“We need to be freed from the oppressive judgements or expectations of others that limit our ability to hear and respond to God’s voice for us.” Gordon Smith
Sometimes it is the voices of others that keep us from hearing God clearly. Did you ever think that your voice could actually drown out God’s direction in someone’s life, or that others could hamper our ability to hear God?
It is a scary thought to consider, isn’t it? We have a much greater responsibility towards fellow travelers on this Kingdom path than we are usually willing to concede. But in those quiet moments when we think back to the words we have spoken that day, we can be honest with ourselves.
Many times our words do not draw people closer to God’s heart and thus His will for their lives. In those moments, our words are spoken for selfish or thoughtless reasons rather than selfless reasons.
A friend might be trying to pick between a job in town or one half a continent away. As they are seeking God’s will, and turn to us for input, we could easily share from our selfish desires to see them stay close by rather than our desires for God’s will to be done in their lives. Our words could have a huge impact on the next phase of their life.
What words did you speak today? Did any impact the decisions of others? If so, was your impact Kingdom-focused or YOU-focused?
Most decisions take more than one perspective. They come from a rich flow of input pouring out of people with very different backgrounds and approaches to the problem at hand. I think that is one of the reasons that God gave us the Church. He knew that participating in the forward march of the Kingdom would require us to take bold action in ways that were not understood by those outside of The Way. We would lack the confidence to make the decisions we needed to all on our own.
So the Church brings together people from all different personalities, walks of life and perspectives. God is at work in each person and is helping them to grow closer to Himself as they respond in obedience to their Savior.
It is in this rich environment that we Christians find ourselves placed. God calls us to discern what is right as we look to Him, study His word and work it out in community. We cannot discern His will completely without this holy input from those He has put in our midst.
Just today I found myself experiencing this very thing. One person in our community had been confronted with a decision. She wisely realized that it was not hers to make alone and brought it to a group of people who were part of the narrative. As we prayed, discussed and questioned together, an answer formulated. We left our time together feeling much more confident in what had to be done and I truely felt God’s direction in our decision.
I worry that this part of discernment is often being ignored today. We value the decision that comes from a mountain-top experience or a gut-level intuitive response much more than a decision that comes out of community. The individuality of most decisions almost ensures that they will be lopsided and out of balance.
Do you value making decisions with others? Do you see their input as part of God’s communication to you in the process?
If you have looked to a group to seek discernment, I would love to hear the story of how God used the experience.
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” - Genesis 2:16-17
As I have been researching the process of decision-making and the role it has in our Spiritual life, I have come to a simple but profound conclusion. Decision-making is fundamental to our humanity.
That sounds like a very grand statement to make, but think about this with me. What makes us different from the animals and the angels? God gave us a free will and asked us to turn around and surrender that will to Him of our own accord. That means that our ability to make a decision is at the core of what makes us human and is the very thing that God wants us to give back to Him in an act of obedience.
This means that as we strive to understand Spirit-led decision-making, we need to see it as a cornerstone of our offering to our Savior. Every decision in front of us gives us the opportunity to surrender more to Christ as we die to self or to elevate our selves as we push Jesus further away.
On that day in the Garden when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they made a decision focused on themselves and pushed God away in the process. It seemed like such a small thing, but when it comes to this most fundamental of activities there is no such thing. Each decision we make either leads us closer to Christ or further from Him.
How will you approach the decisions you have to make tomorrow with this in mind?
“Worry is undisciplined foresight.” E. Stanley Jones, The Way
You are probably worrying right now! You might be concerned about some decision you have to make at work or a situation you are wrestling through with a family member. Whatever it might be, our brains are wired to plan and process all of the time. Since we are constantly processing, our sin nature takes over and focuses our planning on speculation and consternation.
When Jesus warns us against worry in Matthew chapter six, he is trying to reorient our minds and our efforts to plan. He knew that his disciples (like everyone else) naturally fixated on things that most directly impacted their quality of life. So Jesus mentions clothes, food and drink as examples of those immediate and all-consuming things. But this passage isn’t about clothes or food. It is all about reorienting us around the Kingdom instead of the concerns in this world. In verse 33, Jesus challenges the Disciples to “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness”.
So why is this reorientation so important? We are wired to process our future, seek insight, and make decisions. God made us that way! But unless we are seeking Kingdom insight, we are squandering the gift of foresight God gave us. On most days we use God’s gift poorly and we miss the chance to engage with what God is doing in His Kingdom. We focus our desire to seek insight on worrying about how this or that might turn out and how it might affect us. This makes it almost impossible for us to make wise decisions for Him. We settle for worry instead of wisdom. This is a tragedy and a victory for the Evil One.
But it doesn’t have to be. If we will seek God each day and ask Him to reorient our thoughts in order to seek His Kingdom, then our thoughts would lead to the discernment we desperately need. Are you settling for worry instead of wisdom? Ask God today to transform your self-focused foresight into God-focused discernment.