The orgy of shopping has begun in the West. For those of you living in the United States, you no doubt saw the graphic images from the Black Friday sales as shoppers rushed to grab the latest gadgets. Around the world that same perspective is also in play as people seek to gain wisdom and understanding through a lifestyle of consumption.
Consumerism is so deadly because it tries to convince you that gratifying a felt need will lead to happiness and fulfillment. With that conviction so central to our global economy today, it is no wonder that we are convinced that our purchases will lead us to understanding. This has also spurred forward growth of private colleges selling education as a consumable that leads to a better quality of life.
We are told each day by thousands of voices that our next purchase will help us make wise and discerning decisions about our job, family, friends and lifestyle. But the only decision most marketers are concerned about is the decision to purchase their product. All the other promises made are secondary to that primary goal.
So consumers seeking direction from the brands that they look up to continually purchase their products and wait for enlightenment. But rarely does discernment come from these sources. In the fallout people get disillusioned and convince themselves that they aligned with the wrong brand of car, tablet, sweater or other consumable.
Our team at GMI is always striving to model what it looks like to make Godly decisions. And the last thing we want to do is reinforce consumerism’s harmful values. At the same time we do sell products. Why? Because products can be powerful tools to guide us to Spirit-led discernment. We don’t believe your purchasing of our product will give you wisdom, but we do believe that God can use a well-crafted resource to give you insight.
In the end God is the one who uses any tool He sees fit to guide us in the way we should go. How are you looking at the products in your life? Are you seeking insight from the things you consume or from God?
What happens when the decisions you think are made bathed in prayer and the Holy Spirit’s guidance fall apart? It does happen . . . and for many reasons too numerous to list here in this blog. What do you do?
This weekend CNN released an extensive story of the dramatic events around Charles and Andy Stanely’s relationship, falling out and reconciliation. It is quite story. One that I was not aware of. As I read it and think about the dynamics at work in the Stanley home and in their public ministry, I thought, “I bet they wondered why things fell apart as God seemed to be blessing so much of their work.”
This is an important question as we consider what it means to make Spirit-led decisions. It is important because our assumption is that a decision bathed in prayer is guaranteed to succeed. But that simply is not true.
A Kingdom decision is not so much a moment of accomplishment as a step in a process. And like any step, it can come right before a fall. We can make an excellent decision in one area and then find ourselves stumbling in another. We can feel God’s hand of blessing in one area and his hand of discipline in another.
That is because God is using our decisions as tools to shape our lives. He is highlighting His work through us and also the sin in our lives that must be dealt with. Each decision is part of that process of seeing God at work in exalting His name.
So as you look at the decisions in front of you this week and the situations that seem to be unraveling, don’t question God’s work through what you decide. Simply know that as you seek to ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, there will be some decisions that have wildly successful outcomes and others that look like failure. But God is using each one to mold you into His servant on His mission in this world. And His mission is what truly matters
Everyone makes decisions each day. Some are mundane…others revolutionary. Some are calculated…others extremely risky. People Who make good decisions become known as wise, in control and competent leaders. In fact, in an age defined by pragmatism, effective decision-making is what defines leadership to many; even above character, values and relationships.
But we know that Kingdom leadership has a deeper source than simply the skill of making a decision. At the core of our leadership within God’s Kingdom is a faith in the God of the universe and His amazing love for us and His creation.
Take the story of Daniel’s decision to intervene when Nebuchadnezzar decided to put all of his wise men to death because they could not tell him his dream or interpret it. When the wise men failed, Daniel rushed to speak to the King and asked for time; promising to deliver an answer from His God. What faith! He knew God well enough to know that this was a situation HE would step into in a miraculous way. With that personal relationship and discernment of God’s will, he committed God to the task of telling this pagan king his dream.
The power of Daniels decision to act came out of His faith. Today’s leaders get power from reason, expertise, new thinking and experience . . . all good things. But these are the world’s skills and foolishness in the face of God’s Kingdom. The decisions with power are propelled by faith!
What decisions do you have in front of you today? Do they take faith or do you have everything under control? The mystery of faith is the difference maker in the process of decision-making for Kingdom leaders. How is your faith as you make decisions today?
As I am in the process of listening and then responding to many in the mission community as part of my new role, I have sought out some resources to help me think through the process of discernment in a ministry setting. One of the books that was introduced to me by our partners at InterVarsity Press is called “Pursuing God’s Will Together” by Ruth Haley Barton. This resource has been a wonderful tool - so much so that the GMI Board will be going through this book in the coming months.
Today I read this quote from the book:
“Discernment is a quality of attentiveness to God that, over time, develops into the ability to sense God’s heart and purpose in any given moment. We become familiar with the tone, quality and content of God’s voice. We notice how God is present for us in the moment. We wonder, Where is God unfolding his work of love and redemption? and What is my most authentic response?” (pg. 57)
That caused me to ask the following question of myself, “Am I paying that level of attention to God?” If not then should I expect to be able to discern His heart in any meaningful way? I think we would all agree that the answer is “no”. Unless we are willing to be attentive to the Father and grow in our familiarity and closeness to His Kingdom agenda, then I don’t imagine that we would have much chance of deeply understanding God’s purposes.
I truly desire to understand God and know His ways but that means I must decide to be attentive to our Father in Heaven. I must watch Him work, see how He responds, understand His motivations, listen to His words…
As you start your week with the many important action items and decisions on your plate, think about how attentive you are being to the Father and see how this might rearrange your schedule for Monday morning.