How do you, as a Christian, make a decision – come to a major decision which may touch not only your future but also the lives of others?
We should hesitate to use a “formula” which promises to come up with an answer. Even an occasional method which may have been used in a particular situation in the Bible should not be made into a general technique to discover God’s will. Indeed, many sincere believers have been tragically misled when they had depended on a supposedly “foolproof” method.
Yet the Scriptures do give us some rather obvious guidelines to help us work through and pray through our decisions. Just for the purpose of discussion, they can be represented as follows:
* Confirmation by the Scriptures as you prayerfully read God’s Word (2 Tim.3:16, Ps.119:105).
* Counsel of a pastor or other elders who commit to pray with you (1 Cor. 12:25-26, 1 Pet. 5:2-5).
* Circumstances of your daily life which God brings about for your prayer (Gen. 50:20, Rom. 8:28).
* Consideration by clear reasoning and with clear conscience in prevailing prayer (Rom.12:1-2).
In whatever order, these four helps should go together, and seek agreement.
Our circumstances may push us or draw us in one direction or another. Our wishes and desires can appear to be what God is surely showing us. Our “common sense” can easily mislead us and even suppress our knowledge of God’s will (Rom. 1:18). Our feelings may possibly be influenced by a spirit of deception (1 John 4:1).
The same can be said about a heart conviction which we may assume comes from our conscience, or even from God. Our sinful nature can subtly twist our thinking to convince us into doing what we feel is “surely right”. Many decisions have been based on “right” feelings, “right” circumstances, “right” convictions, “righteous” words of prophecy or knowledge, even on “signs and wonders” which were “surely right”. But they turned out to be wrong and even terribly misleading.
When Nemi and I were invited by the mission to serve overseas in 1989, we struggled greatly to reach a decision. My feelings said, “No!” Nemi’s heart said, “Yes!” Then we experienced some puzzling “signs”, and we received a rather amusing “word of prophecy” from a good friend. Our circumstances might have led us to make a change in our pastoral ministry — but not to leave our home and fly to another country!
For several weeks, we engaged in times of prayer together. We each diligently sought God’s leading from the Scriptures. We sought the counsel and prayers of an elder in our church, a trusted leader who had mentored me over the years. A Scripture passage did speak to us in a very direct, positive and personal way. And our mentor strongly confirmed the call for us to go overseas.
Only then were we able to sense the Lord’s leading with great assurance, able to say, “Yes,” with complete confidence. And immediately after we accepted to go — and yet were still testing our first steps — the Lord gave us added encouragement in several small but significant ways.
It should be noted that, as a married couple, neither of us would have said, “Yes,” if either of us had decided not to accept the call of missions. In the same way, we maintained an attitude of respect for the counsel and the authority of the mission leaders who had invited us to serve overseas. They also had prayed over their decision.
Again, these four guidelines for decision making are not, and should not be taken, as a “formula”. They are simply helpful steps which the Scriptures confirm. The need to pray for wisdom cannot be too strongly emphasized.
Decision making is seldom easy (Rom. 8:26). Yet how many of us do not even take these minimal steps because we are too lazy to persist in prayer, or too proud to earnestly seek prayer help, and to trust the clear sense of God’s Word for a normal Christian life?
How often we would rather trust circumstances which seem so evidently from God, or counsel from a “prayer warrior” with a special “word” seemingly from God, or “common sense” (which, of course, each of us assumes we have). Sadly, many lives have been misled by a “word of prophecy” or “word of knowledge” which seemed so deliciously right.
At the point of decision, what counts most is our knowing the Lord Jesus Christ in daily personal relationship, in open hearted prayer, in thanksgiving and praise, in obedience in the smallest daily things of live. Then the following truths from the Scriptures can give us great confidence and peace in decision making:
First, our so gracious God loves us, and does not play “hide and seek” with us (Rom. 1:19). He wants us to know Him personally in a daily “quiet time”, when we can listen to Him as we read His Word, the Bible, and then as He listens as we talk to Him in prayer. Second, our Father God grants us – his sons and daughters — the responsibility and freedom to make decisions with him as we walk faithfully in dependence on him (John 8:12, Rom. 12:2). Third, incomprehensible to the human mind, our Sovereign God is in complete control, and is never limited in what He knows of the future and what He brings about for our good (Rom. 8:28). Therefore, when we have sought to follow the four guidelines above, we can confidently take one or more steps of faith. Fourth, our Creator God has one purpose in all and above all: To bring all of us and all His creation “to the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6). Is that our purpose as well?