By nature and in desperation, man seeks God or god-like idols for help in various ways, especially when they encounter difficulties in solving problems, e.g. The Liberal Jews will look to the Torah and rabbinic sources for guidance in moral matters, such as homosexuality (Dowd & Nielsen, 2006, page 2000)1; In Exodus, Aaron would wear a priestly garment, bearing a breastplate of judgment containing Urim and Thummim on entering into a holy place to seek God’s judgment on difficult questions, affecting the welfare of Israel (Mazur, 2010, page 7)2; The Chinese will use I Ching or Book of Changes as a guidance in personal, social, political, and military decision-making (David, 1962, page 18)3; and The Muslims will look for guidance and inspiration from the Quran (the Word of God) and the Sunnah (example) of Muhammad (Neusner, 2003, page 131)4.
Assessment of the evidence: the Bible give no grounds for the belief that God guides us in everyday decisions other than by revealing the gospel, its fruit in our lives, and its final goal.
This may be true for those believers who do NOT have an intimate relationship with Him, through faith and fervent prayers in close closets, studying and meditating on His Word daily, or seeking Him earnestly for help in their everyday decisions. To them, the main theme of the Bible is based on revealing the gospel, its fruit in their lives and its final goal FULL-STOP. To these people, one would sense that they do not have a mission-purpose life.
The definitions of ‘guidance’ and 'lead'
But for those who are close to God, they seek God’s guidance everyday, rather than only in case of emergency. ‘Guide’ (Strong number 5095)5 in Hebrew (nahal) means to lead with care (Piel) or to journey by stations or stages (Hithpael). ‘Lead’ (Strong number 3212)5 in Hebrew (yalak) means to proceed (Qal) or to lead (Hiphil). In the Old Testament days, God had led the Israelites some ‘forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether you wouldest keep his commandments or no’ (Deuteronomy 8:2). Today, God is still leading us through the Holy Spirit, who will lead Christians into all truth (John 16:13).
How does God lead us in making decisions?
Man does not exist without a purpose: as the big picture of God’s plan for mankind shows that we are called as God’s chosen people to fulfill the Great Commission of spreading the gospel. God plays the part of a loving Father, who makes provisions for His children, as covered in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), which provides for our daily bread, delivery from temptation and evil, and fulfilling God’s will on earth. In meeting the needs of our everyday life, God has given us some broad guidelines for making our decisions: a) Choose life over death (Deuteronomy 30:19); b) The Book of Proverbs, as it enables us to know wisdom (Strong number 2451)6 in Hebrew (Chokmah) means ‘skill in war, wisdom in administration, shrewdness, prudence in religious affairs and wisdom in ethical affairs’, which nearly cover most important areas of our lives; and c) Think on things that are true, honest, pure, lovely, of good report, any virtue and any praise (Philippine 4:8). There are many places in the Bible, which testified to God’s leading his chosen people in every way, as we believe that ‘God made all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28). For example, God is popularly referred to as ‘a sheperd’ or ‘a watchman’ in John 10:3-4. He will lead us in our daily path in the same way, as we pray and listen to His small voice.
In my own experience, I can testify that God guides me in the following ways: a) an inner revelation that acts like bright light that dawns on you that certain image or word of wisdom comes from Him and is effective, e.g. God had given me insights for lyrics and melody in compositing 16 songs in-a-row for my first mission album during quiet-times. This is what Peter Caddy called as ‘‘his intuition’, emphasizing quick discernment and spontaneous response (Caddy, 1996, page 78)7. Without allowing mental or emotional considerations to interfere with it, that was ‘the source of wisdom he learned to act upon’; b) an outer evidence, just like how God led the Israelites out of Egypt by pillars of cloud in the daytime and pillars of fire at night, e.g. God had alerted me to the importance of 4 exam questions for my professional examinations twice during revision, by the falling of pens and notes; and c) God can guide Christians through the Holy Spirit, who can speak to the people through their consciences (Morgan & Lawton, 1996, page 177)8 or can touch their hearts (1 Samuel 10:26), e.g. the Holy Spirit had helped me to approach the ready-hearted, to reap 7 souls, 16 souls and 32 souls within 2 hours of evangelism for 3 consecutive years.
In churches, it is sometimes asked whether the Holy Spirit affects decision-making. According to Roozen & Nieman (2005, page 170)9, about two-thirds of the pastors responded somewhat and a third responded greatly. This means that more than nine out of ten Vineyards expect some degree of the Spirit’s leading in their ministries. Almost one out of three is highly dependent upon the Spirit for guidance. One aspect of being Spirit-driven is openness to change and renewal. Most pastors report a dynamic personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, and many report substantial Spirit activity in their congregations.
In big organizations, in making daily decisions, some directors may seek God’s guidance through prayer at board meetings (Unruh & Sider, 2005, page 116)10. Even for some U.S. government officials, they ‘seek God’s guidance, by summoning all their knowledge of the past and scan all signs of the future. They bring all their wit and will to meet the question’ (Bose, 1998, page 118)11.
For most people, they may make moral choices based on guidance from their trusted friends, mentors, or people they look up to. But the final decision boils down to their own understanding of a combination of that which they were taught growing up and which they learned themselves through experience or interpretation of the Bible, or a book on ethics, or secular sources on the nature of problems (Ice, 1987, page 123)12. In face of uncertainty, when the world around us may seem gloomy and hopeless, Brown (2004, pg. 227)13 says that ‘one would, under God’s guidance, eventually reach one’s goal, however dark and uncertain the road may at times seem.’
Basically, God will not interfere into man’s life without being sought after. He gives man a permissive will to go about his daily affairs, even to the extent of giving people their requested king against His own will, e.g. in the case of Saul (1 Samuel 8:1-11:25). As Goldsworthy says: He does not make the decisions for you, He gives you the necessary guidelines (1991, page 311)14.
1 Dowd, E.T. & Nielsen, S.L. ‘The psychologies in religion: Working with the religious client’, Springer Publisher, New York, 352 pages (2006)
2 Mazur, J. ‘What’s luck got to do with it? The history, mathematics, & psychology behind the gambler’s illusion’, Princeton University Press Publisher, Princeton, N.J., pages 278 (2010)
3 David, E.N. ‘Games, gods and gambling: The origins and history of probability and statistical ideas from the earliest times to the Newtonian era’, London: Charles Griffin & Co., pg. 13-20 (1962)
4 Neusner, J. ‘God’s rule: The politics of world religions’, Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C., 282 pages (2003)
5 Strong Number Bible 2.0, 5095
6 Strong Number Bible 2.0, 2451
7 Caddy, P. ‘In perfect timing: memoirs of a man for the New Millenium, Forres: Findhorn Press, page 78 (1996)
8 Morgan, P. & Lawton, C. ‘Ethical issues in six religious traditions’, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 304 pages (1996)
9 Roozen, D.A. & Nieman, J.R. ‘Church identity & Change: Theology & denominational structures in unsettled times’, W.B. Eerdmans Publisher, Grand Rapids, M1, 656 pages (2005)
10 Unruh, H.R. & Sider, R.J. ‘Saving souls, serving society: Understanding the faith factor in church-based social ministry’, Oxford University Press, New York, pages 323 (2005)
11 Bose, M . ‘Shaping and signaling presidential policy – The National Security Decision Making of Eisenhower and Kennedy’, Texas A&M University Press Publisher, 212 pages (1998)
12 Ice, M.L. ‘Clergy women and their worldviews: Calling for a New Age’, Praeger Publisher, New York, 228 pages (1987)
13Brown, D. ‘God and enchantment of place: Reclaiming human experience’, Oxford University Press, New York, 446 pages (2004)
14Goldsworthy, G. ‘According to Plan’, Inter-Varsity Press/Lancer Press, 320 pages (1991)