Decisions. Life is full of them. You are here reading this post but at some point you had to decide whether to click on the link that brought you here. And right now you have to decide whether you will continue reading it.
Most of us find decision making hard. Why is that? There are several reasons that may make a particular decision hard.
- uncertainty about what the future holds
- afraid of making a mistake
- knowing we have to live with the consequences
- too many choices to choose from
- we don’t have enough information
- we have conflicting information
- we have not analyzed the information we do have
- your feelings and/or friends are going against what you know you should do
These are just some of the reasons that decision making is hard. So it is not surprising that we would want help in the decision making process. As Christians we certainly should seek guidance from God. After all we want to know how to please Him and want to do His will (or we should). Furthermore, as humans we are certainly limited in the information we have as well as how we are evaluating it. Who wouldn’t want to have an omniscient God guide us to the best choice?
And the LORD will continually guide you … (Isaiah 58:11)
But how should we expect that guidance to come?
While the Scriptures are useful for making us wise for salvation and equipping, correcting, and rebuking us they don’t tell us specifically what to choose in many of our decisions. They may tell us not to steal or what to look for in a spouse but not whom to marry nor which job we should take.
So many seek God’s guidance through the Spirit. Usually seeking a still small voice or impression. Through that voice/impression we are expecting to receive new, specific, and direct information from God that will either guide us to the best choice or tell us specifically what choice God would prefer we make. In addition to a voice we might seek God’s confirmation of our choice through the presence or absence of inner peace or external signs.
But is seeking direct revelation from God the expected and normative way for Christians to go about making decisions?
Isn’t this type of direct revelation and specific direction that we see when God speaks with the prophets.
men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:21)
I am the LORD your God … I spoke to the prophets (Hosea 12:9-10)
When God speaks through the Holy Spirit (in a variety of ways) and passes on information to an individual we would call the information a prophecy. And we would call the person that receives that information a prophet. At least that is how I would define these terms.
If we are looking for this kind of advice and guidance in our daily decisions then we are looking to be a daily prophet.
Prophecy – a revelation from the Holy Spirit, to an individual, that is meant to advise, encourage, instruct, warn, or foretell.
I don’t think that we should expect this type of guidance. God has urged us to be wise. He has spoken through the prophets and His Son and given us the Scriptures. In them God lays out for us His promises and His moral will (what is good and what is evil). He then gives us the freedom and the responsibility to make our decisions wisely. We are expected to apply the principles that are laid out in the Scriptures to our decision making.
In teaching this topic recently I have summarized these ideas into two views that describe how different Christians see decision making.
A summary of each view is captured in this table.
|Voice||God directly tells (or reveals to) us the right choice to make.||We wisely apply Scriptural principles to our decisions.|
|Peace||God confirms the choice we are about to make through the presence of an inner peace (lack of anxiety).God can tell us that we are making the wrong the choice through the absence of inner peace.||We can have inner peace because we have wisely chosen to do good and avoid evil.We can manifest the fruit of peace in the midst of decision making & difficulty.|
|Circumstances||God confirms the choice we are about to make through the presence of signs.||We wisely examine the circumstances in our decision making.|
|Others||God specifically directs us.||We wisely seek and weigh the advice given to us buy others.|
|Scripture||The Scriptures are not sufficient for guiding us to make wise decisions. We should seek and expect specific and direct guidance from God.||The Scriptures are sufficient in guiding us to make wise decisions within the general and moral will of God.|
|Spirit||The Spirit guides us through direct revelation (voice, peace, signs) into making the right choice.||The Spirit illuminates the Scriptures, convicts us of wrongdoing, and empowers us to live as the Scriptures and Christ command.|
What is the difference? In the prophetic view we are looking for God to tell us what to do. That makes Him responsible for the choice. In the wisdom view we apply God given principles and take ownership of the decision.
If we were trying to make a decision on where to serve, the person holding the prophetic view might seek and expect a voice from God to tell them to “go to Africa”. In contrast, the person holding to the wisdom view might read the command “go make disciples”. Then assess their gifts, talents, and passions along with the advice of others to wisely apply the principle and decide to serve God in Africa.
What about the Spirit? How should we expect to be led within the wisdom view? The Scripture tells us what we are to do. The Spirit works within us to understand our hearts, to convict us when we stray outside the moral will of God, and to give us the power to live our lives the way that Scripture tells us we should.
Within the Scriptures we see prophetic direct guidance was not a gift given to everyone, nor was it given at all times. Therefore I don’t see any reason why we should expect to be a daily prophet getting direct guidance from the Spirit outside of the Scripture to make our decisions for us.