Thinking about decisions
What's God's will for your life? How are you going to decide where to go and what to do? Here are some of the factors that seem to play a part in making this kind of decision. Are they things that affect your thinking too?
Passions and interests
It’s just not smart to ignore your individual talents. If you’re a people person and the job is an administrative one, you’ll go crazy. If you can’t stand people, yet you’re a great teacher, you probably won’t do much good in a pastoral setting. God’s gifts are given so that we can build up the church. Knowing your strengths as well your challenges will help narrow down your options. But then again, it’s best not to be too precious about it. Sometimes an unknown gift or passion can emerge just from trying out something new!
It’s really interesting that most Bible characters were asked by God to do things that involved faith, risk and stretching their comfort zones a lot. There’s a lot of talk about ‘protecting yourself in ministry’ these days – setting boundaries and knowing how much we can cope with. These things are good in their place. But as my mother always said, “You learn patience by having to be patient. You learn perseverance by having to persevere. You learn longsuffering by suffering long.” Are we becoming a little too safe in the decisions we make about serving God?
You just have to talk to any missionary in any location to find out that Sydney Christians are well-off in so many ways. We have lots of Christian fellowship, an abundant supply of good resources and a church that treasures good doctrine. In many other parts of the world, the church is hampered by a lack of resources, personnel, teaching, freedom and opportunity. In Sydney as well, some areas are more ‘needy’ than others. Should you go to where the need is greater? Does the need equal the call?
Getting wise Christian counsel is really useful. The opinions of people who we respect can have a great deal of influence on the decisions we make. CMS works a lot on this principle. If the many committees and the prospective missionaries and the receiving churches all agree, it’s a fairly sure indication that God is in the decision to send someone. On the other hand, some of the boldest outreach and most influential evangelism has been done by Christians who ignored the advice of their elders and struck out afresh, believing God had a specific plan for their life that they couldn’t ignore.
Pretty obvious you’d think, but then, we are silly humans who tend to ignore the obvious. I shudder to think how many prayer-less decisions I have made in life! If we bathe decisions in prayer, surely we can expect that God will answer.
Serve God, not money
Like prayer, this seems obvious, but how much of a temptation is it for us all! Here comes the difficult weigh-up between wise stewardship and stepping out in faith. Accepting a job with no salary because you believe the need, the opportunity and the call is there might be simple obedience for some, but irresponsibility dressed up as faith for others. Is it a case of knowing yourself?
Many people have stories about how God ‘just worked out’ the circumstances surrounding their decisions. It might be having the roof blown off your house one night in a storm and then replaced within three days (yes, that’s pretty much how I caved in and agreed to go to college.) Is God really weaving all the events together to help open or shut doors on options for us? Or, should we knock harder to open what looks like a ‘closed’ door?
We all have a responsibility to our families – both our own, and our extended families. But what does that mean? Some people may not be wise to put their marriage under extra stress from a difficult job. Others will thrive together on the challenge. The highest priority for some will be to make sure their children are protected and safe. The highest priority for others will be teaching them to be risk-takers and adventurers. And what about looking after elderly parents, or witnessing to non-believing in-laws? If we move away, are we neglecting them, or proving that we love Christ ‘above mother, brother, father…’?
The reality is that some people will always be easier to work with than others. Some teams are fabulous, others are rife with problems. Are we like Paul, who let John Mark go when he couldn’t get on with him, or are we more like Barnabas, who helped and encouraged the difficult people? Do we see a good working relationship as something that is essential to begin with, or something to aspire to?
It’s funny how when you start asking questions, you end up not with answers, but just a whole lot of other questions to answer. Perhaps Proverbs 19:21 has something to say. “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel; that will stand”. What God does, he will do. And we’ll fit into it somewhere along the line.
Our choices are definitely important, but perhaps even more important is how we live out our lives having made those choices. It’s exciting to exercise our wisdom and prayer muscles in making decisions in all areas of life, including where to go and what to do after college. But in the end, what is really important is the faithfulness and obedience and love we demonstrate daily as we persevere to the end.