What role does God have in shaping our daily decisions?
A key feature of this question is our view of his involvement and disposition. Does he care about our choices? And, if he does, do we care that he cares?
We should! And here are Bible texts worth chewing on if and when we ask such questions.
Job called God “wise in heart” (Job 9:4). And in Jeremiah God confronted “the adulteries of faithless Israel” while promising a future day when “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding” (Jer. 3:8 & 15). God also promised Jeremiah that, despite the Babylonian invaders who would soon crush Jerusalem and take the people into captivity, “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.” (Jer. 32:41).
And in one of the astonishing passages of the Bible, Hosea 11:8, God presents himself as a lover whose proper outrage against faithless Israel is overcome by his devotion: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.”
In the same way Jesus spoke to his followers about his relationship with the Father in tender terms: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:27-30).
Did we see the common quality here? In each of these texts God is said to have a “heart” comparable to our own hearts. And, taken together, we’re reassured that God has called all of us into a bond of mutual heartfelt devotion. He wants to be engaged with us.
So one of our most important questions in life is this: do we respond to God’s heart or do we dismiss him? Are we guided by an assurance of God’s ready care and engagement with us? Or do we hold him at a theological arms length—affirming a doctrine of God while ignoring his promise of care and direction?
An obvious hitch in this sort of question is that we don’t expect God—whether the Father or Son—to carry on a back-and-forth chat with us. At least no one I know carries on direct conversations with him. Nor does the Bible ever promise that to us. So that leaves us with a sense that God has left us mainly to ourselves, without a direct connection.
But that’s not right. The direct connection is the Spirit who dwells in us and will always be with us as a caring source of communion. First off, we’re told of his role in pouring out God’s love in our hearts (Romans 5:5). And then in Romans 8 we’re promised real engagement with God—“but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (vs. 15-16).
Of course we can be dull to this Spirit-to-spirit arrangement. In large part because it’s not what we experience in normal human discourse! But that misses the point that God is cuing us to expect exactly that. And we find this affirmed in 1 Corinthians 2 where Paul wrote of the same Spirit-to-spirit connection and then concluded, “But we have the mind of Christ” (v.16).
These texts, and others, call for us to humble ourselves and ask, as a starter, “Lord, I’m not sure I get it!”
It’s a fair response. In the fallen world the creation connection was broken in Eden. But let’s recall that it was restored in Christ. And a reconnection is exactly what Jesus told Nicodemus to expect: “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).
But how do we apply such promises? I’m no expert at it but I’m learning. And here’s what I know.
The Spirit was active in human hearts when he moved certain men to write what we now have as the Bible. So the Bible is our tangible locale for hearing the Spirit. And we can be sure that the Spirit won’t be offering something different to us than he first stirred the Bible writers to write. So start with that: read the Bible more often and with more appetite to hear “the mind of Christ.”
That’s not the same as asking, “What should I do next” questions. In any adult relationship our best conversations are usually about values and priorities. We don’t tell others what to do; and they don’t tell us what to do. But if we know someone loves us and is aligned with our values, we’re likely to ask, “Here’s what I’m thinking of doing next. Does that sound reasonable to you?”
So try that with Christ, through the Spirit, and see what happens. Adopt an adult-like and Bible-enriched approach to prayer and then give the Lord some time to respond. In my experience I can promise this: you won’t be hearing a voice. But it won’t be long before some biblical thoughts come to mind that engage the question.
The key is to bring an open heart; and recall where we started this post: we have an open-hearted God who wants us to respond to his values and priorities.
See for yourself. He promises to be life-changing!