Businessman in front of faith door

As a Christian, I feel that it is part of my calling to honor God with my actions, to look for his will and enact it. Unfortunately, "looking for his will" is much easier to say than it is to do.

Luke Marshburn

Luke Marshburn

Consider that we decide to look in the Bible for clues on what decisions seem to honor God. If we find the prophetess Anna, perhaps we'll be led to think that God's will is to stay in the church building or the ministry mindset twenty-four hours a day, constantly and without respite no matter the personal cost (Luke 2:36-37).

If we find Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we may believe that God is calling us to stand up for our even in the face of opposition, to march through a fiery furnace rather than bow before a false god (Daniel 3:14-27). God protected them from the consequence of death; perhaps he will protect us too.

But those aren't the only actions we see God acknowledge. What if we find Naaman asking for permission to bow in the temple to Rimmon when his king puts a hand on his shoulder? Rather than order the man to stand strong against this blasphemy or to give up a position that requires such prostration, God's prophet Elisha seems to see it as almost trivial, merely telling Naaman to "Go in peace" (2 Kings 5:19 NIV).

Or perhaps like Elijah we'll need to flee from persecution, our confrontations with kings on hold for a moment, hiding by a river and fed by ravens until God gives us the all-clear to raise our heads and be seen again (1 Kings 17:1-6).

There are so many possibilities, so many actions with which God will work. Nevertheless, this statement is not meant to make God's will seem completely unknowable.

It's not an argument to say that any action can be "God's will" as long as we rationalize it enough. Rather, it's an attempt to help us slow down and think about our actions.

Too often I catch myself looking for a universal solution, a dichotomous "If X happens, take Y action" that applies equally and at all times to similar situations.

"If someone persecutes me for my faith, I must stand strong in spite of repercussions." Or, "If my job requires me to keep my Christianity on the subtle side, I may bow to the rule without compromising God's call for me."

In spite of this tendency to seek a simple, universal decision, I think it's far more likely that circumstances can create a wide variety of God-honoring solutions that look starkly different from each other. God's will is not monolithic, and there isn't always one correct choice. What in one instance is

laziness in another is rest. What sometimes is cowardice in another is patience.

Sometimes God calls for fasting, for out-loud prayers that last hours, or for someone to stand up for what they believe in even as everything around them says to bow down. Other times, fasting becomes fainting, those prayers meet a raw throat, and God gives permission to kneel in the temple to Rimmon. When we are tired of serving, when the worship becomes listless, and when we feel that we can do nothing but bend beneath the weight breaking our weary bones, I want us to take a moment to think, to do our best to discern God's will. When we are in the thrill of watching God move in our lives, when joy becomes ecstasy, and when we feel that the mountaintops are miles beneath our feet, I want us to pause and consider the next action.

A given response or solution is not always the correct, best, or most God-honoring solution. Sometimes we need a slap, or a chat, or a call to persevere and endure. Other times we need to stay the course, secure in the victory we feel around us. Still other times we need to stay our shaking hands, hide by the river, or toss off the burdens that we cannot bear a moment longer. Sometimes what we've done is enough and it's time to take a break.

Discerning God's will isn't simple. Making any of these decisions should not be flippant. But my hope is that we will examine all the options before us rather than assume some are automatically always correct or incorrect. It is better to remember that we have a living relationship with our creator, and with each other, rather than a set of formulaic rules.

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