How You Can Make Good Decisions
FREE will is a gift from God. Without it, we would be little more than robots, with no control over our actions. With it, however, we face challenges. Possessing free will, we have to make decisions as we go through life.
Of course, many decisions are quite trivial. Others, such as what career to choose or whether to get married, can affect our whole future. Still others affect other people. Some decisions that parents make have a profound effect on their children. Moreover, we have to render an account to God for many decisions we make.—Romans 14:12.
The Need for Help
Humans do not have a good record when it comes to decision making. One of the very first human decisions on record was disastrous. Eve decided to partake of the fruit that God had expressly forbidden. Her choice, based on selfish desire, led to her husband’s joining her in disobeying God, and the result was great suffering for mankind. In many cases, humans still base their decisions more on selfish desires than on right principles. (Genesis 3:6-19; Jeremiah 17:9) And when faced with serious decisions, we are frequently conscious of our limitations.
Not surprisingly, then, when making big decisions, many seek help from sources higher than humans. The Bible records an occasion when Nebuchadnezzar, in the midst of a military campaign, had a decision to make. Although he was a king, he felt the need “to resort to divination,” consult the spirits. Hence, the record says: “He has shaken the arrows. He has asked by means of the teraphim; he has looked into the liver.” (Ezekiel 21:21) Similarly today, many consult fortune-tellers and astrologers and in other ways seek help from the spirits. But these are deceptive and misleading.—Leviticus 19:31.
There is One who is completely reliable and who throughout history has helped humans to make wise decisions. That one is none other than Jehovah God. For example, in ancient times, God gave his nation, Israel, the Urim and the Thummim—likely, sacred lots that were cast when the nation faced situations of grave importance. Through the Urim and the Thummim, Jehovah gave direct answers to questions and helped the elders of Israel to be sure that their decisions were in harmony with his will.—Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21.
Consider another example. When Gideon was called to lead the armies of Israel against Midian, he had to decide whether to accept such a lofty privilege. Gideon, wanting reassurance that Jehovah would support him, asked for a miraculous sign. He prayed that a fleece left out overnight would become wet with dew but the ground around it remain dry. The next night, he asked that the fleece would remain dry while the ground around it be soaked with dew. Jehovah kindly gave Gideon the signs that he requested. As a result, Gideon made the right decision and, with divine support, totally defeated Israel’s enemies.—Judges 6:33-40; 7:21, 22.
What About Today?
Today, Jehovah still offers help to his servants when they are faced with important decisions. How? Should we, like Gideon, ask for ‘fleece tests,’ signs from Jehovah to show us the way to go? One couple wondered whether they should move to serve where there was a greater need for Kingdom preachers. To help them decide, they arranged a test. They put their house up for sale at a certain price. If the house sold by a certain date at the stated price or higher, they would take it as an indication that God wanted them to make the move. If the house failed to sell, they would conclude that God did not want them to move.
The house failed to sell. Was that an indication that Jehovah did not want this couple to serve where the need was greater? Of course, it would be presumptuous to state categorically what Jehovah does or does not do for his servants. We cannot say that today Jehovah never intervenes to demonstrate his will for us. (Isaiah 59:1) However, we do not have a right to expect such intervention in our major decisions, in effect leaving our decision making to God. Why, even Gideon for most of his life had to make decisions without miraculous signs from Jehovah!
Still, the Bible does say that divine guidance is available. It foretells of our time: “Your own ears will hear a word behind you saying: ‘This is the way. Walk in it, you people,’ in case you people should go to the right or in case you should go to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21) When we are faced with important choices, it is perfectly appropriate to seek to make sure that our decisions are in harmony with God’s will and reflect his superior wisdom. How? By consulting his Word and allowing it to be ‘a lamp to our foot, and a light to our roadway.’ (Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 2:1-6) To do this, we need to cultivate the habit of taking in accurate knowledge from the Bible. (Colossians 1:9, 10) And when faced with a decision, we need carefully to research all Bible principles having to do with the matter. Such research will enable us to “make sure of the more important things.”—Philippians 1:9, 10.
We should also talk to Jehovah in prayer, confident that he will listen to us. How comforting it is to explain to our loving God the decision we have to make and the alternatives we are considering! Then, we can confidently ask for guidance in making the right decision. Often, holy spirit will remind us of Bible principles that apply, or it might help us to understand more clearly a scripture that relates to our situation.—James 1:5, 6.
Jehovah also provides mature ones in the congregation with whom we can discuss our decisions. (Ephesians 4:11, 12) In consulting others, though, we should not follow the course of those who approach one person after another until they finally find someone who says what they want to hear. Then they follow his advice. We should also remember the warning example of Rehoboam. When he was faced with a serious decision, he received excellent advice from the older men who had served with his father. However, rather than follow their counsel, he consulted the young men who grew up with him. Following their advice, he made a very bad decision and as a result lost a large part of his kingdom.—1 Kings 12:1-17.
When seeking counsel, do so from those who are experienced in life and have a good knowledge of the Scriptures and a reverent regard for right principles. (Proverbs 1:5; 11:14; 13:20) When possible, take time to meditate on the principles involved and on all the information you have gathered. As you come to see things in the light of Jehovah’s Word, the right decision will likely become more evident.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
The Decisions We Make
Some decisions are easily made. When commanded to stop witnessing, the apostles knew that they had to keep preaching about Jesus, and they immediately informed the Sanhedrin of their decision to obey God rather than man. (Acts 5:28, 29) Other decisions may need more thought because there is no direct Bible statement touching on the matter. Still, Bible principles will usually shed light on the best decision to make. For example, although many forms of entertainment available today did not exist in the time of Jesus, there are clear Bible statements about what pleases Jehovah and what displeases him. Thus, any Christian who indulges in entertainment that promotes violence, immorality, or rebelliousness has made a bad decision.—Psalm 97:10; John 3:19-21; Galatians 5:19-23; Ephesians 5:3-5.
Sometimes, two decisions may both be correct. Serving where the need is greater is a wonderful privilege and can lead to great blessings. But if a person for some reason decides not to do so, he can still do fine work in his home congregation. On occasion, we may face a decision that will give us the opportunity to demonstrate the depth of our devotion to Jehovah or what is most important in our lives. Thus, Jehovah allows us to use our free will to show what our heart condition really is.
Frequently, others are affected by our decisions. For example, first-century Christians rejoiced to be free of many of the restrictions of the Law. This meant, for instance, that they could either accept or reject food that was unclean under the Law. Still, they were encouraged to consider the consciences of others when deciding whether to exercise this freedom. Paul’s words on the matter could apply to many decisions that we make: “Keep from becoming causes for stumbling.” (1 Corinthians 10:32) A desire not to stumble others might help determine many of the decisions we make. After all, love of neighbor is the second greatest commandment.—Matthew 22:36, 39.
The Outcome of Our Decisions
Decisions made in good conscience and based on Bible principles will always have a good outcome in the long run. In the short run, of course, they may result in some personal sacrifice. When the apostles told the Sanhedrin of their decision to keep preaching about Jesus, they were flogged before they were released. (Acts 5:40) When the three Hebrews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—decided that they would not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image, they put their lives in danger. They were prepared to face the possibility that their decision might mean their death. But they knew that they would have God’s approval and blessing.—Daniel 3:16-19.
If we encounter difficulties after making a conscientious decision, that is no reason for assuming that the decision was wrong. “Time and unforeseen occurrence” can adversely affect the outcome of even the best-intentioned decisions. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) Moreover, Jehovah sometimes allows adversity to test the depth of our commitment. Jacob had to wrestle all night with an angel before receiving a blessing. (Genesis 32:24-26) We too may have to wrestle with adversity, even when we are doing the right thing. Still, when our decisions are in harmony with God’s will, we can be confident that he will help us to endure and that he will finally bless us.—2 Corinthians 4:7.
Hence, when making an important decision, do not rely on your own wisdom. Search for Bible principles that apply. Speak to Jehovah about the matter. Where possible, consult with mature fellow Christians. Then be courageous. Exercise your God-given free will in a responsible way. Make a good decision and demonstrate to Jehovah that your heart is upright before him.
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Consult God’s Word before making important decisions
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Speak to Jehovah about the decisions you have to make
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You can discuss your major decisions with mature Christians