In the Lord’s Prayer you say, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” You can rattle it off whether you’re thinking about it or not. But to live under the conviction that you really want what God wants is a challenge. Your appetites, some friends, TV commercials, and the enemy all gang up on you every day with a different message: “Have it your way.”
This is not new. The Christians in the early church had this challenge. In 1 Peter 4:1-2 it says, “Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like Him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.”
In John 4, the disciples were focused on food while Jesus was focused on changing the lives of a Samaritan woman and her village. The disciples said to Jesus: “Have some food.” He said, “My food is to obey the will of the One who sent Me and to finish the work He gave me to do.” That is a great prescription for Christian decision-making. Conflict occurs when we attempt to subordinate the will of God to our own.
The Mind of Christ
It’s easy to slip into a condition where you fret and worry about which direction to take. The Apostle Paul addresses that in Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need…. And God’s peace which is beyond human understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.”
This “union” is described as “the mind of Christ” — thinking like Jesus. Paul has direction for this in his letter to the Romans. He writes, “…the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are, for we do not know how we ought to pray: the Spirit pleads with God for us…” (Romans 8:28).
In Romans 11:34, Paul raises a question you have perhaps asked when trying to make a decision: “Who knows the mind of Christ?” Ever hear the phrase, “I need to clear my mind?” Scripture addresses this challenge in Romans 12:2. Paul says, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (emphasis mine).
The largest roadblock to spiritual renewal is the natural clutter of worldly concepts in the absence of spiritual growth. The Christian faith is a lifelong process. Many Christians get a shot of spiritual growth in the preaching message each week. Yet, as any mature Christian can tell you, that’s not enough. The world bombards you almost every waking hour with worldly messages. They are meant to draw you to conform to worldly thinking. So many Christians believe a 20- to 30-minute shot from a sermon is enough. That’s a big mistake!
Serious Bible study and disciplined personal Bible reading are essential. Basically, good decision-making is not based on your “feeing,” but upon “feeding” on God’s Word. In 1 Corinthians 2:16, Scripture asks and answers the question: “For who has known the mind of the Lord…?” The context is how to develop spiritual discernment. The verse continues: “But we have the mind of Christ.”
Paul gives the Corinthians direction, “Move beyond the milk of the Word” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2). He is saying, “Grow up spiritually!” This is called Christian maturity, and it changes everything, including the decisions we make. The challenge for the Corinthians is still the struggle for many Christians today: “You still live as the people of this world live” (1 Corinthians 3:3).
The other day I was talking to my pastor, who teaches a dynamic Sunday morning Bible class. I was thinking about spiritual growth and decision-making when I said, “I just don’t understand why everyone in our church doesn’t come to Bible class.” Sadly, this comment is appropriate for many Christians. The “mind of Christ” goes beyond “knowledge” and “information.” It leads to spiritual wisdom.
Proverbs is a treasure chest filled with guidelines for decision-making. In Proverbs 2:6 it says, “It is the Lord who gives wisdom: from Him come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 4:7 points to the value of Christian wisdom: “Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do. Whatever else you do, get insight.”
Proverbs makes clear how you got wisdom. It is not by getting a Ph.D. from a university. Proverbs 9:10-12 says, “To be wise you must first have reverence for the Lord. If you know the Holy One, you have understanding. Wisdom will add years to your life. You are the one who will profit if you have wisdom, and if you reject it, you are the one who will suffer.”
Another dimension of wisdom focuses on getting outside advice. In the last 40 years, I have consulted 1,400 churches. I will never understand why other churches (pastors and church leaders) rarely or never get outside, objective, expert advice. Proverbs 13:10: “Arrogance causes nothing but trouble. It is wiser to ask for advice.” Proverbs 15:22 says, “Get all the advice you can, and you will succeed; without it you will fail.”
I live on a tree farm. It is my hobby to plant and care for future timber trees. My timber consultant, Tom, has provided valuable direction over the years — a value many times beyond the cost. Proverbs 14:3 says, “The wise man looks ahead. The fool attempts to fool himself and won’t face the facts.”
I think of thousands of declining churches across the country where people are allowing their church to die because they fail to get direction and guidance. They have made many unwise decisions that, collectively, have combined to cause the loss of spiritual influence on the nation. Proverbs 12:15: “A fool thinks he needs no advice, but a wise man listens to others.” Proverbs 22:17 says, “Listen to this wise advice: follow it clearly, for it will do you good and you can pass it on: trust in the Lord.”
As you make thousands of decisions in your future, remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For what this world considers to be wisdom is nonsense in God’s sight” (1 Corinthians 3:19).
It would be great if what the apostle told the Ephesians would reflect how you have made your decisions: “I have not stopped giving thanks to God for you. I remember you in my prayers and ask the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father to give you the Spirit, who will make you wise and reveals God to you, so you will know Him” (Ephesians 1:16, emphasis mine).
This is excerpted from the September/October Church Doctor Report – Election Year: A Good Time to Wonder, “How Should Christians Make Decisions?”.
Kent R. Hunter has consulted hundreds of churches in North America and taught thousands of church leaders in a dozen countries. His 30 books are widely read with translations in six languages. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.