Are Christians responsible for making plans and making good decisions?

Here’s a wonderful post on decision making and the will of God posted on Neil’s blog. Neil links to another post where someone is trying to figure out what God wants him to do.


Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

He has a helpful picture posted as well:

This is actually a very important topic for me, because I like making plans and making good decisions. I like being the quarterback or squad leader of my own life. I like to pick objectives and then make plans to achieve them. (Nothing too exotic, just simple stuff like saving money or reading more books)

Actually, I really oppose the idea that God has a magical fairy tale will for each person that will make them happy and fulfilled. For me, life isn’t like that. I don’t expect God to lead me along like a child at a scavenger hunt. I expect to survey the battlefield where I am and then do something to make a difference. There are lots of things you can do that will please God. Should you focus on your career and sponsor apologetics conferences? Or should you use your spare time preparing Sunday school lessons? There are lots of good things you could do to please God. Your job is to pick the one that will be the most effective. It doesn’t matter if it makes you happy, it only matters if it’s effective and if you are good at it.

Who is Rifleman Dodd?

A while back, I was busily working my way through the U.S. Marine Corps Official Reading List, and I came across a book by C.S. Forester called Rifleman Dodd, or alternatively titled Death to the French. It’s a work of historical fiction that takes place during the Napoleonic wars. The story is about a British marksman named Dodd, who is cut off from his own lines during a withdrawal maneuver. He is subsequently left to fend for himself behind enemy lines. An ordinary man might be full of despair and forget about his mission entirely. But Dodd is no ordinary man. Not only does he find a way to survive by finding food to eat, water to drink and places to sleep, but he also tries to remember his orders and to think about what he can do to advance the cause of his General, the Duke of Wellington.

Here’s an excerpt from a gritty book review:

It’s about a green-coated British infantry rifleman in the Napoleonic Wars, an age when rifles were a novelty and most of the army was red-coated and carried muskets. Private Matthew Dodd gets separated from his regiment during a retreat and finds himself stranded behind enemy (French) lines in Portugal. With the occasional aid of some natives, but mostly on his own, he harasses the French with his rifle and tries to prevent them from building a bridge across the Tagus River. It’s a remarkable tale of survival and solitary achievement, of a rank-and-file soldier who lives by his wits and slowly learns to make plans without orders, and shows leadership qualities and a knowledge of warfare.

I think we’re in the same situation as Dodd.

There is no point in us looking for breadcrumb trails to happiness at this point. That’s not the point of Christianity. The point of Christianity is friendship with God, imitation of Christ, honoring moral obligations, self-sacrificial love for your neighbor (and even your enemies!), and dedication to the truth – whether anyone else likes you or not. It’s not supposed to make you happy, and it’s not necessarily going to be a normal life like everyone else has. Things may not work out the way you’d like them to.

We seem to be making such a big deal about compassion and forgiveness in the Christian life these days – such a big emphasis on our feelings. Almost like we have forgotten that we have obligations to our friend – and his objectives. A relationship doesn’t mean that one person completely disregards the character and goals of the other person and then is automatically granted forgiveness whenever they want it. That’s not a friendship – that’s using someone else for your own ends. Maybe it’s time to remember what this is all about.

7 thoughts on “Are Christians responsible for making plans and making good decisions?”

  1. WK, boy do I ever get the “God told me…” problem. I’ve seen it happen up close in churches when people feel they like they aren’t even saved, let alone in relationship with God because some brethren cannot start a sentence without “God told me…” Those that use (abuse?) this phrase then inevitably puff themselves up as super-spiritual beings. And, I note, often end up falling badly. It is sad and dangerous.

    However, I don’t think it wise to use phrases such as “magical fairy tale will.” It is belittling to a concept that is uber biblical. It is easy to swing too far in the opposite direction like the proverbial pendulum — as I have done, being more intellectually driven than emotionally driven — and then getting puffed up thinking that “I can do it all with my own intellect and planning…” Alas, as Proverbs 19:21 states: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” He is intent on keeping us humble before Him.

    For reference, some verses below on being led by the spirit. There are many, many more. The point is, we are to completely engage both our intellect *and* our spirit — love him with all of our heart, soul and mind. He does not want us to use them all, and to the fullest.

    Romans 8:14: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

    John 16:13: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…”

    Galatians 5:18: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

    Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”

    There are a ton more.


    1. I think that there is a huge difference between being led by the Spirit in the battlefield we occupy, led often into dangerous situations where we will be forsaken by family, friends, and the public versus being led by the Spirit to HappyHappyJoyJoyVille.

      “Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” — CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters


      1. Fair enough. We have to stand on the battlefield we are in, by leading or by circumstances — perhaps even by our own wrong decisions. But again, I don’t see how HappyHappyJoyJoyVille is particularly helpful. If you are referring to the health and wealth doctrines of some, leading to HappyHappyJoyJoyVille, then sure. Bad doctrine. But I rarely see that coupled with the “God told me…” super spirituality set, which often is doctrine-averse. And, again for the record, the Bible itself speaks frequently of the joy we have in the life of Christ. So belittling phrases are not particularly persuasive when they seem to conflict with the Bible..


        1. I wasn’t trying to belittle you or your comment – just taking a fair (I hope) shot at what I see in so many churches in the West. I see joy being completely different from happiness. I am joyful standing in front of the abortion mill, but almost never happy. And the folks who stand out there with me are not in it for the good vibes, I can assure you.

          I don’t see how my statement or the CS Lewis quote is in conflict with the Bible: our purpose as Christians is NOT happiness, right? (If it was, then Jesus and the disciples failed miserably – Paul too.) It is primarily to know, love, and serve the Lord. But, I am open to correction. BTW, you do know that “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” is from a song, right?


          1. Ahhh, I did not know the reference. My concern was what appeared to be the belittling of the word “joy,” not the word happiness. I completely agree that joy and happiness are two different animals, and only the one is in the Bible. Same with fun and joy. The joy of the Lord supercedes circumstances, such as standing in front of an abortion clinic or even much harder parts of life. Happiness and fun are circumstance-dependent. Joy is God-dependent.



        2. My bad – I was playing on the word “happy,” not “joy.” We both were keying on different words. God bless! :-)


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