Tag Archives: decision making and the will of God

About those open and closed doors . . .

Many Christians get borderline  – or over the line – superstitious* when it comes to “open” and “closed” doors and making important decisions.  They should be using the wisdom model of decision making, as the Bible teaches it, because there are zero Bible verses even hinting that God drops us little clues that have to decipher less we mess up his plans.  Not only does the wisdom model result in better decisions, but you get to enjoy your freedom in Christ and stop second-guessing everything.

If something looks easy, people sometimes think of that as an open door that they should go through, or if it looks hard it means that God has closed the door.  Maybe, but maybe not.  Consider these two passages.

1 Corinthians 16:8–9 But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

One might think that if there are “many adversaries” that it would be a closed door.  Yet Paul explicitly calls the door wide, so he plans to persevere through the opportunity.  But sometimes God does close doors – at least temporarily — such as when Jesus commands us not to throw pearls before pigs.  The key is discernment and knowing when to start and when to stop.

I realize the books were written at different times, but note how just two chapters later in the Bible later we get this:

2 Corinthians 2:12–13 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord, my spirit was not at rest because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

So you’re the Apostle Paul and you know that the real Lord Jesus has opened a door for you in Troas — but you go on to Macedonia because you miss your friend Titus!  Could it be that the Lord opened multiple doors for Paul and he used his freedom in Christ to choose a different one?  Note that there is no hint that Paul was being disobedient here.

Remember that while we don’t have access to God’s sovereign will for individual decisions, He has clearly revealed his moral will to us and has promised to give us wisdom if we ask.  So as long as you aren’t violating his moral will, then ask for wisdom, read the Bible, talk to wise people, consider your personal preferences (i.e., don’t be a martyr) and then choose with freedom. 

 

 

 

 

 

If God has a sovereign plan to do something in your life then you can trust that will happen.  In the mean time, don’t be paralyzed or make bad decisions because you reverse-engineered some decision based on what you thought God was saying when it was really just you rationalizing what you wanted.


*The word superstitious reminds me of this (I’m not even a little stitious).

The Office Michael Scott GIF - TheOffice MichaelScott NotSuperstitious GIFs

Dear pastors and teachers: Please stop trying to be so creative

Ugh.  It happened again.  Two otherwise good talks by pastors at a prison ministry training session yesterday included the “don’t just talk to God when you pray, listen to him” bit.  Number of supporting Bible verses?  Zero, of course.  Because there aren’t any.

As always, God could give you personalized, direct messages anytime He likes, but it is not normative.  Just as with King Solomon, the biblical model is to ask for wisdom and then make your decisions in accordance with God’s moral laws and your personal preferences, if applicable.

There are countless clear and important truths in the Bible.  Why are people so eager to be clever and add to it?  Pride?  Vanity?  Laziness?

Decision making and the will of God is a crucial topic.  “Sloppy God talk” is so pervasive in the church today.  It dishonors God, it makes authentic believers feel like they aren’t spiritual enough or even Christians because they aren’t getting these alleged revelations and it gives truly bad advice.

One of the speakers told us to be silent and listen for what God had to tell us.  I used all my restraint not to stand up and say, “He told me to tell you that what you are teaching is anti-biblical.”

 

I followed K-Love’s advice and donated what God told me to: Zero.

K-Love radio is a national Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) station that uses the same fundraising approach that KSBJ does in Houston: Lots of “sloppy God talk” instead of just explaining their ministry and inviting you to participate à la 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.).

Example: They endlessly say to give “what God tells you to,” as if that was something we should expect God to do.

Now could God give you a specific figure?  Of course!  He’s God!  But is that in any way normative based on scripture?  Should you expect him to give you a specific amount? Of course not.  Even a cursory reading of the Bible would reveal how ridiculous that is.

This ties into the lack of discernment so prevalent in the church and how badly people do with decision making and the will of God.

KSBJ would have testimonials like a guy in bankruptcy who donated to KSBJ with what little he had.  Great example, eh?  Stiff the people who lent you money and give it to KSBJ.  Very God-honoring.  /sarcasm

And while they had plenty of testimonials by people who donated and then got blessings, they never mentioned those who gave and didn’t get the Joel Osteen-type rewards.

One of the things I loved about Care Net Pregnancy Center in Houston was how they never used any emotional ploys.   They just shared all the great things the ministry did and gave people the opportunity to join in.  They have thrived for years and even paid a building loan off very early.  Trusting God with the results and skipping the games can be really effective — and much more God-honoring!

A different Pregnancy Resource Ministry had a speaker who used the “give what God told you to give” line.  The guy was very sincere and the ministry was sound, so we gave anyway.  But why use such word games?  God “told” my wife a different number than me.  So was one of us holier than the other, or was one hearing from Satan?

I had only been listening to K-Love a couple days when they started their pledge drive.  Great timing.  Their normal programming seemed fine, as far as CCM goes.  But that left a bad taste in my mouth.

Update: And as Pastor Timothy noted in the comments, if God is going to speak to you outside his word with that specificity, why would it be with on something like that?  How come these people don’t ask God to tell them exactly whom to share the Gospel with?

Roundup

Biblical faith isn’t blind faith, it is trusting in what reason has assessed (paraphrase of a Stand to Reason Podcast).

There Are Twenty Enjoyable Things I Could Be Doing Right Now. Why Not Do The Cheapest One?

It’s not so much that I regret spending the money on something that I enjoy. It’s that I know I could have enjoyed myself almost as much without spending that money, and now the opportunities afforded by that money are wasted.

Your tax dollars at work: Planned Parenthood brings sexualizing message to 11-year-olds

At a very tender age, this child has already been taught that babies are her enemy and that sex is fine as long as condoms and contraceptives are employed.

And if your daughters get pregnant by a 20-something male then Planned Parenthood will be glad to hide the crime and kill your grandchild.

More of your tax dollars at work.  The Democrats have increased “food stamp” (i.e., cash) recipients by over 50% in a successful vote-buying scheme.  Please remember that all of this money is being borrowed so that your grandchildren can pay it back.  Or, more likely, so they can live in a third-world country.

food_stamp_reciept

False Teachings About Hearing Audible Words From God Taking Even Deeper Root in Today’s Church – this “sloppy God talk” is wrong, counterproductive and dangerous.  If you want to hear from God, read the Bible.  If you want to hear from God audibly, then read the Bible out loud.  Those claiming special revelation have the burden of proof to convince you that whatever they are about to say is on a par with scripture.

At the Passion 2012 conference, Beth Moore, John Piper, Louie Giglio and company taught/led an entire sports arena (45,000 college aged students) in (attempting to ‘hear’ God’s voice). My son’s friends in attendance of this conference told of a young girl standing outside the arena crying her eyes out because she had not heard the audible voice of God as they had instructed. Others tried to comfort her but were also distraught at not hearing a thing.

Woman raped at gunpoint in “gun free zone” on university campus – the logical consequence of “gun free zones.”

Muslim Beheads Christians In NJ, Mainstream Media Silent – It is hard to believe that this isn’t national news.  The real Islamaphobes are those too fearful to criticize their atrocities. 

Dad behind viral ‘I am the 10%’ Down syndrome image speaks out – The pro-life reaction to Down syndrome people: “Love them.”  The pro-abortion reaction: “Kill them.  I mean, just kill them in the womb.  For now . . .”

 

I want this T-shirt the next time I teach Decision Making and Will of God

I love how it highlights that if someone claims God told them something then the burden of proof is on them to prove it.

Decision Making and Will of God is one of my favorite lessons to teach.  From a previous post:

This is such a crucial topic, because we make big and small decisions all the time and are constantly living with the consequences of past decisions.  Someone asked if God speaks to you about specific decisions when you are reading the Bible, such as whether you should pay off your mortgage.   I think this is about how you apply the Bible to decision making and not about whether God sends individual messages through his word.

For example, if you want to know whether paying off your mortgage is the right thing to do, you have a couple options:

  1. Ask God for a supernatural sign for the answer, whether it is a yes or a no (a la Gideon).  My guess is that He won’t decide for you that way, but it is always his option.  One thing we know about God is that if He wants to tell you something directly He isn’t very subtle.
  2. Use the wisdom model of decision making.  You don’t have access to God’s sovereign knowledge (Will I lose my job?  Will interest rates go up or down?  Etc.).  You do have unrestricted access to his moral will via the Bible. Example: Is it immoral to pay off your mortgage early?  No, unless that means you won’t have enough money to feed your kids.  After moral considerations, look to the wisdom angle.  Ask God for wisdom, as He promises to deliver — but as with Solomon, He doesn’t promise to decide everything for you.  Read the Proverbs (and more).  Seek the counsel of others.  Consider the pros and cons.  That’s how to make wise decisions.  Finally, provided the options are moral and wise, consider your personal preferences.  We have tremendous freedom in Christ to do many things with our time and money.  Will paying off your mortgage make you happy?  If so, then do it.

Here’s a picture of what is looks like:

Decision making and the will of God

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

The “God told me ___” routine can also be outright blasphemy, as when “Christians” claim that God is moving in a new direction counter to what He revealed in the Bible.  The United Church of Christ “God is still speaking;” theme is a good example of that.

Saturating yourself in the word is a key success factor in making good decisions. If we focus on worldly wisdom things go badly:

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

But if we repent and do everything we can to see things from God’s point of view we will make better decisions.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer 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.

This model will help you make good decisions in all areas of life.  You can also use it to help friends, children, etc. make good decisions.  I even use it at work as a “faith flag” at times.  If people ask career advice, for example, I pull out this diagram and share it with them (i.e., “At the risk of getting all religious on you, here’s the method I use to make decisions like that.”)

P.S. A kid came into my wife’s elementary school library yesterday and asked if she had any books on how to make good choices.  She thought of the diagram above and laughed.  Let’s just say I refer to this model now and then.  She thinks I should write a children’s book on decision making.  I think she is kidding.

Hat tip to Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason for much of this, including the diagram.