a guest blog entry by Will Faircloth | fairclothcostarica.com
At the end of the last post, I promised a sequel that would propose a healthy understanding of the balance between our will and God’s will. I thought, “Sure! I’ll hammer that out right after lunch!”
…Well, I’m afraid in my zeal and excitement, I may have promised something that’s simply beyond the reach of a simple blog post. Instead, what I offer here are some rough guidelines – three signposts that can help us discern the direction of God’s will in our lives.
Again, these are meant to help us at those times when we face an important decision, or when a particular idea or plan for change just won’t get out of our minds; in short, times where specific discernment is necessary, and we want to know the Lord’s will in that particular circumstance.
Here we go…
1. Are you sinning? This seems like a weird way to start, but it must be the first step to discernment. We cannot hope to see God’s will if we keep putting a mask over our face. I once heard a renowned Christian philosopher talk about the “noetic effects of sin.” In Greek, noesis means “the mind, understanding, cognition,” and what this fellow meant was that, if your mind is clouded by sin, you can’t act like this doesn’t affect your cognitive powers, as if you could still reason your way to understanding God’s will. If there is active, intentional sin in your life, there are simply things you cannot know. So at the start of discernment, stop, examine yourself, repent where needed, wash your eyes, and only then can you start looking to the Lord with clearer vision.
2. Does God really care about this? Another strange question, and this time a tricky one. Say you get an unexpected tax return and you decide to buy a bigger TV. Now in general, this is the kind of decision God doesn’t really care about. Your life’s future does not hinge on this decision, with God rubbing his hands with worry, saying “Oooh! Not the Sony! It’ll be all downhill from here!” But think a little further down this path…
- What else could you do with this money?
- What other things will you just ‘have to buy’ once you have the TV (new furniture for it, upgraded cable package, etc.)?
- Will it lead to you spending more time watching TV instead of doing other, more edifying and service-focused activities?
Suddenly a decision about buying a TV starts to touch on deeper issues about your priorities and your use of the resources God has given you. And at that point, He actually is kind-of interested. Now, don’t get neurotic with every decision, but do let this kind of extrapolation be part of your discernment process.
3. How has God spoken to you in the past? Some folks are ‘burning bush’ people, while others are ‘still, small voice’ people. Some people spend their entire lives as missionaries in China because one rainy Tuesday night at the Jade Dragon, they opened a fortune cookie that said, “Go!”, and they knew it was from the Lord. Other people feel a growing sense of conviction about something over a period of months or years, then when the Lord’s time comes, they are naturally ready to act.
The Lord can surely speak to people however He wants, but it may be helpful to remember times in the past when He spoke to you, especially how it happened:
- Was it through intense consultation with spiritual friends and mentors?
- Did external circumstances change and prompt you to listen?
- Were your particular talents the key to moving in a new direction?
Now compare your answers to these questions to your current situation of discernment – how does it compare?
These are just three simple starting points, but they can be a helpful start to reflection about the intersection of our will and God’s will. It’s okay to hope and dream in life; this is not idolatry. But it’s also important to remember that ours is a God of surprising sovereignty, who knows better than we how things ought to be. And the great part is, when we know how to listen, what we hear is an invitation to be a part of His will and work.
We want to hear from you: What are your starting points for trying to determine God’s will for your life as it relates to a big decision or situation in life?