Wise Words for the New Year 4. Making Wise Decisions
Proverbs 3: 5, 6
A large group of applicants showed up for a job interview. The first man was ushered in, and the HR manager began explaining the job to him: “We need someone who can make fast decisions, someone who can think quickly on his feet. Can you show me that you’re capable of doing that?” The young man immediately stood up, stuck his head out the door, and announced, “Okay, you guys. You can all go home…the job’s just been filled!”
How are you at making quick decisions? Are you good at deciding what to do? Do you ever get frustrated as you try to work out God’s will for your life?
“God wants you to know His will more than you want to know it and He takes personal responsibility to see that you discover it.”
10 Questions to Help Make Wise Decisions
1. What does the Bible say? To know the will of God, we must know the Word of God. While many of us struggle to discern what God wants us to do in specific situations, much of what He desires is already revealed in the Bible. From what we’ve learned in Proverbs this past month, God’s will is for us to revere Him and draw near to Him. It’s also God’s will we monitor our mouths in order to launch life instead of delivering death to people. Last week we looked at principles from Proverbs for husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, children, teens and young adults.
The first thing to do when faced with a decision is to ask what commands or prohibitions from the Bible apply to the decision you need to make. Proverbs 13: 13 “He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.” What parameters, promises or principles has God set forth in Scripture? Most of the situations we face are already dealt with in the Word of God. Proverbs 30: 5 “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
God has already revealed His general will for us in His Word. I wonder what God thinks when we plead with Him to reveal His will when we’re not living out the will He’s already revealed to us. Do I just want a view of God’s will, or am I committed to do God’s will? Here then are some clear statements from God’s Word regarding God’s will for us (there’s a lot more).
✓ Practice justice, be kind and walk humbly Micah 6: 8
✓ Don’t be conformed but be transformed Romans 12: 2
✓ Don’t marry a spiritually mismatched mate 2 Corinthians 6: 14
✓ Walk wisely and use your time well Ephesians 5: 15 - 17
✓ Be set apart and abstain from immorality 1 Thessalonians 4: 3
✓ Be thankful in all that happens 1 Thessalonians 5: 18
✓ Give what God has given to you Proverbs 3: 9, 10
✓ Do good even when bad is done to you 1 Peter 2: 15
✓ Delight to do the will of God 1 Peter 4: 2
✓ Repent and receive Christ 2 Peter 3: 9
Be careful about claiming God “told you” to do something that is in direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches. You should be very cautious about saying “God told you” to do anything. Do you really mean God spoke audibly to you? Sometimes I hear people say, “God gave me new revelation.” This is so dangerous!
The Bible alone is inspired, inerrant, authoritative and COMPLETE. If God said it in Scripture, that settles it. Don’t put words in His mouth that are not from His Word.
2. Have I persisted in prayer? Proverbs 19: 2 “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” In our hyper-connected culture of immediate gratification and instant answers, God’s way is for us to slow down and pray. Proverbs 21: 5 “The plans of the diligent lead surely to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” When possible, choose to pray and think for at least a day before making a decision.
Here’s a good prayer to pray from Proverbs 30: 7 - 9: “Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches; but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.”
3. Do I have all the facts? When faced with a decision, gather all the information you can. Proverbs 18: 13, 17 “He who answers before listening - that is his folly and his shame…the first to present his case seems right, until another comes forward and questions him.” Write down as much as you can so that you can visually see the pros and cons of an opportunity or decision that you are facing.
4. What are my motives? Proverbs 16: 2 “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit.” Do you have any blind spots? Is there a sin you haven’t confessed? Is Jesus occupying first place in your life? Are you willing to do His will, no matter what it is? Proverbs 3: 7 “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” It’s easy to do what sounds best or feels good only to end up in the ditch. Proverbs 16: 25 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” You might want to pray something like this, “God, this makes a lot of sense to me and I’m excited about it [or fearful of it], but I want to know what you want me to do.”
5. What do wise people think? When seeking God’s will, it’s wise to seek out the wisdom of the wise.
• Proverbs 11: 14 “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure.”
• Proverbs 12: 15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”
• Proverbs 19: 20 - especially helpful to those who are younger: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”
6. How is my past affecting me? Be careful about falling into past patterns or allowing an unholy habit to affect you. Proverbs 26: 11 “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” We often hear the phrase, “just follow your heart.” This might make for a good Disney movie, but Jeremiah 17: 9 - a dangerous way to live: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
7. Will this affect my integrity or jeopardize my witness? When faced with a decision, consider whether it will compromise your integrity or cause others to think less of Christ.
• Proverbs 10: 9 “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.”
• Proverbs 22: 1 “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
8. How will this decision enable me to revere and draw near to God? Proverbs 9: 10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Psalm 25: 12 “Who, then, is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.” 1 Corinthians 10: 31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Many of us have bought into the belief that God wants us to be happy, healthy and wealthy. This is a dangerous deception. God is committed to our holiness, not our happiness. In order for holiness to happen, sometimes He takes us through some pretty tough times.
9. What next step does God want me to take? God does not reveal what’s coming next week or next month or next year, but instead urges us to take the next step. Proverbs 6: 23 “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light…”
God led the Israelites for 40 years by sending the cloud by day and the fire by night. One reason God doesn’t reveal our entire future is because He wants us to trust Him moment by moment as we take one step of faith at a time. What’s your next wise step?
10. Have I surrendered to God’s sovereignty? It’s been said if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans! I need to be OK with whatever God says is for my benefit. Proverbs 16: 9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
There’s a simple reason God put Proverbs in the Bible – because We’re All Prone to Make Stupid Decisions!
Proverbs 3: 5, 6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”
This passage gives us 2 key responsibilities. We’re called to lean on the Lord and learn to love Him with everything we have. When we do, He promises to lead us. Our task is to lean and learn. When we do, the Lord will lead us. We could say it like this: When we lean on the Lord and learn from Him, He will lead us.
We often make knowing God’s will all about location (where should I be?) or vocation (what should I do?) when God is more about our transformation (who should I be?). “The question is not where are you going to go, but what kind of person are you going to be wherever you go?”
Finding God’s will is less about knowing a roadmap and more about growing in relationship with Him. Even after asking these 10 questions, we could still be confused. What do we do then? When we lean on the Lord and learn from Him, He will lead us.
1. Lean on the Lord
The word “trust” literally means, “to lean with the whole body.” To trust in the Lord is to rest your full weight on Him for deliverance and for direction. The title “Lord” is “Yahweh,” and focuses on God’s covenant-making and promise-keeping character. We’re called to trust the Unchanging One who can be counted on. Proverbs 29: 25 “…whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”
Notice we’re called to total trust and complete commitment: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” The word “all” means, “each, every, everything, the entire whole” and is used to refer to an offering to be burned completely. God doesn’t want half-baked sacrifices or half-hearted devotion.
The personal pronoun “your” is used 4 times in these 2 verses and is emphatic. Most of us think we can work things out on our own. But, if we’re serious about making wise decisions, we must fight against the internal inclination to trust what we think is best. Proverbs 28: 26 “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”
When we lean on the Lord and learn from Him, He will lead us.
2. Learn from the Lord
In “all your ways” is a command and means, “in everything you do, in every detail of your life.” The word “acknowledge” carries with it the idea of intimate communion and is used to describe the marriage relationship. We could translate it this way: “In everything you do, make sure you know the Lord intimately.” It’s the kind of knowing that only comes from personal experience.
We could state it simply: The will of God for your life is to know God and to give Him glory.
3. He Will Lead Us
Our responsibility is to lean and to learn. The Lord will then lead us: “…and He will make straight your paths.” The word “make” denotes intensity. God is committed to pull out all the stops and go to work when we lean on Him and learn to love Him.
In ancient Israel, people generally traveled to their destination by foot. Hilly and rocky terrain made the going difficult. Roads zigzagged between hills, making the journey even longer.
The word “straight” is the idea of making our paths plain. Life is like a journey that goes up into the mountains one day and swerves into the swamp the next. Sometimes the road is washed out or filled with perilous potholes. When we give God first place and trust Him totally, He will make our paths plain. Proverbs 16: 3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”