Thursday, May 7, 2015

Finding, Discovering or Discerning God's Will: Which is it?

Decision Making & the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View By Gary Friesen with J. Robin Maxon. Multonomah Press, 1980. 452 pages. A new updated version was published in 2004. The old version is more familiar to most people.

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will by Kevin DeYoung. Moody Publishers, 2009. 128 pages.

Here I Am: Now What on Earth Should I Be Doing? by Quentin J. Schultze. Baker Books, 2005. 109 pages.

Decision Making by the Book: How to Choose Wisely in an Age of Options by Haddon W. Robinson. Discovery House, 1998. 151 pages.

God's Will: Finding Guidance for Everyday Decisions by J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom. Baker Books, 2008. 270 pages.

Finding, Discovering, or Discern God's Will: Which is It? Does these words signify different things. I think they might. Finding God's Will might imply that it is loss. All three words seem to suggest activity but those who suggest these terms might think differently. Many people who speak about finding God's will mean by this statement that God already has your life planned out. He has picked out your mate, college, job, or career. So you have to wait to God reveals these things before you act. This is often referred to as the Traditional view or the Bull's Eye view. One alternative view sees that God gives us a lot of freedom. Holders of this view do not believe there is just one right place to live, one right person to marry, or one right career. I think Friesen was one of the first people who contrasted these views arguing against the Traditional view. I will try first to illustrate these ideas through my own experience and certain individuals I have known. The second part will look at the arguments made by the authors of these books. These are not the only books that discuss this topic, but I have found them useful and I have read them recently, except for Friesen's book. I plan on reading his updated version soon.

I became a Christian when I was eighteen years old at a medium-sized Baptist church. I had just started attending church for the first time in my life. Soon after making this decision, I began to sense that God wanted me to surrender my whole life to Him. Soon after making this surrender, I felt God was calling me into the ministry. I was licensed by my church and began preaching. I knew that I would need a college degree to do theological training at the graduate level, so I went to college. I went to college with the intention of getting a piece of paper that would allow me to go to seminary. A strange thing occurred during this process, however. Around the beginning of my third year of college I fell in love with learning. I did not seek it any longer as a means to another end. During my college years is also when I read Friesen's book and other books on finding God's will. Close to graduation I believed God was calling me to be a Christian scholar. I sensed that my place was in the academy. Since I had already planned to go to seminary I went. I stayed at seminary for one semester and hated it. I could not find a job. I didn't feel comfortable at the seminary. I left the seminary at the end of the term feeling like a failure. What was I to do now? I decided to return to my undergraduate institution to pursue a master's degree in history. I was even awarded a graduate assistantship. I believed the university was a better fit for me personally.

Nearing the end of my graduate degree I needed to decide if I would pursue a Ph.D in history. Instead, I decided to get married and go to work. I applied for an elementary teaching job at a private school close to home. The principal of the school called me to see if I would be willing to work in the library instead. The school librarian wanted to return to the classroom. I told him that would be great. I had been thinking about going to library school at LSU for a couple of years. I had worked as a library worker most of my time in college. The school even helped me to pay for school.

When I was nearing graduation in library school, my wife needed to move closer to home. It just happened that the University of Mobile had an opening where she wanted to move. I sent them a resume and they called me for an interview. They offered the job to me and I accepted it. I stayed there for a few years. I did not make much at the school, so I accepted a collection Development librarian position at the Mobile Public Library. After being at the library my position was eliminated, so I accepted another position with a pay cut. About a year later I accepted a school librarian position with Mobile County school system. I had worked at school libraries, a university and a public library. I believed that I was more content at the college and university level. It was a better fit for me. So I accepted a library position in Florida at a Christian college. I have now been here for twelve years and am quite content. The school had offered the amount that my wife and I decided we would need to move. We did not tell them what this amount was. I felt after the interview and the offer that it was the right place for us and it has proved to be.

About four years ago I present a paper on Faith and Learning at the University of Mobile. A couple of Professors from Faulkner University presented papers at this conference too. It so happened that we ate together and became more acquainted with each other. They informed us (a couple of colleagues) that they would be starting a Ph.D in the Humanities. I was interested in this program because it was going to be based on the Great Books. I had thought to myself that I wished there was a great books program on a graduate level that I could pursue. Though I was interested in the program, I did not see how I could finance it. I decided to go ahead and seek to enter the program. I was able to get the finances to pay for the first semester and the approval of my family. After finishing the first semester I lost the financial support and the support of key individuals in my life. I decided it was not meant to be. So I felt I was putting this desire for a Ph.D on the shelf permanently. I felt I could finally live with the idea of not getting a Ph.D. However, certain circumstances occurred that brought the desire off the shelf. My supervisor asked me if I was still doing the Ph.D. I told him I had stopped because of certain circumstances. He told me he thought he would support me if I chose to do it again. My wife suggested I could do it if the school paid for it. My school was unable to pay for it. My supervisor suggested I apply for a doctoral scholarship which I did. I will find out in two months if I will receive this scholarship.

Since It would take a year to find out if I would receive the funding to return to Faulkner University that I would spend the year discerning God's will for my life. I thought it would be a good time to evaluate my life and direction since I am at the mid-point of my life. I have done a lot of reading, praying, thinking and talking with others about direction for my life. It has been about ten months since I started this project. I think pursuing the Ph.D at Faulkner is the next step for my life. However, I will continue to wait on God and trust him to make it possible.

There are experiences by two individuals close to me that seem instructive. One of the individuals went to college to be a minister. He has a passion for ministry. The one thing he has wanted to do all his life is to pastor a church. He went to a church in view of becoming their pastor. He didn't get the position, so he decided he would not go to another church in view of becoming their pastor. I have never understood why he gave up trying to become a pastor. A second friend wanted to be a pastor. He waited many years to receive a call, but it never came. Is there a better way to discern God's will? Was it God's will for these two people to become pastors? Did they miss out? It makes me wonder.

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