A Tribute to Dallas Willard: "God doesn't mumble"

In the wake of Dallas Willard's passing into the fullness of the Kingdom of God he proclaimed as available now, I offer this tribute, highlighting one of the many lessons I learned from him. 

As twenty-somethings are wont to do, I was contemplating my future.  I had recently discerned that it was time for me to leave my role as a small groups pastor to head back to school and pursue a PhD.  In recent weeks I’d been extended offers from two of my top schools, and the time was fast-approaching when I would have to made a decision.  Thus, when the opportunity arose to be Dallas Willard’s ride back to San Jose Airport, I seized it.  (Sometimes service is pure selfishness.)  Heading down 101, I related to Dallas as best I could the pertinent details of the decision I faced.  To me, the choice seemed rather complex, what with all the moving pieces: different financial packages, career implications, geography and relational opportunities.  Dallas asked a few gentle questions, and then, without showing the least indication of having absorbed any of the anxiety which must have been exuding from me, he said, “Well, simply pray, and say: “Lord, I do not believe that you mumble, so if you’d like to direct me, you need to do so before Friday.  Otherwise, I will presume your blessing to make my own choice.”

I took his advice and am now three years into a PhD program at Boston University that I’m proud to have chosen with God’s blessing.  The beauty and wisdom of Dallas’ simple reminder that God doesn’t mumble goes a long way to taking the pressure off of us in the discernment process.  Trusting God in times of choice isn’t always a matter of obediently following the clear direction God gives; sometimes it looks like having the faith that God is a competent communicator, able to get across a message, even to the resistant.  How much more to those, eager and willing to obey?  And then there are the times when faith looks like accepting that the warm, pregnant silence of God is an expression of trust in us.

As Dallas reminded us in Hearing God, God isn’t primarily interested in recruiting a mindless crowd who needs specific direction at every turn.  God is not looking for people to endlessly command; God desires to form persons and a people who can bring to bear all their own redeemed creativity and will into the realization of the the Reign of God on earth in the particular choices and contexts they face. Prayer, Dallas loved to say, is “training for reigning” (may he RIP -- reign in peace).  In times of discernment, God’s relation to us may be less like that of a Drill Sargent at bootcamp and more like a soccer coach eager to see what good we will do as we improvise on the field with the skills for playing the game he has taught us.

This was originally posted on the Conversations Journal blog.  

Here are some other posts deeply endebted to Dallas Willard

How to Live in the Kingdom of God
A Philosophy of Spiritual Growth
A Theology of Spiritual Formation 
Why (and How) Spiritual Disciplines Work
Dallas Willard: Interview with John Ortberg at Catalyst Conference


  1. Thank you for your post. Blessings.

  2. I appreciate the life and legacy and investment Dallas made in your life.

  3. Chris -

    Could I have your permission to use this storyin a sermon next week? As one who has been in similar shoes and sought guidance, I love the sentiment here and the way it is expressed
    grace and peace - Andy Cornett

  4. Of course, Andy! Thanks for asking.

  5. This is one of the most important skills every Christian should build: the ability to hear the voice of God, and to know what God expects of an individual. Check out Dag Heward-Mills' "How You Can Be In The Perfect Will of God" for more. Be blessed! :)


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