Knowing the will of God is not always easy. We all know the universal will of God in terms of the universal calling of believers to make disciples of all nation (Great Commission) or to love God and love neighbor as yourself. But what does this mean specifically? The Bible shows many people in the midst of God’s will who are completely unaware of God’s hand in their lives. Moses was in the middle of God’s will during his 40 years of shepherding although he may have not recognized God’s hand in training his character during that relatively quiet period of his life. Paul had a general sense that he needed to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, but even Paul made “wrong” choices and God had to speak to him through closed doors and visions.
So when it comes to practical decisions — what job to take, where to live, what ministry to join — how do we know if we are making the right choice, one that aligns with the will of God?
Acts 6 and 7 sheds some light. First, we learn that rather than making a personal decision, God invites us to make a decision in relation to the community. There are only 2 approaches to living out our faiths. One, we are Christian individuals trying to find out God’s personal calling on our own. There are some missionaries who may fall into this category. Or two, we are Christians who are actively part of a community and that community in some ways dictate or constrain us in the individual choices we make.
Acts 6 is a clear example of where the needs of the community dictated the individual choices that were made. The leaders of the early church did everything initially. They preached, they counseled, they made home visitations, they did social work. But as the church grew, a complaint arose that the widows were not being properly taken care of. Thus, the leaders concluded that they needed to delegate the duty of feeding the widows to those who were Spirit-filled and full of wisdom so that they could be freed up to pray and read the Word of God.
In a very real and practical sense, it was the needs of the community that pushed the leaders into this structuring of the church. So rather than the leaders deciding to trust their own ability to discern the will of God on an individual basis, they were humble to acknowledge that God, in many cases, chooses to work in a local community (church) and they were flexible to adjust their lives accordingly. So communal decision over individualized decision making is one important principle.
We’ll cover a second principle later on…