Jogging Not Sprinting
PPaul talks about the concept of running a race in the New Testament. The ancients love races. Some races are long while others are just a sprint. Runners today enjoy all kinds of races. Some like to run miles and miles at one time, a marathon. Others like to run about one hundred yards. God’s will for our lives is played out in the marathon concept. It’s a journey, a life-long journey. It’s not a sprint. The will of God is not static. “Okay, I’ve found it, now I know what to do for the rest of my life.” Wouldn’t that be great?
The following are some beginning ideas that you may find useful in helping you with the ongoing pursuit of living into God’s will for you in your life within your community of faith while being trained for your vocation as one called to be an agent of the kingdom of God to the world.
By way of summary: the traditional views of guidance may not be as secure as once we believed. Scripture is to demonstrate for us how God has acted and how he has interpreted those acts for us. In that demonstration, we are able to determine how God will respond in faithfulness to us. Second, our culture has driven us to the conclusion that God is only interested in guiding us as individuals. Remember, this is a culturally selective value. God is interested in guiding us as an individual and helping us to adjust to the idea that this often should be occurring in and through the community. Finally, while Scripture does share with us something about detecting God’s will, it is not the only way in which God will speak. He has chosen to speak to us in lots of different ways that we have covered in a basic fashion. His supernatural voice comes in many different tones, but his sheep have the advantage of knowing those tones. It is not by googling God’s will that his will is found. Searching implies that we are initiating, while Scripture is pretty clear that it is God who initiates.
Intimacy is the ball bearings that make the wheel of God’s will work, just like love is the lubricant that makes love work (1 Corinthians 13). From the beginning of Scripture, it is plain that God’s desire is to be intimate with his children. It is in intimacy that God is able to lead!
However, it seems like intimacy is more difficult to come by today than in biblical times. It has been estimated that the average USAmerican adult is exposed to 500 commercial advertising messages in a given day.[ref]A-s, “How Many Advertisements Is a Person Exposed to in a Day?,” 2010 http://ams.aaaa.org/eweb/upload/faqs/adexposures.pdf (August 25).[/ref] That same adult watches 28 hours of television a week (which averages about four hours a day)[ref]California State University Northridge, “The Sourcebook for Teaching Science,” http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html (accessed August 25 2010).[/ref] and “over the course of 10 hours, American viewers will see approximately three hours of advertisements ….”[ref]Wikipedia, “Television Advertisement,” (accessed August 25 2010).[/ref] This amount of input will surely have an influence!
This barrage of information has caused us to fabricate an elaborate system of filters to try to keep our thinking process from bogging down. Think of this in terms of trying to hear God in the midst of the generous amount of this present evil age propaganda we receive daily. We must concentrate on becoming and staying intimate with God, so that we do not filter out his will.
Peace is something that both God and the enemy of God can give us. Jesus points to this idea in John 14.27. We need to learn to experience the peace of God when he gives us supernaturally natural guidance. That learning curve comes by the experiences of following what we think to be the voice of God. On occasion we will succeed, while other times we will fail. The goal is to keep listening and trying and growing ever accustomed to his voice.
Taking Baby Steps: Walking and Falling
Being led by God into his story is not something that one becomes “perfect” at. Rather, it is something that one begins to do by taking baby steps. Risk is involved. Remember how you watched your kids begin to learn to walk. Their first steps came hard. They fell over and over. However, they continued to get up and try again. No one told them that falling was failure. They only understood it as a part of the learning experience of walking.
Learning to live into God’s story is no different. You begin by taking baby steps and falling more than you walk. Remember, falling is not failing! Soon baby steps produce more confidence. Baby steps turn into junior steps and the process goes on. Adults still fall down, though it is not quite as often. It’s a journey, not a googling “feel lucky today activity.”
Living into God’s story and finding out your part to play in your scene of the present story is where God’s will for you will become more plain. The important criteria for living into his story is to know his story, then use your imagination to improvise playing your part.
Imagination is there in you to link the activity of walking and falling, go ahead and express it. Our visual culture has done a lot of damage to this whole concept. On Saturday night when I was a kid, I listened to radio programs like the Shadow[ref]Wikipedia, “The Shadow,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shadow (accessed November 24 2010).[/ref] and Gangbusters.[ref]Wikipedia, “Gang Busters,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gang_Busters (accessed November 24 2010).[/ref] You had to imagine what you were hearing. You created the characters in your mind. You created the activity of the character as you heard it. TV with all its splendor took part of that imagination away from us by providing us with visuals of what is going on in a program. While it may be small compared to other mental activities that we use, it is there. Find it again and begin to use it.
The idea of improvising comes from music and theater. Improvising is a part of the technique that jazz musicians use in the performance of their music. However, you can’t play jazz if you haven’t learned to play an instrument that you use to play jazz. You learn an instrument to play music. Playing music is the “stuff” out of which jazz can emerge. No music, no jazz. The same is true with acting. You learn the art of acting; as an actor you are often allowed to improvise what the scriptwriter writes. Point being, you must know the script, in this case, God’s Story: then within the parameters of that story, use your imagination and improvise your scene.
The first act (Gen 1.1-2.3) of God’s story is about Creation. While there are many things to learn there, one vital thing is the idea that God is the only God to be worshipped. Moses delivered this story at the foot of Mt. Sinai when the people of God had been redeemed from their slavery in Egypt. Through Moses, God had given this people a Covenant with stipulations of which the first one was: I am the only God you can serve. This first story is to demonstrate to Israel how they were to inspect their community life and by extension their individual lives so they could in real time “only worship the Creator God.” While often taken as a scientific piece of literature about “how” God created, it is more likely that it is a piece of literature to demonstrate “how” God expects his followers to live. As an example, there are six creative containers in this small group of paragraphs. In each container, something was created. What God created is to demonstrate to Israel that he is God because the thing that God created was in the ancient world served as a god. It was a storied way of calling Israel to the God who had just delivered them from bondage and not the plethora of other gods available to be served. In short, you worship God the creator of light, you do not serve the god of light. Israel had to imagine who all these gods were, then from that basis, they could improvise in their own community and individually how they were going to worship God instead of what God had created. So, as a community and as an individual within a community, how does that work for you (you in these questions should be thought of as plural, i.e., the community you live in before personalized as “you” singularly)? Ask yourself what other gods you are worshiping, the gods that you have created, the gods that others have created. Who are they? In short, use your imagination. List them out, as God did in the first Bible story. Then, in your daily life when you are presented with the activity of worshiping another god, begin the process of improvising how you will stay true to the worship of the Creator of the universe. Note that you will fall more than you walk when you begin this process, but after while you will be able to walk better, faster, and longer in your improvisations.
googling God’s Will
As we have seen, God may have a different view from which he operates in his will than our selected cultural view of thinking individually. Individually, it seems, forces us to take the reins and initiate a search for God’s will. We are at it all the time, not just with high ticket items, like who to marry or where to work, etc.
So how does one find God’s will? The question is stated inappropriately. Find implies lost! And, if you have interacted with any of the ideas in this book, you should be able to comprehend this idea: God has his job in leading us, we have our job in following him. Switching the roles only causes frustration. So, why would you persist in searching for God’s will when it’s not lost? What drives you to continue on that journey, in that story? Since it is God who gives you the desires of your heart, which means he places them there, stop googling God’s will and imagine how you can improvise the God-given desires for the sake of others. Remember, God is already wherever you are. You don’t have to ask him to be there with you, he is simply there. He was there before you arrived and will always be there after you leave. So, wherever you are, look for what he is doing and put your hand to it. Chances are, that’s his will for you.
Coming to these conclusions has been my own personal journey. The different physical moves in my life have all been an ongoing learning experience to help me comprehend that our part of being a follower of Jesus is to look for what he is doing and put our hand to it, becoming the agents of his kingdom in those hundreds of moments that occur during our life. With the exhortation of John White about fasting in toe, “If you have been googling God’s will, Stop!” If you haven’t “Don’t start!” Instead, open your eyes and see the works of God around you in your daily life and put your hand in his hand and work in tandem with him and there is a great chance that those actions are his will for you.
Go ahead, make his day!