When it’s decision-making time, Christians want to please God. We want our choices to reflect our submission to Christ and His will. With some decisions, the choice is crystal clear. If it’s sinful, we’ll prayerfully choose to avoid it. If it’s loving, benevolent, evangelistic, we’ll hopefully choose to embrace it. But what about those times when the choice isn’t so clear? We can pray about it…and then what? Wait for clarification? Do you find yourself then looking around for clues or hints, and saying, “Oh, that must be a sign!” How do we know if something that happens is really an open door, an answer to prayer, or if it’s simply perceived justification of what we ourselves want? In other words, how do we know if it’s God’s will or our own personal will? I believe that sometimes there will be more than one right choice if, when we decide one way or another, we serve God to the best of our ability wherever that choice leads us. But sometimes a choice can be costly. Looking back, we might see more clearly how our own decisions led to poor outcomes. Only God is all-knowing, but thankfully He has given us some guidelines for making the best choices in life.
1. STORE UP WISDOM
Solomon, who had everything, recognized the value of wisdom. He said when you’re in a tough situation, wisdom is better than physical strength and weapons of war. Wisdom is what delivers us from what comes against us (Ecclesiastes 9:13-18). Michael Hite, Vice President and instructor at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, said that wisdom is “the ability to see earthly things through heavenly eyes.” How do we gain that spiritual sight? By studying God’s Word. Instead of waiting until we’re unsure about something, we should be studying diligently and consistently all along. Storing up God’s Word means we’re prepared and better equipped to choose wisely. Notice what we can learn about this very idea in James 1:19-25. This passage teaches that our attitude toward the Word determines whether or not we’ll produce the righteousness of God. Do we accept what God has to say, or are we quick to argue? Do we receive it? Do we do it? Do we continue in it? If so, we will be blessed in what we do.
*Some other verses for personal study on wisdom and the Word include Job 12:12,13; Proverbs 1-4; 24:3-6; Col. 2:2,3; Heb. 4:12; James 1:2-8; 3:13-18.
2. DISTRUST YOUR FEELINGS
How many poor decisions have been made because of our emotional state at the time? I once read a quote that advised against making a big decision on a bad day. Some emotions, like frustration, anger, and hurt, can skew our thinking. “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26). What seems like a good idea in the heat of the moment may seem foolish when all is resolved, and then we’ve only added more trouble. We must learn patience in discouragement. We must cultivate the kind of maturity that can recognize the difference between feelings and facts. And we must practice will-power and self-discipline when tempted to act rashly. “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without wall” (Proverbs 25:28). Making decisions without self-control equals vulnerability. Feelings can be powerful, but that doesn’t make them right. When experiencing the whirlwind of our emotions, we must stop, pray, study, and then decide how to act, if at all.
*Additional verses for study on the unreliability of feelings include Prov. 14:12-17; Jer. 17:9,10; Col. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:5-9.
3. CULTIVATE CONTENTMENT
Discontentment can be a deterrent to godly choices. If we are the type to become easily bored or soon dissatisfied, we will find ourselves wanting to make another change, move on, switch out. This can be especially dangerous in areas of marriage, jobs, ministry, and acts of service. Discontentment causes us to focus on the flaws instead of the potential. One preacher’s philosophy was “I’ll stay with a work only as long as I’m useful.” Unfortunately, he based his level of usefulness on the amount of effort it took in local work. If problems came along, or things got tough, he moved on. Consequently, this preacher chose to move every couple of years, and sometimes in less time than that. No relationship, work, congregation, leadership, or location is perfect. Contentment will allow us to make choices and then stick with them as long as we possibly can. “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13). Contentment reflects a heart that focuses on God’s blessings and trusts Him with the rest.
*Some more verses about contentment and how to cultivate it are Psa. 37; 118:24; Ecc. 3:1-13; Isa. 26:3; 58:10,11; 2 Cor. 12:8-10; 1 Tim. 6:6-11; Heb. 13:5.
Based on these three suggestions, we can ask ourselves some questions when trying to determine whether a decision is God’s will or really our will. Have I been studying in order to make a wise decision? Am I emotional right now? Do I need to wait until I calm down? Am I anxious to choose something else because discontentment has caused me to want to move on? If we prayerfully and honestly answer these questions, we’ll have better clarity in determining the right course.