Spiritual Decision Making: PreferencePosted: April 25, 2011
In my last post, I reflected on what I think is a fundamental truth of spiritual decision making – that if you are waiting for the kind of specific guidance in your life experienced by Moses, you’re probably going to be waiting for a long time. Maturity and wisdom is demonstrated by acknowledging this and taking responsibility for our decisions.
The next principle that jumps out at me as I reflect on Scripture and my own situation is one that I think people need to grab hold of. So often I hear people that are trying to make decisions with the will of God in mind talking as though there were something morally wrong with having a personal desire to go one way or another. It’s often couched in really spiritual sounding phrases like “I just want to serve God”, or “Wherever the Lord leads me, I’ll follow”.
Those are good sentiments and all, but I think I do myself a disservice when I refuse to acknowledge that I have a preference. In fact, by being real enough to admit to God that there is an option that is particularly attractive (or unattractive) to me, I find myself in good company biblically.
Take the example of Esther. When Mordecai asked her to intercede with the king on behalf of her people, she gave a roundabout response:
All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king. –Esther 4:11
That’s a really long way of saying, “I don’t want to do this because I might die.” Yet she did it anyway. Despite her personal preference, she made a spiritually sound decision to the contrary that resulted in the preservation of her race and the continuation of God’s plan to bring Jesus into the world through the Jews.
Jesus went through intense agony in the garden of Gethsemane. His prayer, in a nutshell: “Father, I don’t want to do this… but I will, because I am determined to submit myself to your purpose.” Or, as you’ve heard it before: “Not my will, but thine.”
I don’t think that God is so much glorified in my pretending to be a completely blank slate without personality or preference as he is in my willing submission to his purposes in my life, despite my desires to the contrary.
Of course that’s all well and good if you know that God wants you to go address a king, or to die on a cross. Like I’ve already said, we don’t have that kind of specific insight into our personal decisions today (or at least I don’t think we do), so clearly there need to be a few more principles at work. But acknowledging our preferences I think is a starting point. Not just because our own preferences are often something that need to be gotten over in order to do what God wants us to do, but for another reason as well.
Because sometimes our preferences are perfectly in line with the will of God, and we need not feel any shame in doing what we want to do.
This is getting long… more in a little bit.