HOW TO MAKE WISE DECISIONS IN GOD’S WILL
February 10, 2010 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
Many young people have spoiled their Christian lives because of bad decisions made apart from God’s will for their lives (e.g., wrong job, wrong friends, wrong marriage partner, mistakes in the pursuit of education, mistakes made in moving to the another place). Following are some foundational Bible principles for how to make wise decisions in God’s will:
1. Be sure that you are converted.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
We have dealt with this extensively in an earlier chapter of the book, but until a young person is born again he cannot serve God acceptably and cannot know His will.
2. Don’t trust your own understanding.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
“He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26).
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
The individual that trusts his own understanding will not follow God’s will. He will make wrong decisions every time. Because of our fallen hearts we do not have the ability to make wise decisions on our own. We must seek God and trust Him explicitly.
As a consequence, we must be diligent Bible students, because it is through the Bible that we know God’s mind (1 Cor. 2:16), learn God’s will (Psa. 119:105), and obtain faith (Rom. 10:17). We must learn how to have an effective daily Bible study. We must be faithful to the preaching and teaching ministry of a strong Bible-believing church. We must take every opportunity to grow in our knowledge of God’s holy Word, so we can know His will and make wise decisions.
3. Trust in the Lord and pray much for wisdom.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Instead of trusting in our own understanding, we must cast ourselves upon the Lord and beseech Him for wisdom and guidance in every major decision. He has promised to lead His people, but we must seek His guidance and not presume upon it. We must “acknowledge him” in all of our ways. It is tempting to think, “Well, the Lord already knows that I need His wisdom and help; surely He will automatically give it.” In fact, God has taught us in His Word to pray specifically and earnestly about all matters.
4. Confess your sins and walk in the light.
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:5-10).
Walking in sin is to walk in darkness; it hinders spiritual thinking (1 Pet. 2:11).
If a young person is disobedient or sassy to his parents, stubborn or critical or bitter toward authority, gossiping, lying, stealing, loving the evil things of the world, or such things, his prayers are hindered and he will not have wisdom to make good decisions.
To make important decisions in a backslidden spiritual state is a recipe for disaster. Many young people who were far from the Lord in their hearts contracted a marriage or a job or pursued a field of education that they later came to regret deeply. Beware!
5. Live by faith and do not make any decision that would cause you to disobey the Bible.
“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” (Hebrews 11:6).
What is God’s will? How do we know find it? Basically, God’s will is simply obeying His Word. Any decision that causes you to disobey the Bible is contrary to God’s will. There are no exceptions.
This is exactly what it means to live by faith. Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
God desires and demands that His people exercise faith. Jesus rebuked His disciples more for lack of faith than perhaps any other thing (Mat. 5:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8).
And living by faith is simply to believe and obey the Bible. It means to put God first and to live in obedience to His Word. It means to learn to make decisions based on the Bible rather than on one’s feelings and human thinking and circumstances, and then to trust God to open the doors and provide the needs. It is that simple.
Consider some examples of this:
First, the Bible says do not associate with evil or with idolatry (1 Cor. 15:33; Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Eph. 5:11), so living by faith means I will not associate with such things. Thus, it is not God’s will for His people to attend worldly parties, to attend a pagan school, to get a job at a wicked place that would require participation in wickedness (such as selling liquor or wearing immodest clothing or showing wicked movies or playing wicked music or dancing), to participate in pagan religious rituals, to participate in worldly music or fashions, etc. I recall a teenager at one church who got a job working in a movie theater. He was bothered by the unwholesome films that were showing and was thinking about quitting, but he was advised not to quit by the church’s worldly youth pastor! The result was severe backsliding. I recall another young man who had a job at a restaurant-bar and was responsible to supervise worldly parties that included drinking and dancing. He did not grow spiritually until he quit that job.
Second, the Bible says do not neglect the church (Heb. 10:25). It is the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15). Thus, it is wrong to make any decision that would cause you to forsake the assembly, such as moving to a place where there is no good church or taking a job that would keep you out of the services. I recall a young man in our church that was saved out of a druggie lifestyle. He showed promise and was growing in the Lord, and then his father asked him to return to his village. In spite of our counsel against it, he went, and from that point he backslid in his Christian life. We have seen this happen many times.
In fact, one of the chief reasons why young people quit church is that they disobey God and get a job that keeps them out of the services and they then backslide.
Consider the following two warnings,
“We lose about 20% of the young sometime after the seventh grade, and generally we lose them because they get jobs that make them work on Sundays. Once they get those jobs, it becomes easy for them to justify staying out of services and they generally do.”
“We have noticed that many who leave get the idea that if God gives them a job that requires them to work during services, then it is O.K. to miss services. If God gives them a job that requires wearing immodest clothes then it must be O.K. to wear immodest clothes. If God gives them a job that plays rock-n-roll music on the PA then that is O.K. They think they are strong enough to take that and keep coming to church unaffected. Usually though, within six months of getting the job they are missing 50% or more of the services and within a year, they are out of the services completely. As the Singles Director, I have stressed the fact the God has His perfect job for us and Satan has his perfect job for us. However, most of the kids won’t wait upon God to provide that perfect job.”
If a young person lives by faith, he will not take a job that causes him to disobey God’s Word.
Third, the Bible says to honor the church leaders (1 Tim. 5:1, 17, 1 Thess. 5:12-13). If you get angry and bitter at them, you will not make good decisions. I have seen many people leave good churches and backslide because they got bitter at the church leaders and refused to repent. We must remember that church leaders are just men, and they are far from perfect. That is not an excuse; it is a fact! Church leaders are not above God’s Word, and if they sin they should be disciplined after a biblical fashion (1 Timothy 5:19-20), but the leaders should always be given the benefit of the doubt.
Fourth, the Bible says do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14), so living by faith means that we avoid unequal yokes. Therefore, it is never God’s will for a believer to marry an unbeliever or to go into business with an unbeliever, or any such thing. I recall a man who was one of the first converts in a church. He did well and grew, but eventually he went into business with an unbeliever and because of his partner’s crooked ways he ended up in jail.
Fifth, the Bible says do not associate with false doctrine (Rom. 16:17; 2 John 10-11), so living by faith means avoiding such associations. This means that it is not God’s will for a believer to attend a Bible study or a church where false doctrine is taught or to read books or listen to sermons by false teachers or to develop a close relationship with someone who holds to false doctrine. I recall two young men who were in our church that showed much promise and seemed to be growing in the Lord, but they started attending a Bible study led by a false teacher and ended up leaving our church.
Living by faith simply means the child of God will not do anything contrary to God’s Word.
If we disobey the Bible, we cannot expect God’s blessing. What many Christians do is to make their own plans and then ask God to bless them, but that is backwards. We must first make certain that our plans are in accordance with God’s will, then we can reasonably ask and expect God’s blessing.
“And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
6. Don’t fear man; fear God.
“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
Jesus warned that we must love Him more than our relatives.
“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:59-60).
At first glance it appears that Christ was forbidding the first man to return home and simply attend the funeral of his father, but it is more likely that the passage refers to the Jewish custom that a son would care for his father until he dies and then would inherit his wealth. Christ was therefore warning of two dangers: First, He was warning of putting worldly security ahead of God’s will. Christ had called the man to follow Him, but instead of obeying without hesitation the man was making excuses and putting off the call. Family relationships are important and God’s Word instructs us to care for our loved ones (1 Timothy 5:8; Col. 3:18-21). At the same time, the call and work of God takes precedence over any human relationship. Down through the centuries many have resisted the call of God because of family ties. There are powerful forces at work here. I am reminded of the man who led me to Christ. When God called him to preach, his wife gave him an ultimatum that she would leave him if he did not stop preaching. He pleaded with her to stay, but he refused to stop preaching. Eventually she did leave him and she took their young son with her. The man was brokenhearted, but he refused to stop obeying God’s command to preach the Word of God. Many, faced with such a choice, have turned their backs on God’s call. Second, Christ was also warning of putting off God’s call for a more convenient time. It is so easy to excuse oneself from the Lord’s service by thinking that it will be easier to obey at a later time. “I will prepare to preach, Lord, when I can afford to do so.” “I will tithe, Lord, after I pay off my debts.” “I will be faithful to the assembly, Lord, after I complete these various projects and activities which require me to be away on Sundays and Wednesdays.” This attitude is a deception. It is never convenient to serve the Lord. We must seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness and when we do, everything else will take care of itself.
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).
What did Jesus mean when He demanded that we “hate” our nearest and dearest loved ones? We understand this by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Consider a companion passage in Matthew:
“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).
When Jesus said we must hate our father, mother, wife, children, brethren, and sisters, he was talking about not loving them more than Him and His will. The Lord requires that we put Him absolutely first in our affections and that we live to please Him above all else.
If a young person wants to make wise decisions in God’s will he must fear and serve God more than man. If it comes to a choice of obeying and pleasing his friends or relatives and obeying and pleasing God, he must choose God.
One of the greatest sins among young people is to fear their relatives and friends more than God. Great numbers of unbelievers commit this sin and end of hell because of it (Rev. 21:8). Many who are in hell would say they are there because they were afraid of what people thought. But believers also commit this sin. We must remember that we are bought with a price and are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19-20). This is what baptism pictures. The believer dies to the old life and is raised symbolically to a new life in Christ wherein Christ is Lord of all (Romans 6:3-4).
7. Seek wise counsel.
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15).
“Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end” (Proverbs 19:20).
“For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellers there is safety” (Proverbs 24:6).
One of the important parts of making wise decisions in God’s will is to seek counsel from mature and godly people. The classic case in Scripture of a young man failing to do this is Solomon’s son Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:1-16). Soon after he ascended the throne, he was confronted by the citizens who beseeched him to treat them compassionately. In making his decision, he first consulted the old men that had counseled his father, and they wisely advised him to heed the people’s request. He then consulted his own peers, and they advised him to treat the people as he wished and to ignore their feelings. He followed this foolish advice and lost the majority of his kingdom.
Before making any major decision--whether it is about marriage, a job, a move, or a major decision about education--a young person should seek godly counsel. The first line of counsel would be the young person’s own parents, particularly if they are believers. The next line of counsel would be the church leaders. God gives leaders to the church to watch over the people and to help them, like a shepherd and sheep. Godly church leaders “watch for your souls” (Heb. 13:17). They think about the church members and pray for them and desire the best for each of them, and God gives them wisdom.
In our church we urge the young people to come to the leaders and discuss with them any marriage plans. If a boy is interested in a certain girl, we urge him not to do anything about pursuing the matter until he has talked it over with the leaders. They know things that the young people don’t know, and they can give good advice about whether it is wise to pursue a certain relationship. Invariably, those who have ignored this procedure have made a mess of things!
8. Wait on God.
“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (Psalms 27:14).
“I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope” (Psalms 130:5).
When seeking to make a good decision in God’s will, it is very important to avoid haste. When we are hasty, it is easy to make the wrong decision. We must wait until we are certain that we know the mind of the Lord, and then He will take care of us.
Joshua and Israel were hasty when they promised an alliance with the men of Gibeon; they trusted their eyes and did not seek God’s face in the matter (Josh. 9:14-15).
There are two biblical principles that we need to take heed to when waiting for the Lord: the principle of abiding peace and the principle of no confusion. We find these two principles in 1 Corinthians 14:33.
“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”
When there is a lack of peace and when there is confusion, we must take heed and not rush forward in that particular decision.
The wisdom that is from God is always pure and peaceable (James 3:17). God gives peace always by all means (2 Thess. 3:16).
When I am seeking God’s will, I look for this peace. If I have a certain inclination to do something, I want to see if there is growing peace or growing doubt. If something is of God, the peace will grow and the faith will increase, but if it is not His will there will be confusion and doubt and a lack of peace.
God’s will is worth waiting for! Many decisions have consequences that last throughout one’s lifetime, and if an individual gets those decisions wrong, he will not only live to regret it but he will have to bear the consequences until he dies. Marriage is one of these decisions, of course, but there are many others.
9. Look at the future.
“By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).
Moses made a major decision sometime in his youth “when he was come to years.” He was the adopted son of Pharaoh, who was the wealthiest and most powerful king of his day. Moses could have chosen to cast his lot with the wealthy and powerful, with the pleasure seekers, but instead he cast his lot with the despised, enslaved Jews. He made this wise decision by looking at the future through God’s Word. He looked ahead to the next life and saw that if he followed Christ he will have riches in Christ’s eternal kingdom, but if he followed Pharaoh he would have “the pleasures of sin for a season” and then an eternity of regret.
Every Christian young person needs to follow Moses’ wise example. He needs to ask himself, “If I make this decision what will happen down the road? What are its eternal consequences? If I marry this person; if I take that job, if I pursue that particular education, if I go to that country, if I go to that party, if I buy that television, if I listen to that music, if I am careless about what I see on the Internet, if I let my heart become captured with the love of the world?
Unbelievers can’t see the future because they walk in darkness and do not believe the Bible. They base their decisions entirely upon what they see with their eyes. They only look at things such as money, pleasure, and prestige.
The believer has a light the unbeliever does not have, and he can make wise decisions based on the eternal Word of God.
The believer needs to look at the judgment seat of Christ and make his decisions based on what he will hear on that solemn occasion (1 Cor. 3:11-15).
We have looked at nine keys in making wise decisions in God’s will, and after salvation nothing is more important in this life than learning how to make such decisions.
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