By Sue Kelly
As a newly elected vestry member, my eyes and heart have been opened to the myriad of ministries at Grace making us a spiritually vibrant church … a blessed church as described by N. Graham Standish in his book Becoming a Blessed Church. As a vestry, we focus on learning to discern the will of God in decisions we make. How do we listen and discern the will of God in a self-absorbed culture and with the cacophony of daily life bombarding us? How do we make sure, as Standish states, that our decisions are based on God’s purpose and not on our own masquerading as God’s?
Standish uses a simple simile to describe discernment as panning for gold in which you sift through the junk in order to find the gold nugget. It requires faith, prayer, and patience. He goes on to explain four principles to guide us when seeking God’s will.
- Be Grounded in Scripture: Discernment must start here and there are many opportunities at Grace to become a person of scripture through Bible studies, worship/sermons/Sunday School/adult education, Wednesday night classes, being a lector, Engaging the Word on the website, and daily devotional readings. When the words of scripture are in our hearts and minds then it is easier to be guided into knowing God’s will.
- Listen for Christ’s Voice: God’s voice is so rich that if we take some time to listen, it will speak through the noise of daily life. Look for it in unexpected places like a poem, a comment, a garden, a change, a hike in the woods, a kind gesture, a song or a smile from a stranger. But at the same time, know not everything is the voice of God. Standish says you will know the voice of God because it will resonate inside you and your heart will leap at its sound.
- Clarify: Clarifying asks us to have patience and spend time humbly asking if it is really God’s will. In a culture that emphasizes the “me” there will be false words which masquerade as God’s words. Once revealed, they are really the pride and ego of the “me” speaking. Seek the opinion of other spiritually grounded people to see if they sense God’s voice as well. It will be affirmed if Christ is speaking.
- Follow in Faith: Faith then asks us to make a decision even though we may still have reservations. If it is not God’s will, as Standish points out, then the possible will become impossible and if it is God’s will then the impossible will be made possible. Ministry and mission will happen and Grace will be a blessed church.
Discerning the will of God is not a straightforward process but your vestry works together to try to recognize it in the many decisions we make. This process is not reserved for groups such as the vestry but works also for individuals searching for the voice of God in daily life. Be grounded in scripture, listen for Christ’s voice, clarify, and follow in faith to discern the will of God in our individual lives so we can know where we are being led in becoming a blessed people and a blessed Grace church.