"Your confidence in making decisions is directly related to your confidence in God himself"

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Jim's picture

http://www.challies.com/resources/5-great-books-on-the-will-of-god

Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen. This is the classic and the granddaddy of all the books on both decision making and understanding God’s will. The book is very thorough which is both a strength and a weakness. It’s one you can use for reference, turning to just the parts you want to read, or you can read it straight through. In either case you’ll benefit. My favorite bit is where he discusses “the case of the missing dot” and deals with the idea that we can somehow be outside the center of God’s will.

Every Christian should read!

TylerR's picture

Editor

I appreciate this list very much. I have been keeping an eye out for something that addresses this topic for a while now, ever since I used to be a Youth Pastor facing teenage questions like, "I'm about to graduate - how do I know God's will for my life."

I remember then struggling with common perception that God is trying to "reveal His will" for each of us, if we'd only listen hard enough. I basically told the teenagers to:

  • Find what Scripture says about their question
  • Pray
  • Just get off their butt and make a decision
  • Keep praying

I am becoming more and more convinced that this is the way to go. I recently gave the same advice to an older Christian lady I know who is looking to be a short-term missionary. She wants to know what God's will is. I asked her if she could afford to leave for a year. She said it might be a bit tight, but she could do it. I asked her if she wanted to take advantage of this missionary opportunity. She said yes. I asked if she'd prayed about it and still wants to do it. She said yes. I told her to stop worrying and go. 

Thanks again, Jim!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

wkessel1's picture

I found Kevin DeYoung's book "Just Do Something" a very good book on the subject.  Easy to read and not too long.  Kevin keeps it interesting.  A good book to consider for teens.  I plan to have my teenage daughter read it.

Mark_Smith's picture

All of these books mentioned are rock-solid Calvinist, and often Reformed. If you aren't sold out on that theology, avoid them.

 

I have read all of those mentioned: Decision Making, Found God's Will, and Just Do Something. I found little to help me since the worldview is so different from mine.

The worst of the 3 is Just Do Something. Kevin De Young's quintessential example of decision making is his grandfather who managed to live 50+ years as a Christian and NEVER ONCE wondered if any decision he made was in God's will.In fact, the book emphasizes that when Kevin asked him about if his decisions were in God's will, he didn't even relate to why anyone would ask the question! That was lifted up as the example to follow. No thanks!

M. Osborne's picture

@Mark_Smith: While Calvinists and Arminians would say something different about what's going on re: the hidden will of God (how sovereignty/Providence/predestination works out), I would think the decisive doctrine would be the sufficiency of Scripture, right? Of the three books listed above, I have read most of Friesen, none of the other two. (I essentially agree with him.)

  1. Can you connect the dots for me on how you see Reformed theology affecting their view of decision-making?
  2. Do you agree with me that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 means that if there's anything good that God wants me to do, I'll find sufficient guidance in Scripture?

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Mark_Smith's picture

I said "often", not "was" Reformed.

 

I did not say Friessen was Reformed. I am mostly referring to Challies and De Young with that.

No, I am not arguing this topic, and I have learned in the past it brings up way too much and isn't worth it. As an example, I mention Reformed in a sentence and people misread it and off you go!!!

My only point is to say that readers should be careful. That is all.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim wrote:

Found: God's Will

Worthwhile

This is very similar to Friesen's book, only condensed. I would caution that the revised edition of Friesen's book has been altered to include a more open and accepting stance toward subjective, inner impressions as leading by God. This is a change with which I greatly disagree, so I always caution people to try to find the older version of the book.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

TylerR's picture

Editor

Mark:

I appreciate your points. You wrote the following:

Kevin De Young's quintessential example of decision making is his grandfather who managed to live 50+ years as a Christian and NEVER ONCE wondered if any decision he made was in God's will.In fact, the book emphasizes that when Kevin asked him about if his decisions were in God's will, he didn't even relate to why anyone would ask the question! 

I have to confess that I don't spend any amount of time wondering about God's will. There, I said it. I confess it openly. I don't spend any time thinking about it. None. 

  • I remember sitting in the Career Counselor's office in LaMaddalena, Sardinia in 2003. I had to pick a duty station. I had a choice between going to sea and being away from my family, or heading to Sicily and getting a $200.00 per month bonus to boot. I didn't stop to ponder God. I just chose to go to Sicily. 
  • I remember making the decision to get out of the Navy and go to Seminary. I'd been praying about guidance for a long time. It was a big decision. Eventually, I just filled out the form. I never received any bolt from the blue from God - not even a hint of one. I just figured that if God didn't want me to be in the ministry, then He'd steer me in another direction. He didn't. 
  • I didn't wait for "God's call" to take a Pastorate. For a variety of reasons, I just felt it was time to take the next step. I submitted a lot of applications. I went to the first place that would have me. I preached and met the people. We clicked. They offered and I accepted. Here I am. How do I know I'm "in God's will?" I never asked myself that question. I just acted after prayer. 

Perhaps this is really about the doctrine of providence more than anything else?

  • How do I know whether it's God's will that I go to a Bible study tonight at the home of a couple who are new Christians, want to join the church, but are fuzzy on salvation and redemption? Of course it's God's will that I help make things clear for them. Therefore, we're going over Ephesians 1 at their house tonight. 
  • How do I know if it's God's will that we do VBS? Why in the world wouldn't' it be His will that kids hear the Gospel? Therefore, we're doing VBS. 
  • How do I know if it's God's will for us to support another missionary? Can we afford it? Yes. Then why it wouldn't it be His will to support another missionary? 
  • How do I know if it's God will that I get a PhD one day? Would it help or hinder my abilities as a Pastor or my growth as a Christian? It would help. Therefore, why wouldn't it be God's will for me to continue to study His Word? 

This may seem simplistic or perhaps even fatalistic to some folks. It just seems simple to me. I am interested in hearing objections. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

Well, that is great for you. When I teach a room full of college students, most of whom have been taught young earth creationism at home and church, that modern cosmology measures the age of the universe to be 13.6 billion years old...I ask myself A LOT whether I have wasted my time earning a PhD and teaching science!!!

 

What I mean by this is I often feel like I am perceived by students and fellow Christians as "destroying" the faith of people by having to teach this. I always do it carefully, but people aren't usually nuanced enough to get my points. So, I often wonder whether my career choice was a good one.

TylerR's picture

Editor

My point, Mark, is that I don't think "waiting on God's will" will get many people anywhere. Short of a voice from the sky, how will someone ever be "sure" they're in God's will? Far better to just ponder the Scriptures, pray and just do something. If God doesn't want it to happen, I'm sure He'll steer us in another direction, often without us even being aware of it. I'm sure we can all look back, in retrospect, and see God's providence in our lives in a way we couldn't at the time. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jim's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Well, that is great for you. When I teach a room full of college students, most of whom have been taught young earth creationism at home and church, that modern cosmology measures the age of the universe to be 13.6 billion years old...I ask myself A LOT whether I have wasted my time earning a PhD and teaching science!!!

 

What I mean by this is I often feel like I am perceived by students and fellow Christians as "destroying" the faith of people by having to teach this. I always do it carefully, but people aren't usually nuanced enough to get my points. So, I often wonder whether my career choice was a good one.

I think you could be very effective as a resource / speaker for campus Christian groups. You know ... "I have a PhD in Physics (or whatever it is) and I have faith in Christ and I believe the Bible"

Jim's picture

It doesn't bother me if people make decisions "mystically", as long as they don't make them mystically for me or with me 

---- anecdote ---- 

  • I was on a non-profit (Christian) board. 
  • We had a director (full time w the organization) 
  • I was the President
  • We had a big project to acquire a specialized type of property for the ministry
  • A subcommittee determined that we needed such and such ... so much square feet ... x number of this type or rooms and ... a list of specialized requirements (location in the metroplex, access to public transportation, et cetera)
  • The committee brought the recommendation to the full board. We hashed over it and refined it a bit and approved it. Basically the way the subcommittee recommended. Our board President was chair of the subcommittee and obviously was on the full board too. 
  • So we had a complete list of requirements and specifications. 
  • All was fine
  • We fundraised and that was going well  ... approaching the amount we projected we needed. 
  • Out of the blue, our board president had a feeling that such and such property was right for us. It was owned by a Christian who needed to sell it. There was a complete mismatch between the specifications and the property. It had half of the required "x" rooms. Our president was certain  that this was God's will. She prayed about it and it was going to happen. 
  • Talk about frustration. After hours and hours of work over months and months that resulted in a specification document, a mystical directive turned the whole thing around. 
  • As it turned out it was a short sale and that process is notoriously long and arduous. The deal failed to go through
  • After that weird event, it became obvious to me that I was on a completely different wavelength from the director. And that decisions were to be made subjectively instead of objectively 
  • When my term expired, I chose not to run for reelection.
  • The new board president followed this visionary subjective process. They bought a property with 3x of one of the specifications instead of 6x

​----------------

  • It doesn't bother me if others play the subjective, lay a fleece out, "God told me" .. .etc
  • But I won't play in that game
Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim wrote:

 

Mark_Smith wrote:

 

Well, that is great for you. When I teach a room full of college students, most of whom have been taught young earth creationism at home and church, that modern cosmology measures the age of the universe to be 13.6 billion years old...I ask myself A LOT whether I have wasted my time earning a PhD and teaching science!!!

 

What I mean by this is I often feel like I am perceived by students and fellow Christians as "destroying" the faith of people by having to teach this. I always do it carefully, but people aren't usually nuanced enough to get my points. So, I often wonder whether my career choice was a good one.

 

 

I think you could be very effective as a resource / speaker for campus Christian groups. You know ... "I have a PhD in Physics (or whatever it is) and I have faith in Christ and I believe the Bible"

Man, Jim, I was thinking just the opposite. Another scientist reversing the order of reality by trying to force the Bible to submit to scientific theory instead of surrendering scientific theory to the Bible. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jim's picture

He said:

 When I teach a room full of college students, most of whom have been taught young earth creationism at home and church, that modern cosmology measures the age of the universe to be 13.6 billion years old.

My comments:

  • Is not this a true statement: "modern cosmology measures the age of the universe to be 13.6 billion years old"
  • Its' different than saying "I believe the world to be 13.6 B years old"
Mark_Smith's picture

You are correct. I MOST FIRMLY BELIEVE THE BIBLE IS THE SOURCE TO GO TO ON THE QUESTION OF THE SOURCE OF THE UNIVERSE. I believe personally God created the Universe recently and is young.

THAT BEING SAID, science has not determined that. So, since I am paid to be a scientist and to teach science, I teach the scientific conclusions, but I always question them when I can (without being fired, to be honest;-) ). To be frank, if I ever stood up in a classroom and taught what I really think I have little doubt I would not get my contract renewed! Why, because the name of the game in science is "peer review", and there is no peer reviewed accepted "creationist" science nor will the "powers that be" allow it to develop!

Anyway, believing in a young earth IS NOT AN EXCUSE to not understand the basics of modern cosmology and evolution!

By the way, see, Chip just assumed I was one of those wacky scientists off on his own...

Want to be a leper? Walk into the average conservative Christian church and tell them you are a scientist with a PhD. Let's just say the lack of fellowship is telling.

Anyway, I apologize for hi-jacking the thread. Back to regular business!

TylerR's picture

Editor

I really think the Lord can use your hard-earned expertise to defend the Christian worldview. You can do it wherever you're at. You can do it somewhere else. I wouldn't say your education is a waste. We need Bible-believing folks who can interact with the secular academy on scientific issues. I am glad you have the ability to do that. I am sure God put you where you are for a reason; or perhaps He has something in store in the future. Your education is not in vain!

If you were in my area, I'd be inviting you over for an espresso! There aren't many Christians with PhD's in scientific disciplines. It is a shame you get maligned by brethren for it. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Sorry I misunderstood and falsely accused you Mark. Thanks for clarifying.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

dmyers's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

All of these books mentioned are rock-solid Calvinist, and often Reformed. If you aren't sold out on that theology, avoid them.

I have read all of those mentioned: Decision Making, Found God's Will, and Just Do Something. I found little to help me since the worldview is so different from mine.

The worst of the 3 is Just Do Something. Kevin De Young's quintessential example of decision making is his grandfather who managed to live 50+ years as a Christian and NEVER ONCE wondered if any decision he made was in God's will.In fact, the book emphasizes that when Kevin asked him about if his decisions were in God's will, he didn't even relate to why anyone would ask the question! That was lifted up as the example to follow. No thanks!

You did say that the listed books are "often Reformed."  But you also said that they were "all" (not some) "rock-solid Calvinist," so that "If you aren't sold out on that theology, avoid them" and (with specific reference to Friesen's book) "I found little to help me since the worldview is so different from mine."  I have to disagree as to Friesen's book, which I read a little more than a year after graduating BJU, having been raised Nazarene (Arminian all the way).  Friesen's book is saturated with scripture, not Calvinism, and it changed my whole view of the interplay of decision-making and God's will.  It's also tightly reasoned, which should resonate with you.  You don't have to be a Calvinist to be persuaded and educated by Friesen's book; I certainly wasn't.  I think it's a grave mistake to reject the book because you're not a Calvinist.  

SuzanneT's picture

I think this simple sentence at the end of Tim's article says a whole lot: 

"Decisions are difficult simply because we do not trust God with the results of our decisions."

I haven't read any of the books mentioned, but listened to a message awhile back from JMac called "Knowing and Doing God's Will​".  He basically concludes that every decision we make is "in God's will".  How do we know?  Because it was done Wink

No matter what major decisions we make and how these might "appear" (we walk by faith not site), God is using it. Obviously we have a great responsibility in our choices, but what an exciting and liberating truth to know that our decisions are never "wrong" and that God is always at work in each of our lives for our good and His glory--either in spite of our choices or as a result of them.

Mark_Smith's picture

You have summed up perfectly MacArthur's and DeYoung's view.

I was rereading DeYoung last night (it is a short book). Kevin DeYoung EMPHATICALLY suggests for singles who want to get married to just go pick a Christian of the opposite sex (who isn't married or improperly divorced, etc...) and get "hitched" (he uses that ugly term several times...I guess trying to sound hip) and start making babies. Yes, he literally says that. Just pick one you can put up with and go at it! He even refers to hearing Elizabeth Elliot one time saying that she wished she could line up women on one side and men on the other, pair them up, and let them have at it in marriage! 

I'm am shocked...but others apparently find it liberating. Hey, so be it I guess.

Mark_Smith's picture

No problem! I probably wasn't clear enough.

Mark_Smith's picture

Pardon me. I retract my assertion that unless you are sold out for Calvinism to avoid it because you won't like it. You apparently claim to be Arminian but like it. Counterexample!

 

dmyers's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Pardon me. I retract my assertion that unless you are sold out for Calvinism to avoid it because you won't like it. You apparently claim to be Arminian but like it. Counterexample!

Actually, my desired result was for you to revisit Friesen's book and, more importantly, the scripture he analyzes without such a strong extra-scriptural worldview bias that you miss what the scriptures are teaching.

dmyers's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

You have summed up perfectly MacArthur's and DeYoung's view.

I was rereading DeYoung last night (it is a short book). Kevin DeYoung EMPHATICALLY suggests for singles who want to get married to just go pick a Christian of the opposite sex (who isn't married or improperly divorced, etc...) and get "hitched" (he uses that ugly term several times...I guess trying to sound hip) and start making babies. Yes, he literally says that. Just pick one you can put up with and go at it! He even refers to hearing Elizabeth Elliot one time saying that she wished she could line up women on one side and men on the other, pair them up, and let them have at it in marriage! 

I'm am shocked...but others apparently find it liberating. Hey, so be it I guess.

The others here who have read DeYoung's book already know this, but those who haven't read the book won't necessarily know:  what you've said here isn't an accurate or fair paraphrase of what DeYoung says.

ChrisC's picture

dmyers wrote:
The others here who have read DeYoung's book already know this, but those who haven't read the book won't necessarily know:  what you've said here isn't an accurate or fair paraphrase of what DeYoung says.
made me curious, so i looked up the section about this. it's pages 104–108, and includes a lot of what mark smith claims, especially page 108.

http://books.google.com/books?id=3MFXjs404OgC&pg=PA108

Larry's picture

Moderator

What DeYoung actually said,

Men, if you want to be married, find a godly gal, treat her right, talk to her parents, pop the question, tie the knot, and start making babies.

In line with that, among other things, he also denies that there is one particular person to find and marry and he affirms that men are generally lazy in pursuit of marriage.

So now that we have his words, perhaps someone who disagrees can tell us what is biblically wrong with them.

dmyers's picture

ChrisC wrote:

dmyers wrote:

The others here who have read DeYoung's book already know this, but those who haven't read the book won't necessarily know:  what you've said here isn't an accurate or fair paraphrase of what DeYoung says.

made me curious, so i looked up the section about this. it's pages 104–108, and includes a lot of what mark smith claims, especially page 108.

http://books.google.com/books?id=3MFXjs404OgC&pg=PA108

Sigh.  

Mark Smith said this about DeYoung's approach re marriage:  "Kevin DeYoung EMPHATICALLY suggests for singles who want to get married to just go pick a Christian of the opposite sex (who isn't married or improperly divorced, etc...) and get "hitched" (he uses that ugly term several times...I guess trying to sound hip) and start making babies. Yes, he literally says that. Just pick one you can put up with and go at it!"  ("Hitched" is an ugly term?  News to me.  Uglier than "go at it"?)

What DeYoung actually said (in his one-sentence summary of his multi-page discussion of how to approach the decision to get married) was:  "Men, if you want to be married, find a godly gal, treat her right, talk to her parents, pop the question, tie the knot, and start making babies."  So Mark Smith omitted some fairly important parts of the process even in the one-sentence-summary version, including: (1) finding a godly gal (not just a Christian), (2) treating her right (clearly in the course of some period of dating/courtship, and requiring a certain level of Christian maturity on the guy's part), (3) and talking to her parents (as part of getting wise counsel) -- all before popping the question, tying the knot, etc.  

Mark Smith and ChrisC omit the decision-making framework DeYoung advocates at greater length earlier in the book (pp. 88-98) and reiterates in the job/marriage chapter:  (1) search the scriptures, (2) get wise counsel, (3) pray, and (4) make a decision.  DeYoung spends pages walking the reader through the application of that framework both to job decisions and marriage, with much more elaboration than Mark Smith's description gives him credit for (pp. 99-113, where ChrisC's linked excerpt ends).  As Larry just asked, what is biblically wrong with that framework?

Mark Smith said this about the Elisabeth Elliott anecdote:  "He even refers to hearing Elisabeth Elliot one time saying that she wished she could line up women on one side and men on the other, pair them up, and let them have at it in marriage!"  (Lots of "having at it" again.)  What DeYoung actually says about Elliot is this:  "There are always plenty of exceptions, but as a general rule, Christians are waiting too long to get married. There are too many great Christians out there who should be married to one of the other great Christians out there. I remember Elisabeth Elliot saying one time while speaking at a large Christian singles ministry, she desperately wanted to line up all the men on one wall, all the women on the other, count off (one, one; two, two; three, three) and pair up those singles, and get them married."  Doesn't sound quite so offensive, does it?

As I said, anyone who has read DeYoung's book would know immediately that Mark Smith's paraphrase wasn't accurate or fair.  Anyone who reads the chapter that is linked by ChrisC (thank you for that, Chris) will know the same.

 

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