How I make decisions

Tough decisionsHere’s the deal…practically speaking, we all have to make decisions every day.   Daily decisions are usually pretty easy.  The big ones?  Sometimes they can bring us to our knees. 

Church folks (and even lots of others) love to talk about the “will of God”…as if they are experts.  People here in Texas, when faced with a particularly difficult decision, like to say, “the Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.”  I have no idea what that means…

This, then, is how you should pray:  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Matthew 6:9-10

I’ve come to the realization that for most people, decision making involves:

  • Praying “God, this is what I want”
  • Looking for a feeling of happiness or contentment 
  • Taking the path that provides the highest probability of success
  • Finding people who agree and then listening to them validate your decision
  • Looking for an open door (where things all line up…or fall into place)

In 2 Corinthians, Paul recalls a time in his life when he faced a difficult decision and he writes an easily overlooked statement:

Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia.  2 Corinthians 2:12-13

Are you kidding me?  God clearly provided Paul an “open door”.  God did it.  God opened the door.  And Paul slammed it shut and kept moving.  Wow.  So much for the open door theory…

Over the years, this verse has forced me to think and re-think what I believe about decision making and the will of God.  A while back, I figured it was important for me to come up with a plan for making tough decisions.  Here’s the end product.  Here’s my thought process.  Maybe it can help you.

Go to God’s Word.  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.  Psalm 119:105

For me, the Bible is pretty clear on a lot of things.  As a matter of fact, I’d say about 90% of my day to day ethical decisions are dictated by the law of love or the example of Jesus, as I read of them in the Bible.  God’s Word remains my starting point and my true north.

Pray for wisdom.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  James 1:5

Praying for wisdom…for God to give me eyes to see clearly and to apply the truth that I know…is always the one conversation I bring with confidence and boldness.  Others prayers?  Not so much.  This one?  Always.

Live a life that is pleasing to God.  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.  Romans 12:1

It’s pretty hard to seek after God’s will when you’re spending your time pleasing yourself.  Duh.

Determine the desires of your heart.  Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Psalm 37:4

I have to remember…always…that God is my Father and he cares about the things I care about.  Even though I don’t believe his priority is my happiness, I’m confident he cares about what I like…what grabs my attention…and what thrills my heart.

Seek wise counsel.  The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15

I learned early on in my adult life about the genius of asking quality, mature people for their insight and advice.  I am constantly amazed by people who stubbornly (ignorantly) want to make important decisions all alone.  Totally amazed.

Ask others to pray that God would give you wisdom.  We heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  Colossians 1:9

Such a simple, humble, practical thing to do.

Be still and wait.  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.  Psalm 37:7

Everything about this command rubs us the wrong way.  Bow.  Be quiet.  Listen.  Wait.  Practice patience.  Definitely NOT a value we see modeled much these days.

Use common sense.  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.  Titus 2:11-12

God gave you a brain.  Use it.  All of it.  Learn to say “no”.

Be aware of peace in your heart (and also of open doors!).  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

In the midst of difficult decisions, I have waited for, and even sought after a peace in my heart.  But I have often prayed just as passionately for God to help me be content in the situations I find myself struggling with.

Decide if you trust God or not.  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

This is the ultimate bottom line.  When I spend my life and ways acknowledging him, difficult decisions are placed in proper perspective.

Hope this helps.

*This blog post is based on my sermon from 5-27-18

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2 thoughts on “How I make decisions

  1. Is is uncanny that yesterday I was inspired to do a mental sermon on wisdom. Then I opened your email and here is mention of wisdom. Wisdom is needed for rulers in the Kingdom of God and God offers it to anyone who asked. We need wisdom because all mankind is insane with a sin disease in their brain. On the cross Jesus said “forgiven them because they do not know what the do”. A clear definition of insanity. Look all around and ever person I have ever knew or read about did stupid crazy things at sometime in their life. The cure for insanity is wisdom and it starts with Jesus. In the early days our parents said “don’t put your hand in a fire”, “don’t play behind the car”, “wash your hands” etc.
    We did not know why because our brains were not old enough to understand. God is like that. He says don’t do this or that, and we say “I don’t see anything wrong with that”. It doesn’t matter if we do not understand we just need to follow it. As time goes by we will most likely start to understand.

    Wisdom is based on the ability to think using experience, knowledge, understanding, common sense, and insight (critical thinking). I would add trusting in God that uses discernment (gifts) and application of the truth (word). Problem solving is a sub set of wisdom. Define a problem first, then look for the best solution.

    Proverbs is a wonderful book of the bible, usually not taught on, that contains wisdom worth investigation. As members of the church body we should all have wisdom that should standout and be sought by the world. How can you be a ruler with no wisdom and what kind of example are you to the lost world? Personally, I have not seen much wisdom in the church. Most people seem to want to follow someone else and if they do have a interesting idea it is usually ignored and discouraged. I like to say wisdom is knowing how life works, following God’s rules, to orchestrate a desired outcome that builds the kingdom and spreads God’s will and influence in the earth. This is not always the easy way, the cheap way, the short way, or the painless way. Discipline, perseverance, and other good character attributes will be needed to complete the goal/s.

    Let us all get wisdom and then have the courage to follow it.

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