Chapters 4, 5 and 6
OK, by this part of the book I have to say that my temptation was to think ‘Now lets get onto the practical stuff: How do I actually make a decision?’, but fortunately the writers are far wiser than I and practiced what the Bible consistently tells us: right Christian living comes from getting our theology right. I was reminded of this in a brilliant talk by Dave McDonald on Titus 1:1-4 at my own church last Sunday (you can find the talk here). Dave highlighted what Titus says about teaching sound doctrine so that right practice follows – something I have even spoken about myself in the past, but was tempted to want skipped in this book. Was I really wanting a dodgy ‘How to ….’ guide from the ‘Christian living’ section of a Christian bookstore and thinking we could work out the practice without the theology? Well, I now really appreciate the fact that this book lays the theological foundations for getting our decision making process right.
Explaining ‘repentance’ and ‘faith’, both the right understanding and the ways of misunderstanding, is not simply about giving dull ‘doctrines’ to flesh out the book before getting onto the exciting practical stuff. No, if we don’t get our understanding of these theologies right, we will not be able to make decisions God’s way either.
Equal consideration needs to be given to ‘Wrong Responses’ (chapter 6). I found it helpful that each of these potential responses were grouped under headings explaining how each one is a rejection of God.
The critique of these responses I found the most interesting was the debunking of the ‘second best’ myth. I found it hard to get the movie ‘Sliding Doors’ out of my head as I thought about this idea of missing out on ‘God’s best’ for us by making the wrong decision. Do you remember the movie? I think it plays on this fear doesn’t it? As we watch the two parallel storylines for one women’s life – the one where she catches the train, makes it home in time to catch her boyfriend cheating on her, dumps him and moves on to a much nicer man … and the one where she misses the train and doesn’t know her boyfriend is cheating on her and she lives this horrible mundane existence without the nice new guy in the picture.
This is just a movie but I wondered ‘is it really that simple?’ Could our routine, everyday decisions create such divergent paths in our lives? And is it possible that one of those paths is God’s will and the other is outside His will? What about then when we are making really big decisions about life?
So then we must ask: is it possible for us to make decisions that cause us to miss out on God’s plan – God’s will?
The answer to that question has to be ‘no’. As Payne and Jensen show, if we believe the ‘second best’ myth, then we are rejecting God’s power (page 62). There is nothing outside God’s sovereign will. He has planned our paths and His hidden hand works in our lives to move us in the direction He wants us to go.
That does not mean we can’t make foolish and dumb decisions that will have disastrous consequences – of course we can – but God is using even those decisions to bring about His plans and purposes. We will suffer the consequences of the decisions that we make, but the universal, eternal will of God will not be thwarted by them.
How much more comforting is this than the stress and concern of believing in a God who merely has hopes rather than plans (page 63)? And I thought this doctrinal section was going to be dull rather than practical! I repent!