Context: Discovered this at a key time in my walk with God at Wycliffe.
Boy I needed to read this book. It’s amazing how God brings things into your life at just the right time. If I’d read this even two months before I did, I would have binned it as heretical or at least disagreed strongly with it. But when God’s Spirit gets hold of you and changes you from the inside out, it’s amazing to see just how different the world looks.
By the time I found this book sitting on the shelf of the library at Wycliffe, I was ready to hear what it had to say.
Initially though, I was a bit taken aback. Friesen starts by creating a scene in which a Bible college professor is lecturing on how to know the will of God for your life. It was so true to what I’d grown up believing as a Christian that it startled me. I could have done that lecture myself.
But, curiously, I found myself realising that there was something very wrong with the points the lecturer was making. Friesen spends the rest of the book carefully and scripturally examining the claims one by one.
The Traditional approach is what I hear people talking about day after day. They say things like, I was called to do x or I felt the Lord say x. It was exactly what I said about my life until very recently.
The alternative, which Friesen argues is Biblical, he terms the Wisdom approach. It removes all the subjectivity and mysticality from the traditional approach. It says, apart from God’s moral will as revealed in the Bible, knowing God’s specific will for your individual life is extremely exceptional. Because of this, as long as your relationship with God is not compromised by your decision, you have the freedom to choose what to do.
This is amazingly freeing. I can’t begin to tell you how much freedom has entered my life, my work and my marriage because of this.
Why so? Well, imagine that you have to decide Job A or B in two different locations. What I used to do was spend ages agonising over it in prayer. (I called it “seeking God’s face” as many others do. It’s not though. It’s seeking God’s sign.) I’d investigate my life for ‘signs’ that indicated one way or the other. I’d listen out for ‘words’ from sermons, the Bible and life in general e.g. things people said. When I was convinced that these things indicated one way or the other, I’d make my choice and tell people that God led me.
In all honesty, I think I just made the decision myself and spiritualised the whole process, perhaps to justify feelings of guilt that came from me not understanding just how much God trusts me to enjoy and explore the life he’s given me. It meant that people who didn’t manage to make decisions via this process were left somehow feeling less spiritual. That’s not good.
So, how do I make decisions now? Well, I ask God for the wisdom he promises (James 1), I ask him for the peace to trust his sovereignty (Col 3:15), I consider each choice wisely, talk it over with people I value the opinion of (esp. the wife) and then do what I feel happy doing.
It’s this last step that is the big one for me now. Previously, I’d only be ‘happy’ when I knew that what I was doing was what God happy with what I’d chosen to do. What I didn’t know was that he was happy either way so long as I loved him and others around me like myself.
If you agonise over decisions before God, if you’re bound up like I was pursuing the myth of God’s perfect plan for your individual life, if you’ve always found those people with incredibly detailed stories of how God ‘guided’ them intimidating, this book is for you.
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