I recently received a note of encouragement and sound advice from a friend. My friend served in ministry for 1 ½ years before the position came to an end. He began searching for a new position but eventually realized that nothing was forthcoming and so needed to find a job to support his family. He has since done so. I am glad to hear that he has a means to support his family and pray that God will continue to bless him in all that he does. In his message he said, “May I suggest you get a non-ministry job, anywhere, pronto just to feed your family while you are looking.” This is, of course, sound practical advice, and I am not one to ignore the practical. But I have been contemplating God’s call and my response. Most notably, how do faith based and practical decisions interact and/or conflict with one another.
I realize I have responsibilities to care for and provide for my family. This is, of course my first and greatest responsibility. What is further, I do not believe that God would ask me to follow him to the detriment of my family. Having said this, I also realize that my vision is limited by my experience and by what I see around me. What I mean by this is that what to me, may initially seem to be detrimental to my family, in the long run may, in fact, be the greater good and glorifying to God. For example, in the short run, God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was clearly detrimental to his family. But Abraham saw past this, for he knew God’s promise to him and in the long run, God’s request and Abraham’s faith proved to be glorifying to God.
But let’s be honest, the first thing through my mind is “I am not Abraham and Abraham was a special case.” Is it not self-serving for me to try to justify an impractical decision by claiming that God will use it to his glory? Here in lies the dilemma. When does making practical decisions equal a lack of faith and when does a leap of faith become a foolish venture?
I cannot speak for every person and every situation, but I can share my thoughts. God gave me a brain and expects me to use it. At the same time, God sometimes ask people to do things that seem foolish.
So how do we know which one to follow? How do we discern God’s will? Discerning God’s will has been a problem for all people from the very beginning. (Okay, not from the beginning, it was pretty clear for Adam and Eve, but even when they clearly knew it, they had trouble following it.)
For me, it has not been easy, as those whose advice I have sought will testify too. But that is one of the keys I have found in discerning God’s will. It is to seek the insight of those around you, those who can look at things objectively and those will be completely honest with you. It is from these people I have felt confirmation and support of my calling and the direction in my life.
Another important aspect of discerning God’s will is prayer. Prayer has been my opportunity to seek God’s guidance, to ask for His blessing on my life. It is, however, important to remember that prayer is not a onetime thing, but it is on going. I have prayed daily over this with the only result being a growing commitment to the call.
Another important part has been to take time away from distraction and other activities. This is a time when I can hear God’s voice, when I can cry out to Him and I can sit in silence before Him. I can describe the times of joy and the tear filled moments that have helped me to grow.
The answers are seldom 100% clear. Sometimes the act of faith may well be the practical route, but other times the act of faith may be what seems impractical to the world. In either case, the dependence must be placed on God and not in our own abilities.
I cannot say, what the answers are for others. Each of us must seek God’s will for our own lives. each of us must learn to listen as much with our heart as we do with our mind. In my case, I can say with confidence that I have placed my trust in God and I am seeking his guidance. I do not question any decision I have made to date in this matter and will continue to seek his guidance in seeking His direction.
I thank my friend for His advice and will take it under consideration, but either way, I will seek God’s guidance.
“Then the LORD said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you.”