“Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land;
I am weak, but Thou art mighty,
Hold me with Thy powerful hand”
– William Williams
Decision making is incredibly hard. People often look for some emotional response to find God’s will for their life, and often feel uncertain because of the subjectivity of it all. Is it the Holy Spirit, or your baked potato? How can you really know what God would have you to do? Here are seven questions to ask before making a decision.
- Is it sinful? (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
God is not leading you to cheat on your taxes, move in with your girlfriend, lie to your boss or gossip. Things that God plainly condemns in the Bible in black and white are never the will of God, no matter the emotions you drum up in yourself. On the flip side, if something is commanded (pray, read your Bible, share the gospel), you must do it no matter how you feel. God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105), so read the Bible deeply and widely. Get a feel for the big theological themes, and read with particular fervency when making a decision.
2. Have I prayed? (Philippians 1:9-10)
James 1:5-6 says that if we lack wisdom, ask God for it in faith and He will give it to us. Pray, not for a sign or a feeling, but for God to make you wise to understand the right choice. Biblical prayer is almost always based on identifying what God is doing, and asking to be a part of His promises. In the Old Testament, this was often asking for the protection of the patriarchs or for a child to be born to continue the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. Today, that means that our desire (prayer in the name of Jesus) should be for God to accomplish what He is doing in history now, which is making disciples of all nations. Have you cried out to God in an echo of that big picture.
3. Is my motivation sinful? (Romans 14:23)
It is possible to do the right thing with the wrong heart. A sinful heart contaminates everything it touches. It may be the right thing, but if it done in the wrong way, it is sin (2 Corinthians 9:7). If you got no credit, would it change your decision? If it hurt you personally, but advanced God’s Kingdom, would you still do it? Carefully examine your heart and try to understand what is drawing you to this course of action. A temptation does not mean a decision is wrong, but it does mean we should be cautious if we want our decision to please God (1 Corinthians 4:5).
4. How is my relationship with God?
Psalm 37:4-5 says that if your delight is in the Lord and your life is committed to Him, He will give you the desire of your heart. This is not a blank check, or a works-based relationship with God. It is the truth that loving someone changes us, remolding our priorities and desires. When God is my delight, the desires of my heart will be right, and He will delight in giving them to me. Is there any known sin in your life you of which you need to repent? Anything you already know you should be doing which you are not? Sin has a clouding effect. Draw close to Him, and it is easier to listen.
5. What do other godly people think? (Proverbs 24:6)
God did not make you to be alone, but to be in community. We are all imperfect and need other people’s strengths to balance our weaknesses. Go to wise, godly people and explain the situation to them. Then take this under serious consideration – especially if it is not what you want to hear (cf 1 Kings 12).
6. What seems wise?
Strange to us, over and over again in the Bible, we find people making decisions based on what they thought, rather than talking about being “led.” 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2 and Philippians 2:25-26 are good examples. God expects that, when you have used the Bible’s direct teaching and prayed, when you are walking with Him and careful to evaluate yourself, your thinking has been shaped by His Word. Then do what seems right.
7. What would you do if you trusted God completely? (Proverbs 3:5-6)
In Spencer Johnson’s classic little book Who Moved My Cheese?, Haw writes on the wall: “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” For Christians, we might ask a better question: “What would I do if I trusted God?” I would not sin and make excuses for it, because I know that God would bless me in His will. I would not “do evil that good may come,” because I trust that what God says is best. I would not be afraid, because I would know that I am never alone where God sends me. If you believe He is the King of the World, make your decision like it is true.
Within these boundaries, God has given us great freedom. Like Adam and Eve were free to eat of every tree but one, we may have a number of good options. If you feel a particular peace with one, take it, knowing that even if your emotions are deceived, the choice was still an acceptable one. I believe that as we walk with God more, our sensitivity to these minor course corrections grows. If, like Paul, God shuts some doors you want to take, move in a different direction, since He is sovereign. Above all, trust that, since it is God’s will, He both wants you to do it and know it. He loves you, and will use all things to make you more like His Son who died for you and lives for you.