How Christians Make Decisions, Part 2 (How Does God Guide Us?) #200
Hello friends and happy Wednesday to you! Today’s readings include Joshua 22, Acts 2, Jeremiah 11 and Matthew 25. Today is fake episode #200, because I misnumbered one episode, and doubled up another – splitting the reading and the commentary into two episodes; I also made another mistake or two as well, since today is only day #197 of the year. Alas. We’ll celebrate in a couple of days if I remember correctly, but scheduling is NOT my superpower. Normally here we would focus all of our attention on the move of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, BUT – our church is about to kick off a series on the Holy Spirit (beginning in Acts 2 this Sunday because we are following the Bible reading plan too) and I don’t want to be redundant with them. So – join us Sunday for our VBC Salinas livestream for Acts 2, and today will be a continuation of our discussion from yesterday (How Christians make decisions, part 1) , based on the end of Acts 1, where the disciples chose a replacement for Judas by casting lots. This episode led us to ask the very big and important question: how do Christians make decisions?
Our Big Bible Question: HOW DOES GOD GUIDE US?
Most people think the Christian view is that God has a specific will for every decision we face, and that He wants us to seek Him until He reveals that will for us, and then that is the direction we go in. Ultimately, this means that the Christian is not supposed to make decisions, but to seek God’s hidden will until God chooses to make it known to us.
For instance: What major should I have in college? Two major ways a Christian can answer this question. Let’s look at two people.
- Phil is a freshman in college. He does not know exactly what he wants to do when he ‘grows up’ and thus, he doesn’t know what his major should be. Phil prays and feels good about being a doctor, so he majors in Biology. Unfortunately, one year in, it turns out that Phil doesn’t actually enjoy Biology classes that much, and that makes Phil think that he ‘missed God.’ So Phil prays and prays until he feels like he’s heard direction from God and then chooses a new major.
- Chavez has a similar situation. He is not sure exactly what he should focus on in college. He begins by praying in earnest, and asking God to lead him to the right decision. Chavez talks to his father and mother to get their advice, and also to a few trusted teachers and advisors. His father points out that Chavez is gifted at math and at drawing, so perhaps he should consider a major in one of those areas. Chavez meets with the guidance counselor and discovers that there are many majors suitable for people with giftings in drawing and math, including engineering, art, drafting, and accounting. Chavez researches those careers, but does not find himself very interested in them. He wonders if there might be a career that would combine his love of drawing with his gifting at math. Asking around, he finds that Architecture is a possibility, so he asks his parents and discovers that his mom has a friend who is an architect. His mom invites Chavez to lunch with her friend, and he asks her many questions about her career. Chavez then prays with his family, trusts in God’s sovereign leadership, and makes the decision to major in architecture.
Most Christians think that Phil’s way is the most Christian way to follow God’s will, but I do not find the “Pray until you feel led” way clearly outlined in the Bible. I actually believe that Chavez is following the most biblical pattern for decision making. He prayed. He sought wise counsel. He gathered information, and then trusted in God to guide His decision.
Three pictures of decision making in the Bible:
- Sometimes, but rarely, God Guides us supernaturally and miraculously by clear and specific happenings or by direct and audible/sensible commands:
Genesis 12 The Lord said to Abram: Go from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.
Acts 9:10-16 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” “Here I am, Lord,” he replied. 11 “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there.12 In a vision[a]he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so that he may regain his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites.16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Genesis 24:42-49 Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac, his son. Here Abraham’s Servant is telling about his mission to Rebekah’s parents. 42 “Today when I came to the spring, I prayed: Lord, God of my master Abraham, if only you will make my journey successful! 43 I am standing here at a spring. Let the young woman who comes out to draw water, and I say to her, ‘Please let me drink a little water from your jug,’ 44 and who responds to me, ‘Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels also’—let her be the woman the Lord has appointed for my master’s son.45 “Before I had finished praying silently, there was Rebekah coming with her jug on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. So I said to her, ‘Please let me have a drink.’ 46 She quickly lowered her jug from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels also.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. … 48 Then I knelt low, worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who guided me on the right way to take the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. 49 SO – they got married, and it was awesome and God blessed them greatly. And we learn from this that God sometimes guides His people in very specific and unquestionable ways, and we should be aware and open to that.
- Sometimes, but rarely, God guides us by divine revelation – prophetic direction, or even a divine dream or vision. Such as, Acts 16:
Acts 16: 4 As they traveled through the towns, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem for them to observe. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily. 6 They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in Asia. 7 When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 During the night a vision appeared to Paul: A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.
And we learn from this passage that God sometimes leads His people supernaturally by directly interacting with them, or by sending a messenger with His message.
- If we don’t include the first two instances above, then we don’t have a complete view of Biblical Guidance. However, it must be said that such instances as Abraham’s servant and the vision of the man from Macedonia are rare – even in the Bible. I believe the most common type of guidance and decision making that happens in the Bible is that God calls His people to make WISE DECISIONS. For instance:
- Titus 3:12 12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, make every effort to come to me in Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there.
- Acts 20:16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so he would not have to spend time in Asia, because he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, for the day of Pentecost.
- Acts 15: 24 Because we have heard that some without our authorization went out from us and troubled you with their words and unsettled your hearts, 25 we have unanimously decided to select men and send them to you along with our dearly loved Barnabas and Paul,
- 1 Corinthians 5:3 For though I am absent in body but present in spirit, I have already decided about the one who has done this thing as though I were present.
- Matthew 10:9-14 9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.
- 2nd Chronicles 30: 22 Then Hezekiah encouraged all the Levites who performed skillfully before the Lord. They ate at the appointed festival for seven days, sacrificing fellowship offerings and giving thanks to Yahweh, the God of their ancestors. 23 The whole congregation decided to observe seven more days, so they observed seven days with joy,
- Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
- Acts 6: 5 The proposal pleased the whole company. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte from Antioch. 6 They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
The above decisions were all made without any obvious specific guidance from God.
The thing we rarely – if ever – find in Scripture is that people pray and then they go in the direction they feel like God is telling them. For example, we never have a passage like this: “And thus Daniel prayed for several days and nights until he felt like God told him what to do about who to marry.”
It appears that most (but not all) decisions in the Bible DO NOT INCLUDE OBVIOUS AND SPECIFIC DIVINE GUIDANCE. So, if we want to make Biblical decisions, we will recognize that most (but not all) of our decisions will not be made because God TOLD us what to do.
NOTE – that does NOT mean that God doesn’t guide us. HE ALWAYS GUIDES US. He just doesn’t always TELL US what direction He’s leading.
Proverbs 16:9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.
So – How do we make most decisions? The Answer is that we prayerfully make them with wisdom and counsel, seeking God throughout the process. We trust that He is guiding our decisions whether He chooses to reveal His specific will or not.
So – what do we need? Wisdom – Proverbs 16: Get wisdom—how much better it is than gold! And get understanding—it is preferable to silver.
How do we get wisdom? WE ASK and TRUST GOD TO GIVE IT.
What is the source of wisdom? JESUS Colossians 2 I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of complete understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ. 3 In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Review from yesterday:
5 Principles for decision-making that I believe that the Bible teaches and models:
- Where God commands, we must obey.
- Where there is no command, God gives us the freedom to choose and sovereignly orchestrates and leads our choices for our ultimate good, His glory and to accomplish His will.
3. Where there is no command, we follow the example of Jesus and devote significant time to praying – trusting that God will divinely lead us and lead our decision.
- Where there is no command, God calls us to seek wise counsel, walk in wisdom and make a decision.
5. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.