Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Best Advice for Finding God's Will

[The Midweek Encounter is a ministry of Encounter Church in Kentwood, MI. These posts are reflections on Sunday's message, which can be heard here each week:]

Making decisions is not my strong suit. Even something as seemingly simple as buying a pack of pens can take me a very, very long time. What color(s) of ink do I want? Fine point or medium? Can I justify a 10-pack, or should I stick with 5?

Fortunately, I’m usually able to make these types of decisions on my own, but anything much more important than that and I’m tempted to start calling reinforcements. Which sounds like a good idea, but as we learned on Sunday, we have to be careful who we take our advice from. 

Photo Credit: Flickr User Dean Hochman, Creative Commons
At first, it seems like King Rehoboam is being wise about his decision making. When the people of Israel go to him, he doesn’t answer immediately—he tells them to come back in three days, after he’s had time to think it over. Next, he consults the elders who had served his father Solomon—so far so good. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like their advice, and here’s where he takes a wrong turn in decision making. The next people he asks are his friends, who likely were concerned about staying in good standing with him, and not necessarily about what was best for the people of Israel.

When it comes to finding the will of God, it’s not just about knowing the “top-level” truths laid out in the Bible, or just taking the time (as much as is realistically possible, anyway) to seek out advice—it’s about seeking advice in the right places.

In her book Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist writes about the idea of the “home team.” She writes:

Everybody has a home team: it’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyway. The home team people are the ones you can text with five minutes’ notice, saying, I’m on my way, and I’m bringing tacos.

She goes on to write about the importance of being there for the people who matter most, but I think her concept of the “home team” applies to the people we turn to for advice as well. Who are the people who know us, love us, and care about our well-being?

Here’s where we need to be careful though. Rehoboam probably liked his friends. I Kings 12:10 describes them as having grown up with him, which implies they had known each other for a long time, and probably knew each other quite well. But their advice was terrible. It’s possible that people we like and who like us in return can still give crappy advice.

Yet we can seek to make sure we have a “home team” though by actively pursuing Christian community, in all its many forms. It might include immediate or extended family, a pastor or other spiritual mentor, friends, Bible study members, and any other people who will give us admirable advice.  These aren’t relationships we develop instantaneously, but must be willing to commit to with the long, good work of developing trust and allowing others to speak truth into our lives.

Even after we have these good people in our lives, how do we figure out the bad advice versus the good advice? The answer is the same one that caused my shoulders to slump last week: the Bible. This time though, I’m a little more on board with it. While the Bible still doesn’t have our life plans written out in specific terms, it does have some pretty great principles that course through it.

When we get advice, we can compare it to what we’ve learned through studying the Bible. Does it point us back to Christ and to the way he lived his life? Does it promote love, mercy, patience, justice, peace? Do the people on our “home team” who are giving us advice have our good in mind, while also considering the effects our decision will have on the people around us? Are they willing to ask us hard questions that make us fully think through the decision we’re about to make? Making big decisions likely still won’t be easy, but we can make it easier by having people around us who we can depend on to give us wise counsel. 

[Brianna DeWitt believes in Jesus, surrounding yourself with good people, and that desserts are best when they involve chocolate and peanut butter. She writes about faith, growing up, and whatever else pops into her head on her own blog, and tweets (largely about food) at @bwitt722.]

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