Make Decisions That Honor God
“The shrewd one considers his steps.”—PROV. 14:15.
1, 2. (a) What should be our primary concern in all the decisions that we make? (b) What questions will we consider?
WE LIKELY make dozens of them each day. Many are of little lasting consequence. Some, though, can have a profound impact on our lives. What are they? Decisions. In all the decisions that we make, big or small, our primary concern is to honor God.—Read 1 Corinthians 10:31.
2 Do you find it easy to make decisions, or is it a challenge for you to do so? If we are to progress to Christian maturity, we must learn to distinguish right from wrong and then make decisions that reflect our own convictions, not those of someone else. (Rom. 12:1, 2; Heb. 5:14) What are some other compelling reasons why we need to learn to make good decisions? Why is it sometimes so difficult to make them? And what steps can we take to make sure that the decisions we make honor God?
Why Make Decisions at All?
3. What should we not allow to interfere with our decision-making process?
3 If we are indecisive when Bible standards are involved, our schoolmates or workmates may conclude that we are not really convinced of our beliefs and therefore are easily influenced. They may lie, cheat, or steal and then try to persuade us to “follow after the crowd” by joining them or at least by covering up for them. (Ex. 23:2) However, a person who knows how to make decisions that honor God will not permit fear or a desire for acceptance to cause him to behave in a way that conflicts with his Bible-trained conscience.—Rom. 13:5.
4. Why might others want to make decisions for us?
4 Not all who want to make decisions for us mean us harm. Well-intentioned friends might insist that we follow their advice. If we are living away from home, our relatives likely still have deep concern for our well-being and may feel compelled to continue to involve themselves in important decisions we face. For instance, consider the matter of medical treatment. The Bible clearly condemns the misuse of blood. (Acts 15:28, 29) Other matters that have to do with health care, though, are not clear-cut and require that each of us make a personal decision as to what treatment we will accept or reject. * Our loved ones may have strong opinions on these issues. However, when deciding about those matters, each dedicated baptized Christian needs to carry “his own load” of responsibility. (Gal. 6:4, 5) Our primary concern is to maintain a good conscience before God, not men.—1 Tim. 1:5.
5. How can we avoid suffering shipwreck of our faith?
5 Indecision can place us in grave danger. The disciple James wrote that an indecisive person is “unsteady in all his ways.” (Jas. 1:8) Like a man in a rudderless boat on a stormy sea, he will be tossed about by shifting human opinion. How easy it would be for such a person to suffer shipwreck of his faith and then blame others for his sad situation! (1 Tim. 1:19) How can we avoid that outcome? We must become “stabilized in the faith.” (Read Colossians 2:6, 7.) To achieve stability, we need to learn to make decisions that reflect our faith in God’s inspired Word. (2 Tim. 3:14-17) What, though, may hinder our ability to make good decisions?
Why Decisions Can Be Difficult to Make
6. How might fear affect us?
6 Fear may paralyze us—fear of making the wrong decision, fear of failure, or fear of appearing foolish to others. Those concerns are understandable. Nobody wants to make a poor decision, one that causes trouble and possibly shame. Even so, love of God and his Word can help us shrink our fears. In what ways? Love of God will motivate us always to consult his Word and Bible-based publications before we make important decisions. We will thus minimize the number of mistakes we make. Why? Because the Bible can “give to the inexperienced ones shrewdness, to a young man knowledge and thinking ability.”—Prov. 1:4.
7. King David’s example can teach us what?
7 Will we always make the right decision? No. All of us make mistakes. (Rom. 3:23) King David, for example, was a wise and faithful man. Yet, he at times made poor decisions that caused suffering to himself and others. (2 Sam. 12:9-12) Nevertheless, David did not let his mistakes undermine his ability to make decisions that had God’s favor. (1 Ki. 15:4, 5) We can be decisive despite past mistakes if, like David, we remember that Jehovah will overlook our errors and forgive our sins. He will continue to support those who love and obey him.—Ps. 51:1-4, 7-10.
8. What do we learn from the apostle Paul’s comments about marriage?
8 We can lessen the anxiety we feel about making decisions. How? By realizing that sometimes there are several correct paths to choose from. Consider the way the apostle Paul reasoned on the subject of marriage. Under inspiration he wrote: “If anyone thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virginity, if that is past the bloom of youth, and this is the way it should take place, let him do what he wants; he does not sin. Let them marry. But if anyone stands settled in his heart, having no necessity, but has authority over his own will and has made this decision in his own heart, to keep his own virginity, he will do well.” (1 Cor. 7:36-38) Paul recommended singleness as the best course, but it was not the only right option.
9. Should we be concerned about how others view our decisions? Explain.
9 Should we be concerned with how others view the decisions that we make? To some degree. Note what Paul said on the matter of eating foods that might seem to have been sacrificed to idols. He acknowledged that a decision may not in itself be wrong, yet it could cause harm to someone with a weak conscience. What was Paul’s resolve? “If food makes my brother stumble,” he wrote, “I will never again eat flesh at all, that I may not make my brother stumble.” (1 Cor. 8:4-13) We too need to consider how our decisions will affect the consciences of others. Of course, our main concern is the effect that our choices will have on our friendship with Jehovah. (Read Romans 14:1-4.) What Bible principles will help us to make decisions that honor God?
Six Steps to Making Good Decisions
10, 11. (a) How can we avoid being presumptuous within the family? (b) What should elders keep in mind when making decisions that affect the congregation?
10 Avoid being presumptuous. Before choosing a course of action, we need to ask ourselves, ‘Is this my decision to make?’ King Solomon wrote: “Has presumptuousness come? Then dishonor will come; but wisdom is with the modest ones.”—Prov. 11:2.
11 Parents may grant their children the opportunity to make some decisions, but children should not just assume such authority. (Col. 3:20) Wives and mothers have a measure of authority within the family but do well to recognize the headship of their husbands. (Prov. 1:8; 31:10-18; Eph. 5:23) Likewise, husbands need to recognize that their authority is limited and that they are subject to Christ. (1 Cor. 11:3) Elders make decisions that affect the congregation. However, they make sure that they “do not go beyond the things that are written” in God’s Word. (1 Cor. 4:6) They also follow closely the direction they receive from the faithful slave. (Matt. 24:45-47) We can save ourselves and others much anxiety and grief if we modestly make decisions only when we have been granted the authority to do so.
12. (a) Why should we do research? (b) Explain how a person could do such research.
12 Do research. “The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage,” wrote Solomon, “but everyone that is hasty surely heads for want.” (Prov. 21:5) For example, are you considering a business proposal? Do not let emotion rule. Gather all the relevant facts, seek the counsel of those familiar with such things, and determine what Bible principles have a bearing on the matter. (Prov. 20:18) To organize your research, prepare two lists—one detailing the benefits, the other the liabilities. Before you make a decision, “calculate the expense.” (Luke 14:28) Consider the potential impact that your decision will have not only on your financial health but also on your spiritual well-being. It takes time and effort to do research. But by doing so, you may avoid making hasty decisions that lead to unnecessary anxiety.
13. (a) What assurance is found at James 1:5? (b) How can praying for wisdom help us?
13 Pray for wisdom. Our decisions will honor God only if we invite him to help us in making them. The disciple James wrote: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him.” (Jas. 1:5) There is no shame in admitting that we need God’s wisdom to help us make decisions. (Prov. 3:5, 6) After all, relying purely on our own understanding can easily misguide us. When we pray for wisdom and search out the principles in God’s Word, we allow holy spirit to help us discern our real motives for wanting to take a certain course of action.—Heb. 4:12; read James 1:22-25.
14. Why should we avoid procrastination?
14 Make the decision. Do not rush straight to this step before doing research and praying for wisdom. A wise person takes time to ‘consider his steps.’ (Prov. 14:15) On the other hand, do not procrastinate. A procrastinator may come up with outlandish excuses for not taking action. (Prov. 22:13) But he still makes a decision—he decides, in effect, to let others control his life.
15, 16. What is involved in implementing a decision?
15 Implement the decision. The effort we expend to make a good decision can be wasted if we do not follow through and vigorously implement it. “All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power,” wrote Solomon. (Eccl. 9:10) To succeed, we must be willing to allocate the resources needed to implement our decisions. For example, a congregation publisher might decide to pioneer. Will he succeed? He likely will if he does not allow excessive secular work and recreation to sap his strength and rob him of the time he needs to take care of his ministry.
16 The best decisions are seldom the easiest to implement. Why? Because “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) We must wrestle against “the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) Both the apostle Paul and the disciple Jude indicated that those who decide to honor God will have a fight on their hands.—1 Tim. 6:12; Jude 3.
17. When it comes to the decisions that we make, what does Jehovah expect of us?
17 Review the decision and make adjustments if needed. Not all decisions work out exactly as planned. “Time and unforeseen occurrence” befall us all. (Eccl. 9:11) Even so, Jehovah expects us to persevere with some decisions though we may encounter trials. A person’s decision to dedicate his life to Jehovah or to make a marriage vow is not negotiable. God expects us to live up to such decisions. (Read Psalm 15:1, 2, 4.) Most decisions, though, are less weighty. A wise person will from time to time review the decisions he has made. He will not let pride or stubbornness prevent him from adjusting or even reversing a decision. (Prov. 16:18) His prime concern is to make sure that his life course continues to honor God.
Train Others to Make Decisions That Honor God
18. How can parents train their children to make good decisions?
18 Parents can do much to help their children learn how to make decisions that honor God. A fine example is one of the best teachers. (Luke 6:40) When appropriate, parents can explain to their children which steps they themselves took to make a certain decision. They may also want to allow their children to make some decisions for themselves and then commend them when the decision works out well. What, though, if a child makes a poor decision? A parent’s first inclination may be to shield the child from the consequences, but doing so may not always be in the child’s best interests. For example, the parent may allow the child to obtain a driver’s license. Suppose the child were to break a traffic law and receive a fine. The parent could pay the fine. However, if the child is required to work to pay off the fine, he is more likely to learn to be responsible for his actions.—Rom. 13:4.
19. What should we teach our Bible students, and how can we do so?
19 Jesus told his followers to teach others. (Matt. 28:20) One of the most important lessons we can teach Bible students is how to make good decisions. To do so effectively, we must resist the urge to tell them how to act. It is much better for us to teach them to reason on Bible principles so that they can decide for themselves how to act. After all, “each of us will render an account for himself to God.” (Rom. 14:12) All of us, therefore, have compelling reason for making decisions that honor God.
^ par. 4 For a discussion of this subject, see the insert “How Do I View Blood Fractions and Medical Procedures Involving My Own Blood?” published in Our Kingdom Ministry of November 2006, pages 3-6.
How Would You Answer?
• Why do we need to learn how to make decisions?
• How might fear affect us, and how can we overcome our fears?
• What six steps can we take to make sure that our decisions honor God?
[Box/Picture on page 16]
Steps to Making Good Decisions
1 Avoid Being Presumptuous
2 Do Research
3 Pray for Wisdom
4 Make the Decision
5 Implement the Decision
6 Review and Adjust
[Picture on page 15]
An indecisive person is like a man in a rudderless boat on a stormy sea