Guidance is one of those funny Christian topics that nobody seems to really know anything about and one of those things that we Western Christians always seen to try and work out. Well, maybe it is not so much as us Western Christians, but Christians everywhere. In a way what we want to know is 'what does God want of us in this world. What is his plan and his purpose for us?' I guess to say that this is a question that I haven't asked then I would be lying, but the thing I wonder is whether we spend too much time asking this question and then getting angry, or depressed, because God has not given us a blinding revelation.
This is one of those books that comes out to try to answer that question and in the end produces more questions than they really answer. If you want to read a Christian book, then this is okay, but I would suspect that there are a lot of better books to spend your time reading. The reason I say this is because this is simply one of those books that rolls out of what is effectively the Moore Theological College printing press; a college that may be Bible based in character way too theoretical for my liking. In a way, the people of Moore seem to come out of there with rose coloured glasses not really understanding the nature of the world that we live in. As I said recently, if they reckon Sydney is 'The City of Sin' then they have obviously never been to Bangkok.
I am glad I stumbled across the chapter on guidance in the book that I am currently reading because I realised that I had not written a commentary on this book, which means I can say a few things about guidance. At the church I currently attend the interim moderator has been a preacher over in Africa, so I went up to him and asked him if subsistence farmers in Malawi see guidance and God's purpose in the same way that we do. His answer was a very simple, 'I think people the world over see it the same way as we do.' So I went to the assistant pastor, who has also been a missionary, and asked him. His response (having worked in countries were Christians pretty much have no hope) is that over there the understanding of 'heaven' is much different because their lives are full of suffering. However, they generally do not really sit around discussing this philosophical idea about God's plan for their lives, but they rather go out and do things.
The difference is that we live in a very wealthy country and we as citizens of this country have many options open to us. This is probably why we struggle so much with this simple question. However, over there, the struggle for survival is much more acute, and the options are much more limited. As such, if they see something that needs to be done, they go and do it. Here we see all of these options and waste time pondering what option we should pursue.
The other thing that he suggested is that God's plan is always a hindsight question. We can never really try to discern (or more appropriately divine) God's plan for us because, in many ways, it is revealed to us in little stages. We understand his will, and that is to live moral and upstanding lives and to grow in our character. This idea of growth and living as, effectively, civilised members of society is a very important aspect of our faith and it is something that we should always keep in mind. However, many of us end up living like tyrants, which is, I believe, contrary to God's will. To many of us the Church is a means of expanding our influence over people.
It is interesting that at churches I have been to there is a movement similar to the ladder climbing in a modern corporation. You come to the church, get promoted to a small group leader, then move to more senior leader positions until you are encouraged to quit your job and become a full time minister. However, that does not always work, and in a way I believe that that can be a drain (financially) upon a congregation. I got to a point where I was giving so much to the church that I had little left over to actually give to charities for which I had a passion. However, it is also interesting that there is one young lady that quit her role at the church, studied teaching, and has now gone on to become a professional singer. See, sometimes God's will is that you don't lock yourself away in a church but to actually go out into the world and live among real people because the impact you have there is much greater than you will have ministering only to Christians.