February 8, 2008

When I can’t decide . . .

Christians talk about “yielding their will to the will of God” meaning they have dropped all resistance to whatever God tells them. Volition is about making a choice to go one way or another.

Serious choices are seldom made arbitrarily. Most are based on what the mind knows, or thinks it knows, or on emotions or lack of any feelings. The interaction between volition, reason and emotion has been described as three cars on a train. Where the train goes depends on the engine, or the car that we put in front. For some, it is emotion with logic, reason, or intelligence battling in second place or bringing up the rear as a mere add-on.

Others put intellect first. If they cannot figure something out or understand it, they will not go there, even if emotions tug them in that direction. Their emotions and will serve their IQ.

Christians are urged to put the will first, make a decision and let reason and feelings fall in line. Those outside the faith have accused this as abandoning our brains, being like sheep (or lemmings) who follow a track without thinking in some sort of blind commitment to the incomprehensible. In some cases, they are not far off with this assessment.

Chinese Christian Watchman Nee calls all of that the “soulish” life. He says we must not live the powers of the soul (intellect, emotions, and volition), but instead be governed by the Spirit of God through the human spirit. He defines the spirit as that inner part of humanity that is capable of connecting with God, knowing deeply the difference between godliness and sin, and being able to intuitively believe what God says, even without physical evidence.

According to Nee, who uses Scripture to make a good case for his points, the spirit of an unsaved person is dead (or separated from God) because of sin. That person cannot connect with God, does not see himself as sinful and needing godliness, and cannot believe in a God that he cannot see or experience with his mind or senses. The Bible uses the words “dead in sin” and “alive to God” speaking about the need for life in the spirit before anyone can walk with the Lord.

Nee says the soul (with its faculties of intellect, emotions, and volition) runs our life until we become subservient to our spirit, which must be made “alive” before this can happen. At salvation, we are given this new life, and combined with the power of the Holy Spirit, our spirit and our soul are both enabled to function as God intended. The mind or intellect connects with God through the spirit and His Spirit, and then can perceive the “hidden things” that God reveals to His children.

The emotions also are made alive by that same connection. A saved person is able to feel conviction of sin, joy in righteousness, burdens for things that burden God, even the very emotions of God. We can know by experience His joys and sorrows because He lives in us and intimately shares His heart with us.

As for the will, I’ve considered that no decisions are made without information. I need to have something on which to base my decision. It could be emotion (“The house is on fire — move!”) and it could be intellect (“Oatmeal is good for you — so eat it!”), yet God asks me to listen to Him. While He will not let me stay in a burning house or eat chocolate all day, He may ask me to do something that makes no sense to my reasoning. He may ask something that my emotions rise up and fight. Nevertheless, He knows more than I do, and tells me to allow Him to govern my life by His Spirit.

Proverbs 3:5-8 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.

One more thing I notice about my will is that when I am in a place of indecision, I am still in one of my choices. For instance, this week someone asked me to make her a quilt. At that moment, I hesitated; would I or wouldn’t I? Before deciding, I considered several factors: my time, resources, the person asking and so on, but before deciding, I remained in one choice, the place I was before the option came up; I’m not doing this.

As I pondered the request, I considered things from both intellect and emotions. My intellect said “You don’t have time” and my emotions said, “But this is your mother-in-law.”

Who was going to pull this train?

I decided neither one and asked, What does God want me to do with this request? In my spirit, I knew His answer and agreed to move from my negative position to a positive response. The quilt is not made yet, but God has reasons I don’t yet understand for telling me to do it. I trust Him. Therefore, my will agrees with His will, not my reasoning or my emotions.

Nee says far too many Christians are letting their soul pull their train. We’ve done it all our lives and such habits are difficult to break. I suppose this is why He brings us to places large and small where our understanding and our emotions are in conflict. Life is a big nonstop lesson learning to quit relying on my own resources and take all decisions to Him.

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