God’s Will: Finding Guidance for Everyday Decisions, by JI Packer with help from Carolyn Nystrom ★★★★★
As a young man, I worried a lot about receiving guidance from God and was offered a potpourri of bad advice as to how to achieve that guidance. As an older man, I now am in a position of giving younger people advice as to how they might receive guidance from above. I had mentioned quite briefly in my Memoirs the modus operandi that I have used over the years in getting guidance from God which has set the course for my life. It is mostly in accordance to that found in this book. I have also reviewed a similar book on guidance written by Bruce Waltke (see 02JUL2009). His text tended to be more technical, showing that many of the ways in which Christians seek guidance from the Lord are more akin to witchcraft than to honest inquiry as to the will of God. It also is an excellent book and most worthy one’s attention.
Packer approaches finding God’s will in a similar fashion to Dr. Waltke and also John Newton, for which he has a lengthy quote at the end of his book. Starting with the 23rd Psalm, Packer acknowledges that simply by being one of God’s sheep necessitates him being your shepherd and directing your path. Packer then works through a number of issues on a chapter by chapter basis, including 1) maintaining good spiritual health, 2) paying attention to commands in Scripture as to how to live, how to walk, and how to think, 3) seeking maturity and wisdom of the Solomonic type, learning how to think wisely through problems, 4) seeking Godly counsel, consulting friends and family, 5) looking to people that model the Christian life and living accordingly. The Lord Jesus Christ stands primary as our model. 6) when it comes to major life commitments, such as a job, school, marriage, moving, etc., trusting in the Lord’s guidance knowing that God will direct your heart and mind in the way that you should go, 7) when ethical concerns cloud the situation and ethical dilemmas arise, trusting in God for wise leanings and taking care regarding the many temptations that will assault you, and 8) relying on the Holy Spirit. Packer spends careful time on speaking about the Holy Spirit, correcting mistaken ideas such as hearing a voice in your ear or seeing a vision that will direct you. As an example of how the Spirit really works, Packer suggests that the Holy Spirit has a “floodlight” ministry in illuminating a narrow segment of the “stage” that directs you in the way that you should go. Specifically, Packer notes mistakes made by “superspiritual” Christians, including a) undervaluing God’s gift of reason to you (i.e, just think things out!), b) overvaluing the role of patience and waiting on the Lord (when action should be taken), and c) programming, or putting limits, on the Holy Spirit’s work by demanding or expecting exactly how the Holy Spirit should act. Contrariwise, Packer also labors intensely in condemning the opposite extreme, which he calls the sub-spiritual extreme, where a Christian does just the opposite of the three points above, with point c) being that of expecting nothing from the Holy Spirit.
The book is an excellent read, and worthy of any Christian interested in walking according to God’s will. Packer writes in a very pastoral fashion, and reading his books is almost identical to listening to him. I believe that many of his books are exactly that, lectures or talks that have been transcribed. Packer has the ability to take the most complex theological ideas and make them simple. In addition, Packer never ceases from emphasizing that theology demands both praise and practice, walking joyfully and thankfully in His ways. I would recommend this book to any interested reader.