Decisions, Decisions: Praying, Discerning and Deciding
How is your 2018 going so far? As life goes on we are repeatedly faced with choices. And as we are confronted with choices we can be tempted in various ways. We can seek to escape them. Or we can make our choice based on our own worldly wisdom. Or we can rashly make a choice without even thinking.
By contrast, we ought to learn to pray, discern and decide.
The first thing that we have to do is pray. As Psalm 27.8 says, “You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek”. There are many opportunities to pray. We can pray in our quiet time individually. We can pray at every meal. We can set special times for personal prayer. As a church, we pray in the worship service. We also gather for regular prayer meetings on the last Wednesday of each month. There are prayer times in community group gatherings and bibles studies for men and women. We also have occasions of fasting and prayer, especially before big decisions like the purchase of the building.
This praying is a humbling of ourselves before the Lord to seek his face. As I have witnessed, some of these prayer times have been seasons of personal and corporate soul-surgery--- real confession of sin, repentance and embrace of the pardon of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I praise God for glorifying himself in our prayers. And I think when we do this, we are assuming a proper posture in our decision-making processes, ascribing highness to God and lowness to ourselves and our plans.
The second thing we need to do alongside of the praying is to discern. What are we supposed to discern, you might ask? Discerning God’s will is the chief issue. That means we are not looking for secret knowledge, audible voices or writing in the sky. But it does mean that we look at the Scriptures, discerning whether our choices can promote glory of God and the advance of the gospel.
Seeing Jesus on the Mount of Olives prior to his upcoming crucifixion, he prayed, “ “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus was willing to submit his will to his heavenly Father’s will. This is the fundamental discernment we all need. Am I obeying God’s clearly revealed will?
We also discern the prudence and wisdom of the opportunities which God places before us. How much does it cost? What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? Is there an exponential good to be done by making this choice?
In all of this we remember what Paul said: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12.2). We need to be renewed in our minds so that our discernment muscles are well tested and have good spiritual muscle memory, like the reflexes of a boxer or the instincts of a parliamentary debater. When we test out our choices with discernment that fits the will of God, we will get better at making wise, godly decisions that please Him.
Sometimes as we try to be discerning we can get almost paralyzed. It’s helpful to consider the wise counsel of Kevin DeYoung from his great book, “Just Do Something” when he writes:
“... go marry someone, provided you're equally yoked and you actually like being with each other. Go get a job, provided it's not wicked. Go live somewhere in something with somebody or nobody. But put aside the passivity and the quest for complete fulfillment and the perfectionism and the preoccupation with the future, and for God's sake start making some decisions in your life. Don't wait for the liver-shiver. If you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you will be in God's will, so just go out and do something.” Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will.
We want to pray, discern and decide, not be waiting for ‘liver-shivers’ as DeYoung calls them! As James 1.5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Entrust yourself to God, heed His Word, and act in within the freedom of those parameters.
In all of this let us not be bound with the chains of indecision. Rather, trust the Lord and move forward with wise, yet humble confidence. We need to be deciders. As DeYoung says:
“The only chains God wants us to wear are the chains of righteousness--not the chains of hopeless subjectivism, not the shackles of risk-free living, not the fetters of horoscope decision making--just the chains befitting a bond servant of Christ Jesus. Die to self. Live for Christ. And then do what you want, and go where you want, for God's glory.” --Just Do Something
As we pray, discern and decide, let us remember that God has lead you this far and will lead you onward. Moses had to remind Israel of this: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deut. 31.6). In a similar way, Jesus has promised to be with us himself saying, “be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28.20).
There is nothing more sure than the promise of our Saviour. So in reliance on Him, go forward in the confidence that comes from prayerful, discerning decision-making.