Yes, I agree, it would be awfully nice if God would speak up more often and give direct answers to our questions — like whether you are called to ministry.
Most of us want divine guidance. We all face serious struggles and deep confusion at times.
And it isn’t like God doesn’t care about our choices. Couldn’t God just lift the veil and tell us what to do? It feels like third down with a long way to go, and a new play from the coach would be great.
I’m happy to share a couple more thoughts on discerning God’s will. Christians take a lot of different approaches to this but here are some perspectives I see in my own tradition.
1. God does speak personally.
What we want is the personal direct whisper of the Spirit: God’s own word on our own question. It happened in scripture so it can happen now.
But look at the biblical stories of God speaking directly to people.
Abraham and Mary are knockout examples. But think about the details:
- Abraham had to wait about 75 years to hear from God
- Mary heard God’s message when she was young, but it was not the message she wanted
- And in both cases the whole history of salvation hung in the balance.
There are smaller instances of course:
- Gideon got direct guidance — when the safety of Israel was on the line.
- Paul got direct guidance — when God was working out the mission to the Gentiles.
So we know it can happen. And it does happen still. But in my tradition we tend to assume God is most likely to speak personally if God’s own big plans are involved.
2. God has already spoken clearly.
On the other hand, we view the Bible itself as God’s word. This is where God has already spoken, and so we expert to hear God speaking there still.
We go to Scripture for guidance. That does not mean plucking a verse out of context and finding that, in a mysterious way, it applies to our own situation.
What we do in the Reformed tradition is we dive into the Bible to get to know who God is, and what God is like. We learn what kinds of things God values.
When you know those things you can have a very good idea of what God wants from you today.
I sometimes imagine God saying
Remember those Ten Commandments? That’s my guidance. Get going on them, and we can talk more later.
And doing the kinds of things God says to do in Scripture will take you a long way down the road to ministry. After all, ministry is all about participating in God’s mission.
3. God wants us to become mature.
There is a third kind of guidance that grows from this. In the Bible, we find that God does not want us to remain children. God wants us to grow up, become mature, and learn to make wise decisions. As Paul put it
we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (Ephesians 5:15 NRSV)
God wants us to become like Jesus,
conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29 NRSV)
transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18 NRSV)
We start out in faith as we do in life: as children who need to be told what to do. But the point of growing up is to learn how to make good decisions. We are supposed to become wise.
So in this case, God’s guidance is a matter of good choices, freely made, to do what God himself loves to do.
A grown-up Christian makes choices that reflect the character of Christ. That too can take you a long way down the road to ministry.
There are other ways to find guidance in Scripture, but I’ll save that for another time.
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