DISCERNING GOD’S WILL. Part 2, Gaius Columbus provides some answers
I am happy to report that the the comments and discussions in response to Part 1 of this topic have brought us all closer to the core of this matter. For now, what I seem to hear everyone saying is that we cannot divorce a quest for God’s guidance from a right relationship with Him.
The data we gather by any method in our effort to do God’s will almost never speak for itself. I now believe that the data, whether it is prophecy, signs, circumstance or brotherly counsel, is neutral. By that I mean the very same data can be used to support rather different courses of action. The course on which one actually embarks appears to be determined by a deeper sense of God’s will for ones life. This is the inner compass I made reference to in my earlier post. It is this identification of the framework of God’s general direction for our lives that helps us to make sense of the guidance we receive.
I believe this explains the perplexing choices made by Jesus, Paul and David. Jesus knew and stayed focused on His overall mission on earth. For this reason, He correctly interpreted the information that came His way. For example, He saw immediately that an earthly kingdom and avoidance of the cross were not directions God wanted Him to take no matter how “irrational” these choices must have seemed to His followers. His disciples, unaware of this internal framework, were bewildered that He did not take advantage of the golden opportunities afforded Him by His popularity. Some speculate that this be one of the reasons that Judas eventually abandoned and betrayed Him.
Peter too seemed genuinely perplexed that our Lord, the Son of God, would accept an ignominious death when he could clearly choose a different path. Living and guided by a different framework, these disciples found Jesus’ choices peculiarly irrational. It was only later when they came to understand the framework under which our Lord operated that His choices made sense to them.
Similarly, David must have frustrated some of his generals. He, being a righteous man, knew that the “opportunity” presented to him when Saul was found asleep in the cave was no opportunity at all. Likewise, Paul’s companions seemed equally distraught by his decision to go to Jerusalem despite what they perceived to be a prophetic warning from Agabus. For Paul, however, knowing that apostleship meant suffering with Christ allowed him to put the right “spin” on the prophecy. He saw the prophecy not as a warning to avoid Jerusalem but merely as a confirmation of his mission. In all of these cases, the relationship each man had with God helped define the course of action he was to take and provided meaning and direction to signals that everyone else interpreted to suggest a different conclusion.
So how do we define this framework or inner compass for our lives without which we become ships tossed to and fro by unintelligible information? Unfortunately, this inner compass is hard to define exactly. It is probably an attitude of the heart that seeks God’s kingdom first, as you guys have all suggested. A man who has the right attitude to life—one that places God’s pleasure foremost in his life day and night—probably does not ask God what brand of socks he should wear, or what cereal box to pick for breakfast, however, this man’s general orientation, because it is pleasing to God means that God directs His steps. This man’s desire is to honor God so the Lord leads Him or partners with Him in all of His decisions—both the mundane and profound. In contrast, the man who is not seeking God’s will and pleasure in His life can probably not hear God’s voice even if it were to be given.
Remember the story of the war between Absalom and David. David had a really wise counselor, Ahithophel, who defected to Absalom during the civil war. Unfortunately, Absalom whose heart was in the wrong place (and encouraged by another advisor actually planted by David) spurned this wise man’s advice to his own detriment and to the demise of the counselor himself. Ahithophel was so annoyed at being overruled that he committed suicide.
We spend a lot of time seeking foolproof methods for determining God’s will. Instead, we should really be seeking to right our relationship with Him. If this inner compass is broken, if our lives’ priorities are misplaced, if God’s pleasure is not foremost on our minds, perhaps we waste our time when we attempt to use these tools to discern God’s will. We will remain uncertain even if given a sign and perhaps for that reason none will be given us. Tools such as the counsel of the godly, prophecy, signs, circumstance all become useless because none of these decision-making instruments by themselves—being essentially neutral and subject to differing interpretations—can determine what course we should take in any particular situation.
In contrast a right relationship with God will point the way consciously or unconsciously. If our hearts are right—if we seek His pleasure in our daily lives—He may use one, none, all of these tools or some other unnamed tool to guide us to the right decisions. He will enable us to place the right interpretation on the information garnered from these tools, even when our interpretation seems perplexing to those around us. For me, therefore, the question ceases to be what the best tools are for unequivocally determining God’s will in a particular situation. Instead, the key question has become “Is He truly Lord of my life? Are His purposes paramount in my life? Am I seeking to please Him in my daily walk?
True, I understand that out of His boundless mercy and grace I can and often am an unwitting recipient of His wisdom and direction. However, I have the opportunity, if I have the right guiding framework in life, to be a partner with Him in the tough decisions of my life and to rightly discern His will no matter how He makes it manifest. Unfortunately, like some of you have said also, I can hardly say that I am presently living daily for His pleasure or factoring His plans for the kingdom into my plans for present or future employment. This deficiency expressed by all of us is serious enough that I think we need to pray for each other. God bless - Gaius Columbus
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