One of the most-asked questions in the Christian world is “How do I discern the will of God?” It’s a complex issue and one worth pondering. I think the struggle involved in seeking the will of God is something that pleases Him. But also the reason why a lot of people quit. The fact that we’re actually seeking Him and His thoughts must bring a smile to His face. Modern advice on the topic can so easily degenerate into a refined form of humanism that seeks more pleasure for self than for God. Earlier this morning I read this Tolstoy quote in Willard’s, “Renovation of the heart”.
“There are two Gods. There is the God people generally believe in – A God who has to serve them (sometimes in very refined ways, say by merely giving them peace of mind). This God does not exist. But the God whom people forget – the God whom we all have to serve – exists, and is the prime cause of our existence and of all that we perceive.” (p40)
Paul had an excellent quote on his site, here. It reminded me of Saint Vincent’s list for discerning and I must warn you, like the Rabbi he followed it’s mind boggling and upside-down stuff!
1. We seek to be formed in the likeness of Jesus. Jesus is our model. We must spend time with him in consistent prayer. We regularly reflect on his actions (in scripture) and on the cross. We observe how he thinks, acts, chooses and let his way become our own.
2. We do what is in front of us. The Jesus who is hungry, thirsty, “in need” is not somewhere else. He is here. The work that we are called to do is right in front of us if we pay attention.
3. We choose the little and the ordinary and distrust the grand schemes.
4. We avoid concentrating on our sins and our failures. We keep our attention always focused on Jesus.
5. We know that God acts in a quiet and loving manner. We do not try to draw attention to ourselves or make a “lot of noise” about what we’re doing.
6. We practice moderation in everything. “It is a ruse of the devil, by which he deceives good people, to induce them to do more than they are able, so that they end up not being able to do anything. The spirit of God urges one gently to do the good that can be done reasonably, so that it may be done perseveringly and for a long time”
7. We put in place the organization and the structures that makes it possible for us to do our work.
8. We act on what we hear in prayer – make practical resolutions. We leave Christ in prayer to go to Christ in the poor.
9. Our love is affective and effective. True charity includes both arms.
10. “Human success” is not the measure of whether our choices are right. We follow the humble Jesus who was ridiculed and abandoned.
(I got tis list from Howard Baker in a Spiritual formation course)