Friday, December 31, 2010

Practical Wisdom and the Spirit's Leading

A friend of mine was having to make a tough decision in an area where there appeared to be some tension between practical wisdom and what the Spirit of the Lord was leading him to do. Below is an email exchange of our conversation. The unusual nature of the topic may spur some of you to comment.

My friend's email
I wanted to shoot a quick note your way with an update letting you know that I'm about to take a major leap of faith and leave my current job with no other job lined up to step into. I know many people would consider this to be CRAZY, especially with the current state of the economy, but, at the risk of sounding like a spiritual nut, I truly feel as though it's the direction God is moving me in.

I've been praying for wisdom/clarity of thought in what steps to take next, and I'd be much appreciative for your prayers as well. This is the first time in my life I've stepped away from something without having something else in place to move's a bit nerve-racking. I'm sure you've experienced those times when you move back and forth between that peace that passes all understanding, and the fear of the uncertain...that's exactly what I'm feeling this past week. Any thoughts or wisdom you care to impart will ALWAYS be welcomed!


My response
Hello, _______,
Thanks for the email. I certainly understand where you are. I’ve had a few similar situations in the past. I remember once, when I was making a similar step of faith, I told everybody I felt like a man standing on a platform blindfolded. I didn’t know if I was about to step-up or step-off. There were times it felt like I did both.

Paradoxes are abundant in our spiritual walk. Natural wisdom and specific, unique direction from the Holy Spirit most of the time flow together without tension. But once in a while they seem to stand in contrast, at times when the Holy Spirit leads us in what we normally wouldn’t do in the practical order of things. Sometimes people will foolishly use the “leading of the Spirit” as an excuse to do some very unwise things. Then other times we use “natural and practical wisdom” as an excuse to not follow the Lord’s specific leading, because we are either afraid or simply unwilling to obey. We should not use "spirituality” to neglect practical wisdom and prudence, but neither should we use natural wisdom to neglect our spiritual walk. Both are necessary in our walk with God in the real world.

We have to know natural wisdom (which is also godly) and we have to know the voice of the Holy Spirit, who generally leads us into practical wisdom. These are usually in perfect harmony, and we know our instrument is tuned properly when the strings harmonize beautifully. This requires a genuine walk with the Lord and the ability to discern the situation and hear His voice.

Sometimes though, the Holy Spirit will lead us down an unusual and unexpected path that on the surface appears to go against the normal expectations of wisdom. But this is God’s prerogative. But it means we really need to know His voice, and not let this principal of the “unusual road” become a stumbling block by using it to cast aside wisdom, discretion, and prudence in the name of the Lord’s leading. What it boils down to, is that a man has to cast himself at the feet of the Lord with a sincere and honest heart seeking to do His will, and then put his trust in the Lord for guidance.

I have lived and walked on both sides of the coin. Looking back, I don’t know whether everything I did was exactly according to the perfect will and direction of the Holy Spirit, or whether the Lord was merciful to me and simply blessed me in times I might have followed the foolishness of youthful or misguided zeal. In any case however, He has been merciful and good to me, blessing my obedience, and showing mercy over my ignorance and failures.

I’ll be praying for you, and I know the Lord will direct and guide you. Please let me know how things go. I’d love to hear what God does and some of the lessons you may learn. Keep in mind, if the Lord is in it, it will still require faith once you make the step. A word from God gives you faith to face what comes, but it does not remove the battle or the opposition. It gives you grace to persevere until the purpose of God is done.

Please let me know how things go. I look forward to the next time we can get together and visit in person.

Bless you,

Usual advice for the unusual decisions
Generally speaking, it is best to follow practical wisdom as taught in the book of Proverbs.The Holy Spirit's leading is not inconsistent with common sense. However, there are exceptional times when He may lead us in what appears on the surface to be unorthodox and unconventional. During these times it is important that we ask God to search and purify our hearts. We should also discuss the matter with someone we trust. A person who isolates himself from input is often a person who is seeking to do his own will. We can be led astray by selfish desires and wrong motives, and we need faithful friends who will be honest with us regarding what they see in us. Ultimately however, we have to make our own decisons. It is important that we be able to walk them out in faith and good conscience.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3: 5-6

“And when he brings out His own sheep, He goes before them; and the sheep follow Him, for they know His voice.” John 10: 4

“The integrity of the upright will guide them.” Proverbs 11: 3

“The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright, but the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.” Proverbs 11: 6


Michael said...

Thanks Billy. It seems to me that the same Spirit that speaks to us to take those steps of faith is the same Spirit who, through scripture, leads us to a place in scripture that speaks to us out of that scripture to our situation, The practical wisdom. My point isn't to replace the scripture but to see the supremecy of the HS in all direction.

Billy Long said...

Thanks, Michael.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your blog. Very good advise. One point; makes a big difference if you are content or discontent with your current job. God can fulfill his purposes without me trying to manipulate him into doing something. Meaning being content in all things and glorifying God in everything I do. Happy New Year my brother. May His presence be felt in abundance this coming year.
James Sharp

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Billy...A very timely Word for me. Seems to confirm my meditation today about David's Word from God and what he went through until that purpose was accomplished.

Lorrie said...

Very good article Billy...that is something the Lord has been stirring me to again (listening out for the Lord's voice saying to do this or that, even if it is "out of the box" :)
Thanks for posting it :)

Daniel Mingo said...

Billy, I appreciate your counsel to this man. His situation is similar to what I experienced when the Lord was leading me to establish the Abba's Delight ministry. Though I was not leaving a job to do this, I was taking on the responsibility to begin a ministry in addition to my family, job, and church responsibilities. The "unnatural" thing about this direction from the Lord is that I don't have a degree, business or otherwise; I have never led a company or ministry, always being the support staff person, and I've never really wanted to be the top banana, as it were. But I could not deny the Holy Spirit's leading of Father's direction, which he confirmed to me time and again both through my wife and pastor. This step of faith I took proved to be solid, as I have watched Father grow the ministry in the last nearly three years.

Anonymous said...

Jesus is our example. His shift from secular to spiritual employment was financed by severance package from Joe's Shop. Like all good Jews, Jesus rented a condo in the seaside city of Capernium. It's the home that He invited the first disciples to come and see where He was living. When I made the leap from secular employment 4 decades ago, I had a history of generating unsolicited offerings. That tangible attestation was a confirming sign that I was on the right track.

Be blessed & be a blessing,
Jim Croft

Anonymous said...

Hi, Billy.
Love following your blog. As usual this one with your friend’s dilemma is loaded with wisdom all of which I agree with fully.

May I be a little more direct and suggest that this person not quit that job without:
1. A clear word directly from the Lord. By clear I mean very clear--something very direct, not just a feeling.
2. Clear confirmation of that word from spouse/family/trusted friends.
3. Checking it against the uidance on wisdom from James 3:17.
4. Waiting at least 6 months before taking any action. If that word is from the Lord it won’t go away and there will be time for it to be confirmed or die as nothing.

When boiled down, the Wisdom of Proverbs is the “ability to live life skillfully”. Our choices in life need to be truly wise, not merely wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7a)

Like you, Billy, I have done some things akin to jumping off a cliff. The ride was fun and there were lessons learned and fruit born, along with difficulty, etc. However, I think there was a more perfect way and had I chosen it/them the contribution to the advancement of God’s Kingdom and the fruit would have be greater in the long haul. No regrets, just still aiming to walk in God’s very best.

And, no question, God does redeem out best actions taken in faith towards Him.

Above can be shared with your friend if you think appropriate.



Billy Long said...

Jack, I really like this comment I took from your comments:

"And, no question, God does redeem out best actions taken in faith towards Him."


Anonymous said...

I would seek counsel from my pastor and elders. Let them pray and see what the Lord said to them. And ultimately let the peace of God reign.

bcon said...

Billy, Thanks for the post. When Gideon had asked for more wisdom he was sent to the Midianite camp for more confirmation. Strange how he was not sent to his own people for confirmation. Doubting he was given signs, doubting more was sent to the enemy's camp. I love it. Yes I stand with this man, and I suggest he is doing the right thing. But, even if he "missed God", I think God is in heaven shouting to those who come by "Did you see my servant _ _ _ who has stepped out of his comfortable job into my care!! He's crazy for ME and I love it!!"