We had a Church Meeting last night. For non-Baptists, this is the occasion when the gathered church seeks to discern what God wants us to do as a church. I have been in some bad Church Meetings. There are some where they have been dominated by one or two people and the rest of the church has not had the courage to confront them or disagree. I have been in others which have been unnecessarily long. Still others have spent an inordinate amount of time looking at trivial matters. But for me the worst ones are those which have been a church equivalent of a shareholders meeting for a company. It has been business, business, business.
|by Dave Walker, taken from BUGB publication ‘Making a Splash!’
I have not been in a meeting like any of those at this church. And last night I was really blessed and encouraged by the way that God’s people at Colchester Baptist Church considered and discerned together on some big questions. We got side-tracked a little on one occasion, but even then the track we went down was important. But we were open, honest, willing to listen to God speaking through each other and keen above all to know what he wanted for us rather than coming with our own agenda for him to ratify.
It was a joy to chair such a meeting.
I wonder why it is that I sometimes feel that discerning God’s will is difficult. It’s almost as if he is deliberately concealing his plans and wants me to struggle to prise them out of his hands. That does not square with God’s personality as revealed in the Bible:
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
And plenty more beside that. So I have to conclude that either I am making it more difficult than it should be, or perhaps that the answers are already there and I have no need to be looking for them. I love the phrase in Acts 15 in the letter written from the Council of Jerusalem to believers. They wrote, ‘It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…’ That is brilliant. They used their brains to work out what seemed good to them and (my interpretation) had a sense of peace and assurance that this was the way ahead. It may well have been that the Spirit put the idea in their head to start with. There was an element of that last night in our meeting.
But I think that often God has already given his answer (as in Isaiah 65, above). Much of God’s will for us is written in the Bible. I am not talking about Bible Bingo where you open the pages at random and stick your finger on a verse. But the 10 Commandments are part of God’s guidance for good living. The Sermon on the Mount has enhanced application and explanation of those principles for life. And so much more. In other words I think that often I want guidance on a specific issue and God is not so worried about the specifics if I am seeking to live by his values and principles.
I don’t think he is too worried about which flavour coffee I buy, but he does want me to consider justice and the effect of my purchasing power on those who have grown the beans – hence I buy Fair Trade coffee. I don’t think he is too worried about the exact words I use when I speak to other people, but he does want me to be loving, to encourage people and build them up. I don’t think he is concerned about which football team* I support, but he does want me to ensure that I enjoy recreation and relaxation as part of my weekly routine.
In the words of Alexandr Orlov: Simples!
This guy decides to go ice fishing one day, so he gets up at 2am to have an early start. When he arrives, he gets out his saw and begins carving away at the ice when all of a sudden he hears an echoing voice: “There are no fish under the ice there.”
The dude freaks out looks around but sees no one. So he waits a few minutes then decides there is no one around and keeps carving. A few minutes later the voice comes back, “There are no fish under the ice there!”
“Wow!” thinks the dude to himself, “God is giving me guidance.”
So he once again starts to carve away at another part of the ice. He hears the bellowing voice, “Sir this is the rink manager, and there are no fish under the ice anywhere.”
*Actually it is okay for me because I am supporting the oppressed and weak – Ipswich Town!