Making Decisions

The irony of writing an article on decision-making is not lost on me. As an incredibly young man, the amount of tough calls and life altering decisions I’ve made is laughable.

Thankfully amidst a world full of options, choices, and decisions, God has provided me with the same Holy Spirit and the same Word he’s provided everyone else to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).

Like many, I’ve attempted the time-tested and failed methods of decision-making:

  • Flipping to random pages in the Bible.
  • Counting seeing a double rainbow as a “sign”
  • Feeling some inner peace.
  • Dreams (most likely inspired by Chipotle).
  • Making a decision based on what I “felt” after fasting.
  • The good old “flipping a coin”

Each and every one of these methods were more often than not rooted in a deep sense of anxiety and lack of trust in the Lord. If I’m honest, making a decision is difficult. The stakes are so often high and life-altering.

ONE: Humbly Submit to Biblical Commands and Principles

If there was but one thing I needed to hear on a regular basis regarding decisions, it’s that my decisions have to be submitted to the commands and principles of Scripture. Deuteronomy 29:29 reminds us that “the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Stuart Scott wisely reminds us that “if we make a decision based on biblical commands and principles alone we can fully trust that we are pleasing God in our decision and fully trust that He will providentially (by circumstances out of our control) change our choice if it is not within His decreed will.” [1]

Whether it be a direct command that makes the decision for us or a principle or statement, following this first step in decision-making always leads us in the right direction.

J.C. Ryle also reminds us in his book Walking with God that we must always use the Bible as the starting point for our decision-making:

“The Bible must be our standard.  Whenever we are confronted with a question about Christian practice, we must apply the teaching of the Bible.  Sometimes the Bible will deal with it directly, and we must go by its direct teaching.  Often the Bible will not deal with it directly, and then we must look for general principles to guide us.  It does not matter what other people think.  Their behavior is not a standard for us.  But the Bible is a standard for us, and it is by the Bible that we must live.”

TWO: Seek Out Pastoral Oversight

So often decisions are made outside of this necessary step in decision-making. For me in particular, I found this part of decision making process essential in deciding who to marry and when to get married. However, there have been many times where I have made decisions without pastoral oversight and found myself fulfilling the wisdom found in Proverbs 18:1-2:

“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement. A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”

The author of Hebrews also confirms this:

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

THREE: Carefully Ask the Right Questions

I have found that the questions provided by Stuart Scott in his materials on biblical decision making to be some of the most helpful questions to examine my heart as I attempt to lead my family in making godly decisions:

  • Is this something I can thank God for? (Rom. 14:6; 1 Cor. 10:30; Col. 3:17)
  • Is this something that will glorify God? (1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Cor. 5:9)
  • Is this following the example of Christ? (Rom. 15:7-8; 1 Cor. 11:1; 1 John 2:6)
  • Is this beneficial? Does it promote my spiritual life? (1 Cor. 6:12-20 , used in a context of promoting sexual purity)
  • Is this a practice that over time will tend to master me? Will it stimulate a desire that will be difficult to control?
  • Is this an occasion where my “flesh” (sinfulness) is seeking to indulge itself? (Gal. 5:13)
  • Is this worth imitating? (1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 4:9)
  • Are you not seeking outside counsel due to wanting what you want? (Prov. 18:1-2; 24:6)
  • Is it self-serving at the expense of someone else’s benefit? (Rom. 15:1-2; 1 Cor. 10:33; Gal. 5:13; Phil. 2:1-4)
  • Will my choice affect others around me? If so, in what way?
  • Is it constructive? Will it promote the spiritual well-being of other believers if they engage in this practice that is permissible for me?”
  • Is there a God-given need for me to do this? (1 John 3:17-18, Acts 6:1-6, 2 Cor. 2:12-13)

Obviously this list isn’t exhaustive. There are plenty of other practical and often helpful ways of making decisions regarding specific issues that are available to you. Two that have been particularly helpful to me have been:

  • A Study of Decision Making Gods Way by Stuart Scott (unpublished doctoral dissertation for Covenant Theological Seminary, 1996).
  • Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung

FOUR: Remember God is Sovereign

Making a decision is so difficult. Some people will tell you that whatever decision you make is the right decision. Often it’s not the best decision.

Recently I made a decision I’d consider not the best I could have ever made. Those days after that decision had me wrestling with despair. It was then I had to turn to the sweet words in Romans 8:28-29:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”

No one, not even me, regardless of the decisions they make, can fall outside of God’s will. It was that decision, although at first seemed wrong, that led me to realize I was not fully pursuing a life that was honoring God.

Stuart Scott says that “sometimes God’s word is a road map; sometimes it’s a compass.” In this situation, it was a compass that was pointing me back to the grace of the Father who had saved me through the cross.

Regardless of the decision we face, big or small, we all have the same things: God’s Word. The Holy Spirit. The Church.

With those things at hand, every man (even a young man with little experience making those “tough calls”) can walk forward with confidence in making that next big decision.

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