This is the fourth installment of Suggestions From A Searcher.
2. Special Revelation
In the Bible there are some notable times that God revealed His will to individuals through dreams, visions, angels, and signs. But even in Bible times, that was rare, and not usually in response to the person asking to know God’s will, but more often in situations when God took the initiative to intervene in history. For example, Moses was not asking God about whether to leave Midian to go back to Egypt. Rather, God came to Moses and called him to fill the role of leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Joseph and Mary were not planning to raise the Messiah; angels appeared to them to tell them of their roles in history. Certainly it is very rare for anyone throughout history to have the kind of dramatic experience that Moses and the prophets did. Most of us are not “called” in that manner.
Since it is so rare for the Lord to specially reveal His will to an individual, how unrealistic to expect to be one of those individuals. I realize now that it is very pretentious of me to expect a burning bush experience or a call such as to the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 36:2. I am not Moses. I am not Jeremiah. I am not a prophet. I am John’s and Betty’s son from Omaha, Nebraska. Still, I sincerely want to know what I am called to do. How does God advise us non-prophets?
Apparently, I can’t realistically expect a kind of “sign from heaven” answer to my every question about decisions I face, nor does the Bible tell me that God requires one to seek a “sign” of His will before making each everyday decision. Even Moses and David and Paul and everyone else I can think of made most decisions without the guidance of a miraculous sign.
We can distinguish between minor and major decisions. Even though God’s answers to my prayers for guidance usually will not come so dramatically as to the prophets, that does not mean I should not seek to know God’s will as I make important decisions. I still want God’s guidance. Frankly, I would like to have a foolproof system for knowing God’s will in making major decisions, but I don’t.
Well, there is not a simple solution. The simple techniques, such as flipping a coin, do not seem to involve much communication with God. It is silly to make important decisions that way. Heads we get married, tails we don’t. Heads I take that job, tails I don’t. Heads I move to California, tails I don’t. Ridiculous! Yet many people almost use such a technique and call it “putting out a fleece” in reference to Gideon asking God for a sign before going into battle. Judges 6:36-40.
The ancient Israelites also used something like dice called Urim and Thummin, which were carried by the high priest in some kind of a special sack or box called the ephod. King David used that method to ask about the advisability of going into battle. See 2 Samuel 2:1 regarding “inquiring of the Lord.” Having something like that greatly appeals to me. I’d like exact instructions when facing major choices that demand clear decisions. However, since Jesus replaced the high priest, we can go directly to Him and skip the dice.
When we look for a sign from dice or coins it shows we do not understand the way God reveals His will today. Don’t trust the flip of a coin. Don’t test God by putting out a fleece of some sort. Remember that God calls us to a relationship. That is the fundamental concept we must understand before we move to wondering about being called to particular assignments or making particular decisions.
3. Walking With The Lord
Jesus certainly prayed for God’s guidance. Even He did not live as if each choice is inevitable. He prayed long and hard and often. “Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.” Luke 6:12. “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5: 16. It was His habit to talk to His Father in consistent and persistent prayer.
I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Henry Blackaby speak at a conference. He helped me see some things about seeking God’s will from a new perspective. Dr. Blackaby said that the Holy Spirit does not usually take the initiative. He is available but He waits for us to ask and seek and knock, after having already invited us to come to Him. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7: 7 & 8. When we sincerely seek God, He allows us to come to Him. The Holy Spirit, the Helper, helps us know the Father’s purpose for each of us. That purpose is not to get stuff. The passage refers to seeking God.
Since it is a relationship, God should be in on our little decisions as well as our major decisions. If we are walking with God, listening to Him will be a constant process and should not be reserved only for special events, like the good plates and silverware.
Daily decisions should be made in accordance with God’s moral will, of course, but as my friend and Sunday School teacher, Mark Notess, says, “There is a realm of freedom within God’s moral will, which is why so many prayers are for wisdom.” For decisions that do not involve morality, God just wants us to make wise choices. Often there is more than one wise choice. That is the fun of freedom. When surprises arise, as they inevitably do, it will be natural to turn to the Lord because you already know He is by your side. If we include Him in the little decisions, it will be natural to include Him in the big decisions. If we include Him in deciding whom to date, then He will be there in the decision about whom to marry. If we include Him in considering what classes to take in order to best develop our talents, He will be there in the decision of what career to pursue. The little decisions are the building blocks for the big decisions.
a. Seeking God’s Wisdom
As we seek to live as His people, it does help to have a process of decision-making in place for those major decisions. I want to share with you a method of decision-making used by George Mueller to seek to know God’s will (with my interpretations in parentheses).
“1. I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter.
(Be open to God’s will rather than trying to reach a given outcome.)
2. Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If I do so, I make myself liable to great delusions.”
(Do not rely just on feelings.)
3. I seek the will of the Spirit through, or in connection with, the Word of God.
(Read the Bible.)
4. Next, I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicated God’s will in connection with His will and Spirit.
(Look at opportunities. God may be opening a door for you.)
5. I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright.
6. Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge.”
(Through all the parts of the process, come to a deliberate decision. Which is to say, don’t wait for a “sign.” Sometimes you just hold your nose and jump.)
Here is another approach, which is probably saying the same thing a slightly different way, that I have in my notes from a Men on Target seminar I attended:
Pray that God will reveal His purpose for you when you read the Bible.
While you study God’s Word, listen for the voice of the Spirit.
Seek wise counsel from professionals as well as from people who know you well.
Do not ignore current circumstances. God would not ask us to ignore our family responsibilities. He will open doors and He will close doors.
Although I am sharing the above steps to take for making major decisions, I do not want you to interpret that to mean there is a set formula to follow in order to come up with the one and only correct answer about God’s will for your individual life in general and for each specific decision along the way. There is no magic formula. There probably is not even just one and only one correct answer. But such an approach will be valuable because it causes you to focus on God and consider moral values and seek to make a wise decision within those values.
Let us say I followed such a process when I chose the college I attended. Does that mean there was only one right college for me to attend? I don’t believe that. I believe God wanted me to make a wise choice but I do not believe there was only one right choice. There are lots of colleges it would have been fine for me to attend. There are lots of jobs in which I could serve Him. Maybe I would have been a better pastor than lawyer. Maybe I did not make the very wisest choice. Maybe I should have chosen a different pair of socks for today. But having made the choices I made, there are consequences, good and bad. That is the adventure of life.
I think God just wanted me to walk with Him as I made those choices, trusting in Him and seeking to obey Him as I chose my college and decided whom to marry and selected a career path.
What I am trying to say is that you need not worry so much about making the one right decision as making a wise decision. The Bible gives us lots of guidance about wisdom and how to live as God’s people. We live differently when it is our perspective that we are indeed God’s people.
Finally, I do not want to discourage you from thinking that God does still get specific sometimes. It is amazing to me that as I pray for help and answers, the help or answers come. In fact, I have compared myself to the Israelites in the desert who, after being delivered from Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, got manna from heaven, water from a rock, and still grumbled. God has delivered me from bad situations. I give Him the credit one minute and then worry the next about whether He will come through again. Oh, me of little faith! I must constantly remember to trust and obey. Praying is an important part of trusting and obeying.
Again, I remind you, God has called you to a relationship with Him. You have heard that before. When you sufficiently grasp that concept you will understand why I don’t need a burning bush and why you don’t need a burning bush. Dr. Blackaby takes that truth that God already called each of us to a relationship with Him and goes on to say that, “Depending on where your relationship with God goes, your assignment will match the development of your character. God does not call people with little character to large tasks.”
In the past, have you prayed to know God’s will about a decision you have faced? If so, did God reveal His will to you? If so, how was it revealed? If not, how did you decide? Do you think you made a wise decision pleasing to God? BINGO!