94. grab a Snickers bar, this is a long one
A few days ago I was talking about this amazing CD that Blake (Clone A) had let me borrow (which I’ve since imported into iTunes and am in the process of burning copies for select friends). It’s a message titled, “Decision Making and the Will of God” and it’s given by Greg Kokul.
The talk begins with Koukl dismantling the idea that “there is the presumption that God has an individual blueprint for our life . . . that blueprint includes the major decisions of our life – who we’re going to marry, what profession we’ll have, how many children we might have, how we’ll raise our children . . .” He goes on to say that “the paradigm here is not just one where we presume that God has this blueprint plan, but we have to take a step further. We have to find out what that plan is. We have to figure out God’s decisions for us on any given situation before we can make our decisions.” He says that this way of thinking about the will of God is based in this assumption: “. . . that there is this blueprint, this roadmap (so to speak). That God has made the decisions that we must discover before we can make our decision.”
When understood this way, discerning God’s will takes the form of “being led by the Spirit,” or “listening for the voice of God,” or “watching for open/closed doors,” or “seeking inner peace about a decision,” or “putting out a fleece,” or “seeking confirmations.” And there are some other things, but I think you get the idea.
I’m jumping around the first half of his talk, and I might unintentionally be taking things out of context. I don’t want to misrepresent what he’s saying so if you want, you can see some of this in his own words on his website here.
So the first half is all about dismantling the idea that an individualized revelation of God’s will is something to look out for or to expect. He ends this section with this bombshell conclusion: “Does the Bible teach there’s a specific will for our lives that we must discover before we can make decisions? No. . . . There are no signs I have to read, there is no voice from God I must hear in order to make sound, Biblical, Godly decisions.”
Well, God does have a plan (a will) doesn’t he? Yes he does and after going through the idea verse by verse, Koukl finds that God’s will falls into two categories – his sovereign will and his moral will. “Paul says in Romans 9:19, ‘who resists His will?’ Well, I did something bad yesterday, that was against His will, I resisted. And we realize that Paul is talking about the will of God in a different way, isn’t he? He’s talking about a will that can’t be resisted. When God says it, that’s it. He does it. He has a plan for the ages . . . and to some degree he’s revealed his sovereign will – we know how the story ends.” But for the most part, this sovereign will is hidden from us. When we look back on our lives, we can see how God cares for us and how He has been guiding us but at the time, events seemed random – God was up to something but we didn’t have access to it at the time.
The other aspect of God’s will is his moral will. “‘For the Lord is not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance.’ (2 Peter 3:9) Now I know that some people do perish, so this isn’t God’s sovereign will, it’s a different kind of will. . . . call it God’s moral will. These are the things that God wants all people to obey though they might disobey. God’s moral will is completely revealed in the Bible. God wants us to do something, he tells us what it is. Why? So we can obey it. [God’s moral will] is broad, it applies to every single Christian equally and because of that it does not connote individualized guidance.”
So if God’s sovereign will is mostly inaccessible and God’s moral will is broad and not individualized, then how does one go about making decisions? And here is another bombshell that Koukl dropped. “Using the guidelines of God’s word and wisdom, you have the freedom to do anything you want with God’s blessing.” With this in mind, making decisions becomes a relatively simple three step process:
1. What do you want to do?
2. Is it moral?
3. Is it wise?
If a decision you want to make passes these “tests,” the go to it.
Okay, enough with the summary already.
All of these things that Koukl shared are things that I’ve kind of been thinking in the back of my mind, but because they seemed to be so contrary to the way people in the church presented the will of God, I resisted. I kept trying to do it their way – listening for God’s guidance, letting go of the steering wheel and letting God drive, waiting for God’s direction – and that led to frustration and confusion and it battered my spiritual self-esteem (I kept thinking that I wasn’t good enough for God to speak to me or maybe I wasn’t doing it right or maybe I wasn’t disciplined enough).
Even worse, I held off on making decisions out of fear of making the wrong decision. This played itself out in the area of relationships in particular. I’d see someone I found attractive or interesting and I’d seek after the will of God and when I didn’t hear confirmation from God that it was okay to pursue this relationship, I’d refrain and not make a move.
And now, now I’m fucking pissed because I wonder how much of my life I’ve missed out on because of unbiblical teaching regarding making decisions. I’ve missed out on so much. I’ve lived as a Christian for almost twenty years and all that time I waited to hear from God and when I didn’t, I’d refrain from taking risks. And I wondered why God was silent in areas of my life where I sought him most.
And now it turns out that I could have just made up my own damn mind and gone with my gut instead of not doing anything for fear of making a wrong decision. I feel like all those years are gone – some of the best years of my life wasted on listening for something that wasn’t there to be heard. All those opportunities I let pass me by for lack of guidance that was never there in the first place. All the experiences I could have had. All the life I could have lived. All that wasted time.
I can’t begin to express how pissed I am about all that I’ve missed out on. But there’s a silver lining to this cloud and this silver is five-nines (five-nines is a silver that is 99.999 percent pure…see the five nines?). The upside to this is that now I’m free. I don’t have that awful weight on my back anymore. Apart from anything that might be sin or otherwise unwise, I can do whatever the fuck I want to do. I feel like a whole new world has opened up for me.
And here’s the really ironic thing. Now that I’ve stopped listening for the voice of God, I “hear” it everywhere. Whereas before I was waiting to hear what I should do, now that I know that I can do whatever I want (within the framework of those three things listed above), I get the sense that God wants me to explore all the grandeur of his creation. Instead of waiting to hear what I should do, I hear God encouraging me to do it all!
But I’m still pissed because this is the way things were meant to be. This is the freedom that God’s always wanted for me. This is the freedom that church culture stole from me and I know I need to forgive and move on, but the thing that makes that hard is the fact that there are still so many people out there who are still burdened by this unbiblical standard for decision making – people who are heartbroken by what they perceive as silence. But the church just keeps beating the relationship drum over and over again.
Okay, I’ve been at this for almost three hours now.
There’s more I want to say but I work the early shift at work tomorrow and I need to get some sleep. If you’ve made it this far, two kudos for you. Thanks for reading. If you didn’t make it this far…then you’re not reading this bit are you?
Okay, until next time…