Monday, September 04, 2006

the right path?

Since I have been studying here I have encountered numerous students of theology who have a high regard for God's sovereignty. They affirm that God indeed has a plan for their lives that he formulated before the beginning of time. Because of this, they tend to wait for a clear instruction from the Lord through Scripture before they make any major life decisions. They hesitate at the crossroads for fear that they will choose the wrong path ... a path that is not part of God's plan ... thus frustrating God's eternal purposes.

Henry Blackaby of Experiencing God fame asserts that one can know God's will by remembering that

"God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways."

What are some practical applications of this?

How do you make major decisions in your life?

What of "callings"? How do you know you are "called" to be a missionary doctor in Honduras?

How do you know God's will?


Tracy said...

OOooohhh. what a good topic.

Have you heard of Garry Friesen's Decision Making and the Will of God? I recently bought it, but have not read beyond the first 2 chapters yet. But I attended Multnomah Seminary for a year where he is a prof. and he spoke at one of our chapels about his book.

He says that God's sovereign will is not thwarted by our decisions at all. Furthermore, we are not expected to know or try to figure out what his sovereign will is. He has given us in his Word what his moral will is - instructions for godly living. He has also given us our minds to use, wisdom if we seek it, other believers to look to for direction. So we should not be paralyzed into inaction by our worries about making a decision "out of God's sovereign will".

I agreed with what he said. It makes perfect sense to me, but it was quite scandalous to many of the students. The part of life that I found it most challenging to apply this philosophy to is the areas of missions and marriage. We talk so much of a "call" to missions, it's hard to accept maybe you don't need a call, but a desire and seeing a need. I think the desire to go is "call" enough. And if God then provides the opportunity and the funding, that is confirmation enough.

As for marriage, we tend to think there is "one person" out there for me and I have to make sure that I find the right one. People seem to seek a leading from God on picking a partner but not using much wisdom in choosing someone who has godly qualities. If one is able to let go of that need to be "led" spiritually to the "right" person, maybe they can use wisdom to actually seek someone with the qualities that would be most suitable to them.

All this is not to say that God is not the one in control, guiding and leading. Just that we are not intended to be responsible for knowing his plan.

mark said...

I've heard of Garry's book, and in-as-much as I understand what him & Blackaby (not a fan) write, I think I'd be a 'complementarian' between them both.
That is to say, I think Blackaby's followers lead themselves into the fear Christine described. & That's never a good thing. (1 Jn 4?!)
A good description I've heard is that "God will let you screw your life up." I think that's pretty plain to see- plenty of people do that. & He can 'afford' such occurances because He IS God & can use anyone He wants for His plans-- to 'pick up where you left off.'
I would also state that God knows us so well that he knows what we will do in each & every circumstance. So it's not like He's caught off guard & has to 'change' his plans. He's planned for it perfectly. As well, He has plans for us to know & learn certain things (good, bad & ugly).
I think from God's perspective, it's all "firmly established" but from ours, it's all "up in the air." It kind of reminds me of the stories about the a man who hears his fate of dying in such & such a manner. He goes about his life avoiding any hint of that for which he is said to die, but alas, he still ends his life in ironic accord to the 'prophecy' he heard. We can't escape God, nor His plans, nor can we change our past.
All that to say He can & does lead us, deep in our soul. Jesus sent us our comforter/guider-into-truth[Jn 16(?)]. So we ought choose to listen each hour to Him (yes, I'm now a mystic). To do otherwise is to bring hardship & discord with the One whom we are united with. Life will start 'falling apart' otherwise. So when BIG decisions come, we're aware of what He has said to us about who we are & where He's taking us. Sure we've denied this tonnes of times, and we need to be aware of that denial & call it what it is.
I know where God is taking me (more or less). The closer I get, the more I'll see it. & I need to be faithful to Him to get to that which He is bringing me to, otherwise it'll just be that "burning in my soul" that is never brought into actualization. Dreams in me that I never get to see.
But I wanna see them & in the words of Super chic[k] "I wanna find out who I am" ;) That is to say, I could make my own path on this planet, but I wanna listen to what God says about me in the little things & gain confidence & "keep my eyes open" for what is going on in my life.. connecting the dots, thus gaining more confidence in where He's taking me.
A missionary once told me, "I'm just here for the ride. I couldn't ever have planned out where He's lead me."
That's probably too abstract for what you were looking for, but that's what I've got :)

CraigS said...

Pray hard, talk to wiser Christians, then move forward boldly, making the best decision you can, and trust that God will be with you, and will be directing your path from His sovereign throne.

CraigS said...

Also, Ruth's Dad has written a book on this...

Priscilla said...

I agree with Craig.

God's will is that we love Him with all our heart, soul and mind. To seek His will in His word and obey Him. Unfortunately the Bible doesn't tell us which career path to take or what college to go to or whether or not to take job A in city #1 or Job B in city #2. This is where I agree with Craig. Pray hard, talk to wiser Christians and then move forward boldly, making the best decision you can. God will be with you. God is therefore it is impossible to screw up his plan for you as long as you are truly seeking to follow Him and obey Him according to His word. Did it ever occur to you that God could use you if you chose either job A or job B? God gave us minds to make decisions with.

How can we know we are in God's will? Is what we are doing or thinking about doing match up with His teachings and the truth of the Bible? Obviously some things are pretty obvious. It is not God's will that you leave your wife and children. It is not God's will that you cheat on your income taxes....

Nixter said...

Guidance and the Voice of God is the book Craig is talking about and it is great...

Dani said...

Quick excerpt from 'The Last Word on Guidance' by Jensen and Payne (which I think was the precursor to 'Guidance and the Voice of God').

One of our main points has been that the popular approach to 'guidance' is seriously flawed. The modern teaching [about guidance] turns guidance into a complex process of trying to discover God's special plan for your life. We have attempted to show that this search for special guidance is both unbiblical and unnecessary. We hope that Christians will give up discussing guidance (as the word is usually used) and spend more time discussing godliness and obedience to God's revealed will... Jesus Christ is God's Last Word on Guidance... In listening to his voice and following it, we receive sure and marvellous guidance. What more do we need

Very helpful book :) Haven't had a chance to read the new one yet (Guidance and the Voice of God).

Tracy said...

I'm surprised there is not more disagreement about this. But Christine, what is your opinion?

ckhnat said...

Many people misinterpret Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

to mean that if I'm happy in Jesus, he'll give me what I want. Okay, so I'll read my Bible and pray and paste a smile on my face so I can get a husband or my dream job.

This self-centered mentality is so sad. What does it mean to delight in God? and is God a genie that gives you what you want when you rub the lamp the right way? Or is it rather that when one delights in the Lord, He shapes and transforms us into the image of His Son ... replacing our selfish desires with His desires ... which He will not withhold from us.

In like manner, many try to fashion their lives around figuring out God's hidden code for their lives. We want sooooo badly to "know God's will" for our lives so that we can avoid the most pain that we forget to LIVE our lives.

My thought? Desire God, obey Him, commune with Him in prayer being open to the leading of the Spirit, and make wise choices that don't involve sin (relying on sound judgment and godly advice). If you are right with God, his desires become your desires ... so if the choice doesn't involve sin ... choose the path you want.

lifeguard said...

Well ckhnat...I think that you can also look at psalm 37:4 as this.

God give you the desires of you heart. Meaning that the desire that you have is givin to you by God. He then in turn gives (fulfills) that desire.

I belive that you cannot be called by God if you have not a desire for that which you think that you are being called.

Take me for example. I feel called to work with middle school youth and young children. But this isn't something that i just thought of one day. I have a desire and a heart for them. That desire (that heart and passion) was given to me by God. Therefore I belive that he will physically give me what I desire in my heart.

Hope this was a little helpful.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


The question you raise is a perplexing one. It gets even more perplexing when the church does not affirm the choices you make. In other words if you sense a strong and persistent call to do something that does not fit into one of the predefined categories that are accepted in the evangelical sub-culture you can find yourself on the outside looking in and wondering what happened.

Priscilla said...

I agree with Lifeguard!

bethy31 said...

just a simple question...FOR REAL GIRL...whew...

Romans 12 seems to be a key passage in my life when I think about the will of God -

" 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Three things pop out at me relating to knowing God's will:

1. Offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God
2. Not conforming to the pattern of this world (or its standards)
3. Being transformed by the renewing of our minds (through Word, worship, etc.)

When we do these three things, the Word says we will be able to test and approve the Lord's will - and I figure we'll be more in agreement with that will.

I am earnestly seeking God on a few things right now and I can say that I am not on target with all three of those areas - and need to be to discern and know.

If we're doing these three things fully, we'll avoid the common pitfalls of 'thus sayeth the Lord', i.e.:

1. We won't ascribe the will of God to something that is against His expressed will in Scripture for our bodies (sexually, relationally, physically, etc.)
2. We won't try to put God's seal of approval on self-seeking, world pleasing plans. He may call us to do something that looks like the world but with completely different motives (i.e. glorifying God rather than the gamut of other motivations)
3. We won't try to reason out decisions but will submit them to the truth of God's Word. We take all our questions and pray them through Scripture.
4. At some point we must test and approve the Lord's will - movement. He may tell us to wait but that's direction. However, we must work hard and for the glory of God in the meantime.

Hmmm..this got really long...just some to have feedback!

One Salient Oversight said...

I'm so sick of this idea that we should "wait" for God's guidance in our lives.

It's not about us... it's about God, and nothing - not even the choices we make - can stop God from fulfilling his soverreign will.

So... if you have a decision to make, and if the decision does not involve sin, then simply go forth and make a decision.

Let's say CraigS and myself are in church together and we spy an attractive and very godly lady. Let's say we both make the decision to initiate contact for the purposes of pursing a relationship - how do we know if our decision is right or not? How do we know if God wants us to pursue this or not?

In Craig's case, there should be no problem. Craig is single and the woman involved is single and Christian. In my case, there is a problem because I am married. For me to make this decision would involve sin.

Boehmy said...

Youre right OSO. I also find it interesting that Paul says to the Romans (12:1-2) that if we are to test and approve His will, then we are to renew our minds. Renew our minds from what?
The world's patterns of sin - which is immorality. Jesus says, thats its not what goes into a man that makes him unclean but what comes out of his heart. Paul later tells the church at (First)Thessalonica (4:3) that fleeing sexual immorality and to control our own bodies and be sanctified - IS God's will. How much more is life freed up when we are forgiven and can control our urges.

Boehmy said...

or is that out of mans mouth???

Boehmy said...

bethy31, so sorry, ive just read yours too and you are spot on. all - excuse my ignorance.