How do you make decisions? How do you discern God’s will?
At this time of year there are a lot of AGMs – church AGMs, denomination AGMS, graduates fellowship AGM, christian union AGMs… What should be the guiding principles for these meetings? How are they to decide on the plans for the next year?
I’ve also been seeking the Lord’s guidance for the next couple of years. I’ve spent the last year or so, learning the ropes on this job with KGK and fmZERO, reaching out to students here in Sapporo. Now I want to look forward and be proactive. I don’t want to just tread water and do maintenance. I want to see progress, growth, development. Under God and by His grace, I want to make an impact. I want to see a movement of students coming to know and love Jesus and growing in their motivation and ability to tell others about Him.
KGK camp with students from the Hokkaido Uni of Education
Today, I was on a short camp with one group of KGK students. The theme was how to know, choose and walk in the way of the Lord. Some of these students are graduating and moving on, others are just starting job-hunting now, others are not at that stage yet but are still wondering what they should do when they graduate.
One of the talks was based on Romans 12:1.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” (NIV)
The speaker’s three points were:
- People who know God’s path are worshippers / worshippers are people who know God’s path
- What we offer to God is our own selves
- Not ‘doing work that is devoted to God’, but rather ‘working as one devoted to God’
After both the talks there was time for small group discussions about what we’d heard. It was encouraging to hear the students wrestling with what they should do with their lives.
This afternoon on my weekly jog, I listened to a Tim Keller sermon called Your Plans, God’s Plans
. I’d actually heard it before but it was good to refresh my memory. It was from a series on Proverbs.
Keller tackled the Gordian Knot of the paradoxical relationship between God’s total sovereignty and our responsibility for all our decisions.
He referred to a handful of verses from Proverbs 16:
“To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.
The Lord works out everything to its proper end –
even the wicked for a day of disaster.
In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.”
In these verses, we see that we own our plans in our hearts. They are our decisions, not someone else’s. We are rightly held accountable for our choices.
But we also see God ultimately working out His plans in spite of our plans. He is the one who works out everything to its proper end. He is the one who establishes the steps we take.
In classic Keller fashion, he astutely exegetes Western culture. It focuses on the human responsibility side, saying, in the words of Doc from the Back to the Future movies, “Your future is what you make of it, so make it a good one!”
The problem with that worldview is that it is paralysingly scary! Keller gives the example of when he was in his 20’s and did everything he could to marry a woman who would have been totally wrong for him. Most of his reasons for wanting to marry her were bad reasons. Imagine if it had been all down to him. How often do we actually know what is good for us? If we really believed it was all down to us, and realised the enormity of that burden, we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.
On my jog with Tim Keller 🙂
Other cultures lean more on the divine sovereignty side. Like Oedipus, however hard you try, you can’t escape your destiny.
What this engenders is a lack of concern, am aloof distance. If my choices make no difference to what happens in the end, what point is there? Why bother? My actions towards others don’t matter.
Providence & Faith
As is so often the case, the biblical view provides the perfect third way. The biblical commands reveal a human responsibility that means our actions do matter. There is purpose and meaning in our decisions.
But there is the safety net, the comfort of faith in a God who is totally sovereign. He knows far better than we do what is good for us. He works all things, even those things that seem disastrous, for our good if we love Him (Rom 8:28).
You’re in it!
So on one hand, Keller can say to those seeking God’s will, you’re in it! It is like a river moving you along in the tide of God’s plans for your good. God is sovereign.
So, just make a decision! We can make choices that have meaning, safe in the knowledge that God will use that for good.
And as we commit our ways to God, everything we do, He will establish our plans (Prov 16:5). As we seek to be godly in every area of life, we will grow more and more to be the kind of people who make wise decisions.
So, I echo Solomon’s prayer: Lord, give me wisdom!
I’m still learning, so tell me, how do you make decisions?
- Please pray for Christian students in Japan to make wise decisions about their future, that put God first and His Kingdom.
- Pray for us too, to be wise, and commit all our ways to God.