Just do it?
Have you ever stopped to consider just how many decisions we are called to make every day? According to research, the average adult makes 226.7 decisions each day on just food alone. Add in what to wear, where to go, what time to leave, what to say (the list could continue) the number of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day averages around 35,000. The marketing tag line of a well-known sportswear company, encourages us to not think too hard, and ‘just do it’ – presumably so we will part will ever increasing sums of money to purchase their products. However, discernment and reflection are disciplines we should each exhibit as Christian leaders. I have observed too many situations where damage has been caused by leaders who ‘just do it’, as every choice we make carries consequences - good and bad.
The ability to choose is an incredible and exciting power that we have each been entrusted with by God. He has given us free will and reason because He wants us to use it to make decisions. This tradition is exemplified in Augustine's famous motto "Love God and [then] do what you will." In other words, if you truly love God and his will, then doing what you will, will, in fact, be doing what God wills.
So how should we go about making good decisions as Christians? How can we each align our own will with the will of God in order to learn what He is calling us to? I do believe that God can speak to each of us prophetically and powerfully at any moment, and have experienced this myself, however the art of ‘discernment’ is usually something that emerges from hard work, close attention and prayer. Allow me to offer a few steps that may help.
1. Start with what you know. I am a great fan of simply noting down two columns on a piece of paper, and listing the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of the decision that I need to make. If we note what we know for sure including how if fits God’s word, we will perhaps avoid the mistake of Adam and Eve who neglected what they knew in favour of what they were promised.
2. Talk to someone you respect. God often speaks to us through the wisdom of others. Seek out the wisdom of at least one and perhaps several people who you feel have the gift of wisdom and ask for their advice. No Christian is an island. There is much to be learned from one another, as we share the wisdom and insights God has revealed to us from His Word, by His Holy Spirit.
3. Find some solitude. It is crucial to make some time to be alone with our thoughts and with God and invite God into our decision-making process. Most of us don't audibly hear a voice when God speaks to us, however, pay attention to our thoughts, feelings (especially love, joy, and peace, or a lack thereof), and memories. These might be how God is stirring within us to help us make our decision.
4. Pray. Be honest and tell God what your deepest desires and fears are in this situation is. Before we can say the words, “thy will be done,” we need to be sure we are truly in touch with our own will; otherwise it could come back to bite us!
5. Wait. Know that God has a plan for us, and we don't need to shout or scream to get God’s attention. The time of waiting is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that God has a plan for us, and that his plan is driven purely by love. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Finally, I would place a lot of emphasis on the absence of peace, as this is usually bad news. God is not a God of confusion; I believe it will not be within God's purposes for God's followers to be confused, or be confusing. I do however fully believe in a God who loves us so very much; he is not trying to catch us out, but rather show us what is best. May God bless you in your decision making over the Christmas period.