SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT AND VOCATIONAL COUNSELING PAPER INSTRUCTIONS Directions: The purpose
There are a number of decision-making factors that one should consider when attempting to determine where and what form of education or occupation that an individual should pursue. These factors are generally stratified into those that pertain to the individual and his or her own concerns, those that directly relate to God and God's will/specific purpose for that person, and those that relate to the impact of that decision on other people. After completing the Decision-Making Factors Survey found at the end of Dennis Horton's article "Discerning spiritual discernment: assessing current approaches for understanding God's will," it is quite clear that the most important of those factors for me in particular are those pertaining to my own individual concerns and God's specific plan for me. Perhaps these factors figure most eminently into my own decision-making process because I have long held the conviction that by utilizing the particular talents that God has given me in a way in which he will support me with them, I will inevitably benefit society.
Regardless of the specific reason why these factors are most important to me, it is worth noting that all of the factors that pertain to my own particular skills and abilities (such as statements nine and seven) were ranked "highly important" by me (Horton, 2009, p. 30). There were two other factors that I considered highly important, one of which I believe is properly stratified into those that pertain to my individuality and which is statement three, considering the circumstances and opportunities available at a given moment in time. Yet I do not believe that any of these statements are any less important than statement four: "depending on a sense of inner peace from the Holy Spirit" (Horton, 2009, p. 30). I believe that such a feeling of peace that stems from God is a way of qualitatively measuring his approval of the result of my decision-making process, which also factors into how such a decision is approached. The way it relates to how such a decision is approached is that I would only make decisions that felt good, in accordance with my life and the direction it is taking. Moreover, I would only select decisions that I believe were in accordance with God's general will, and which may pertain to a perceived purpose that I believe he has for me.
Of all the other statements, it is significant that the only other two I described as important are 10 and six, both of which involve praying to God regarding matters in my life. I am an immense advocate of prayer -- I actually pray twice a day and believe that my relationship with God is close, that he is never too far from me, and is readily cognizant of not only all that I do but also of all that I could do. As such, I certainly seek his counsel directly, without any mediators such as priests or authors in the Bible, to help inform my decisions with the degree of approval that I require from him. Yet and still, with his tacit understanding, I believe that he has given me most of the tools that I need to reason and even feel the rectitude of decisions that I make.
Therefore, when it comes to applying one of the decision-making processes elucidated by Horton in this particular article, I believe the one that would be of most benefit to me is the Pragmatic Christian Wisdom Emphasis. This viewpoint acknowledges the fact that there is more than one single, specific plan or goal that God has created an individual to achieve. However, it also readily acknowledges the fact that "God's general will" should be adhered to (Horton, 2009, p. 10). Moreover, it seeks to replace an overt reliance on Biblical scriptures with the attainment of counsel which can come from a multitude of forms. I believe that I can obtain such counsel from those who know me best and who conceived me, such as my parents. Also, I believe that such counsel can be obtained directly from God himself, a fact which I alluded to earlier in this segment.
Prayer is also a fairly eminent component of the Pragmatic Christian Wisdom Emphasis, and is "still highly valued" (Horton, 2009, p. 10). Thus I believe this aspect of this approach towards discernment is well aligned with my current practices and beliefs. Yet most importantly, this methodology is in accordance with my beliefs about my own prowess. I truly believe that God has made me special and distinct form other people -- in fact, no two individual are completely the same. However, my conviction has always been that I can move the world and people in a way in which few others can. I believe that this ability -- which has yet to fully manifest itself, by the way -- is what renders me distinct from others and is what God wants me to harness somehow. This particular conviction of mine is akin to the facet of the Pragmatic Christian Wisdom Emphasis in which these individuals emphasize "the responsible use of their strengths, talents and abilities." This aspect of this discernment methodology is key to some of my central beliefs denoted within the survey at the end of Horton's paper. I believe that by using what is within me, which is nothing more than a reflection of God himself and is everything he has endowed me with, I can truly find my own path. I realize that utilizing this methodology may not be as well documented as some of the other approaches which are explicitly based on scriptures and the Bible. I also am aware of the fact that this methodology may have inadvertent twists and turns which may make the journey rough. But also believe that God has endowed me with the capacity to handle such vicissitudes, and to ultimately fulfill the purpose that he has created me for. Therefore, of all the discernment methodologies discussed in this document, I believe the Pragmatic Christian Wisdom Emphasis is the most suitable for assisting me.
Past and Present Influences
My approach to spiritual discernment, which is essentially partitioning error from divine truth (MacArthur, 2008) was certainly influenced by my family. This statement applies to my nuclear family in particular, but to my extended family as well. I have always been naturally inquisitive. As such, I ask people a host of questions that I think other people do not necessarily ask. And, for the greater duration of my life, I have been fortunate enough to have a relationship with my family (and with my parents in particular) in which we have been able to communicate fairly lucidly, effectively, and naturally with one another. One of the questions which I have asked on more than one occasion (for clarification purposes) is why my parents decided to have children. Their answer has certainly impacted my concept of spirituality, as well as my approach to spiritual discernment. They told me that they believed that by producing children (I have a brother) and imparting their values and mores upon them, that they could effectively improve the world.
Perhaps such ambition may be considered lofty by today's standards, but I have always been pleased by the fact that I was created for a purpose. I know some people are not. However, I believe I was created out of a love as quintessential as that which may exist between humans, and that there was certainly a divine element in such love that has been transmuted to me and is with me still. I believe that love is God. Therefore, I believe that he has always bestowed me with gifts and attributes that are needed on this physical plane which I have an obligation to use correctly and prudently in order to make good on the familial circumstances in which I was created, as well as on the promise that God delivered to me.
Subsequently, my religious background was also shaped by my family's -- and by my parents in particular. Adherence to Christianity was prevalent throughout the majority of my extended family on both my mother's and father's sides. However, whereas some of my family members were overtly Christian, and regularly took part in sacraments such as Baptism, for example, my parents were always much more reserved in their expression of their Christian fervor. We went to church occasionally. There was never a question as to whether or not we believed in God, but even then there was a pragmatic approach to the way in which we worshipped, which did not always involve the Bible, a formal church session, or Sunday school. Instead, my parents set the example that the belief in God should be reflected in one's actions daily, without all of the traditional Christian accompaniments.
This element of pragmatism is certainly reflected in my current approach towards discernment, because it involves my abilities and talents and…