This post came about as a response to a ten page term paper written by a friend. I regret I’m unable to link to the paper in which is presented a defense of knowing specifically how God is leading each and every individual. Although not specifically stated, the overtone from my Calvinist friend is that God not only leads believers, but that he also leads and directs non-believers.
The three main themes from An Approach to Knowing God’s Will is that God:
- Has a will for all people
- Has a will for all Christians
- Has a specific will for each Christian
I’m in agreement with the first two parts that God has a will for all people which is – to be saved. Obviously, even if I’m not a Calvinist. I’m also in agreement that God has a will for all Christians – which I’d refer to as the “moral will”. The book of Proverbs & Rom 12 immediately come to mind as to general conduct for believers (and, I’d also add, non-believers, too).
The third point that God has a specific will for each Christian is our main difference. Your conclusion states that the Spirit leads specifically “as to the type and place of service.” In addition, you add that God leads and directs individuals to any number of other things including the church one should join, what one’s spiritual service should be, whom to marry, which house to buy, what car to purchase, etc. After all, “[God] knows what’s best for me.”
I find it ever curious that the Bible is replete with general principles and apparent guidelines for (what I believe to be) the express purpose of decision-making. It seems self-evident that God wanted us to have an “instructional guide” to make wise decisions. To which, we’ve been given the Book of Proverbs. By using biblical principles, I can make wise – and I would even say, godly decision as to any number of things – personal, financial or moral.
I don’t believe that I’ve been led to a particular church. In fact, we’ve attended five different churches in the 32 years we’ve lived in the Twin Cities. The reasons we left a given church are perhaps not germane to this discussion. However, suffice it to say that different churches have appealed to me at different times in my life. Ultimately, my criteria for a church is rather simple:
- Do I like the overall configuration of the service?
- Is the church evangelical in nature?
- Can I be “fed” or otherwise grow spiritually?
- Is there a ministry where I can serve?
- Is the church within reasonable proximity to where I live?
Lastly, as to what line of work (spiritual service) – how’s ‘bout whatever’s within your “bent” or natural abilities? For me, I can’t work with kids. I hate the chaos and occasional talk-back and discipline issues. On the other hand, I have no fear of walking up to someone and introducing myself. I must have the gift of hospitality. To which, I’m a greeter. My “job” each Sunday is to intentionally seek out people I don’t know for the express purpose of welcoming them.
Decision-making is often difficult and stressful if for no other reason than there is incomplete information. And, the full impact of decisions can’t always been known. Obviously, some decisions made are better than others. However, as I look at some of Paul’s writings, it’s apparent that God allowed Paul to freely make decisions. Below are some instances where Paul exercised decision-making. I’ve included a paraphrase for the issue/concern at hand:
- Phil 2:25 (I think it’s a good idea)
- 1 Cor 16:3-4 (If it seems the right thing to do)
- Acts 6:1-7 (We need to do something about this)
- Acts 15:24-29 (People got together, debated, decided, and acted)
A letter sent from our church’s board of elders to the congregation illustrates Paul’s examples:
After evaluating recent giving patterns to the general fund, the elders have determined (emphasis mine) that we must take a decisive step toward “right sizing” our current staffing numbers.
Clearly, the board didn’t “wait upon the Lord”. Nor did the elders indicate any divinely received indication as to whose employment should be terminated. Rather, they have given this difficult decision its due consideration and, I believe, exercised care and concern by way of:
- Analysis – “After evaluating recent giving patterns”
- Collective wisdom – “After much prayer and discussion”
- Decision – “We must take a decisive step”
- Reflection – “This was not an easy decision”
Nowhere are there passages where Paul explains such things as open doors, closed windows or otherwise how God guides individuals. Nor do I find a “method” by which one can ascertain the “will of God”. Instead, Paul describes in various places just what comprises the “will of God”. Interestingly enough, there’s no ambiguity or uncertainty. Romans 12 is a clear and concise outline of God’s will for how we should live:
Rom 12:1 Dedicate your body to God
Rom 12:2 Be transformed. Put on new man
Rom 12:3 Don’t overestimate yourself. Rate your own ability soberly
Rom 12:6-7 Use your gift and give yourself to it
Rom 12:9 Love with sincerity
Rom 12:9 Hate evil and turn from it
Rom 12:9 Hold fast to that which is good
Rom 12:10 Love one another. Prefer one another
Rom 12:11 Never lag in zeal and earnest endeavor
Rom 12:11 Be aglow with the spirit, serving the Lord
Rom 12:12 Rejoice and exult in hope
Rom 12:12 Be steadfast under pressure
Rom 12:12 [Be] Patient in suffering
Rom 12:12 Constant in prayer
Rom 12:13 Give
Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you
Rom 12:15 Share others’ lives, give of yourself
Rom 12:16 Live in harmony – adjust
Rom 12:17 Repay no one evil for evil
Rom 12:17 Be honest and above reproach. Avoid the appearance of evil
Rom 12:18 Live at peace with everyone
Rom 12:19 Avenge not yourself
Rom 12:20 Do good to your enemies
Rom 12:21 Overcome evil with good
In conclusion, I don’t see the Bible teaching that God routinely directs the decisions we make. That said, I would agree that it has been the rare exception when God directly intervenes with someone i.e. Paul’s Damascus Road experience. And even for those actually guided directly by God, so far as I can tell, that guidance appears only related to evangelism. To paraphrase Garry Friesen from his book, Decision Making and the Will of God: Any decision made that does not violate God’s moral laws is acceptable to God and even brings about honor and glory to him.