Formerly “Q&A,” this column is devoted to answering a broad range of questions relating to Christian faith and life. Please send your questions to FAQs at The Banner, 2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49560, or to email@example.com with “FAQs” in the subject line. We’ll keep them confidential and assign them to our panel.
Q. How do I know where God is calling me?
A. I’m assuming that you want to know where God is calling you to serve him. So I will respond with that concern in mind.
Over the years I have met a few people who said they had a strong indication early in their life as to what God wanted them to do. A few others shared that at some point in their life they were moved by a dramatic religious experience that revealed to them the future direction of their service to the Lord. I believe these are all valid experiences God uses to reveal his will for a person’s life.
However, most of the people I know, including myself, came to know where God was calling them in another, more complicated, way: (1) We identified certain talents/gifts in ourselves, but were not sure what to do with them. (2) We sought the advice and prayer of people who know us well. (3) We continued to study and pray to discern God’s will for our lives. And (4) we participated in some kind of “practical experience” to discern God’s will.
Sometimes even after all that we’re really not sure we’re where God wants us to be until we’ve been there awhile. The most assuring thing I can say to you is this: If you earnestly desire to know where God is calling you, somehow or another God will reveal it to you in his time.
—Rick Williams Rev. Rick Williams is pastor of Pullman Christian Reformed Church, Chicago.
Q. Do good people in other religions, for example Buddhists or Muslims, all go to hell? Isn’t that unfair?
A. I don’t know. Only God knows who really goes to heaven or hell. It seems unfair to us humans, but we don’t have the big picture. We don’t know everything. We don’t really even know what “heaven” and “hell” are!
The question reveals more about our sinful nature than anything else—we want to decide what is good and evil, heaven and hell, rather than trust in God’s goodness, wisdom, and grace. We, like Adam and Eve, prefer to “be like God” in knowledge rather than trust in God’s norms as creatures in God’s image (Gen. 3).
Christian theologians are split three ways on this question:
- Exclusivists view Jesus as the only way to salvation, available only in the Christian religion.
- Pluralists view salvation as possible in all religions, with Jesus providing one way among many. They believe all religions lead to God.
- The inclusive viewpoint sees Jesus as the only way but allows God’s saving grace through Christ to work in other religions too. There might be “anonymous Christians” who unknowingly worship the only true God.
The Reformed confessions clearly exclude a pluralist view, based on such Scripture passages as John 14:6.
The debate continues. I believe that God is just, gracious, almighty, and wise. I trust that God’s saving actions are fair and right. Our focus is not on playing fair or playing God. Rather, we focus on loving God and neighbor, including those of other religions, bearing witness of Christ, our Lord, who is “the way, the truth and the life” (14:6).
—Shiao Chong Shiao Chong is campus minister at York University Toronto.
Q. We’ve been married for a year now and we get along fine, but the spark is already gone from our relationship. What should we do?
A. You know that a fire will eventually go out if it is not fed. How can you feed your marriage? Recognize that romance and sexual closeness are fuels that can rekindle your relationship. Resolve to go out for a romantic dinner regularly, or create one at home using candles and soft music. Resolve to say nice things about each other to each other. Have fun together. Buy little gifts or write meaningful notes. Surprise each other with favorite foods or with back or foot rubs before jumping into bed. I’m sure you get the idea.
In the end, all good marriages do settle into a quieter, steady routine of companionship after a while, but not without flare-ups of romance and sexual abandon. It’s the latter that distinguish a marriage from any other relationship where we “get along fine.”
—Judy Cook Judy Cook is a family therapist and clinical director of Salem Christian Counseling Services, Hamilton, Ontario