About 2,000 years ago Jesus left Earth. He gave us the Holy Spirit, Scripture and general principles to help us on our path, but what He didn’t give us is a blueprint for every decision we’ll encounter. So as Christians, how do we know when we’re doing what God wants us to do? While we may never be certain that each decision we make is the one that God would choose for us, we do have the tools available to us to make wise, Christ-centered decisions and to have confidence in them.
I’ve often been instructed to ask God for guidance before making a decision, which is sound advice. But how that guidance is communicated is an important point. To look to Scripture, seek Christian counsel, and then make the best decision is not enough for some. I have been told to listen for the still, small voice, to wait for instruction. But where does that leave us, caught between a mystery and a whisper? The will of God is more than spiritually-minded hindsight. It is the difficult work of bringing our desires in line with His. I get frustrated as a Christian person wanting to do the right thing, to find God’s will for my life, to make decisions that God will applaud. People say, “Don’t let yourself get in the way,” or “Is that your decision or God’s?” But what does that really mean? It seems that they are saying, “Wait, hold still, and don’t move unless God tells you to!” But, we can immobilize ourselves by making the will of God a mystery that can only be worked out by a supernatural event.
In 1 Kings 19, the Lord comes to Elijah as a “gentle whisper,” a passage often quoted to emphasize the subtlety of God’s instruction. But God was not elusive with Elijah. He first told Elijah that He would come to him, then spoke clearly enough that we have His exact words in Scripture. Also, this encounter happened after Elijah had called down fire on Mount Carmel, had hundreds of false prophets slaughtered, and raised a woman’s son from the dead. He had not been standing still until this moment. He had confidence that God was with him and was not afraid to act.
Jesus said that He would make us fishers of men. Commercial fishing vessels fish in the middle of the Bering Sea, hundreds of miles from port. The water is so cold that when it washes onboard, it freezes over the deck. Deckhands keep mallets on board to break the ice so that they can continue working. They work on slippery surfaces, often with sea spray in their faces, operating large nets or sharp blades. They catch and process tens of thousands of pounds of fish. And they are truly alone in these conditions. If someone is badly injured, the Coast Guard may be able to evacuate him by helicopter, but only if he is relatively close to shore.
Our job as Christians in this world is very similar. We are here among hostile elements to do a job for our Master and to do it well. Fishermen need to make smart decisions to stay alive, and they need to work hard. There is no tolerance for poor work habits, no such thing as a day off. They only have a limited number of days to catch each particular species of fish, so they work 16-hour days with eight hours off to shower, eat and sleep. We, too, have a limited time in which to work. To do the will of God we need a fisherman’s work ethic.
[USE YOUR HEAD]
It seems God leaves decisions up to us to figure out by using discernment and good judgment. We do not need a voice in our head to tell us we have made the right choice. God did not need to tell me where to go to school. I had applied to several good schools and had the tools to choose the one that fit me best. God answered my prayers for guidance by providing trips to the campuses and conversations with students at each school. He then allowed me to make a decision with the information in front of me.
Rather than straining to hear additional instruction, we should simply rely on that which God has already given to us. In Luke 9, Jesus sends out 12 disciples. In chapter 10, He sends out 72. And just before He left Earth, He sent us all. Christ had confidence in us to do His work. He knew our limits; our imprecision and mortality are no surprise to Him.
God’s will does not have to be an impregnable mystery. We are given enough instruction in Scripture that if we only committed to do everything commanded of us in those pages alone, we would have enough to occupy a lifetime. We may not always choose the right path. Our ego might deter us or our selfishness might delude us, but God will push us back if we keep listening. How much easier is it to guide someone truly seeking God’s direction back to the center of the path, rather than someone standing still? We should not feel any less Christ-like for making a decision with the mind that God gave us and the instruction He provides. Jesus said, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (John 8:21). He did not cite an intermediary step in which his word has to be confirmed by a thought or an impulse. He simply tells us to go fish.
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