moment, I just love it.
Dr. Emerson: Beautifully said, if you and I were best friends, you’re saying I’m thinking about this and that, so let’s go over these four wills, maybe I’m struggling with something as well, we say where are we on this? If we align with this and the Lord has not confirmed, it’s like six of one half a dozen of the other, or seven of one and five of the other. My statement to you is, if all of these are aligned then you’re probably free to move whichever direction you want. What’s your gift mix, you’ve got spiritual gifts, you’ve got passions, you’ve got talents you’ve got interests, you’re free. In fact, this was such a big thing to the Jews who followed Christ that we know those many references, do not use your freedom as a license for sin. This teaching on personal freedom was so revolutionary and so radical that they had to say, “Don’t overuse the freedom.”
Dr. Emerson: One of my points in the book is you are free if you are aligned with these four to go right or left if the Lord has not confirmed to you, but the beautiful thing is, if you’re doing this, quite often in His love for us, He begins to direct our steps. That’s why the subtitle of the four wills, the way He directs our steps and frees us to direct our own.
Carmen LaBerge: I totally love it. Alright friends the book is, The Four Wills of God, The Way He Directs our Steps and Frees us to Direct Our Own. It releases in just a couple of days on April 2nd so be on the lookout, the author is well known to you, Emerson Eggerichs, he is also the author of Love and Respect, Emerson thank you so much for being with us today on Connecting Faith, thank you for this gift to your brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, for opening the Word of God to use in a way that really is going to enrich our lives individually and certainly our life together, thank you so much.
Dr. Emerson: Those are very kind and encouraging words Carmen, thank you.
Carmen LaBerge: Alright friends we’ve got to take a quick break but when we come back we’ll make the connecting point, I’m Carmen LaBerge you’re listening to Connecting Faith. Welcome back friends I’m Carmen LaBerge this is Connecting Faith and in this fourth segment of the show I like to offer what I call the connecting point. So, we have been talking about the Will of God, we’ve been talking about how we can know the Will of God, we certainly know the universal Will of God and if we follow what Emerson Eggerichs has outlined for us, then we recognize that we can actually know that we’re operating within God’s perfect Will when we are believing in Jesus Christ, giving thanks in everything, submitting to doing what’s right and abstaining from sexual sin, then there is just a whole range of freedom in terms of operating in our individual lives, making our day to day decisions within the Will of God.