Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the chapter of faith. The word ‘faith’ appears thirty-two times throughout the book of Hebrews, and twenty-four of those occasions are in chapter 11. In brief, the passage outlines three aspects of faith: its foundation; its decisions; and its results. While we know that our spiritual foundation is our faith in God and His promises, this faith should dictate our decisions, which, in turn, will determine results.
By faith, Abraham decided to leave his home with no predetermined destination, leading to many generations being blessed by God. Moses’ faith directed his decision to leave Egypt, leading to the furtherance of God’s great plan and the freedom of a nation. Through faith, Rahab decided to receive the Israelite spies, sparing both her and her family from certain death.
From an outside perspective, these decisions were not reasonable. In fact, they would have been seen as downright foolish. The three men of Judah decided it was better to go into a furnace than disobey God. Daniel decided that the lion’s den was better than his safe government job.
In life there are big decisions and small decisions but I don’t believe there are unimportant decisions. I had to make a big decision when I decided to leave the Middle East, risking the life of myself and my wife; however, my daily decisions in my peaceful new home country may not be less weighty.
David wrote, ‘So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom’, Ps. 90. 12. When we number our days, we discover that even the longest life is quite short when compared to the span of history; however, even extremely short lives have eternal impacts. Thus, all decisions are important since they will impact upon the numbered days that were given to us by God.
How, then, can I know the plan of God so that I can make the right decisions, decisions that will bring glory to our Saviour? Romans chapter 12 is very relevant and useful when handling this difficult topic.
The will of God is ‘good, and acceptable, and perfect’, v. 2, but we each need to ‘prove’ that personally, that is, test it by experience. Paul can’t prove for me, and I can’t prove for you. It has to be a personal experience. This raises the question as to how we prove the will of God for ourselves.
The passage suggests the first step: ‘present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God’, v. 1. Most of the choices we are going to make in our lives can be influenced by either the flesh or the Spirit. We cannot please God if we are still living for this world. The flesh can be a great hindrance against knowing and obeying the will of God. Our wisdom in Christ is totally different from the wisdom of this world, Rom. 8. 9-13.
The second step is to think about our ‘reasonable service’, v. 1. Is the Lord Jesus Christ and His glorious work at the centre of our thinking, as this will affect all of our service? It is the only way that such service can be acceptable to God, despite how unreasonable such decisions may seem to those around us.
The third step flows from the previous one – ‘be not conformed to this world’, v. 2. The world’s standard view is that all service for God is ludicrous, because the people of the world go by sight and sense; the believer should go by faith and the Spirit. I have no doubt that if Abraham had shared with those around him his desire to leave his place and head towards an unknown destination, he would have been ridiculed.
Similarly, the fourth step is, ‘be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind’, v. 2. Since the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2. 14, our minds need to be renewed by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. We need the eyes of our understanding to be enlightened by the word of God before we can prove and understand the will of God. For example, naturally, it is considered wise to avoid decisions and choices that would lead to pain and suffering; however, in the Christian life, suffering does not mean a bad decision was made. Suffering may be part of the plan of God to make us perfect, stablished, strengthened and settled, 1 Pet. 5. 10.
If we want a life that is pleasing to God, it is important to understand His big plan for us: to be conformed to the image of His Son, Rom. 8. 29. We should not rush into decision-making, but take time to be led by the Lord. We should be ready to happily accept any redirection or correction to our path whilst seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, Matt. 6. 33.