Guidance on guidance

There seems no end to books on divine guidance and discovering the will of God. How do you know what’s worth reading? Proverbs says to seek advice before making a decision, so let me offer mine. I’d steer clear of books that claim to teach you how to listen to God’s voice outside the Bible. The assumption of these books is that Scripture is insufficient and you need to discover additional messages, directly from God to you, in order to discern his will.

My contention is that God doesn’t contradict himself. So his words in 2 Timothy 3:15-16 that “all Scripture is God-breathed” and will make the person of God “complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work” must be taken seriously. The Bible gives us everything we need for life and godliness. This must be our framework for approaching guidance and seeking God’s will. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek the counsel of others, read extra books, or weigh up the options. The Bible itself affirms the necessity for using wisdom in making decisions. In fact, we have whole books devoted to helping us do this—Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job—and parts of many others.

If you want to read books on guidance, and I recommend you do, then read books that will point you to understanding God’s revealed will in the Scriptures. This means that the best book on guidance and for guidance is the Bible itself. And every other book must be measured against how faithfully it represents Scripture.

Here are a few that I’ve found helpful…

decisionI first read Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen in 1982, when I was grappling with where my life was headed and what God wanted me to do. It revolutionised my thinking, pointed me to the freedom God has given us to make decisions, and lifted the burdens of guilt and insecurity from my shoulders. It’s a large book, but very easy to read. My only warning is that you must read past the first section of the book. No more spoilers.

limgres-22_2The person who has given me the most direct guidance about guidance is Phillip Jensen, who was the chaplain at UNSW where I studied Social Work in the early eighties. He helped me to love and trust the Bible, and I went to more than one conference where he taught us the importance  and relevance of the Bible for understanding God’s will for our lives. Much of what I learned during this time is in included in an excellent little book called Guidance and the Voice of God by Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne. This book addresses an important matter that many overlook—and this is where God guides. To understand what God wants us to do with our lives, we must first understand where God is taking history. A clear grasp on salvation history and the purposes of God in Jesus give the essential perspective for understanding God’s will for each of our lives.

justdoLet me also recommend a third book on guidance that, I suspect, has been deeply influenced by both books above. Just Do Something by Kevin de Young is another short, clear resource for grappling with questions of God’s guidance. Some people get paralysed, wondering and confused, because God doesn’t seem to have revealed his specific will for their life. Every little decision becomes a blockage rather than an opportunity. This book aims to overcome the inertia of people waiting for God to reveal which step to take next. We have the Bible, God has revealed his plan for us to love him, to trust and obey him, and to enjoy the abundant freedom that comes from living this way.

Finally, any book on guidance is only as useful as how it gets used. A map may include the best routes and most precise details for getting from A to B, but if we don’t follow its instructions it becomes functionally useless. Let’s not render God’s word obsolete in our lives. Rather, let’s unfold the map and follow where it leads us.

 

 

Teach us to number our days

IMG_4961Dear family and friends,

Thank you again for your ongoing support and encouragement. We continue to be buoyed by your prayers, visits, messages, gifts, and kindness. They matter just as much to us now as they did in the initial days of crisis.

After 6 cycles of chemo some of you have been asking, “How many have you got to go?” Our answer is simply, “We have no idea!” If the Alimta/Avastin chemo continues to shrink the tumour, or at least prevent it from growing, and if I can tolerate the toxic effects, then it could be a while. We’ve been viewing data that shows some patients with my specific gene mutation doing very well on Alimta for many months. This means that life may continue to be shaped by the ups and downs of chemo cycles for some time yet. We are still hoping to get access to the targeted drug, Crizotinib, once the chemo starts to fail, and we’re praying that the government or drug company will release this to us (ideally subsidised or free of charge).

I’m pleased that the two latest (maintenance) cycles have been easier to tolerate. This has meant that I’ve been able to do a bit more. Over recent days days I’ve even been spending time on the exercise bike, while watching episodes of iFish, and wishing I was somewhere in Northern Australia landing barra and GTs! I’m starting to do some light weights, situps, and a bit on the rowing machine too, under strict instruction from my youngest! Nothing too intense, but they say it all helps.

Over the next few weeks I have the opportunity to speak at church again. I’ll be giving a couple of talks based on Genesis chapters 3 to 9, God willing. These chapters of the Bible deal with the mess we make of our lives when we push God aside. They address issues of suffering and death, and consider God’s purposes in these things. I’m anticipating that I’ll feel their impact more intensely and personally than I have previously!

Let me say, one of the hardest things about this struggle with cancer is not knowing what the future holds. Silly really, because we have never known and we will never know… we just think we do! The daily reminder of my own mortality intensifies the urgency and importance of good decisions, making the most of my opportunities, and using my time wisely. I can’t simply put things off until tomorrow, or next year, or some time in the indefinite future. If they matter, really matter, then I need to get onto them now. I need to make them a priority. How much time gets frittered away doing nothing of lasting value? These words in the Psalm keep coming back to me:

12 Teach us to number our days carefully
so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.
13 Lord—how long?
Turn and have compassion on Your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with Your faithful love
so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us rejoice for as many days as You have humbled us,
for as many years as we have seen adversity.  (Psalm 90:12-15)

I used to think I had all the time in the world, enough time to get around to anything and everything I wanted to do. But then we grow older and life speeds up. Time starts to slip away. They say a mid-life crisis is being confronted with the reality that you can’t and won’t do everything you had planned in life. If so, then a terminal illness is this plugged into an amplifier!

My prayer is that God will teach me to number my days, to make the most of each day he gives me, and that I will thank him for these days whatever they may hold. It’s very easy to dwell on the negatives, to get miserable, to become filled with self-pity. But it doesn’t help. All it does is distract me from the true source of satisfaction and joy. This Psalm offers me some sound advice: talk to God, let him know how I’m feeling, ask him to be compassionate with me, call on him to satisfy me with his faithful love and enable me to find real joy… every day and whatever my circumstances.

Let me encourage you also to consider these words, to take them to heart, and to ask God to teach you to number your days.

With love, Dave (and Fiona)