“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 NASB)
In our previous devotion we learned that total submission to the sovereign and moral wills of God is the key to making wise and prudent decisions. We need the skills taught in God’s word to be able to face life’s difficult choices.
Making decisions can be a fearful undertaking especially if it involves going to a hostile environment. One reason we are reluctant to make such decisions is the possibility of consequences. A second reason is we often face a decision with uncertain consequences.
In 2007 we came face to face with the decision whether or not to join a Wycliffe Associates mission team to Papua, New Guinea. We would have to fly from St. Louis to LAX, and then take Quantas airlines from LAX to Brisbane, Australia which was a fourteen hour flight. From Brisbane we would fly to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua, NG. We would stay overnight at the mission guesthouse before taking WA’s private plane back to the jungle compound in Ukarumpa. Uncertainties arose which had to be dealt with such as: Where would we get the funds for such a long trip? How would we handle the fourteen hour flight? What about health and safety issues? As we considered God’s will, two factors played a role in our decision: (1) our degree of love for the Lord, and (2) our submission to the sovereign and moral will of God.
Our thirteen member team taught a two-week VBS curriculum to one hundred and forty missionary children. We had a blast and fell in love with the missionaries, the country, and the people.
Following God’s principles for making decisions may make them clearer, but the consequences may still be hard and uncertain. We found this to be true on our other trips to Peru, Africa, and France. It is amazing to us, but not to God that he brought us through each one with our health and safety intact.
What skills do we draw on when we face decisions that do not fall under submission to God’s sovereign or moral will?
Over and over again the Bible tells us that love is a motivating factor in determining the will of God. In at least eight places the Bible tells us to love God and love our neighbors. One such reference is in Galatians 5:13,14 where it says, “For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love, ‘For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (NLT) Other references include Lev. 19:18; Luke 10:25-28; Romans 13:9; James 2:8)
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:10), and he included love as one of the nine fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22). What principle are these and other Scripture passages telling us? When it comes to decisions that aren’t clearly dealt with in God’s word the motivating factor is love. Not just any kind of love. Not on human love. Not the kind of love a mother has for her newborn. Not with phileo (‘fill’-E-o) or brotherly love. The kind of love that Paul and others are referring to is agape love.
Agape love is an act of the will in which we put another person’s interest before our own. Our decision making process should relate to the welfare of others. This is what Paul is teaching us in Philippians 2:3,4 – “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (NASB)Many people don’t want to make good decisions; they want to make painless decisions