Biblical Decision Making Part 1: Introduction
There are few things that Christians struggle with more than knowing God’s will. Sometimes it seems like God provides clear guidance to other people, but our personal search for clarity on hearing God’s voice can be difficult, full of uncertainty, and downright confusing. What are we to do then? Give up? Pray harder? Just make a decision and hope for the best? With big decisions such as choosing a career, getting married, going to the mission field, making significant healthcare choices, planning financially and so on, we may feel the need to know “for sure” before we can move forward. Unfortunately, as hard as we try, “for sure” often seems like an impossible standard. Is “for sure” even the right goal? Is that what God asks us to do? To know “for sure” how our health or career will turn out 20 years from now? In a simple answer, no. He wants us to seek Him and His direction and then trust Him as we move forward in faith.
This series of articles are designed to help think through the factors involved in making wise, biblically-based decisions. We will not provide a sure-fire way to know the “right” choice to make in every decision. There also isn’t any quick and easy three-step-method for knowing the future or never making a mistake. We hope these articles will bring out both the obvious and subtle factors that affect decision making. Our goal is to encourage a right relationship with God while seeking His guidance.
TAKING A STEP BACK BEFORE WE MOVE FORWARD
Many readers will want to rush right to the conclusion of the matter…. “OK, do I buy a car now or wait longer?” Should I homeschool my son?” “Should I accept this job offer?” However, we will start by backing up and looking at common assumptions about discerning God’s will as we seek to make decisions. We will address the following important concepts.
- Faith and Godly Wisdom in Decision Making
- Balancing Faith and Godly Wisdom
- Using Scripture Accurately and In Context
- Freedom and Responsibility
Faith and Godly Wisdom in Decision Making.
As believers we “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). In the context of this article, we are referring to faith as “believing in, trusting in, and clinging to God.” For example, we believe that His promises are true and that He will fulfill what He has committed to do in our lives as well as in the world (Phil. 1:6). This includes His ability to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think…” (Eph. 3:20). However, it is important to note that walking by faith does not mean we feel absolutely certain about something or that we have a guarantee things will turn out like we plan. Faith is faith precisely because we don’t have complete certainty or knowledge of the future. Rather, we believe in, trust in, and cling to God as He walks with us through life. In this context, faith is trusting God through the uncertainty. Heb. 11:1,“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
It is God’s design and desire that we hold to the certainty of His character and nature instead of having complete certainty in our life circumstances. Heb. 11:6,“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
In the context of this series of articles, we refer to godly wisdom as applying the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) to discern how to work through life. This kind of wisdom is the godly use of knowledge which will grow and develop as an individual walks with the Lord. Godly wisdom begins with the foundation of viewing God with reverential fear, as noted in Prov. 9:10,“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” Godly wisdom is grounded on the specific teachings and principles of the Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It will help us learn from life experiences, good counsel, and sound reasoning processes in order to mature our judgment (Heb. 5:14). We seek to continue to grow in godly wisdom, but we realize we will not arrive at perfect wisdom or understanding this side of Heaven. While some may think godly wisdom is simply common sense, it often goes well beyond it. Godly wisdom is the opposite of foolishness and shows that one’s thinking has been made right by the Word of God. God willingly and freely gives wisdom to us when we ask in faith (Jas. 1:5-6). However, remember God said He will provide us with wisdom, not complete certainty or even the awareness of this wisdom. Many people ask God for wisdom, but they are really seeking to know something “for sure.”
We must also be mindful of and avoid worldly wisdom. Often worldly wisdom may make sense to our human nature, while godly wisdom may go against our human nature. For example, living in humility, being forgiving, showing grace and so on are not sensible from a secular standpoint. Because of this, godly wisdom is often rejected outright by unbelievers. Note how the Apostle Paul highlights the stark contrast etween godly and worldly wisdom: 1 Cor. 1:18-20,“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?”
Paul wanted his listeners to differentiate the wisdom of God from the wisdom of the world. This can be done through knowing God intimately, listening to His Word, and following the direction of the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said in John 10:27,“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” We learn to know His voice through Scripture. The Word provides us with direction about God’s ways and “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).” The Word also tells us that the Holy Spirit gives the believer spiritual discernment to understand godly wisdom apart from worldly wisdom.
1 Cor. 2:12-14,“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
By learning to hear God’s voice through the Scripture and the Holy Spirit living in us, we learn to love the things He loves and hate the things He hates. By cultivating this mind of Christ and seeking after Godly wisdom, we can walk wisely in all aspects of our life, including decision making.