Monday, November 10, 2008

Discerning God's will: living by faith or being unsafe?



It's time for another blog.  There are number of things that I have thought about "blogging" about in the last couple of weeks.  I thought about writing about my dog, about my new wallet and how hard it was to give up the old one that I've had for the last ten years, or about how my voting experience went.  I decided to go in a little more serious direction.  Here is a topic that I have been thinking about a lot lately.  It is a very real struggle that will greatly affect some of the biggest decisions that I will make in my life.  Here it goes:

How do you find the balance between making wise decisions that will keep yourself and your family safe and living a "selfless" ministry centered life that I feel like God has called me to live?  Many people I know lean very heavily onto the safe side of this balance and basically work to make as much money as they can in order to provide their family with the best life they can provide for them.  I also know many people who have purposefully chosen to dedicate their lives to serving God and they and their families have had to make many sacrifices due to these choices.  I know that the easy answers to this question are: God calls us to care for our families and so providing for them is doing ministry in a sense, or just listen for God's will and He will help you make the right decisions.  I don't disagree with these statements, but I don't find them all that helpful as I attempt to discern God's will in the realness of everyday choices.  

Let me try to make this a little more real with a concrete example or two.  What if you had the opportunity to dedicate your life to a great ministry but taking the position will leave you and your family medically uninsured?  What if you feel called to take a ministry position that does not guarantee enough income to provide for your basic needs or is a potentially unstable position would could leave you without income down the road?  At what point does living on faith cross over into the realm of making poor common sense decisions?  How much should basic necessities factor into determining God's will?  What is considered a basic necessity these days? Enough money to eat? Medical Insurance? Retirement savings? Enough money to go on a decent vacation once a year? Do you see where I am going with this?  These are all very real questions that those who want to live a life doing ministry must think through.  I would assume that this becomes an even more real issues once kids are born (at these point I am assume that we will have kids at some point in the next 5-10 years).  

I guess what this is ultimately getting at is: how much should common sense questions (anywhere from "Will I be able to feed my family?" to "Will I be able to save any money to buy a house or have retirement savings?") factor into discerning God's will?  Where is the line between "God probably isn't asking me to make a decision where our family won't have enough to eat" and "God probably isn't asking us to make a decision where our 401k is not growing; where we can't go on a major vacation each year; where we can't have a new car; etc." 

I would guess that most people who would quickly answer: "Trust God and he will provide no matter what" have never made a decision where they are unsure if they will be able to eat or have a place to live.  At the same time those who would quickly answer: "Your first priority is to provide for your family," have never taken a step of faith to pursue God's call in their life.  How do you find the balance between providing for your family as a Godly man should, and giving of yourself to help heal a broken world as a follower of Jesus would do?

How much of discerning God's will for our lives require using the brain that God gave us to think through common sense problems, and how much of it has to do with an internal calling or longing that is confirmed through prayer, scripture, fellow Christians, etc.?  What do you think?

7 comments:

dave said...

hey chris,

i'm so glad that you decided to write this!!!! it is exactly what jen and i are going through right now.

my heart is definitely pointing in a direction that i can only assume will cause us to make some very poor decisions based on common sense and in the eyes of our culture. however, it is so difficult to take that first step!!!!! i believe strongly that i am not basing my decision on feelings or anything other than trying to discern God's will for our life, but somehow, that doesn't make the decision any easier.

for me, it is mostly and issue of trust. i don't seem to trust God enough to provide. that's a problem that i have to get over if i'm going to be of any use in the kingdom.

i don't have any answers, since it seems that i am in the same boat as you, but i can tell you that i have been comforted by reading this blog post. thanks!

dave

nick mucci said...

Kauffman...

loved it dude, really did. i'd love to share my experience and hope that it provides some sort of comfort, wisdom, or whatever...but here is where i'm finding myself in understanding God's Will...

...how can i live the Jesus Way as best as possible...

...how can i live within the Kingdom presence as possible...

so, there you are, some non-answers for ya, love ya man.

nick

Christie Kauffman said...

So it appears that we are in the same boat that everyone else is - therefore - no one can answer your question for you. :) Ha! Guess we will have to figure it out on our own and then let people know how it goes. ;)

And thank you by the way.

Anonymous said...

First off, thanks for not writing about your dog or wallet. Apparently you have some level of discernment and if worked on enough, could open the doors to answering more complex questions.
That being said, my observations to the topic are very biased and rooted more in my own experiences of (12 years in vocational ministry with four kiddies) living on the “beyond common sense” side of the fence as well as having the bad habit of continually asking others to join me on that side of the fence.
To me, “beyond common sense” is the idea that God often asks people to do things that on the surface, are non-sensical, but are in reality, based in God’s wisdom, which is often way beyond common sense, reason, and logic, but isn’t really illogical either. IfyouknowwhatI’msayin’
Also, I think my views are often hindered by the American dream – “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” I think this world view is very contrary to Christ’s and messes up my versions of common sense. For example, I really want to help out poor people, but did you see that flat screen TV at Best Buy? I hate when that happens. Helping out poor people doesn’t really pay a lot.
My hunch is that most Christians in America (including myself) are more prosperity oriented that we like to admit and that causes us define common sense and provisions more through that lens than through God’s “beyond common sense” stuff.
I have wrestled deeply with these questions my whole Christian experience. I suppose I view myself more as a missionary in the US than a pastor and always have assumed that that would involve some sort of “vow of poverty”. I have been a pastor for 12 years and continually take very low pay and benefits in hopes to build a team. I guess I am more like Bruce Bowen taking the minimum vet salary to be on a champion than Stephen Jackson who got his, but had to play on the hawks, pacers, and warriors.
My wife stays home with the kids, we don’t make enough money to make it (just switched from bi-vocational without adding income), we have one vehicle, we are generous givers, we open our home to people who need help, probably no pay raise in site, and my kids eat a lot more groceries than I can keep stocked. AND Somehow we make it. Actually more than make it. Just this week, a friend gave us $100, I received a surprise $150 check for helping out a church, and another friend volunteered to watch our four kiddies to help kerri and I take a trip that we were going to have to cancel because we didn’t have the money to go . This happens a lot to us. It is not exactly the walls of Jericho coming down, but it feels more like the oil in the bin never getting empty (or ever getting full). I got better stories than that, but this just happened.
My question is more like this: What if we are the ones we are waiting for? What if church sucks cause everyone is playing it safe? What if we have allowed ourselves to be tamed? What if I miss out on “divine intersections” of that make me ask, “How in the world did that just happen?”
Anyways… Great topic and thanks for the invite for discussion.

Bryan (can't remember my blogger password)

Matt Chewning said...

Yo man. There is a great book that I think you would enjoy reading. "In a pit with a lion on a snowy day." It addresses some of this. Here is one way I try and deal with some of the questions your asing yourself in this blog.

What if my greatest God moment, my legacy, or God's calling on my life; is going to be found somewhere in my uncertainty or biggest fears? Will I still go after it or will I choose to miss it completely by not acting?

Sue said...

So I just now read this. I know, I'm a little behind. Anyway, the way I look at it - it's not my job to figure out God's will. It's my job to simply make the best decision I can with the information I have, prayerfully considering all options and alternatives, and leaving it to Him. His will will be accomplished. He uses our wise decisions and our unwise decisions to mold us to be more like Him.

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