Category Archives: Making Decisions & Seeking Guidance

A Matter of Conscience

Chapter 13 of 1 Kings in the Bible contains an interesting story which has some applications for me. There were two main characters: the man of God and an old prophet. The Lord gave the man of God a message to deliver to the king, which he did. (That took courage because it wasn’t a happy message.) The Lord also told the man of God: “You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you cam So, he obediently turned down the kings offer to eat with him, and he took another road home.

On his way, an old prophet found him and invited him to his home for a meal. The man of God repeated what the Lord had told him and refused the offer. Up to this point, he was doing well.

But then the old prophet lied and said an angel told him the Lord wanted him to bring the man of God to his home and feed him. So, the man of God went and lost his life as a result. (God mercifully provided an honorable burial for him.)

I got two lessons out of this:

  1. I need to follow my conscience
  2. I need to allow others to follow theirs.

In regard to following my own conscience, it’s good to humbly listen to what other believers have to say and take their ideas to the Lord in prayer, but ultimately, I’m responsible for following my conscience, and I’m the one that will have to deal with the consequences of my decisions.

I also need to be very careful not to stumble others into going against their conscience. I can present an idea to them to pray about, but then I should step back and keep quiet and let God direct them. God alone knows the details of a person’s life and how best to handle them. I don’t. But I know I’d feel terrible if I caused someone to make a bad decision!

So, I will strive to follow my conscience and leave the conscience of others in Gods hands!

The Powers of Surrender and Prayer

I once discovered that I can save myself a lot of time by humbly seeking a second opinion! Something had come up that caused me to be concerned, and I was praying for guidance on whether or not to send a letter to someone addressing those concerns. I could have spent a lot of time debating the pros and cons in my mind, but instead, I asked my husband to read the letter and give me his opinion. He simply read it and said, “Let’s pray,” and we prayed together for God’s guidance. Within about thirty seconds of that prayer, I had my answer, and I tore up the letter. I could now see clearly what was wrong with it.

 

I was able to discern God’s will because I had surrendered my plan and genuinely came to Tom for guidance, rather than just seeking his approval of my plan.

 

Too often, in the past, when I asked Tom’s opinion, I actually just wanted him to approve of my idea. Sometimes I would even try to persuade him to my point of view, which would only frustrate both of us. There’s no point in asking someone for their opinion if I’ve already decided on a course of action and am not open to changing directions.

 

In this particular situation with the letter, Tom never did state his opinion, he just prayed with me. But when I told him I’d torn up the letter, he simply said he agreed.

 

Whenever I’m in doubt about something, I should wait and continue to seek guidance. Joining with another person in prayer is a powerful weapon for breaking through the fog of confusion. And even if I feel at peace about something, it’s wise to run the idea by another trusted person, especially my husband, who knows me so well.

 

May the Lord continually help me to surrender my ideas and humbly seek guidance.

 

 

Pray Like Jesus Did

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus showed us how to pray. In his humanness, he did not want to suffer on the cross, and He let his heavenly Father know his feelings. But then he surrendered his will and prayed, “…Yet not as I will, but as you will…may your will be done.”(Matthew 26: 39 & 42)

 

I am very thankful that God patiently and lovingly listens as I pour out my feelings and desires to Him. I need that release of emotion. But I’m even more thankful when He empowers me to surrender my will to His, trusting that His plans are better than mine. It is fine to ask for what I want, as long as I recognize that what I want may not be God’s best for me or for the person I’m praying for. Once I’ve voiced my concerns and desires, I need to follow Jesus’ example and conclude my prayer with, “Your will be done, Lord.”

 

I also need to be careful to pray according to Scripture. I can’t know God’s specific will for someone else unless I’m claiming a promise stated in the Bible. I was once guilty of telling someone I thought God was leading me to pray a certain way for them. (But it was not a Scriptural promise). I need to beware of that. When people are seeking God’s guidance in making difficult decisions, they don’t need my opinion of what I think God wants them to do! My opinions are often influenced by my emotions, which are not always trustworthy.

 

So, I must remember this: share my feelings openly with God but be very cautious and prayerful about what I say to others! I sure don’t want to be guilty of stumbling anyone into making a decision that goes against God’s perfect will for them!

 

Two Heads Are Better Than One

There are times in life when what should be obvious isn’t. That’s why it’s good to have God and trustworthy friends to give us in-put. I’ll share a humorous example, but the principle applies to serious situations as well.

 

At a time when we had two young missionaries from other countries living with us, we would provide an inflatable mattress for our daughter whenever she’d visit overnight. We kept the inflated mattress stored under the bed in one of the downstairs bedrooms. When she came to visit, we’d carry it upstairs, then take it back downstairs when she left.

 

One of our downstairs beds was an antique 3/4 size bed, requiring custom made mattresses. At this particular point in time, we decided to replace the worn- out mattress with the blow up one. We then ordered another blow- up mattress to have for guests.

 

After our daughter had spent the night on the new inflatable mattress, I lugged it downstairs, but discovered it was a little higher than the previous one and wouldn’t fit under the bed. I let a little air out, but then it wasn’t firm enough to maneuver into position under the bed. So, I stored it on the side of the bed, against the wall. As I was sharing this with my husband, he said, “Why don’t you just deflate it completely?” (I guess the reason I had never thought of this is because I assumed it would be difficult, but I found that it’s very easy to deflate and inflate.) I laughed and said that was an excellent idea and did exactly that! I found that the deflated mattress even fit easily into the storage bag provided for it!

 

Later, I got thinking about how often I need God to reveal my sins to me, or a friend to help me look at difficult situations from a different perspective. Sometimes I’m not even aware that I need help. Other times, pride or fear may prevent me from seeking help.

 

While there are certainly times when independence is good, there are also times when we need to humbly recognize that we need help and ask for it. As I learned in this instance, often two heads are better than one.

The Need for Discernment

Discernment is defined as “keen perception or judgment; insight.”

The best way to gain discernment is through meditating upon the Bible and seeking God’s wisdom in prayer.

It’s so foolish to think that I have better insight into what’s best for me than God, who already knows my whole future. But I have a foolish nature and I often do think I know better than God, obviously, or I’d surrender to Him more quickly!

I have seen the power of prayer and waiting on the Lord, though. One assurance I’ve gained is that, when I’m truly seeking and desiring His will, He will help me to see through all my fears and sinful motives and find the right path, as long as I’m persistent in seeking His wisdom. He promised in chapter one of James, in the Bible, that He will give wisdom when we ask for it, and that we only need to believe that we’ve received it and act upon it. He also promised to guide us. I’ve never been disappointed when I’ve prayerfully followed my instincts. He just keeps refining my insights until I’m on target.

I like what I learned from a children’s tape, once, about the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is knowing what to do. Wisdom is doing it. For example, you can know that it’s best to put on a seat belt when you get into a car, but you may ignore what you know. Wisdom is actually putting the seat belt on.

We can gain knowledge from many sources, but God gives us the wisdom to know how to apply that knowledge. He also gives us the grace needed to do it!

Making Decisions Together

In marriage (and in many relationships), it is important to be sensitive to the other person’s opinions and feelings when discussing things that affect both of us. I am growing in this area, but I still slip up now and then.

 

Here’s an example of a mistake on my part. Normally, Tom and I simply say “no, thank you” to door-to-door salespeople. But on one particular day, the person at our door was offering a service that sounded good. He wanted to seal the deal on the spot. I consulted my husband and he was hesitant (which should have alerted me to the fact that we needed to post-pone our decision), but unfortunately, I talked him into agreeing. As soon as the salesman left, Tom went on line to read about the company. We decided to cancel the service, but it took a few days to successfully do it. God was merciful to us and because we had cancelled quickly, we were able to get out of the contract. Tom and I agreed that we’ll stick to our policy of simply saying “no” or allowing them to leave literature for us to look at, but no more spontaneous decisions. We need time to pray, discuss, and make sure we’re both at peace about a decision before proceeding.

 

It’s always wise to discuss ideas with other people and take time to look at options, consider pros and cons, etc. before making decisions. Hasty decisions are rarely good ones.

From Brokenness to Surrender

I love the assurance in Philippians 1:6 that Christ will finish the work He has started in me. He won’t give up on me, even when I’m ready to give up. He’s right there, always encouraging, guiding, forgiving and loving.

 

To experience His love fully, however, I need to recognize my powerlessness. As long as I think I can change myself, I won’t allow Jesus to do His work in me. When I’m totally frustrated and throw up my hands in despair and confess that I can’t do it, He can step in and do it. My goal is to be better at surrendering before I reach that point of frustration and despair. I wish I could surrender totally and immediately upon the first prompting of the Holy Spirit, but my sinful, selfish, self-deceptive nature is so strong that I’m often thrown into a period of confusion, which doesn’t clear up until I see where I’m compromising. I need to develop the habit of crying out to the Lord for the strength to obey as soon as I’m aware of a spiritual struggle.

 

Here’s an example from my 1990 journal: One day, I wanted to pick up my photos from the pharmacy, but the Lord wanted me to take my young children straight home. Four different times, on my way, I said to myself, “It must not be the Lord’s will for me to go,” but instead of surrendering and asking for help to obey, I felt sorry for myself and frustrated, and I kept trying. Finally, I did give up, but I would have saved myself a lot of trouble if I’d immediately turned to the Lord and said, “I don’t think it’s Your will for me to go now, Lord. Please confirm that and give me the power to obey you.” I need to practice talking to the Lord instead of talking to myself when I feel those “tugs”.

 

Obedience comes more readily when I believe God knows what’s best for me. When I wanted to pick up the photos, God simply knew (as I saw later) that the kids and I would be a lot happier if I took them straight home, met their needs first, and then picked up the photos later.

When I finally surrendered, He brought good out of the situation in that I shared with the kids my spiritual battle and how God finally had to “spank” me to get my attention. They thought it was funny that I needed a spanking, so everyone’s good humor was quickly restored. (My “spanking” was that my hungry kids became disagreeable and uncooperative and that’s when I finally said, “Ok, Lord” and went home.)

 

I still can’t say I’ve mastered the art of instantly surrendering by faith, believing that God has my best interests at heart, but I can say that I’m making progress! He is faithful!

Want an Honest Opinion? Then Ask

Sometimes, after we’ve suffered the consequences of a mistake, we may wonder why our loved ones didn’t warn us. In reality, they probably tried, but we weren’t receptive. Or we may have made it very clear that we didn’t want advice.

I know that there are two basic reasons I don’t seek advice (from God or people):

  1. I get so caught up in my own plans that I simply don’t even think about asking.
  2. I don’t want to hear what I think they’ll say.

Seeking guidance, from God or trusted people, requires humility and surrender. I must humbly recognize that I might be wrong, and I must be willing to surrender my desires, before I’ll be open to a differing opinion.

A good place to start is by asking God to help me surrender my desires and be open to hearing what He has to say, either directly, or possibly through other people. I also need to ask Him to help me understand that I could be the one who’s wrong. Once my heart is receptive, then I’m ready to seek the opinion of God and the people that I trust.

Each of us must take the responsibility of asking for guidance. If the person we’re asking feels we’re genuinely interested in what they have to say, they will most likely be honest with us. And we can always trust God to be honest with us! So, the responsibility for seeking guidance rests with us as individuals. If we genuinely seek it, we’ll find it.

 

Wisdom Can Look Strange

God promises to give His children wisdom when they sincerely ask for it in faith (see James 1:5-8). But there are times when things don’t turn out as we expected, and in those times, we may wonder if we really received the wisdom we genuinely sought. If we are earnestly seeking His will, God will always reveal what He wants us to do, but He may not reveal His reasons. Confusion sets in when our idea of His reason is different than His. We need to remember, in such times, that God’s focus is often on the lessons we learn in life, and how that affects our character. When we don’t understand the way things turn out, we may conclude that God wasn’t in it. But if we’ll allow Him to teach us through it, we’ll discover that He was. For the child of God who sincerely seeks God’s guidance, the only true failure is the failure to learn anything.

 

This became clear to me after a nine- year journey God took me through. I took a step of faith in a certain direction and it seemed that God kept confirming that I should continue along that path, so I was confused when things turned out very differently than what I’d expected. In retrospect, I see that those “confirmations” were actually God’s hand of protection upon me in my ignorance. Once I finally realized that He was calling me to abandon that pursuit, I saw how He had been protecting me along the way. I also saw the lessons He wanted me to learn through that. I saw that, while my basic motive was a good one, it wasn’t the right one. I learned valuable lessons about myself, about the way I interacted with others, and why I reacted that way. I even learned what I am, and am not, interested in doing, and that this particular pursuit was not compatible with my personal interests. Though it was commendable that I was pursuing this for the sake of others, it wasn’t my passion and, as a result, I wasn’t enjoying it, nor was I accomplishing the intended goal. When I finally realized God truly wanted me to abandon this path, I felt great relief and joy! But I don’t regret the journey, even though it included many frustrating, confusing and scary moments, because I learned so much about myself, others, and God’s mercy.

 

So, when things aren’t going as expected, we need to ask God what He’s trying to show us–especially about ourselves. The wisdom we gain is worth the journey!

 

 

 

 

Trust God with Your Inadequacies

One morning, I was reflecting upon the hymn “Just As I Am” and upon the story of it’s invalid author, Charlotte Elliott. Because this was one of my mother’s favorite hymns, my thoughts drifted back to her memorial service and the Lord reminded me of an important lesson: trust that He is bigger than my inadequacies.

We had planned a simple gathering of family and friends in my mom’s back yard. It was a lovely day and our guests enjoyed the food and fellowship with one another, so despite my one mistake, God blessed it.

I had asked a friend, whom I admired for her ability to pray well, to open the sharing time in prayer. As the time wore on, she called to say she had been delayed and that I could start without her. In retrospect, I believe God was trying to tell me that I was the one who should open in prayer, but my insecurities prevented me from recognizing that at the time. Because I waited for my friend, one guest missed the open sharing time because he had to leave.

I am sure that I sought God (and hopefully my family) in making the preparations, but sometimes there are things that inhibit our ability to hear God clearly (things like fears, anxieties, perhaps wrong motives, etc.). I’m so thankful that my gracious Lord is able to work around my mistakes!

The lessons I gleaned from this are as follows:

1) When something doesn’t go according to plan, it’s good to ask God if we should change our plans! Sometimes He will motivate us to persevere, but other times He may re-direct us. This was an example of the latter (but I failed to see that at the time).

2) Trust God with our inadequacies and insecurities.

He is very capable of accomplishing His work through inadequate people, and this actually brings glory to His name! 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NIV) says, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

So, I qualify, through my relationship with Christ, to be used by Him. I just need to remember to continually seek His guidance and have the faith to trust Him to be bigger than my inadequacies!