As I have shared before I am reading through Hiebert, Shaw, and Tienou’s Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices (Baker Academic, 2000). Maybe it is just the context I am in but this book is really challenging my thinking in regards to implications for pastoral practice and discipleship issues even though it is a book primarily for cross-cultural missionaries.
I have said this before but I think more pastors need to consider reading through this book because folk religion isn’t just practiced in remote jungle tribal situations anymore – people in our own congregations practice it everyday – even in their praying and reading the Bible. Who’d think praying would be a form of magic to manipulate God for things instead of forming a relationship with him? Or that in some ways, reading the Bible is a kind of divination to divine the future or to ensure health and protection in one’s life and family? Maybe it is not prevalent but it is there.
The main issues for folk religious practice is because people desire safety and protection and assurance of health and general well being – they want to avoid misfortune. They are also looking for guidance and they fear the unknown. People need help with understanding the meaning of life and why death happens – how do we know what right and wrong is and why it is that way? So many questions people have. This is why if the church doesn’t address these issues with a strong biblical theology then they turn to folk religious practice.
Well, among all this are some misconceptions regarding knowing God’s will for our lives and Heibert, et. al., list 5 misconceptions and I want to list the first one in this post:
One common misconception is that humans must guess God’s will. Many Christians have the mistaken notion that they must somehow find God’s will for their lives, and if they don’t; they fail and are out of God’s will for life. One version of this is a literalistic application of Psalm 32:8, which speaks of God guiding us with his eye: this view urges us to keep looking up at God to make sure we see whether he looks in another direction. But we often find we must look down to avoid the holds in the road ahead, and in doing so, miss God’s glance. Scripture makes it clear; However, God does not expect Christians to guess his will. He wants us to know his will, and is ready to make it known to us if we are willing to listen and obey (191).
That bears repeating for us: God does not expect you to guess what his will is for your life or some situation you are in at the moment. He wants you to know his will for you and is ready and willing to reveal it to you, it’s just you have to take the time to listen and obey. Knowing God’s will for your life comes through relating to God – it flows through relationship – through our relationship with God we can know his will for our lives.
God’s will for our lives isn’t the Holy Grail – you don’t need to go search for it, you only need to spend time relating to God in prayer, his word, and in community to know his will for you.
Now I know you all are going to have some “yeah but”‘s and “wait a minute’s” to share but there is more coming!
Here is part two with the rest of the story!