Monday, February 04, 2008

Notes on discernment -- from 2001

A young friend is facing a big decision, and I mentioned a seminar I attended a while back. The speaker was Gordon T. Smith of Regent College. Among other things, he talked about discerning the Lord's will. Here is the list that I had, apparently something to do with Ignatius Loyola's Rules for Discernment.
  1. Recognize discernment is a choice among good alternatives -- discerning what's best for my life. The good is the enemy of the best.

  2. Choose for today, not for yesterday. Stop "If only"ing myself -- or others. Because of Ephesians 3:20, we always underestimate God.

  3. What's happening to me emotionally -- consolation or desolation? Desolation is the appropriate Christian response to the brokenness of this world.

    SIDEBAR: some theories that may not be right

    There is a "blueprint" theory of God's will; you can tell it because somebody talks about being "in the center of God's will." Dr. Smith doesn't believe in this theory, because if the one I'm supposed to marry goes off and marries someone else, then I'm immediately off the One True Path and doomed to 2nd best for the rest of my life -- because of somebody else's mistake! This doesn't seem right.

    There's the "open door" theory -- if God opens a door, then I'm supposed to go there. But see 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 for the refutation.

    Then there's the fleece theory (Judges 6:37-40). Dr. Smith made the observation that after Pentecost, we should be listening to the Holy Spirit instead.
    Make no decision, make no changes in course while in desolation.

    NOTE: Discern true vs. false consolation. The following all tap into a perversion of the good created order.
    • Inordinate desire for possessions etc.; the evil one's lie is that you need more to be happy (GK Chesterton commenting on Francis).
    • Inordinate desire for honor, prestige, recognition. The evil one's lie: Fame (&c) in this earth is #1
    • Misguided desire for power and influence. When we till the soil, we alter the contour of created order. This is good. Naming the animals is exercising authority. This is also appropriate and good. The evil one's lie is: you need more power, more influence. But the true secret of influence is empowering others through generous service (Drucker)

  4. God's peace is conditional on others. Say you want to be pastor of our congregation. God gave you peace to apply for this position; he gave us peace to reject your application. You have peace to be a candidate but that's all; you can't know what somebody else is going to decide.

    Avoid the temptation to overstate the significance of peace!

To hear the voice of the Holy Spirit...

...we need two disciplines.
  • Solitude with Jesus. Jesus's example: Mark 1:35-38. Note that everybody wanted him to do one thing; he knew he had to do another. It was more important to Jesus to be a servant (i.e., the servant God wanted him to be) than to be thought a servant.
  • Community -- being in fellowship, being subject to accountability. When people know me, when they know my ambitions, my gifting, my strengths and weaknesses, and I tell them about a decision I'm considering, they can point out my blind spots -- if I give them the freedom to.

Well, those are my notes. I'm afraid I haven't done justice to his marvelous talk.

On that last discipline, about fellowship, James 5:16 comes to mind, as does Hebrews 10:23-25.

No comments: