Must We ‘Hear From God’ On Every Decision? #201 #guidance
Hello friends and happy…Thursday, right? I have lost track of the days because I had four Zoom meetings today AND had to do our taxes. The old melon is fried, I think. Hope your brain is functioning better than mine! Today’s Bible passages are Joshua 23, Acts 3, Jeremiah 12 and Matthew 26. None are our focus passage today, because I make the rules up as we go along AND because we’re going to be talking about how to make wise decisions one more time today. I’m sure we could find something in one of the chapters that pertains to making wise decisions, but I don’t want to strain the text, so we’ll talk about making wisdom decisions and then read our Bible passages together. Speaking of wise decisions, I made a dumb one today. I put off my taxes ’till the last minute – literally, we got an extension until July 15 for this year – AND THEN I COULDN’T find my primary W-2 for the life of me. I looked everywhere – all over the house, all in my office…all over the church office – everywhere. Turns out it was RIGHT where I thought it was in my paperwork box, hiding in another unrelated piece of paper. That little snafu means that I was actually a couple of hours late filing my taxes this year – maybe for the first time ever. If this podcast gets shut down, you’ll know the IRS has come and arrested me…and I’ll probably deserve it, because waiting until the last minute is not wise, but foolish – I allowed for no margin. Let me give you a couple of other examples of foolish decisions:
Two foolish decisions:
- Skipping class to go caving, 1991
Foolish decisions can have long term consequences that are hard to overcome. I find that thinking about foolish decisions actually helps spur me in the direction of making wise decisions.
MUST WE “HEAR FROM GOD” on EVERY DECISION?
I’ve heard many times from church members on pretty much any decision we make as individuals and as the church as a whole: “We need to hear from God.” I completely agree – on issues that the Bible commands us – we MUST HEAR FROM GOD. That means we KNOW the Word and OBEY the Word.
However, most of our decisions like how much to give, where to live, buy or rent, what job to have, what person to marry, what amount of schooling to get, where to go to school, what hobbies to have, whether to move to California, or stay in Alabama… etc, etc, etc – Those issues are not addressed by commands in the Bible, but they are very, very important and life altering decisions. What must we do? I contend that the pattern of decision-making we see in the Bible shows that, when faced by decisions like that – we are called to make wise decisions informed by the Word of God, framed by prayer, open to the direct, supernatural guidance of God’s Spirit and enhanced with the wise counsel of others. We are NOT commanded to hear from God on those decisions. (Though we should be open to it) WE HAVE NOT FAILED or ‘MISSED GOD’ IF WE MAKE DECISIONS THAT WE DON’T HEAR FROM GOD ON. If we tell our kids, they must ‘Hear from God’ on what to do when they grow up, or who to marry, or who to date, or whatever, we are adding to Scripture, and placing a burden on them that is not in the Bible. Further, we might just be stunting their ability to make wise decisions, failing to teach them of the sovereign guidance of the Lord, and instead teaching them to rely on their own ‘feelings.’ Because most of the time when somebody today claims to ‘hear from God,’ they do not mean that God audibly spoke to them, or they had a supernatural encounter of some sort, but that they have a ‘sense (or feeling) from God.’
Back to the Word of God to see how the Saints of God were led.
Sometimes His Guidance is supernatural and obvious:
Acts 18: 7 [Paul] went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, along with his whole household. Many of the Corinthians, when they heard, believed and were baptized. 9 The Lord said to Paul in a night vision, “Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.” 11 He stayed there a year and a half, teaching the word of God among them.
Let me be clear: I believe that the New Testament allows and leaves room for people to be led by God in supernatural ways including prophetic words, dreams, and supernatural messages – even messages from angels. Based on Scripture, however, I believe that sort of guidance from the Lord is extraordinary and rare. It was extraordinary and rare in New Testament times and it is extraordinary and rare today.
Kevin DeYoung – Presbyterian: Kevin DeYoung: “When we look carefully at the instances of special revelation in the book of Acts—visions, angels, audible voices, promptings, etc.—we notice one very important and consistent fact. The extraordinary means of guidance were not sought. I don’t deny that God can still speak to us in direct, surprising ways. Of course, it must always be tested against Scripture, but I believe God can still give visions. The point is that these extraordinary means in the New Testament are just that—extra-ordinary. God may guide us in these ways in rare instances, but we should not expect Him to. We have no record in the New Testament of anyone anxious to hear God tell him what to do. Paul never sought out special words of knowledge concerning his future. He seems very concerned to know and obey God’s moral will. But when he gets to a fork in the road, hesitating and pleading with God to know which way to go seems completely foreign to the apostle.”
Donald Gee: AOG Pastor and Writer: [There are] grave problems raised by the habit of giving and receiving personal “messages” of guidance through the gifts of the Spirit. … The Bible gives a place for such direction from the Holy Spirit. … But it must be kept in proportion. An examination of the Scriptures will show us that as a matter of fact the early Christians did not continually receive such voices from heaven. In most cases they made their decisions by the use of what we often call “sanctified common sense” and lived quite normal lives. Many of our errors where spiritual gifts are concerned arise when we want to make the extraordinary and exceptional to be made frequent and habitual. Let all who develop excessive desire for “messages” through the gifts take warning from the wreckage of past generations as well as contemporaries … The Holy Scriptures are a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.
Other times His guidance appears mundane and ordinary.
1st Corinthians 16: 3 When I arrive, I will send with letters those you recommend to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it is suitable for me to go as well, they will travel with me.
Sometimes His Guidance is supernatural and obvious, Other times His guidance appears mundane and ordinary, Regardless, it is always in keeping with Ephesians 1:11 “because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will”
I submit that the vast majority of decisions made in Scripture – AND the ones we face now – are generally more the 1st Corinthians 16 variety. God calls us to seek wisdom and gives us liberty to choose
Review. 5 Step process for making decisions:
- Where God commands, we must obey.
- 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 guide our decision.
3.Where there is no command, God gives us the freedom to choose and sovereignly orchestrates our choices to work for our ultimate good, His glory and to accomplish His will.
- Where there is no command, God calls us to seek wise counsel, walk in wisdom and make a decision.
- When we have chosen what is biblical and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.
5 Questions to ask about big decisions that are not clearly addressed in the Bible:
- How does this decision affect the chief priorities of my life:
A. Great Command, 2nd Great Command, Great Commission, The Great Kingdom (that we are to seek first)
- How does this decision affect the most important relationships in my life?
- What are the risks involved and are they worth it?
- What do my wise friends and counselors say about this decision?
- Am I certain the Word of God does not specifically direct me on this matter?