The bible study I am currently in is still very young, and we were exploring ideas for topics, and the one that came up for this week’s bible study was “decision making.” I wouldn’t normally choose to prepare something on this subject. One, because one of the greatest things I struggle with is knowing what direction I should go with my life. Two, because this is such a huge subject: in a sense almost every message affects decision making one way or another. Because of the expanse of the topic, I have decided to tackle it at a very broad angle.
(I feel like I should add before I forget - the title may not be the most fitting for this particular page, but since I read the phrase “guidance on guidance” in a book about God’s will, I found it sounded cool so I used it.)
There are many different types of decisions one comes across in life (my classification is just for illustrative purposes):
- tiny, insignificant decisions - I don't think it makes a huge difference to God what colour of socks you wear
- small, sort of significant decisions - includes what you should eat for dinner (significant because of health/finance reasons, but I won't get into that right now)
- small/medium decisions - the topic of conversation you should have with people
- medium decisions - includes how one should use one's free time
- medium/big decisions - includes what kind of car you should drive
- big decisions - includes career/school choices, where you should live
- really big decisions - choosing who you will worship, choosing your spouse
Of course there are so many decisions that you need to make out of obedience to God. These include:
- Getting baptized (Matthew 28:19)
- Loving God and Loving others (Mark 12:29-31)
- Following the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17)
- Serving as part of the body of Christ; playing your part in the church (1 Corinthians 12:27; Romans 7:4; Ephesians 4:11-13)
All throughout the bible, one thing is obvious. When one is making the right decisions, one isn't making the wrong decisions. On the flip side, in order to completely live in obedience, one needs to stop making the wrong decisions.
This is one reason why I feel unqualified to preach this message, because to make the right choices in life one needs to turn completely away from the sinful nature. Now admittedly it is impossible for anyone to be perfect (even though we are commanded to be - Matthew 5:48), however, it is possible to break habitual sin.
Matthew 6:24 - “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
Out of all the advice I have heard on stopping sinning, I find the best one one is this: if you want to stop sinning, stop sinning. Don't sin in moderation or slowly decrease your sinning; stop sinning. The best way to do this is to focus on Jesus. When your eyes are on Jesus, they aren't on the sinful distractions.
Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
(What is truly the only thing that completely fits the criteria of everything listed here?)
On the topic of decision making I could fill pages of "don'ts," but I find this verse, as well as the very well known catchphrase of "what would Jesus do?" is even more effective. "Good in, good out."
In order to prepare for today, I listened to two sermons on wisdom and planning. Although it is not sinful to be unwise, it is foolish, and foolishness often leads to sin. This may not necessarily what you were expecting to hear on decision making but I personally found it incredibly helpful and I hope you will too.
In order to have an effective life making wise decisions, it is incredibly beneficial to have a plan. It's the difference between working in your life and working on your life. Those who don't have a plan spend so much time reacting to situations in life, which could prove costly.
Here are a few notes I made on planning:
- Do not plan evil (Proverbs 3:29; Proverbs 6:16-18; Proverbs 24:8)
- Pray over your plans (Proverbs 16:3)
- Enlist the aid of wise council in your planning process (Proverbs 15:12; Proverbs 20:18)
- BE DILIGENT! (Proverbs 21:5)
- Change will happen, the plans of man are never perfect (Proverbs 19:21) - have contingency plans
- Write your plans down
- Have plans for holidays - know what you are going to do, maximize the fun you have
- Always have fun scheduled. (Otherwise you'll get stressed out)
- Accept the size of your plate. Some people have can handle lots of things, some people can't. Do your best to fill your plate, but not to overfill it.
- Have a plan for technology (when to check emails, your phone, when to turn everything off) - don't let technology run/rule/ruin your life
- If you have a spouse, make sure your plans align
(Sorry that this is "bible study," and this isn't really about the bible at the moment)
Some questions to keep in mind in regards to planning:
- What are my goals health-wise? How much sleep should I be getting? How much exercise should I be getting? Do I have any weight goals?
- Where do I want to live? Living closer to work will mean less time "wasted" while driving. What kind of place am I willing to or wanting to live in? Should I be renting or owning?
- What kind of car should I drive?
- What kind of financial shape do I want to be in 5 years down the road? 20 years?
- What do I want to learn? Another occupation? Another language? An instrument? Do I generally want to expand my wealth of knowledge? (Proverbs 1:7)
- Learn from other people's mistakes
- Older doesn't necessarily mean "wiser"
- Smarter doesn't necessarily mean wiser - you can have a high IQ or a significant amount of education and still be foolish
- Have appropriate sleeping habits (Proverbs 6:6-11) - as well as use your time while awake efficiently - don't be lazy
- In order to make a good impression at work, show up early and stay late - very rare to see
- When you meet a friend who is knowledgeable in a given area, are you trying your best to learn from them? Ask them questions!
- Seek council, especially when making major decisions
- Have discernment (Proverbs 14:15)
- Are your good friends "good" friends? (Proverbs 13:20) What kind of people are you spending the most time with and allowing their habits to rub off on you?
- Wise people are able to handle constructive criticism with a good attitude
- Be cautious (Proverbs 14:16) - don't take unnecessary risks
- Be humble (Proverbs 11:2)
- When you see danger, be prudent and proactive (Proverbs 22:3)
- Have self control (Proverbs 29:11)
- Every day when you wake up and look in the mirror, say to yourself "today I am capable of being a fool. God, keep me close to Jesus, humble, and walking in wisdom."
A little on Paul
Paul was an "apostle," a privileged position belonging to those who Jesus directly commissioned to lead His church. The church was young, and like young Christians, still prone to make foolish mistakes. As a "shepherd" in the church, it was the responsibility of Paul to keep his young flock from the wolves of the world. But just like parents discipline their children out of love, so Paul used "harsh" words in his letters out of love. He didn't want his church to abandon Jesus or be abandoned by Jesus.
One verse in particular that I heard recently that was an example of Paul being "harsh" is this:
1 Corinthians 5:11 - But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
I think it is important to read the next two verses as well...
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 - What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
(I believe that I have the liberty to say that "the wicked" in this case primarily means "the unrepentant" because, we all are sinners, imperfect)
Now these are loaded verses, but for now I just want to focus on one particular aspect of it. We were already talking about wisdom, and how we should be friends with the wise. Well it would also be wise not to be "good friends" with the people Paul are referring to. For one, this may encourage them or make them think they're just fine doing what they are doing. Two, they may negatively rub off on you.
The reason Paul was harsh wasn't because he was happy being judgemental, but because he cared for the body of Christ, and didn't want them to be led astray. This doesn't contradict the character of Jesus, who also criticized those who claimed to be followers of God, but were living hypocritical lives (the Pharisees). This doesn't mean we shouldn't love them or treat them kindly, for that would be breaking what Jesus says is the second greatest commandment.