Monday, June 11, 2012
Does God Always Have to Spell Things out For us?
I wrote this in response to a specific question, in which the person sought advice on how to know when (and whether it is appropriate) to make your own decisions out of your own knowledge without asking God for specific instructions or permission every single time. They made the point that not only do we have the right to make our own decisions, but that God insists on it. They also wanted to know what to do when the answer to your prayer is "I trust you. You decide."
I approached my response with these two seemingly contradictory passages of scripture in mind:
Psalms 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
D&C 58:26-28 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
Here is my response(with slight editing for clarity's sake):
A: This is a principle that requires a degree of spiritual maturity to truly master. I think that the Lord expects each of us to "do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness" because he knows that it is important for our personal and spiritual growth that we learn to act as "agents unto ourselves". Indeed, in many cases God may leave each of us to follow our own natural inclination, but our natural inclination is not (at least initially) always to seek the right thing, or the things of God, and so this necessitates that we first experience a profound change of heart. It becomes our responsibility to change our nature (through Christ) in order to correctly apply this principle, because only as a true disciple of Christ can we gain enough knowledge through the practice of faithful and persistent obedience to recognize and act upon the right choice without needing to be told. As we gain this knowledge we will be better equipped to recognize when our natural inclinations are in line with God's own will (and what is right) and when they are not.
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
This journey to true and natural discipleship is part of a life-long process of conversion, but it carries with it the promise of true liberty-the freedom to act for ourselves and not be acted upon:
John 8:31-32,36 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Romans 8:1-2 THERE is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
1 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
2 Nephi 2:27-28 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;
Galatians 5:1, 13-14 STAND fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
"If thou intend and seek nothing else but the will of God and the good of thy neighbor, thou shalt thoroughly enjoy inward liberty." (Thonas Hammerken, The Imitation of Christ, 59)