“Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.”
1, 2. Do you like making decisions? How do you feel about some of the decisions you have made?
EVERY day we have to make many decisions. How do you feel about making decisions? Some people are eager to decide everything for themselves. They think that they have the right to make all their own decisions and do not like the idea of anyone else deciding for them. Others are afraid of making important decisions. Some look for advice in books or from counselors and even spend a lot of money to get the help they think they need to make decisions.
2 Many of us realize that although there are some decisions we do not have the right to make, there are many personal decisions we can make in life. (Galatians 6:5) However, we probably know that not all the decisions we make are wise or beneficial.
3. What directions do we have to help us make decisions? Why is it not always easy to know what decision to make?
3 As servants of Jehovah, we can be happy that he has given us clear directions about many of the important matters in our life. We know that if we follow his directions, we can make decisions that will both please Jehovah and benefit us. But the Bible does not provide directions for all problems or situations. How should we decide what to do when that happens? For example, the Bible says that we should not steal. (Ephesians 4:28) But some say that it is not always wrong for a person to take something that does not belong to him if it is not very valuable or if he really needs it. How do we make a decision when some say that there is no clear direction on what to do? What is there to help us?
MAKE YOUR DECISION WITH A SOUND MIND
4. What advice do we sometimes get when we have to make a decision?
4 When we tell a fellow Christian that we have to make an important decision, he might tell us to make the decision with a sound mind. That is good advice. The Bible gives us this counsel about not rushing to make a decision: “Everyone that is hasty surely heads for want.” (Proverbs 21:5) But what does it mean to make a decision with a sound mind? Does this simply mean that we should think carefully about the situation, be reasonable, and try to understand all the facts before we decide? All of this is important, but there is more to having a sound mind.
5. Why do we not have a perfectly sound mind?
5 None of us are born with a perfectly sound mind. Because all of us are sinners and are imperfect, we do not have perfect health or perfectly sound thinking. (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:23) Also, many of us were “blinded” by Satan until we learned about Jehovah and his standards. (2 Corinthians 4:4; Titus 3:3) So even if a person thinks for a long time before making a decision based on what he thinks is good and reasonable, he may still make the wrong decision.
A person could think a long time before making a decision but still make the wrong decision
6. What can help us to have a sound mind?
6 Though we are imperfect, Jehovah, our heavenly Father, is perfect in every way. (Deuteronomy 32:4) He has given us what we need to change the way we think and to learn to have a sound mind. (Read 2 Timothy 1:7.) As Christians, we want to think, reason, and act in a sensible way. So we need to learn to control our thinking and feelings and imitate the way Jehovah thinks, feels, and acts.
7, 8. What experience shows that we can make a good decision even when we are being pressured or are having problems?
7 Here is an example. It is common for some immigrants to send their newborn babies back to their relatives in their home country. In this way, the parents can continue to work and make money in their new country. * (See footnote.) One woman had a lovely baby boy. About that time, she started to study the Bible and to apply what she was learning. Her friends and relatives began telling her and her husband that it was the custom to send babies back home so that the grandparents could raise them. But the wife was learning in her study that Jehovah had given her and her husband the responsibility to raise their child. (Psalm 127:3; Ephesians 6:4) Should she follow the custom because everyone else thought it was the right thing to do? Or should she apply what she was learning from the Bible, even though it would be difficult to live with less money and others might criticize her? What would you have done if you had been in that situation?
8 The young woman was under stress because others were pressuring her. So she prayed to Jehovah about how she felt and begged for his direction. As she talked to her Bible teacher and others in the congregation, she started to understand what Jehovah thinks about this situation. She also realized that it could damage her son emotionally if he was separated from his parents as he was growing up. After thinking carefully about what the Bible had to say about her situation, she decided that it was not right to send the baby away. When her husband saw how the members of the congregation were quick to help them and how happy and healthy the baby was, he accepted a Bible study and began to attend the meetings with his wife.
9, 10. What does it mean to have a sound mind? How can we have a sound mind?
9 That is just one example, but it shows that there is more to having a sound mind than just doing what we think is reasonable or what others think is best or easiest. Our imperfect mind and heart can be like a watch that is going too fast or too slow. If we trust the watch even when it is wrong, we can have big problems. (Jeremiah 17:9) To avoid having problems, we need to make sure that our thinking and feelings are guided by God’s standards.
We need to make sure that our thinking and feelings are guided by God’s standards
10 We find this wise counsel in the Bible: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6) Note that it says “do not lean upon your own understanding.” Then it says to “take notice” of Jehovah. He is the only One who has perfectly sound thinking. So whenever we have to make a decision, we need to look in the Bible to find out what God thinks about the situation so that we can decide the way he would decide. If we want a sound mind, we must imitate Jehovah’s way of thinking.
TRAIN YOUR PERCEPTIVE POWERS
11. What does a person need to do to make wise decisions?
11 It is not easy to learn to make wise decisions and then do what we have decided to do. This can be especially hard for those who are newly baptized or who are just now making progress in the truth. But it is possible for them to make real progress. The Bible calls them ‘babes’ because they are like infants who are learning how to walk. An infant learns to walk by repeatedly taking small steps. Those who are learning to make wise decisions do something similar. The apostle Paul said that mature people are “those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” The words “through use” and “trained” both show that we need to make continuous effort. So new ones need to continue making efforts to learn to make wise decisions.
12. How can we learn to make wise decisions?
12 Each day we must make many decisions. They can be big or small. Some who did research on how people make decisions said that we make almost half of our decisions based on our habits and not based on careful thinking. For example, every morning you have to decide what to wear. It may seem that this is a small decision and that you do not have to think a lot about it. However, it is important for you to think about whether what you wear is what a servant of Jehovah should wear. (2 Corinthians 6:3, 4) When you shop for clothes, you probably think about the style of clothing that is popular. But do you also think about whether the clothing is modest and whether you have enough money to pay for it? Making good choices in smaller things can help us to train our perceptive powers. If we do this, it will help us to make right decisions in areas that are much more important.
HAVE A STRONG DESIRE TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT
13. What will help us to do the things that we have decided to do?
13 Even when we make the right decision, it is not always easy to do what we have decided to do. For example, some want to stop smoking, but their desire to stop is not strong enough to help them succeed. We need to have a strong desire to do the things that we have decided to do. Some say that we can strengthen this desire in the same way that we strengthen a muscle. The more we use a muscle or exercise it, the stronger it becomes. If we do not use the muscle often, it will get weak. What can help us to strengthen our desire to do the things that we have decided to do? We need to rely on Jehovah for help.
14. Why did Paul have the strength to do what he knew he should do?
14 Paul knew that it was difficult to do what was right because of his own experience. He once said that he wished to do “what is fine” but that this was sometimes difficult for him. He knew what he wanted to do or what he should do, but he was sometimes not able to do it. He confessed: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.” But he had good reason for hope. He said: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:18, 22-25) He also wrote: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”
To please God, we have to decide to do what is right and then be determined to do it
15. Why do we need to be determined to do what is right?
15 To please God, we need to decide to do what is right and then be determined to do it. Remember what Elijah told the Baal worshippers and the apostate Israelites at Mount Carmel: “How long will you be limping upon two different opinions? If Jehovah is the true God, go following him; but if Baal is, go following him.” (1 Kings 18:21) The sons of Israel knew that they were supposed to worship only Jehovah. They were “limping upon two different opinions” because they were trying to worship both Jehovah and Baal. Joshua was very different. Years earlier, he told the Israelites: “If it is bad in your eyes to serve Jehovah, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . As for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.” (Joshua 24:15) What blessing did he and those with him receive? They were allowed to enter the Promised Land, which was “a land flowing with milk and honey.”
IF YOU MAKE WISE DECISIONS, YOU WILL BE BLESSED
16, 17. What benefits can come to us when we decide to do what Jehovah wants us to do?
16 One newly baptized brother and his wife have three small children. His job does not pay very well, but he chose it so that he could have the weekends off to attend the meetings and be in the ministry with his family. One day, a workmate suggested that he and the brother move to another company that paid more money and would give them other benefits. Our brother thought and prayed about the decision. He realized that it would probably be a long time before he could have the weekends off if he took the new job. What would you have done?
17 After thinking about how this decision would affect his relationship with Jehovah, he did not accept the job that paid more. Do you think that later he was sorry that he made this decision? No, he was not. Instead of thinking only about getting more money, he felt that it was more important for him and his family to be able to draw close to Jehovah. The brother and his wife were very happy when their ten-year-old daughter said that she loved her parents, loved the brothers and sisters, and loved Jehovah very much. She said that she wanted to dedicate her life to Jehovah and get baptized. She benefited from her father’s good example of putting Jehovah’s worship first in his life.
18. Why is it important to make wise decisions every day?
18 Just as Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness, Jesus Christ has been leading God’s people through Satan’s system for many years. It will soon be destroyed. And just as Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, Jesus will lead his followers into the promised new world, where righteousness will be found. (2 Peter 3:13) Since that day is so close, it would be unwise for us to return to our old thinking, habits, standards, and goals. We need to understand even more clearly how God wants us to live. (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 13:5) Make wise decisions and choices, and be the kind of person Jehovah will bless forever.
^ par. 7 Another reason that some send their babies back home is that the grandparents can show their new grandchildren to friends and relatives.