Bill GrandfieldJanuary 1st, 2012
How do we determine what God's will is for us? We have His word that gives us instruction in general, so to speak. Yet is it so general? We are told in Ephesians and other places how to conduct our marriages in some detail. This is just one example. It is our pride that puts a block on our understanding. Now consider the directions that we should take at work. Here we have to fall back on submission to Gods general instructions for our lives. However we live in a messy world and our hearts are corrupt and deceitful. We may not like to admit this but we must as it is what God says about us. The Spirit lives in us yet the old man is still there. Both have a voice, how do we know which is which especially when our ability to make good judgement is impaired by sin? God promises wisdom to those who ask for it but we must not doubt. We face a decision between two ore more alternatives. Both are honest and can be followed in truth and with compassion. Would either be equally fruitful? God has a direction for our lives, he also has a direction for the situations in which we live. So how do we determine which way to go? We pray but there is no 'sign post' to follow. Various alternatives present themselves to our concience. How do we know which is the prompting of the Spirit and which is our vanity? Can we follow the course that seems most reasonable to us and trust God to bring the success. He could bring a result that we do not like. Would this then be the right or the wrong one? We know that God works out all things for the good of those that love him. This is 'all things' however and not specific things. When we hear people speak on this subject it seems clear to me that their opinions are strongly coloured by their hopes and experiences, both good and bad. It is clear therefore that we can argue ourselves in circles with this. So, what do you think? Do we worry ourselves about it or get on and do what we believe to be correct after prayer?
elizabeth brazeMay 21st, 2012
0May 29th, 2012
You’re right that we should be seeking God’s desires for us in prayer, but prayer is only one part. Immersing ourselves in the Bible allows God’s word to form and shape our motivations so that our will comes from God’s will, so that our will follows his heart right from the beginning. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Cultivating a life that digs into and dwells in scripture will transform you and renew your mind.
With a renewed mind, we can test our options against scripture. Based on what we know from scripture we can ask questions like: Is one or the other contrary to the specifics commands God gives us? What about the general instructions like “love your neighbor” – will one or the other help me to do this? Will it hinder me? Paul says in Romans 12 that we should be living sacrifices. Sacrifices direct all the glory, praise, and honor back to God. Yet another way to evaluate each option – is it for the glory of God or am I seeking glory for myself?
You are correct that much of the Bible offer us general guidelines for living faithful lives, but that he also gives us the Holy Spirit. Reading scripture and praying are two ways we make our hearts available to the movement and guidance of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit isn’t a sign-giver or a little white angel that sits on your shoulder opposite the devil telling you what choice to make. The Holy Spirit is a helper. Only with the Holy Spirit can we even understand the meaning of scripture. With the Holy Spirit, we can apply our understanding of God’s will in scripture to our unique situation – that maybe isn’t directly addressed in scripture. Then the Holy Spirit helps us to discern God’s will in this new situation.
When it comes to prayer, we can and should ask for God’s will and that he would make it clear to us. Matthew 7:7-8 say, “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; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” But it is also valuable to pray for the mind of Christ and ask for gifts like the wisdom of King Solomon. God wants to bless us with his gifts, we only need to ask.
So to answer your final question: “So, what do you think? Do we worry ourselves about it or get on and do what we believe to be correct after prayer?
Ultimately, I think it’s both and neither. We know from the Bible that worrying doesn’t do any good (Matthew 6:25-27, 34; Luke 12:22-25). But a prayer shouldn’t be done flippantly either, just so we can feel better that we “prayed about it” before deciding. We should be intentional and cautious. We should give each decision thought and prayer appropriate to its significance. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we check our intentions and motivations against scripture. We listen for God. Then, if God has not closed any door and more than one alternative is still open to us, then yes, we make a decision. We make a decision and take God at his word – that when we are rooted in him, we will bear fruit for his kingdom (John 15:5).