Archive for Saturday, November 1, 2003

Faith forum

November 1, 2003


How can I know what God wants me to do with my life?

Spiritual discernment helps us find God's will

The Rev. Marcus McFaul, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, 1330 Kasold Drive:

Should I change jobs? Ought I to marry or stay single? Is this vocation the one which is best? What on earth should I major in? Is this major I was sure about a few months ago really right for me? Will I be able to make a living with it?

What does God want me to do?

Sorting out these questions is complex and time consuming, but such is the practice of spiritual discernment. The word "discernment" comes from the Latin word discernere, which means "to separate" or "to sort out." It suggests our ability to shift through the many voices, motives, longings and forces pulling upon us, until we discover God's will for our lives.

Spiritual discernment is not a mechanical or formulaic process but a yearning to know God's will or purpose when we face decisions. Caution: No sure-fire, guaranteed method to track down God's will with certainty in any given situation can be offered.

However, in the Christian history two significant movements aid in discernment. First, Ignatius of Loyola outlined helpful rules in discernment: scriptural assistance, experience, imagination, reason and feelings. Second, the Quaker practice of both individual and communal silence coupled with a "clearness committee," to ask and answer questions until consensus is reached, is another means to seek God's will. In the economy of God, mundane conversations can become the means to discovering the holy. Scripture, prayer, community, active service and/or contemplative retreats all are resources in discernment.

The biblical witness makes clear that all individuals must measure up to the same standard: "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Michah 6:8). Author Danny Morris writes, "If we love and walk with God, God and we create the path that leads to our awareness of the divine will as we move along together." When life is approached in this manner, autonomous choices begin to reflect our spiritual values. Jesus said to seek God's kingdom and its righteousness, and everything else will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).

Finally, Frederick Buechner may offer the best advice as it relates to today's question, particularly one's vocation: "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."

Send e-mail to the Rev. Marcus McFaul at

As we glorify God, we will discover what to do

The Rev. Jim Dunkin, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church, 2415 Clinton Parkway:

Sometimes this question sounds as though God has something hidden from us that requires a search. If we make the right decisions, then we will discover "what God wants us to do with our life."

The Westminster Shorter Catechism asked the question, "What is the chief end of humans? To glorify God and enjoy God forever." This is the foundation for which God created us.

The apostle Paul wrote that God has given all of us gifts to be used "for the common good." How we use these gifts becomes simply the vehicle for living out this foundation of glorifying and enjoying God.

God surrounds us with people of all ages who illustrate what it means to "glorify and enjoy God forever."

Recently I officiated at the memorial service for a 7-year-old girl. This child was daily glorifying and enjoying God by encouraging her friends and giving everyone she met a "power hug."

In June, a 96-year-young woman joined our congregation. She states that the main thing she wants to do in her life is to love and find the good in everyone she meets.

Two additional examples: Brother Lawrence taught us that we can glorify God while peeling potatoes in the kitchen, and Mother Teresa taught us that we can glorify and enjoy God while serving the suffering of the world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson best expressed this foundation in his poem "Success" when he expressed our yearning "to leave the world a bit better."

As we glorify and enjoy God, we will discover what God wants us to do with our lives.

Send e-mail to the Rev. Jim Dunkin at

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