Decision-making & the Will of God

Read Me!
After you read this essay, I suggest you immediately proceed to read a closely related essay on The Will of God.

Reason? Both essays are more clear if read in the suggested sequence.

The Lady or the Tiger?

  • Decisions, decisions! Life is filled with decisions.
  • Easy decisions -- should you have the chef's salad or the prime rib?
  • Middle-sized decisions -- should you become a barber or a rocket scientist?
  • Heart-rending decisions -- should you divorce your unfaithful spouse or give your marriage another try?

Plenty of "Help" is Available

There are oodles of folks who are standing in line to help you make your decisions. Pitchmen. Hucksters. Snake oil salesmen. Psychic readers. All of them are trying to sell you advice on where you should invest your money, or what you should do with your life.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it? On channel 16, if the dude in the gray flannel suit knows so much about getting rich in the stock market, why is he still working for a living? On channel 33, if the fat lady with the weird hair-do is truly a psychic, why does she have to ask for the names and credit card numbers of the suckers who telephone for her advice?

  He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.
Prov 13.20

If you are looking for advice, stay away from fools.
Prov 14.7

The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.
Prov 15.2

The Perfect Counselor
When you need to make a decision it's a smart move to seek God's will on the matter. After all, God is infinitely wise, knows the future perfectly, and loves you beyond comprehension.
Where better to go for advice?

  • It's easy to ask God for help. All you have to do is pray.
  • For some folks the hard part comes in HEARING and RECEIVING God's answers to their requests.
  • The following hypothetical case studies should give you an idea of what we're talking about.
Marcella's Story

Several weeks ago, Marcella asked God for His will as to whether she should marry Edward. She also asked her Pastor the same question.

Later she complained to her friend Stella that God and her Pastor never answered her requests for guidance.

Marcella told Stella, "Anyway, it's okay. I went ahead and told Eddie I would marry him."

"Wow!" exclaimed Stella. "He proposed again?"

"Yeah," Marcella said. "He popped the question last night while we were making love."

"So when are you two getting married?"

"Just as soon as Eddie can divorce that stupid wife of his," Marcella replied.
Marcella lied when she said God hadn't answered her requests for guidance. God answered her questions long BEFORE ever she asked them.

2- As for Marcella's accusation that her Pastor let her down, what a farce! Marcella didn't want advice from her Pastor. No, she wanted the poor fellow to tell her that her sinful relationship with Edward was okay. When the Pastor refused to endorse her sins, Marcella called that a "non-answer." This happens to Pastors a lot!

In the Bible, God has ALREADY expressed His will on all moral issues that Marcella or any other person will ever face at any time in any place...

  • Why ask God if you should do a sinful act? God's Bible already says, "No!"
  • Why ask God if you should do a good thing for someone? God's word already says, "Yes!"
  • Why ask God the question if you already know His answer?
  • Why ask God the question if you don't want to hear His answer?
  • Why ask God the question if your mind is already made up?
  • Why ask God the question if your attitude is "Let me know what you want, Lord, and I'll think it over"?

Robert's Story

1- Robert told his friend Ali, "I just can't decide whether I should go to college and be a civil engineer, or go to seminary and become a Pastor."

"Did you pray about it?" Ali asked.

"Yeah, but I'm still not sure."

Ali thought for a moment then said, "Since God hasn't answered yet, what do YOU think?"

"Me? Oh I suppose I'm better suited to be an engineer. I don't mind teaching, but I'm not much good with people and their problems. You know -- I like things to be objective, like math and physics and stuff."
2- "Sounds simple enough to me," Ali said with a grin. "You're cut out to be an engineer."

Robert looked uncertain. "Umm, that's what my parents think, too. But I love the Lord and I really would like to serve Him. Engineering is so... so... well, worldly I guess."

"Then what are you going to do? The deadline for college admissions is next week. You can't stay on the fence forever, you know."

"I'm going to wait a few more days," Robert answered. "I already told God that if He wants me to be a preacher, that's what I'll do. I know He will give me the ability to be a good one. I'll just wait a little while more."
Knowing God's Will on Matters NOT Involving Morality

Robert's problem doesn't involve sin or morality. The Bible is silent on his specific situation. There is no verse that says, "Thou shalt not engineer. Touch not the unclean slide rule."

For most of your decisions along the road of life, the absence of specific Biblical guidance will be more the rule than the exception.

The interesting thing about Robert's story is that it is impossible for him to make a truly "bad" decision. Whether Robert goes to engineering school or to seminary, he is going to be fine. Why? Because Robert is trusting in God and stands ready to obey His will, that's why.

Having tipped our hat to Robert, we must dig deeper.
What does the Bible tell you about dealing with issues and decisions that do not involve sin and morality?
Step One - Pray
Philippians 4.6-7 gives you the starting point for every decision and every endeavor -- PRAY for God's help and guidance.

Robert did exactly this. Good for him!
  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philip 4.6-7

Step Two - Analyze
While you await God's guidance, you should remember that it is by God's will that you are endowed with the ability to reason and evaluate.

  • In plain English, God gave you a mind to THINK with.
  • It is God's will that you trust in Him, but it is equally God's will that you think and reason things out.
  "Come now, and let us reason together,'' says the Lord Isa 1.18a

It is quite evident that God wants you to use the mind He blessed you with, because He has provided you with Bible verses to guide you in that effort.

  • James 1.5 enjoins you to ask God for wisdom, quite clearly showing that God does expect you to apply your mind as well as your prayers in making decisions.
  • Proverbs 15.22 encourages you to dig out facts and advice from many counselors.
  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. Jam 1.5

Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.
Prov 15.22

Part of your thinking process should be directed toward discerning God's answer when He gives it to you.

  • In Robert's case, he already recognizes that he is not particularly gifted to be a Pastor, whereas he does have the requisite aptitude for engineering. This may not be God's absolute answer, but it certainly is a significant clue.
  • A decision always involves more than one course of action. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any decision to make.
  • Thus, another part of your thinking process should be directed toward discerning the value that God might place on each possible course of action.
  • In Robert's case, perhaps he needs to think a bit more about the value which God places on being a Pastor versus other fields of endeavor. 1 Corinthians 10.31 says, "WHATEVER you do, do all to the glory of God." God can and does get glory from a Christian engineer, or a Christian truck driver, or a Christian whatever.

Step Three - Step Out in Faith

  • First step is pray.
  • Second step is analyze, all the while seeking counsel from God's people & God's word.
  • Third step is Step Out in Faith. Decide! Do it! Don't get stuck in gridlock awaiting signs. Trust in the Lord. Get moving!
  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.
Prov 3.5-6

Then the Lord said to Moses, ``Quit praying and get the people moving! Forward, march!"
Ex 14.15

Aftermath - Bumps in the Road
Okay, you did all the right things. You prayed often and hard for God's will. You asked God to grant you wisdom. You dug out the facts, and listened carefully to good advice. Then you reached a decision and stepped out in faith. Does this mean that the results of your decision will hum along as smooth as clockwork? God will always answer "Yes" to that question, whereas you might at times answer "No."

Your decision can be smack-dab in the center of God's will, yet you can still run into a lion's den of opposition, and a thunderstorm of obstacles.

Daniel was right in the middle of God's will, but he still spent the night in a den of hungry lions (Dan 6.16-24).

The Lord's disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, fully in obedience to the Lord's will, yet they were confronted with a violent storm (Mk 4.35-41).

Why would God say things are going just fine when you are waist high in alligators? Read and re-read Romans 8.28-29. It does NOT say, "All things are good". Why? Because many things in this sinful world are absolutely NOT good. What it says is that God will make all things "work together for good." Thus God ensures that even the *bad things* will work for your ultimate good - in God's good time.

Think about it. You will understand.

  ...all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Rom 8.28-29
After you read this essay, I suggest you read a closely related essay on The Will of God.    


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