Posts tagged ‘decisions’

July 5, 2011

How can I know God’s will? (4)

by Calvin Goligher

No series of blog posts is going to say all that needs to be said about knowing God’s will. I hope, however, that our basic assumptions, and the Biblical examples of Abraham and his servant will be instructive. We conclude with some practical advice on how to know God’s will.

First, know the Scriptures. Good decisions reflect God’s revealed will. In order to make good decisions, then, we must become familiar with the Scriptures. Whatever it takes, we must maintain the discipline of privately and regularly reading the Scriptures. Though this is important, there are other ways we learn from the Scriptures too. We should eagerly participate in family devotions, listen attentively to our pastor’s sermons, read good books, listen to mp3 sermons—anything that will help us to become more familiar with the Word of God.

Second, pray. The Lord Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father which art in heaven… thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). He Himself prayed a similar prayer in Gethsemane (Luke 21:42). The Apostle Paul prayed, immediately following his conversion, “What wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Paul later told the Colossians that he was praying that they “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (1:9). We should be praying similarly, that we would know God’s will in order to do God’s will.

Third, seek godly counsel. God gave us families, pastors, churches, and Christian friends for a reason. The book of Proverbs speaks of the value of a “multitude of counsellors” (11:14). The early Church valued consultation and collaboration in making decisions—the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 is a good example. We are not to think that God’s will is always going to be found in a highly individual way. Individual experience, calling, and conviction is part of the process, but so is the advice, wisdom, and exhortation of our families and Churches.

I hope you see a pattern emerging. Knowing God’s word is a vital aspect of true Christianity (Psalm 1:2). Prayer, likewise, is an essential part of living as a Christian. Christian fellowship and mutual exhortation (Hebrews 3:13) is another indispensable part of the Christian life. Seeking God’s will for our life is not an isolated compartment of Christian experience. Rather, it is one practical outworking of our total spiritual life. We tackle this practical problem as we would any other: by seeking to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) as we make use of the means he has provided for our spiritual growth.

June 28, 2011

How can I know God’s will? (3)

by Calvin Goligher

With our two basic assumptions in hand, we have already considered the Biblical example of Abraham’s servant in Genesis 24. We move on now to consider a second Biblical example: how Abraham himself came to know God’s will in this episode.

We do not read of any direct revelation to Abraham concerning the matter of choosing a wife for Isaac. How did he know that it would be better to find a wife for Isaac from his own family, rather than from among the Canaanites? The key to answering this question is in verse 7, where Abraham speaks of God not only as “the Lord God of heaven,” but also as the one who said: “Unto thy seed will I give this land.” Abraham knew that Isaac was God’s child of promise to him, through whom God would bring to pass all of his promises to Abraham. Abraham would have an innumerable offspring through Isaac, and Isaac was the “seed” through which all the nations of the earth would be blessed (22:18).

Abraham also knew that God would give “this land” to Isaac, his seed. If Isaac and his offspring are to possess the land, two conditions must be in place. First, Isaac must live in “this land.” This is why Abraham was so adamant that his servant not bring Isaac back to Haran. Second, Isaac and his offspring must be distinct from the Canaanites who then possessed the land; otherwise, his seed would never drive out the resident nations in order to possess the land themselves, as God had promised (15:16-21). This is why Abraham was equally adamant that Isaac not marry a Canaanite woman.

Abraham’s example gives us some insight into how we are to know the will of God. He did not make decisions without any thought for their consequences, as if they did not matter at all. Rather, he made an enormous effort to find not only a wife for Isaac, but the right wife. We notice also that he did not have an angel appearing to help him with every decision he made. Rather, he made his decisions concerning a wife for his son on the basis of God’s previous, and more general, revelation.

Like Abraham, we look at what God has already revealed in general, and apply the principles of His word to know His will in our particular situation.

June 22, 2011

How can I know God’s will? (2)

by Calvin Goligher

Having considered two basic assumptions that must inform our effort to know God’s will, we move on to look at a Biblical example of a person seeking and knowing God’s will.

In Genesis 24, Abraham sends his chief servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. He did not want Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman, and thereby make allegiance with the wicked Canaanites of the land. Instead, he told his servant to go and find a wife for Isaac from among Abraham’s extended family back in Haran. Abraham assured him that God would “send his angel before thee” to guide his search (7). The servant agreed, and set off for Mesopotamia.

As he drew nigh to the city, he stopped by the local well. As he waited there, he prayed that God would lead him in a particular way: he asked that the girl who offers him and his camels water would be the one that God had “appointed for [his] servant Isaac” (14). Rebekah came along, and offered him and his camels water. Sure enough, Rebekah fit the bill (she was a relative of Abraham).

The servant’s explanation to Rebekah of what had just transpired is well-known: “I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (27). The servant’s example is important. He was already doing what he knew to be the general will of God for him—obeying his master in seeking a suitable wife for Isaac. God then answered his prayer to lead him more specifically to the woman he had chosen.

Thus we see our two basic assumptions at work in the way the servant sought God’s will. He understood that God wanted him to make a good decision, and so did not treat the matter lightly or proceed carelessly. Rather, he prayed that God would enable him to “get it right.” Also, he understood that good decisions reflect God’s revealed will. He did what he already knew to be God’s will, and prayed that God would, in a sense, take care of the rest.

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June 16, 2011

How can I know God’s will?

by Calvin Goligher

There are few questions more pressing for a young person than, “How can I know God’s will?” Decisions about education, career, finances, and relationships loom over us, and it is only natural to be intimidated. How do we approach these decisions in a thoroughly Christian way? Here are two basic assumptions that must undergird our efforts to know God’s will.

The first basic assumption is that God wants us to make good decisions. The book of Proverbs is an extended sermon urging us to be wise, and not to be fools, in every aspect of our lives. Wise people fear God (1:7), avoid sexual sin (6:24), use their tongue to benefit others (12:18), and honour their parents (15:5). Wise people, in short, are Christians. According to Proverbs 27:12, then, Christians are people who make good decisions: “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.”

The second basic assumption is that good decisions reflect God’s revealed will. Jesus enters into a relationship with those that do God’s will. A relationship that transcends even human family relations. “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven,” he said, “the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50). When we do God’s will, we are imitating our Saviour. He said: “I came not do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). He taught us not only to do the Father’s will, but also to desire it in prayer: “Our Father which art in heaven… thy will be done” (Matt 6:10). Where can we know God’s will? The short answer is: He has revealed it to us in His word.

As we seek to make decisions, we should bear these two principles in mind. We should not be careless in making decisions. Bad decisions will harm us, those around us, and potentially dishonour God. We should also make decisions that are agreeable to the will of God revealed throughout Scripture. When we make good decisions, we act like our Saviour, and we honour God. Next, we consider a Biblical example of discovering God’s will.

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