Book Review: Guidance and the Voice of God
This is Lauren Horn's review of Guidance and the Voice of God written by Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne (Matthias Media, 2012, 118 pages). This book is available online or in the bookstore.
God still speaks loud and clear. Are you listening?
Decision-making is inescapable. It’s something we do everyday. And for Christians our decisions are often compounded with questions of God’s will. We often ask, “What does God want me to do about X?” “Which job does God want me to take?” “How do I know if I’m in God’s will?” “What is his plan for my life?”
For many of us, pondering God’s will in our lives leads to feelings of anxiety, immobilization and second-guessing. We begin to operate as though his will for us is some unsolved mystery and each of us is Nancy Drew trying to piece together vague clues to decipher what he is saying. We see a cashier in a grocery store with red hair named Bobby and think, “Well my boyfriend has red hair and is named Bobby. That must be God giving me a sign to marry Bobby!” As humorous as this is, I admit that in my early days as a Christian I have fallen prey to this kind of amateur sleuthing.
However, in Phillip D. Jensen and Tony Payne’s book Guidance and the Voice of God they argue that God has provided us with knowledge of his will but that many of us spend our time asking the wrong questions of God and seeking to answer our questions with means he has not promised to give us. Jensen and Payne provide a Biblical overview of God’s will for our lives, how he guides us in it and what we are to do in response, ending with practical case studies regarding the church, work and marriage. Below are some points from the book that I found helpful in considering God’s will for my life.
1. God’s nature incites my confidence in him to adequately guide.
God does not complicate the decisions we make. Understanding who he is better helps us know how he works in our lives and what his plans are. As a sovereign creator he rules, sustains and owns everything in the world. He can use anything to achieve his purpose and plan. He can turn hearts and minds to follow his course (Prov. 16:9; 21:1). As the shepherd of his people, he deals intimately with his children and sometimes prods them with a firm staff to lead them to safety. As the planner, he guides the course of history. He makes a plan and brings it to fulfillment. We see the promise and plan of Christ as early as Genesis 3:15. Knowing these things about God, we can be encouraged that he is faithful to guide us and trust that he is powerful enough to accomplish his purposes in us and generous enough to act always for our good by leading us to himself.
2. God’s plan is revealed through his Son and his Spirit working through Scripture.
God does not promise to use any other means to reveal his plans to us so we should not expect visions or prophets anymore (Heb 1:1-3), but we can be assured that he has spoken to us through Christ, the Word made flesh. Christ reveals God’s plan of salvation to reconcile the world to himself, and his Spirit leads and guides us to live the way God wants us to live. It’s sounds simple enough, but this is the plan God has made known to us in Scripture. We should not anticipate signs, dreams or small voices to guide us, but as the New Testament instructs, be weary of false guides (Mark 7:6-13; Col 2:6-23; 2 Cor 11:4-5, 13-15).
3. God’s plan is to guide us to righteousness.
God’s plan for us is to become like Jesus. That is our ultimate good and his ultimate purpose. We are chosen to be holy and blameless, to receive an eternal inheritance as God’s children, to do good works and to be glorified (Eph 1:3-10; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Rom 8:28-30). Because this is God’s plan, we respond in faith and repentance and put to death the deeds of the body.
4. Not all decisions are matters of righteousness.
Decisions can fall into different categories. The authors have designated three: matters of righteous, good judgment and triviality. When Scripture is explicit with what to do and not to do, our response is to obey God’s word. Disobeying puts us outside of God’s will, as do sinful motivations. These are matters of righteousness. However, matters of good judgment are often mistakenly designated as matters of righteousness. These are decisions that are not in the right or wrong category, such as “Should I take this job or go back to school?” We can consider specific factors and search Scripture for perspectives but at the end of the day if it’s not a matter of right or wrong then either decision is pleasing to God. We can move forward confidently trusting that our decision is within his will. Lastly, matters of triviality are decisions that can sap up much of our time but have little or no relevance in light of the other two categories.
Guidance and the Voice of God is an instructive, encouraging and easy-to-read book that promotes God’s intimate interest in his children, reminding us that God still guides, his will for our lives is fully revealed by Christ and his word and that his purposes for guiding are ultimately to conform us into the image of his Son. I would urge anyone who has questions about God’s will to read this book and take heart that God has taken great pains to ensure you are not without guidance and purpose. He has made known to us the mystery of his will.