Rev. Effendi Susanto
Make Decision according to God’s Will
Bible Verses: Romans 12:1 – 3
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
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 12:1-2 for me laid the basis in knowing and understanding God’s will.
There three points raised by Paul here:
- Offer your life as a living sacrifice to God. This is referring to our spiritual act of worship which is a contributed life to God;
- Do not live a worldly life and do not conform to the world;
- Transform your mind through the reflection on God’s word. Our way of thinking and making decision are reflected by the God’s words which are constantly renewing our mind.
Finally we will know God’s will in our life. God’s will was portrayed by Paul in three natures namely it is good, pleasing God, and perfect for us.
Many of us like to seek the sign from God when we’re making decisions and it is narrowed down to the supernatural and irrational things which are not logical. Let me point it out to you that there are two areas in things which are beyond rational: extraordinary and irrational.
- Irrational means that rationally we know we should not have taken it but we took it. We wish God gives us sign or miracles. But we should distinguish miracle from extra ordinary to make the concept clear. Miracles happen when things could not have had happened, but it does.
- Extraordinary means things which don’t normally happen actually happen. When someone would not accept a rational explanation then it is not a miracle but it is extraordinary. Extraordinary means things were not supposed to take place, not supposed to be taken or chosen, hence it is extraordinary however it is accepted as spiritual decision. That is why we wonder why so many Christians could not make simple decisions when the decision was not based on faith in God and the right principals in making decision.
COMMON GUIDELINES IN MAKING DECISIONS
Acts 27:9-10 “Since much time has passed, and the voyage was now too dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, “Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss…” Paul was clearly referring to the act of nature. Back then the weather forecast was not that advance yet however the Jews had a tradition of predicting the weather after the Fast. That is, whether it will be windy, rough sea or dangerous to sail. It is common sense as it is God’s created nature. In making the decision here we do not need to seek for anything. We just need to find a way to avoid the storm in the sea. Whether Christian or non-Christian, we all face difficulties in making decision since we do not know what the future holds. However, I believe that there are common guidelines in making decisions and we should view our options. There are consequences to be considered. Bear in mind that we also have to consider people who are close to us; our wife, husband, children or parents. You can see the complexity of decision making here.
Sometimes we end up saying “Let’s not discuss it anymore. Let us all keep our prayer and move forward in faith. Last night I have been given a sign from God.” Is this how we make decisions?
God told Joshua, and the Israelites, when they are about to enter the promised land of Canaan, “God will give the land to you, but you have to fight for it from the people of Canaan“ (Joshua 1). God will split the Jordan River when the Israelites step into the river. Later in the book of Joshua you’ll find Caleb’s statement “…there has been a lot that God promised to give us but there was only a few we fought over. I am today eighty five years old but I am still as strong as 40 years ago. Now let’s fight back for the land that God has promised for us” (Joshua 14:10-11).
Today let us think of our need in understanding and seeking for God’s will. There are two areas that I would like to point out in seeking God’s will.
- Firstly, in finding out signs where God is guiding us.
Christians usually use the signs which are often used, either the sign where God opened the way or closed the way. This is probably the most common thing that Christians experience. We like to do things in God’s will. But how can we be absolutely clear on the way God guides our life? There are a few things we should consider in order to see it from God’s perspective. We cannot use the signs of the open or close doors as the sign that God is with us. God opens or closes the door when things are going smoothly or not. However this should not be the basic of making decision.
Paul did not use the “open door” sign as the sign where the opportunity is opened for him. These verses gave a good comparison where Paul has an “open door”.
In 1 Corinthians 16:8-9 Paul decided to stay back in Ephesus until the Pentecost when he saw opportunities for him to spread the word of God even though there were many who opposed him. Bear in mind that even when God opened door many had opposed Paul.
In 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 Paul decided to leave Troas even when God gave him the opportunity to do the work of God there. He considered that there are other more urgent things to do. He said he has no peace of mind. This does not mean we should only make decisions when we have peace of mind. This will be very subjective and dangerous. Paul has already made an appointment with Titus who was going to advise him on the condition of the churches in Corinthians. There have been problems among the churches and conflicts between them. Paul wanted to meet up with Titus but he did not have peace of mind because he knew God open the door in Troas but he was anxious to know the condition of churches in Corinthians. It would be the best solution if Paul could meet up with Titus in Troas.
What would you do if you are the one who is faced with the situation? Both options have advantages. Which one is more important, staying in Troas and doing the work of God or meet up with Titus? That is why Paul did not have peace of mind. Here you can see that the “open door” is not to be taken as a sign in making decision but it is more as the opportunity that God offers to us. If we have more than one opportunity we should not be weary and afraid that we might not be obeying God’s will. We should be grateful that God gives us opportunities. Many Christians believe that out of so many options/opportunities, there is one that God selected for us and if you choose the wrong option we are against God.
In Troas, God opened the opportunity. In Ephesus, God opened the opportunity. Open doors do not present signs, but merely as opportunities and they give us the choice to make. In Troas God presented two opportunities where Paul was left with the choices. The choice of staying in Troas was a good choice since there was opportunity to do God’s work. The choice of leaving Troas was also a good choice, meeting up with Titus was also part of God’s work. After some consideration, Paul decided to leave Troas to meet up with Titus. This does not mean that Paul was running away from God’s work as both choices were equally important but cannot be done in the same time.
Hence when God open the door and opportunity, we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that it is the sign from God. We should take it as an opportunity for us to consider in making the right decision.
- Secondly the way Christians view God’s will is like walking into a maze.
There are a lot of ways but only one right way to the midpoint. We always think of decision making like a maze where if we choose the wrong way we will get stuck. The wrong choice won’t lead us to the fulfilment of God’s will. But how would you know? You have no way of knowing. God never showed us what our life will be like in ten years of time. So please pay good attention here, Paul did not say that there is a specific will of God which we have seek out. This is what I would like to discuss with you. Our God is not a cheeky or sneaky God who is happy to see people making the wrong choice. We shouldn’t think of God that way. This is why many Christians couldn’t be grateful to God for the opportunities instead they are afraid of making decision.
Paul mentions, in 1 Corinthians 7:39-40, in choosing a partner in life you are free to choose anyone as long as he/she belongs to God. If a girl is interested in two boys who are both Christians, she has the liberty to choose as long as he believes in God. The Bible gives two guidelines in choosing you partner in life, namely someone who believes in God and someone who is the opposite sex. These are the underlying principals and should not be violated. We might not make the wise choice as it depends on your criteria. We have a lot of criteria when it comes to choosing our partner, especially women. I would like to introduce the probability theory which you can apply in making decision. Out of 100 choices of men, the ones fall into your criteria would probably be the top 10. Bear in mind that you’re not the only one looking for a partner in life and the supply might be limited with the high demand. With this limitation you might end up lowering you criteria to the top 20-30 which is the average range. After searching for a while you might also realise that the average range is running out. Paul stress out the moral concept is to find someone who belongs to God.
Secondly find someone you like. Your choice will be based on your judgment, priority, and your idea of relationship and marriage. When you have made the choice be sure that it is God’s will. We shouldn’t still be questioning if the choice was God’s will, after we get married.
The second principal is counselling. Paul wrote in different ways in Romans 12. Romans 12:1-2 is the calling of Paul as the servant of God to us in how we should response to God. Paul used the word “I urge you… I appeal to you…” He did not force or command us but we couldn’t take it lightly. God has blessed us abundantly it’s only fair for us to return His favour. In view of God’s mercy, I urge you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices. In verse 3 Paul begin with “For by the grace given me I say…” He was speaking as a holy person. This verse is focusing on the relationship within Church, and our worship to God, where Paul advises us not to think highly of ourselves. This come as advise from a servant of God who has been more blessed than us.
1 Corinthians 7:10 responded to the question from the Church of Corinthians on “whether or not I can divorce my wife?” Paul’s answer was “No. Lord gives this command: a husband must not divorce his wife.” In verse 25, about the virgins: I have no commands from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Do you see the difference here? Here Paul is giving advise as a more mature spiritual person. He was giving you something to consider. He was not giving a command but he was giving his advise and opinion. Paul has given his advise by saying “For by the grace given me I say…” We should hold on to this principal learning to accept spiritual counsel wisely from people around us so we can make decisions wisely.
Remember the failure of one of Israel’s kings when he replaced all of his father’s advisors with his younger friends once he sits on the throne. The book of Proverbs reminds us that we should always seek out advise. A wise man will listen to other opinions before making decision. Importantly we should follow God’s word, consider, and request God to give us a wise heart in making decisions. So we are not only using rational thinking in making our decisions.
In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 Paul used the phrase “I thought it best…” when he decided to send Timothy away and he stays. In Philippians 2:25-26 Paul used the phrase “I thought it is necessary…” We can see two things here. In Thessalonians Paul made the decision by choosing which one is the best option. In the Philippians Paul made the decision based on urgency. In 1 Corinthians 16:3-4 Paul used the phrase “It is one is fit…” This is the right decision. In Acts 15:28-29 the Apostles said “It seems good we take that decision…” We view it as a good decision. All these show you that decision making is correlated with rational consideration. This consideration has to be a wise consideration. How we can have wise consideration is related to our knowledge in the Bible and the advise from brain storming with people who are spiritually more mature than us. When we are faced with a few choices, we should use this principal: we choose the best one we could achieve. If you are still holding on to the options, choose one that is more urgent and fit for you. After you make the choice, think, and plan for it. Finally, when you come to the unknown area, we just pray in God for the result. Do your best in your part. We do not know how the outcome will be, that is why Jacob said “If this is the will of God…bring it in your prayer, leave the future to God. I believe this is the principal that God guides us in knowing God’s will. I hope this will be a principal for us in renewing our life before God and in making decisions.(fang)