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Decision Making and the will of God
By Garry Freisen J. Robin Maxson
Multnomah Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2004 Garry Friesen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneON MARRIAGE AND MISSIONS
Bill Thompson's concentration on the computer screen was so focused that he literally jumped at the sound of his secretary's voice on the intercom.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Pastor," she said, "but Ted Bradford just came in and asked if he could talk with you. I thought you might want to see him."
Bill's initial irritation at her contravention of his "do not disturb" order melted instantly and a smile erased the frown from his face. He hit the "save" button on the computer as he replied, "You're right, Charlene. Send him in."
He got up from his chair and noticed that it felt good to stretch. He wondered how long he had been hunched over his keyboard as he moved toward the door to admit Ted to his office. Genuinely glad to see a young man he considered one of his protégés, he extended his hand in welcome. "Hi, Ted. Good to see you!"
"It's good to be home, Pastor," Ted replied, shaking Bill's hand. "I've been looking forward to semester break for a long time, or so it seems."
Bill motioned to the chair facing his desk. "Have a seat. You don't look too much the worse for wear. I like your mustache."
Ted grinned and self-consciously brushed his lip with his fingers. "I'vegotten used to it. I almost forget it's there. My folks haven't decided what they think about it yet."
Bill laughed. "Don't worry about them. They'll adjust. They always do."
"Yeah, I guess so."
Bill sat down in his swivel chair and leaned back. "So, how does it feel to be one semester away from graduation?"
"I'm pretty excited about it for the most part."
"For the most part?"
"Well, that's what I wanted to talk to you about, Pastor. I'm going to have to make some pretty big decisions in the next few months, and I'd like to get your advice on some of the things I've been thinking about."
Bill leaned forward in his chair. "Before we go any further, I want you to know that my advice is free-and worth every penny."
Ted grimaced appropriately and continued. "I'll bear that in mind." He hesitated. "I'm not sure where to start. It's all gotten kind of complicated."
"Complicated, huh?" Bill leaned back and arched his eyebrow. "What's her name?"
Ted was momentarily startled. "How did you know?" Then he laughed. "Her name is Annette-Annette Miller. And she's a remarkable girl."
"She'd have to be to get your attention," Bill chided. "Does she like mustaches?"
"She doesn't let them get in her way. Not this one, at least."
"I bet with a little arm twisting you could be persuaded to produce a picture of this young lady."
"Thought you'd never ask." Ted extracted a photograph from his wallet and passed it across the desk to the pastor. "It's a little worn around the edges, but I think it bears a close resemblance to the real thing."
Bill studied the picture for a moment. "Annette Miller is one very attractive young lady, Ted. I can see why you would notice her."
"She really is a remarkable girl, Pastor."
"You said that already," Bill replied as he handed the picture back. "Tell me something objective about her, if that's possible."
"Well, she enrolled in the one-year Bible program at the beginning of this school year. Before that she graduated with a B.A. from the state university with a major in African history and a minor in anthropology. I met her during the first week in a Bible class. She was so easy to talk to, Pastor, I didn't even have to work up courage to ask her out for the first time. I took her to a reception for new students and we really had a great time. The relationship just kind of took off from there."
"She sounds very impressive," Bill said. "Where does she live?"
Ted hesitated. "I'm never really sure how to answer that one. You see, her folks are missionaries in Kenya. That's where Annette grew up. When they come back to the States, their home base is Chicago. Of course, Annette is pretty much on her own now, so I guess her home is wherever she happens to be going to school."
"Well, that accounts for the major in African history," Bill said. "It sounds like she's preparing to return to Kenya as a missionary herself."
"She's not positive that she should go to Kenya specifically, but she does feel that the Lord has called her to a ministry in Africa. Of course she's most familiar with Kenya, but the tribe her parents have been working in extends across national boundaries. For that matter, she's not even sure yet that she should return to that same tribe. She's just preparing as much as she can so that when she does receive a more specific call, she'll be ready to go anywhere."
"It sounds like she's very committed to the Lord."
"Yes, she is, Pastor. That's what I appreciate most about her." Ted paused and looked down at the floor. It was quiet in the study for a few moments.
"Do you love her, Ted?"
Ted raised his head and looked Bill in the eye. "Yes, I do-very much."
"Do you want to marry her?"
"Does she know that?"
"We've talked about it quite a bit." "How does she feel about the idea?"
"She'd like to marry me, too." "So what's the problem?"
Ted's gaze returned to the floor and he sighed. "There seem to be several problems, Pastor, and they're not going away. The more I think about them, the harder they seem to get, and the more confused I become."
"Why don't you just list them one at a time," Bill said. "Sometimes a forest seems more manageable when you tackle one tree at a time."
"All right." Ted paused to think a moment. "One thing that concerns me is that I don't know whether it's the Lord's will for us to get married. When we first started dating, I never stopped to think about whether Annette might be the girl God had chosen for me to marry. I know that the Lord has a plan for my life, and I know that plan includes the person I should marry. I also know that the same thing is true for Annette and her future husband. We're just not sure we were meant for each other, you know, as far as God's plan is concerned."
"Are you willing not to marry Annette if it's not the Lord's will?"
"I've agonized over that question a lot, Pastor. And I think I can honestly say that I'm willing to give her up if that's His will. Both of us realize that if the Lord doesn't mean for us to marry it would be a big mistake for us to go ahead on our own. We want the Lord's best for our lives-for both of our lives ..." Ted hesitated for a moment. "In fact, we've kind of broken things off until we get a clear answer on this from the Lord."
"I imagine it's been kind of rough on you."
"I really have a lot of admiration for you two," Bill said. "It takes considerable inner strength to do what you've done. I think you are demonstrating real maturity and sincerity in this matter. The Lord will reward that, I'm sure."
Ted took a deep breath and cleared his throat. "Annette and I have had a wonderful relationship. I'm glad that I don't have to be ashamed of any part of it. And there are several things that indicate that we'd make good marriage partners. We seem to complement each other in personality and abilities and things like that. The only major indicator that might point in a different direction is this Africa business."
"You don't want to go to Africa?" Bill asked.
"Oh, I'd be willing to go. It's just that Annette has had such a strong feeling that that's where she should serve the Lord, and I haven't received any kind of a call. Until I met Annette, I never thought about Africa at all."
"What do you plan to do after graduation?"
Ted shrugged his shoulders. "I haven't had any strong leading in any specific direction. I've been thinking about going to seminary. In fact, I've applied to a couple of different schools. But even that was frustrating."
"Why? I think you'd do real well in seminary. I'm glad to hear you're thinking about it."
"I'm excited about the idea. It's just that on the application forms they wanted me to describe my 'call to the ministry of the gospel.' I had to tell them that I don't yet know exactly what the Lord wants me to do. But I feel that I need more training in the Word for whatever it is."
"I see," Bill said.
"The thing is, I don't see how Annette and I can be married unless we both feel called to the same ministry. Or at least our calls should be compatible. Another thing that bothers me is that since we began discussing marriage, Annette has been wondering about her commitment to Africa. What if she didn't go there because she married me instead? That's the question that's been haunting me."
"Perhaps the Lord wants Annette to spend a term in Africa while you go to seminary," Bill said.
"That's a possibility, Pastor. And I think we're both willing to do that, as hard as it would be. I guess the thing I really want to know is, how can we know for sure what the Lord wants us to do? We have to make some decisions pretty soon, and we need to know clearly what God's will is for us."
"That's very interesting," Bill mused as he stared off into space.
Ted laughed. "I thought you'd think so. Are you going to give me any of that free advice you promised?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. But not right now."
Bill waved at the materials on and around his desk. "You see all that chaos? It just so happens that I was asked to lead a seminar on 'Knowing God's Will for Your Life' at our district's annual youth conference. I've been working on it for several weeks. In fact, that's what I was doing when you came in."
Ted's eyes registered his amazement as he surveyed the materials on the desk and the volumes in the cardboard box next to the pastor's chair. "Are all those books on the will of God? You must have twenty-five paperbacks alone!"
"Well, I've been collecting them for a couple of years, but new titles seem to come off the press faster than I can read them. The subject is very popular-always has been."
"I guess that means I'm not the Lone Ranger when it comes to questions about God's will for my life."
"Exactly. I've probably been asked more questions on that subject than any other-especially by young people. That's why I've been working so hard on this seminar presentation."
"So when is this conference?" Ted asked.
"This weekend. I think they have me down for Saturday morning."
Ted's face fell. "That's not going to work for me. Our family will be out of town at my cousin's wedding. And then I'm off to Camp Maranatha where I'm working this summer. I'm literally just passing through."
"There's more than one way to skin the proverbial cat." Bill pointed back at the pile on his desk. "I'm pretty much done with these books. I'd be happy to lend them to you."
Ted sighed. "No offense, but I'm kind of 'booked out' right now. Is there just one book that summarizes what I need to know?"
Bill smiled. "You could read part 1 of the first edition of Decision Making and the Will of God. It gives an excellent account of my presentation."
Ted looked puzzled. "I guess that could work ..."
"Or I could give you a copy of my outline. It won't have all the narrative and illustrations, but you've heard this material before. All you need is a good overview. Besides, those first chapters in Decision Making go on forever!"
"That sounds good, Pastor Bill." Ted rose from his chair, and the two men shook hands. "I'll come back and pick up that outline tomorrow morning." He started toward the door, then stopped and turned back to Bill. "Lord willing, of course."
Excerpted from Decision Making and the will of God by Garry Freisen J. Robin Maxson Copyright © 2004 by Garry Friesen. Excerpted by permission.
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