Spiritual Decision Making: The Will of GodPosted: May 3, 2011
I’ve been really encouraged by the feedback and response I’ve received to this series. Clearly this is a topic that holds interest for a lot of people. I plan to finish up with 2 more posts, this one and one more. In the previous installments I laid out certain principles that I feel are important in making spiritual decisions:
- Don’t wait around for specific advice
- Admit your own preferences, but allow God to overrule for his own purposes
- Don’t expect that there is one “right” option; there may be several (although one may be better than others)
- One way you can determine a “better” option is the benefit of others, not just yourself
I left off last time with the observation that it takes a noble goal to induce someone to make a choice that will result in personal loss in order to benefit another. That is the example we have in several places in the Bible, which we’ve looked at previously. I want to spend a bit more time on some specific examples here.
Joseph, you’ll recall, was sold into slavery by his own brothers. He went through cycles of hardship and blessing that ultimately led him to the seat of power in Egypt – effectively becoming the most powerful man in the entire world. And in that position of power, he had opportunity to get back at his brothers. Though he does seem to have struggled, he ultimately realized that God was at work in his slavery and elevation to power, all for the purpose of saving the lives of his family:
And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you… But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. — Gen 45:5, 7
Esther had struggles when called on by Mordecai to approach the king in order to intervene for the lives of her countrymen. As I’ve mentioned earlier, she expresses her own fearfulness to Mordecai, and seems ready to stand aside. Part of Mordecai’s admonishment to Esther is this:
…who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? — Esther 4:14
While Moses was having a mountaintop experience with God, the children of Israel were playing in the valley (parents, take note). After Aaron made the golden calf, God was ready to wipe Israel out and start over again. Moses made a decision to stand between the people and the wrath of God (!), a decision that is underlined by his statement that he was willing to be blotted out of the book of life for their sake. What could prompt such a response? Moses’ words reveal something to us:
O LORD, why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ — Exodus 32:11-13
More examples could be provided, but here is the point. The willingness to sacrifice self and ambition, in each of these cases, was motivated by a desire for the will of God to prevail. Joseph stifled any desire he may have had for revenge, partly because of his growing maturity, but partly because he saw God working through him to preserve his family. Moses was willing to perish in Israel’s place (of course he wasn’t good enough; only Jesus was) because he saw how the destruction of the Jews would work against God’s glory among the nations, and against God’s own word. Esther braved the wrath of the king for the sake of (what seemed to be) the work of God.
All of this is summed up in Jesus’ agonizing prayer – “Not my will but thine”. So just what is God’s will? Not for me or you personally, but for the whole of mankind. What was the will of God that exploded into the decision making process of Joseph, Moses, Esther, and especially Jesus?
Simply stated: the will of God is to save as many people as possible in order that he will be glorified. Go back and read each of those examples with that purpose statement in mind, and see if it doesn’t ring true. Meditate and reflect on how God brought Jesus through the Jewish nation so that all mankind could be saved, and see if every one of those decisions highlighted above is not aimed at that ultimate goal.
Here’s the hard part. If I know, that the ultimate goal of my life, and every other person’s life, is to cooperate with God’s desire to save as many as possible – shouldn’t my decisions be aimed at that goal?
This is a high and holy standard, yet it is the stuff of true spirituality.