Thursday, May 15, 2008

Decision making and the will of God (part 3)

In Psalm 40:8, David confessed, “I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.” His confession has been repeated by countless believers through the ages who desire to do that which God commands. His words remind us of what we spoke about last week, that one of the first steps in seeking God’s will is to meditate upon and put into practice the commands we find in the scripture. To do so, helps create in us the character of God, which then enables us to live daily in God’s will. Of course, anyone who’s read the Bible faithfully knows that the Bible doesn’t address many of the decisions we must make every day. What job do I take? Do I move to this city or that? Should I date this person or that one? How do we know God’s will in these instances?

Often we look in the Bible to the stories in which God showed up in some major way (burning bush, talking donkey, voice from heaven, etc.) and want to use these instances as the norm for seeking God’s will. The first thing I notice in a quick survey of instances like this is that usually, when God shows up in some unmistakable fashion to inform someone of a new direction, he does so without invitation. We have no indication that Abram was looking for a move when God showed up and said, “Go to the land I’ll show you.” Moses seemed pretty content just being a shepherd when the bush burst into flames and God called him out to be the deliverer of his people. Paul was actively going against God’s will when the light of Christ knocked him to the ground and turned him around.

The second thing I notice, is that such instances of unmistakable divine communication are the exception, not the norm, for discovering God’s will. When we read the Bible, it’s easy to think that folks like Abraham had daily audible conversations with God. What we fail to realize, is that in between verses and chapters, decades sometimes pass between divine utterances. We need to constantly remind ourselves that the stories we read in the Bible are the highlights. There’s a reason they make the book. For most folks on most days (including Bible folks) God speaks in subtler ways. It’s much like the difference between watching a baseball game in its entirety and watching a baseball game on Sportscenter. Watch the highlights of a baseball game on Sportscenter and you may leave with the impression that baseball is action packed – homeruns, strikeouts, double-plays. Watch baseball in the stadium or on TV for the entire nine innings and you realize that there’s a lot more inaction than action (if you’re a baseball purist and I’ve offended you, just substitute soccer for the above illustration).

What point am I making with all this? As we seek God’s will in the various decisions of our lives we may be tempted to think that we need a voice from the heavens or a burning bush before we can act. If we believe the scriptures, we certainly hold out the possibility that God might act in such ways. We should be open and attentive to God’s mysterious movings, but we shouldn’t be discouraged if God doesn’t show up with fireworks. A careful reading of those same scriptures reveal that even for the patriarchs of our faith, such occurrences were pretty rare. In our entire lives, God might move in such powerful ways only one or two times if at all – think of the thousands of ancient Jews and Christians, mentioned and not mentioned that have no such encounters with God. We can rest assured that even if we don’t receive some unmistakable message from God, we can still be in his will. God’s given us other ways to know his guidance, ways that as we’ll see next week, are bathed in his grace.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart – Psalm 37:3-4.

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