Decisionmaking and God’s Will


Talks from a conference on knowing God\’s will

You’ve probably heard of or read Kevin de Young’s book, Just Do Something.

You should read it.  It’s short and will change your mind about how to make a ‘godly’ decision.  Before I talk about it, I want to share 3 anecdotes from my own life that are probably fairly typical of how Christians act.

Before Mike and I were Christians, when we were just faithful church-attendees, we would make decisions pretty rapidly………. and then ask God to bless them.  Once we became Christians, we started on that journey of actually growing into those ‘new creations’ by being ‘transformed by the renewing’ of our minds via God’s Word.  But that was a slow process.  The very first Bible Study we ever attended was 23 years ago in Chipping Norton, England.  We had never consistently nor seriously examined God’s word.  At the time, we faced a major decision about Mike’s job and the financial stakes seemed very scary.  We prayed at length for guidance.  We eventually made a decision in the absence of FEELING God’s guiding hand.  I remember how for years after I would boast that though we had repeatedly asked God for a sign, He had never come through.  My boast had the kind of tone of ‘what’s wrong with God that He wouldn’t respond to such a sincere and Godly prayer!!!’

Fast forward to our older son Graham and a life decision he faced the spring of his freshman year.  Should he stay at his college or transfer to a famous music school?  His grandfather would have paid the difference, so money was no object.  It was the first serious decision he made as a new Christian.  I, frankly, was curious how God would answer that. To me it seemed that the stakes were high because Graham’s faith was nascent.  His technique was to try out each scenario in his mind’s eye and see how he felt.  As he flip-flopped his way through the days after receiving his acceptance, he finally got angry with God and gave him an ultimatum.  (I’m not sure WHAT he saidJ )  But the next day, he woke up FEELING Choice A – Stay and just left it alone, with some suspicion.  But the following day, the sense to go with Choice A had grown silently stronger.  So he opted to remain at his current college and turned down the music opportunity.  It was obviously the right choice, because he married his wife Shay, plugged into a church, launched a career and the rest is another story.

My last example had to do with leaving a teaching position.  I truly wanted to wait on the Lord and not do anything ‘out of His will’, so my intentions were A-OK.  And by this time, after 10 years of serious Bible study and growth, I truly had grown into the new creation that I was positionally.  But I did not know how God would let me know ‘His Will For My Life’.

When a senior colleague announced to me that ‘next year I would have to toe the line with her foreign language philosophy of teaching’ I knew instantly that I had received my sign from God, because what she was suggesting was 100 % unacceptable to me.  But when I told my Christian friends, two of them straight away assured me that the way to know if the decision was right was if one had a sense of peace.

Looking back at these three decisions, I realize that many Christians ( I don’t think I’m alone in this) look for

a)   A direct communication or sign from God

b)   And/or a feeling of peace

According to Kevin de Young and Dr. Garry Friesen, those are NOT biblical.  I have read Kevin’s book twice in the past 2 years, but recently I listened to the talks that are hyperlinked at the beginning of this blog post.  What they teach is VERY FREEING!

Their talks revealed to me that when we camp on our need for a sign, it really is a decoy for our lack of trust in God and our FEAR of making wrong decisions.  According to these pastors, decision-making is not rocket science for the Christian.  In summary here are the steps one should take:

a)   We should look at our heart’s desire and our talents & gifts.  What do we WANT to do?   It makes sense to start there.

b)   Make sure that what we propose does not violate the moral will of God (doesn’t go against His commands).  This involves more than just the Ten Commandments.  We have to study and meditate on what God says throughout the entire Bible.  Therefore, it makes sense that Paul counsels us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  This is NOT a quick step, but a life process.

c)    Where God does NOT prohibit, then we should enjoy the liberty He gives us and act responsibly.

d)   Make sure that the proposal is WISE and PRUDENT.  It is scriptural to pray and ask God for wisdom.  We should read the ‘wisdom’ books of the Bible.  We should ask godly mature Christians who know us for their advice.  What do they see in us?  Do they think what we are proposing is a good fit with our talents?

e)    We should pray, NOT for guidance, but to be godly and wise, courageous and honest when we take the next step TOWARD a decision.

f)     If we have a choice between two equally good courses of action, we need to ask ourselves this question:  Which one will make us love God and love others more?

g)    Finally, once we move out and make a decision, we are to continue to trust God that He will work all things together for our good (that is: our sanctification).  The grace will be sufficient for each future day.  Anxiety is living out the future before it gets here.

I was comforted to hear that problems and obstacles and lack of peace are NOT signs that we made the wrong decision.  That is part of life.  Dr. Friesen talked about expecting to make at least FIVE mistakes a day.  Whew!  What a freeing idea.  I realize that I expect perfect, problem-free days.  Talk about unrealistic pressure!

You’ll enjoy listening to the talks.  I downloaded them to my iPod, but you can listen on line just as well.

May God give you godly courage and a willingness to make some mistakes while you risk big, adventuresome and fun things for the glory of God!

Truth? Deeds? or Both?

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Which pulls at you more, the need to pursue justice in the world, or the need to pursue truth?  Consider Peter’s words (1 Peter 2: 9-12)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Peter is encouraging us to both SPEAK and DO what is true and right.  It’s not an either/or, but a both/and.  Although I see the mandate for both roles, I think we are wired to do the one over the other.  Not that we can use ‘our nature’ as an excuse to wiggle off the hook. Scripture teaches us that God has spread His gifts among the body, for His purposes.  We do indeed have a dominant bent, but need to be prepared to do either, though not at the same energy level or intensity. But à la Romans 8:1, there is no need to ‘feel guilty’ for preferring one over the other.  The corollary is equally important: there is no need to try to ‘make others carbon copies of you’.

How do you figure out your inclination?  Maybe examine your heart.  Which gets you more riled up?   – Injustice in the world or wrong/ incomplete knowledge of God?

I’m more inclined to want to build up correct knowledge about God and share that with others.  I’ve often felt guilty when I see friends jump at occasions to help the poor or work with handicapped children.  Give me the opportunity to study and work at articulating the content of what I believe, and I’m happy as a clam.  I think that is why I’m drawn to teaching Sunday school and attending Bible studies rather than organizing the hospitality committee or volunteering at the homeless shelter.

Paul emphasizes both in his letter to the Colossians when he informs them how he & Timothy have been praying:

“We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,….. (Col 1: 9b-10)


And what about Jesus, what did He stress?  If you sift through all His words, I bet you can build a case for either – hence both.  It’s Jesus who answers that the work we must do is to BELIEVE that He is the Son of God.  He encourages His listeners to seek food that will not spoil, to seek the truth. But it’s also Jesus who commends His followers when they visit the down- and-out in prison and share their food with the hungry.

So here’s what I’m telling myself.  Go ahead and follow the inclination God has planted within and give thanks for the good gifts and passions.  But since we’re called to glorify God in everything we do, I’m asking for courageous eyes to see what else He might be calling me to.  I’m not talking about anything extreme, but about those opportunities and needs that cross my path.  Given two facts about God:  a) that He is sovereign and b) that He is in charge of my sanctification, it’s probable that He has planned some ‘gifts and adventures’ that are wrapped NOT in my favorite color or Hallmark design.  But God is good and He has my best interests at heart.  I will trust Him, but I’m asking Him to increase my faith!


Hannah’s prayer reveals her treasure

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1 Sam 2: 1-10

Hannah longed for a child.  She made a deal with God, that if He would remove her barrenness and give her a son, she would dedicate the child to Him.   Eli, the priest, spotted her praying silently and interceded on her behalf.  Her long-standing prayer is answered…… and Samuel is born.  Her response, recorded in the first ten verses of chapter 2, stuns us.   It is remarkable in what it does NOT mention.  Not one reference is to her son or how God answered her prayer.  She doesn’t even explicitly THANK God.  She revels in Him instead.  Savor her words of praise for who God is and what He does.

“My heart exults in the LORD; my horn is exalted in the LORD, My mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Thy salvation.
There is no one holy like the LORD, indeed, there is no one besides Thee, nor is there any rock like our God.
Boast no more very proudly, do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and with Him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are shattered, but the feeble gird on strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry cease to hunger. Even the barren gives birth to seven, but she who has many children languishes.
The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The LORD makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with nobles, and inherit a seat of honor; for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He sets the world on them.
He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall man prevail.
Those who contend with the LORD will be shattered; against them He will thunder in the heavens, The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; and He will give strength to His king, and will exalt the horn of His anointed.”

I think she was overwhelmed by the magnificence of a god who would actually listen to her and give her what she initially thought would complete her and make her whole.  Instead of JUST what she & Eli had prayed for, she received far more.   She got God himself, the one who is all-mighty.

So she rejoices in her new treasure (not her son) and wants everyone to know.  This new relationship with her Maker far outweighs the son she thought was her heart’s desire.  Her passions have changed.  She no longer worries about being harassed by ‘the other wife’, Peninnah, who constantly lorded it over her with her God-given children.  Hannah has God Himself.  That is why she is so easily able to honor her vow and hand Samuel over to Eli for temple service.

And God’s response to her sincere worship of Him?  1 Sam 2:21a records, “And the Lord visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters.”

She didn’t even ask God for more children.  Having God Himself was enough for her.  How lavish is our Father with His love.

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