Monday, November 22, 2010

God told me _______

I've been thinking alot lately about the idea of guidance. I'm sure most of you have yourself said or at least encountered someone who's said something to the effect of "I really feel like God's telling me to do _______" (e.g. share my faith with my friend, move to China, drop out of college, etc.). The question that most people inevitably grapple with in this is, "how do you know that's God telling you?" Stated other ways it sounds like: "how can I know what God's will is in this situation?" or "how can I hear God's voice?" or "how can I be sensitive to the Spirit's leading?" You may have even received such teaching from Christians you respect: "you need to be seeking God's will in everything you do," "you need to be listening for God's voice," "you need to be sensitive to the Spirit's leading," "have you really asked God if He wants you doing this?" In my experience, most Christians are simply confused about this whole process. I'm one of them. However, I feel like lately the Lord is growing me in understanding in this area.

Questions like these become relevant any time we are faced with a decision that the Bible hasn't clearly spoken one way or the other on. In some ways, this includes every situation we encounter in our actual lives. This is simply called application: taking God's general will as revealed in the Bible and applying it to our specific situations. For instance, should I steal my favorite candy bar from the store or not? Well, if we consider the Bible in its narrowest sense, it hasn't directly addressed that question. There's no passage on Mike Anderson in a convenience store with a candy bar. However, the Bible has spoken generally about theft, and in fact prohibited it. But for me to apply that to my life, I use wisdom, i.e. a rational thought process. It goes something like this: "To steal or not to steal the candy bar? The Bible prohibits stealing, to steal the candy bar from the store would be stealing, therefore I will not steal the candy bar." Often times in an obvious case such as this the thought process I've just described goes on subconsciously, but it happens nonetheless.

Now can you imagine me asking someone for counsel on my decision (whether to steal the candy bar) and them saying "well you should pray and ask the Lord if He wants you to steal the candy bar, and then wait to see what He says," or "follow how you feel His spirit leading"? Absolutely not. Such counsel would be superfluous at best and misleading at worst (e.g. if I really want to steal and still feel like stealing after praying, now I feel like that's justified because it's "how the Spirit is leading." I can almost hear the Christian rationalization now: "I just felt the Lord telling me He wanted me to really live out of my freedom in Christ"). Now I assume everyone agrees with my line of reasoning so far, however it seems to me when we get to more complicated issues we jettison such reasoning. The counsel we've just shot down in the case of stealing suddenly seems to be garden variety when it comes to issues like where one should live or who one should marry. Why is that the case? We'll look into it in part 2...

1 comment:

  1. Mike, I really appreciate the post. I think I'm in the same place as you: If God doesn't appear to me in a burning bush and speak words to me, it is difficult to hear exactly what he's saying. And your right, so often I hear someone say "I feel God's calling to __" when it seems that more often than not it's just what they want to do.

    I do agree with you on the example that you provided. But as you're intentionally thinking through the topic I'd love to hear your thoughts on God's OT commands to kill people and how it fits in with your candy bar theft example. For example: Abraham offering (almost) of Isaac -- or one of the other numerous slaughterings commanded by God in the OT.