Last month, I looked at the first three steps or ways that we can find God's will that Walkte outlines in his book: reading your Bible, developing God's heart, and seeking the counsel of wise people. But these three steps are not the only ways that God reveals and confirms His will to His people.
In my experience, I've found that there are two types of people when it comes to finding God's will and making decisions: people who want God to reveal his will through logical evidence, and people who want God to steady their emotions and make them feel at peace with the right answer regardless of physical circumstances. Each of these types has their pros and cons, but that is really beside the point. You see, we sometimes set expectations of how God will communicate His purposes to us. Whether based on past experience, or the experiences of another believer, we can sometimes limit our spiritual senses to the realm from which we expect an answer.
However, as a part of God's Kingdom, we need to be prepared for God to speak to us in any way He chooses, whether that be in a logical series of events, or circumstances with a certain 'gut feeling' attached. This month, I'm going to be looking at three more steps/methods to finding the will of God as outlined in Waltke's book that explore the more circumstantial ways that God can choose to reveal His will.
The fourth way
The fourth way that God can express His will is through His providence. God's providence, or sovereign power over circumstances, has been one of the more well-known and accepted characteristics of our God â even by 'non-believers'. Insurance policies refer to 'acts of god', an escapee from a near accident might refer to the 'man upstairs', and the romantic might refer to 'fate', but any one of these concepts express the idea of a greater power supremely altering even the smallest events of our lives to our benefit.
As Waltke explains in his book, we can often seek God's Word, develop God's heart, and even be affirmed by the wisdom of other believers, but still find the door to be closed and the opportunity non-existent. Just as Paul who wanted to visit the Romans (Rom. 1:13) was prevented from doing so by circumstances, Providence can intervene and either negate or confirm our calling.
When we consider the instruction that James gives in James 4:13-17, we realise that our lives as believers in the Kingdom of God pale in significance to God's master plan. God gives us the choice to participate in that plan by guiding us along our decision making journey â sometimes through the use of circumstances. This guidance is what Paul refers to when he says to the church in Ephesus, "I will come back if it is God's will". According to Walkte, what Paul is really saying is, "I shall return if God arranges the circumstances."
Of course, this method can be dangerous when considered on its own, as we can sometimes remove ourselves from the responsibility of making a decision by relying on Providence alone. But not only is this mentality not biblical, it also opens the way for our decisions to be misguided by any and every circumstance that comes our way. At this point, we are no longer seeking God's will, but are simply searching for a physical manifestation of the spiritual â a process that will almost always open the door to deception. Waltke explains the good news is that when we respond to God's providence, we can guarantee that our actions contribute to an over-arching plan of a God that loves us â so we can trust Him entirely.
A fifth way
The fifth way we can find God's will in our lives is by seeing if what we are being led towards, makes sense. By making sense, Waltke refers to whether or not our leading agrees with Scripture, with our gifts and abilities, with our circumstances, and with our overall strategy. Of course, as humans, this is usually the default step for most of us, but it is a valid point. God gave us our intelligence to glorify Him, and to make decisions that agree with his plan.
Consequently, it is safe to say that God will not likely (never say never) call us to do something that completely goes against our giftings, abilities, circumstances and overall calling. In his book, Waltke does a great job of outlining this concept in detail, and he summarises with the following statement: "We do not rely on our reasoning abilities to determine our course of action. As Christians we rely on God's guidance. But as he leads, we make decisions within his revealed will on the basis of sound judgement," (p. 159).
Finally, there are times in our decision making careers that God needs to override this entire process to teach us or to expand our perspective. This overriding idea of 'divine intervention' can be found a few times in the New Testament as God was expanding the perspectives of the first century Christians. Waltke points out Peter's revelation of the Gentiles position in the church. Peter did not arrive at this conclusion through Scripture, wise counsel, finding God's heart or Providence, as all of those elements constructed a framework that was insufficient for God's updated plan.
Consequently, divine intervention was necessary, and Peter received a whole new perspective that did still agree with God's overall character and Scriptural testament. However, just as Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus is not the standard conversion experience is for every believer, divine intervention cannot be expected with every decision that we make.
We need to be ready to receive a direct Word from God at any time, but this will only ever be in accordance with God's plan, heart and will as revealed in the Scriptures. Consequently, while divine intervention is a term that can be used to envelope and summarise the entire process, it's never something that should alone be relied upon - separated from the Truth of God's Word and the testimony of His people.
Ultimately, the methods that we employ to make our decisions in our lives can be seen as a reflection or a witness to our relationship with Christ. And this relationship is not simply referred to in Scripture as a 'faith' â a mere belief system, but a 'way' of life â a lifestyle that seeks to become more and more like the person of Christ and underpinned by our belief system or faith.
Waltke concludes his book by explaining, "If we are committed to the 'way' of Jesus Christ, a way that compels the transformation of lives and cultures into a conformity with the ultimate realities of God, our theology (what we believe about God) will shape our lives (how we live for God). As we are led by the Spirit into a fuller understanding of Him, we experience what the Scripture calls 'the Will of God'," (p. 187).
Blaine Packer is studying a Bachelor of Cross-cultural Ministry at Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies in Launceston, Tasmania.
Blaine Packer's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/blaine-packer.html