Friday, May 13, 2011

What Does the Bible Say About Decision Making?

The Bible is especially designed to help us make the most important decision, the decision to repent, change and follow Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives (Acts 2:38; 1 John 2:6). God tells us to put Him first, to obey Him and thus choose eternal life and blessings (Matthew 6:33; Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

All other decisions in life should contribute toward that ultimate decision and goal. We must avoid decisions that will detract from putting God and His righteousness first in our life.

But not every decision is a choice of good versus evil. Many of our daily decisions have multiple acceptable options. Some of our biggest decisions also have a variety of possible choices, like what career to pursue, who to marry and where to live. Thankfully the Bible also gives us principles that can help us identify and choose the best options. Let's explore biblical wisdom to find some of those keys.

What is the starting point in finding wisdom?

Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."

Proverbs 2:2-6 "So that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding…"

Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."

When we understand how great God is and see how small we are, we will grow in a proper reverence and fear of God. That leads us to ask for His guidance and to study His Bible to grow not just in knowledge but in understanding of the principles behind those facts. Meditating on and applying that biblical knowledge and understanding with God's Spirit leads to godly wisdom.

So we seek wisdom when we fear God, pray for His help and study His Bible to find principles that apply to the decisions we face.

How else does the Bible tell us to seek wisdom?

Proverbs 11:14 "Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety."

Trusted experts and wise individuals can be a good source of advice. Other people may see our problem from a different angle than we would, allowing them to provide possible solutions we might not see.

How should we approach defining and understanding the problem—the decision we face? Proverbs 22:3 "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished."

Proverbs 18:13 "He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him."

John 7:24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

A wise person carefully looks ahead to the end, trying to foresee the likely long-term consequences, before making a decision to plunge ahead.
For an important decision, we must invest the time to get the facts, to examine the situation more than superficially and to clearly define the problem. When we are able to accurately state the problem or opportunity, we will be able to see the shape of the ideal solution more clearly.
But determining how to get to that ideal solution can still be challenging. Brainstorm for possible options and include the advice of the counselors you are consulting.

So we end this phase of decision making with a clearly stated problem and a list of possible solutions to choose from.
How should we make our decision?

Deuteronomy 30:19 "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live..."

Luke 14:28-30 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.'"

If a possible solution requires disobeying a biblical principle, delete that option from your list. Then compare the remaining options with positive biblical principles, wise advice from others, the likelihood of success and the effects your decision will have on others. Carefully weigh the pros and cons and "count the cost."

If the decision is still not clear, you may need to repeat some of the fact-finding, brainstorming and wisdom-seeking steps. In the end, if there are two or more options that seem equally good, you may have to just decide and then act on your decision. Indecision and inaction can sometimes be worse than a less-than-perfect solution (as long as it does not violate biblical principles).

When we strive to seek God's wisdom and follow biblical principles, we can entrust our decisions and the worries that naturally accompany them to God (Proverbs 3:5-6; Matthew 6:33-34).

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