Every Day is Filled with Decisions
Sometimes we do things so frequently that we don’t really consider the impacts or frequency of those thoughts and actions. Each person faces multiple this-or-that decisions every day. Some of them are routine decisions based on habit or preference. We make decisions when we look at a menu, when we add or subtract events from our calendars, if we plan a family get-together, when we consider purchases or investments, and even what brand and flavor of toothpaste we buy.
Training For Wise Decision-Making
Kevin DeYoung recognized that many do not have a rational framework for making decisions. Many worry and are bogged down by their decisions or their inability to make decisions. He wrote a helpful book titled, Just Do Something, with a focus on finding and knowing God’s will and where that fits in our decision-making process.
But even for those who do not believe in God, there is often hand-wringing that is unnecessary for many if not most of life’s decisions. Part of DeYoung’s message is that we complicate many decisions, make them too difficult to execute, and sadly, include too many variables in the process. We want the best results, but we don’t realize that many choices are not life or destiny altering. As a result, our worries increase. We fear that we missed something or that we haven’t yet dug deep enough.
We also have an expectation problem. We have expectations regarding the results of our decisions that are colored by false views of what our lives could and should be like. DeYoung wisely notes, “If you think God has promised this world will be a five-star hotel, you will be miserable as you live through the normal struggles of life. But if you remember that God promised we would be pilgrims and this world may feel more like a desert or even a prison, you might find your life surprisingly happy.” – Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will, page 29.
There are some decisions we should delegate to others. We elect representatives to make decisions about policies and laws on our behalf, presumably for the good of society. We might delegate our financial decisions to others through a power of attorney document or by enlisting the help of an expert in a specific field. But this can be an unwise decision too!
For example, many trust an “expert” to help them make investment decisions. Sadly, they may pay a high price for the advice (both good and bad) and services that they receive. They feel this is rational because they are convinced that it is impossible for them to select investments on their own. It can be complicated. It becomes more complicated when we don’t know what matters. Some attributes of an investment are worthy of our careful examination, even if we have an adviser making buying and selling decisions for us. For example, we ought to know how much risk is involved in each investment and in similar investments. We ought to know the costs associated with each The first two theories of seeking God’s guidance are wrong. But there’s a problem with the third one as well. The problem isn’t with God. investment. These result in making a decision. What are we to do? What process or mindset do we need to have when it comes to making decisions?
Lessons for Today
For the Christian, it is: 1) important to understand how God provides guidance. How does he guide or lead us? 2) God is sovereign in his good plan for his children and powerfully able to complete his plan. 3) In contrast, we need to recognize that each of us is inclined to be selfish, self-serving and, at our core, sinful. We want what we see, and we want it now. 4) Finally, we need a framework for making decisions. Making good decisions by just winging it or by throwing darts while blindfolded is likely to end in disaster. I will handle the framework in a future post.
How God Provides Guidance
There are at least four views regarding finding and knowing God’s will and being guided by him. The first is that there is no God, or, that if there is, he is not involved in our lives. Therefore, I can make whatever decisions I want to make because I am god. The second is that God is playing hide-and-seek. His plan is a big secret and so we have to struggle and fight to determine what his secrets are. Thankfully, this is not the case. The third is that God “speaks” to me as an individual. This is the theory that I need to hear him in some mystical way. This might include dreams. I’d have a hard time with this one because the few dreams I remember are just nutty. Finally, God gives us his wisdom and truth in a concrete way so that we can know his will and be guided by him. This revelation includes creation (and how it works), the scriptures, and the Person of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 4:12, and Proverbs 2:1-6.)
Can we know our individual futures? No. We are never taught in scripture to ask God to reveal the future to us. Instead, we’re told to seek after God in His word and to seek wisdom. That’s how decision-making should normally work for the Christian.
The first three views for seeking God’s guidance are wrong. But there’s a problem with the fourth one as well. The problem isn’t with God. It is with you. It is with me. We are more inclined to view things through a distorted lens. Thankfully, God is sovereign. As a result, he has a plan for redeeming, protecting, restoring, and guiding his sheep.
I Want What I Want
As I prepare to teach the Old Testament book of Judges, the problem we all face is clearly on display. It is on display in every book in the scriptures. The problem is sin and sin blinds me. Therefore, my decision-making is corrupted by sin. I have to make decisions regarding righteousness. These are decisions where God has clearly said “you shall not” or “you must.” These are decisions with foundations in the ten commandments and in God’s mandate to love him and to love other people, both friend and foe. Sin corrupts my thinking because I can easily think that my choice is better than what God has prescribed.
Then there are decisions of judgment. Some decisions aren’t black-and-white. There are shades of gray. Even these decisions can be distorted by our sinful perceptions and motives. Advice from friends, even good friends, can be corrupted by sinful views. Some advice from even good people is bad advice.
Finally, there are decisions of triviality. Even here sin creeps in and colors or corrupts our decisions. We might think “this is no big deal” when, indeed, it is. If it is true that God guides us by wisdom and truth, then we have a problem. But there is hope. God reveals himself and he reveals his will.
Get the Foundation Right
When I teach someone how to invest it is usually about investing dollars in the stock market. But there are other far more important investments each of us must make. We have one brief life and we choose how it is invested. Have you invested in the things that do not last?
Jesus told his disciples to lay up treasures in heaven. That requires wise decision-making regarding relationships, work, family and serving others. Don’t make those decisions in a vacuum! Next time I will talk about the framework for making solid, wise, and focused decisions.