God's Will? Betty was perplexed, she did want God's will for her family. “Now tell me again Betty, why did you take Tim out of the Christian school he was in and put him in the public school?”
“Well pastor, Tim wanted to go to the public school and we prayed about it a great deal; we obtained peace about it and came to feel that God wanted us to put Tim in the public school.”
“And what has happened since you made this decision?”
“Well, Tim is not minding us very well any longer. My husband spanked him recently and he told his counselor at school about it, showing him some marks from the
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spanking. That evening DSS came to our home and threatened to take all our children if we didn’t sign a paper agreeing to raise them in ways approved by them. We are not allowed to discipline them any longer. Oh, and Tim was put off the bus today by the driver. He is no longer allowed to ride it to and from school because of the disruptions and fights he gets in. It looks like we are going to have to take him and pick him up every day from now on. He just seems so angry all the time.”
Betty, and her husband Al, had attempted to find God's will, to solve a problem with their son. They did this by making a major decision that affected the spiritual condition of their home, based on how they “felt” about it. They thought that this was how you found God's will. How do “feelings,” “being led by God,” “promptings in the spirit,” “open doors,” “peace,” and other such terminology bear on decision-making and problem solving? Should they be used to make difficult decisions and solve problems in your life and thereby find God's will?
Let’s consider how “feelings” are generated. There are several elements in the creation of “feelings.” First, we have data that are derived from the five senses, but mostly from seeing and hearing. Next, we have thought that considers this
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mass of data, followed by behavior on our part that is a result of that thought. Finally, we have emotions that are a product of our thoughts concerning data and our subsequent behavior. It is essential to understand the order and link that these several elements have in our “feelings.”
Let’s consider how Betty and Al attempted find God's will and to solve their problem with their son and find God's will. First, they collected data. Their primary source of data came from Tim. He wanted to go to the public school and persistently pressed his agenda on Mom and Dad with a combination of promises to be a better son and explanations on what a great opportunity for witness he would have at the public school. He combined this with continuous whining in an effort to get his own way in this matter. This data was mixed with information from other parents at church as to how well their children were doing at the local public school. In addition, finances played a major role as well, as private education is quite expensive.
Next, Mom and Dad began to pray for God's will, and they prayed with great fervor and sincerity to make the best decision they could. They did not want to do anything that would be displeasing to God, and they certainly did not want to hurt their son, Tim. In addition to their prayers, they mulled over the many other confusing elements to the problem. But they especially had to consider Tim’s constant pleading that he be allowed to do this thing.
In time, a sense of peace began to come upon them as they sought God's will. Their anxiety about the public school faded, as a result, they “felt good” about the idea of sending Tim to the public school. At this point, they began to say to themselves and others that God had given them “peace” about this matter, and even that God had “led” them to make this decision. They had found God's will in this matter. Did they really find God's will in this matter?
No, He did not. Their “peace” was a product of their misguided thinking! Their mind was in turmoil about this matter. Coming to the decision to let Tim do what he was insistent on doing resolved the matter in such a way as to eliminate the anxiety. Their emotions changed from nervous concern to a confidence that they were doing the right thing. But all this was based on the two prior points, one the data (grief) they received from Tim, and two, their thoughts that maybe everything would be okay. New thoughts brought new emotions, peaceful emotions, which were very desirable to their troubled souls. The fact that the thoughts were wrong mattered to the emotions not at all. The emotional side of you does not quiz the mind to make sure the thoughts are correct. If the senses (hearing a loud horn) tell you that you are going to get run over by a truck, the mind processes this information and sends a message to the emotional side of you, fear is experienced and defensive actions taken to insure your safety. The fact that your thoughts were wrong (the truck was nowhere near you) mattered not at all. Your emotions are just as real with wrong-headed thought as with right-headed thought.
Peace is not the “standard” for decision-making and problem solving. Just because you have “peace” about something does not mean it is the right thing to do! The pursuit of peace is simply the pursuit of tranquility. That is something we all want. But the Bible does not always promise tranquility. In fact, Paul said, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God…” (Acts 14:22, NIV). Hardships (often translated: tribulations), are not the way of peace on this earth. If peace is not the standard, then what is? The Bible is. In our Bible, we learn many practical principles on how to live the Christian life. In addition, the Scriptures give considerable attention to the subject of wisdom. In the Bible, believers are continually admonished to be wise and avoid foolishness. And this must be done even if your actions deny you the worldly peace you want. It is these two factors that should be addressed in making a decision. Point one: is there a Biblical principle that can be brought to bear to help ascertain God’s will in this matter? Point two: what would be the wise, and not the foolish, way to go in this matter? What thinking, what actions suggest wisdom on my part? What looks like foolishness or what looks like just plain stupidity?
If Betty and Al had ignored “peace” as the deciding factor in their decision making and had opted for Biblically plain principles in child raising, and a wise evaluation of the many factors around this problem, they would never have removed their son from a Christian atmosphere and placed him in an immoral, God-hating, sin-loving environment. But because peace was such a valued commodity in their life, they opted for a solution that brought peace with their son, instead of continued discord.
Lisa had a similar problem. Her mind was in turmoil and confusion beyond description. She had committed adultery and had been found out. Her behavior over the ten years of their marriage had been tumultuous and sinful, and most of this was a product of her own erratic feelings. She rarely accepted responsibility for her behavior or sins. Her adultery was her husband’s fault because John was not “there” for her. Lies and explosive outbursts followed one upon another. Then one day there was peace. Was it because she had repented of her sin and determined to put the marriage back together? No. She had peace because she had decided to follow through on the divorce she had initiated. The battle was over. She would no longer fight with God over this. She was now determined to do what she wanted. Once she turned God off, the battle ended and peace arrived. Peace was now a simple process; she simply had to remove the convicting power of God’s Word from her mind. With that gone, peace reigned. Please remember, peace can as often be a product of sin as it can be a product of righteousness.
The emotion of “good feelings” can be generated by false and confusing data and thinking. Your data may be wrong, your thinking may be confused, and in fact both often are, but God’s Word is always trustworthy, and common-sense, Biblical wisdom should never be overlooked in the pursuit of “good feelings.”
There is another reason people opt for “peace” instead of the two principles mentioned above. Because Christians do not want to take responsibility for their decisions, they often act in an irresponsible way. In essence, they want to blame God for their laziness and ignorance, and especially their failures. Doing an end-run around the Scriptures is an easy way to seemingly get an answer and solve a problem, but it is always irresponsible. Searching the Scripture daily and making wisdom a life-long pursuit is hard. So, why do the hard thing when you can opt for the easy one? For this reason, peace is sought as a means of making decisions. It is the lazy person’s way to decision-making and problem solving, and it is sinfully irresponsible.