Understanding how God guides us has important implications for our lives. How we see Him interacting with us to shape our future will determine what kind of choices we make in the present. And the quality of our life is highly dependent upon our choices. So, a right understanding of divine guidance is essential for a happy life, but also for an effective one. For it is difficult to see our intentions for good come to pass when we misinterpret the will and desires of Him from whom is the source of all goodness.
Christians have tried to tackle this topic of divine guidance since the early church. While it is impossible to exhaustively cover in a blog post all the ways of understanding divine guidance, I will summarize the three most basic ideas.
In this model, God’s will is like a master blueprint. He has a plan for our lives and has mapped out precisely what each person should do. This is His perfect will. Our job is to discover that plan and follow it diligently. If we don’t do exactly what He has ordained for us, then we will have to settle for second best. We aren’t rejected by Him as long as we are within His permitted will, those choices and actions that aren’t sin, but we’ve missed the ultimate best for our lives.
This idea rejects the concept of a blueprint and favors instead the idea of a goal. Like a team playing on a ball field, God has a goal for us to reach, but allows for fumbles and setbacks. Life is dynamic and our best laid plans are often upended. That’s fine, but we need to discover the next best choice that will lead us to His goal. God’s guidance is like breadcrumbs that point us in the right direction. Our job is to daily discover those breadcrumbs and follow His lead.
An apprentice is one who is learning from a master to be able to do the kind of work the master does. He is learning to imitate the skill and character of his teacher so that he can effectively participate in the vocation. The focus is on learning the values, wisdom, and behaviors of the master. When the master gives guidance to the apprentice it is directed toward developing his character and capacities, not determining his every step. In this model of divine guidance, our job is to understand what God says about humanity, the world, and what is truly important. We are to follow Christ in living and working for the good wherever we can. As beloved children, we are to be imitators of God and walk in love (Eph. 5:1-2).
Of the three ways of understanding divine guidance, I believe the apprentice model best represents biblical teaching. In a future post I’ll critique the other models and show why the apprentice model is superior.