Can we know the will of God when making decisions? How do I know if I’m doing God’s will? How do I know if my feet are on the right path for God’s plan for me? How can I honour God with my work? How can I honour God in my writing or my art?
I was asked this recently by a friend and I’m going to answer it here as well because I think this question fundamentally affects our decisions when we’re living out our faith.
I went to the Planetarium recently and re-discovered that we are all just specks in this giant universe – no, less than specks. We cannot be seen from the moon. Our planet cannot be seen from outside the Milky Way.
We are miniscule – but God loves each of us as individuals, and Jeremiah 29:11 says God has a great plan for our lives. I can’t claim to know the will of God. But here’s what I think about when I’m trying to live out God’s will in both my paid work and my creative projects.
Integrity to your beliefs
The more I’m reading of Caroline Leaf’s book Switch on Your Brain, the more I’m realising that every little decision you make to honour or to dismiss your faith values has an effect on how your brain is wiring itself. Do you want to wire your brain for future decisions to automatically respond with either, “Well, my faith doesn’t really affect how I live my life, so I’ll just do what I feel like.” or to respond with, “My faith is an integral part of who I am, and I want to honour God today like in the past”?
I had some tough decisions come my way in 2014 and 2015, and I dealt with them in different ways.
At first, I was working in house at different publishing houses and a marketing role, meaning I was asked to promote books about vampires, books about sexual abuse, and books aimed at schoolchildren that promoted adultery and suicide.
Each time, I raised objections. I said this doesn’t match up with my beliefs and I’m not comfortable promoting this. I put it in writing so people knew I was serious. But while the houses allowed me to limit my involvement with those books, the fact is that the books came out and I helped.
When I moved out of marketing roles and into journalism at CANSTAR, I was open and up-front about my beliefs, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how positively I’ve been treated. I get to write publicly about things that really matter to me because of my faith, like using your life to make a difference, donating to change the world, and not being wasteful with the earth’s resources.
Decisions like this about whether we will exhibit integrity in our work and our creative projects come to Christians and non-Christians alike the world over.
For example, in Canada in 2015, a petition with over 1,500 signatures was presented to the Canada Council asking them to take back the 2014 Governor General’s YA Literary Award that they had given to When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid. The petition stated that the book had such bad language that it was actually inappropriate for YA readers, an audience that in Canada means 12-18 year olds. The Canada Council said no, they’d made up their mind already and the language was just writing realistically. The award stays, whether the book is inappropriate for its audience or not. I find this a dreadfully disappointing decision.
Does it match God’s nature?
My starting point is always to ask God to lead me. After that, if his leading isn’t clear to us yet, we must engage the wonderful brainpower he gave us.
1 John 4:1: “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
This passage talks about testing things against Scripture. Does it feel to you that your work / writing / artwork /other choice could be in accordance with the nature of God as revealed in Scripture?
Exodus 34:6: ‘The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”‘
(This verse is quoted extensively in the Psalms, including Psalms 86, 103, and 145.)
Second, if it does not seem to align with the nature of God, does it seem to align with anything that is in the nature of the devil? Is it something that may hurt others or hurt your relationship with God?
John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
Third, is it in your own nature? This is about acting with integrity and aligning your actions with your beliefs.
Proverbs 2:6-8: “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.”
Trusting God with your life’s course
I made the postcard above to remind me to trust God in making all my decisions. I Blu Tacked it to the wall of my office in early 2015 and now lives on the wall next to our front door at home so I can see it when I’m on the couch or leaving the house.
In many cases, it will be blatantly clear where God is leading us and where the devil is trying to mislead us. When facing cases that aren’t so clear, the important thing to remember is that God can work all things for good (Romans 8). Since there are so many different ways to get to God’s purposes for your life, my approach is to ask God about it, try my best to discern the situation based on God’s nature, and try to trust God with the outcome.
It’s a challenge I’m enjoying at the moment. For more information on this topic, I highly recommend the Experiencing God: Knowing and doing the will of God Bible study by Richard Blackaby and Claude King.
(C) This post is under the copyright of TJ Withers-Ryan, 2016. Sharing is encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.