It's God's Decision
Categories: Guidance, Obedience
Sometimes it's hard to make decisions, even if the decisions are small ones. So, how do you make the best possible decision in every case? Here are some general points to keep in mind:
- We are confronted daily, moment by moment, with the need to make decisions. Avoiding them does not make it any easier. So, we must prepare ourselves mentally to make decisions.
- Often the right choice is not always the easy or popular choice.
- Sometimes we're faced with a decision not between "good" and "bad," but between two "goods."
- It's important to discern between significant and relatively insignificant decisions. Deciding what movie to see is not as important as what to do over summer break, which is still not as important as deciding what college to attend or what job to take, neither of which is as important as deciding who to marry (which is one of the two most important decisions we make in our lives, the other being how to raise children).
- Realizing what's really important helps to free us from worthless worry and allows us to focus our time and energy on making good decisions regarding that which will make a difference in our lives. This does not mean that we have more time to "worry" about the major decisions; it just allows us to focus and not get distracted.
- Maintaining a calm, clear, trusting, joyous attitude will enable us to make the best choices, regardless of the significance of the decisions we're facing. If we're stressed, fearful, overwhelmed, or depressed, we simply don't think as clearly, and we definitely aren't listening to God. If we make choices out of fear, we are not making the best choices.
- We have to keep praying even after we've made what we think is the best decision. This does not mean that we should be fickle and keep changing our minds. It means that sometimes it becomes clear that a situation we thought was right is not.
- One of the best ways we can know if we have made the right decision is to consider whether or not it blesses everyone involved, not just ourselves.
So how do we get rid of fear and find a sense of peace when we're faced with what we consider to be a challenging decision?
- Understand that decisions are really opportunities to see God in action.
- Realize that God's plan for us is infinitely greater than anything we could ever plan ourselves.
- Trust that God won't let us make the wrong decision and do something that doesn't bless us or others.
Human reasoning only takes us so far. We can list all the pros and cons of a situation and still not be clear as to which direction to go. That's why it's so important to get ourselves out of the way and let God do the work: "Let go, and let God!" The Bible teaches:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Prov. 3:5, 6)
This proverb does not say that God "might" direct our paths; it says that "he shall." God indeed directs everything we do. We run into trouble when we forget or ignore this truth and try to outline our lives based on our limited human view. If we really want to make the best decisions, then we need to let the best decision maker in the world make the decisions for us -- God. God knows what is best for us. Therefore, we need to yield to God's will. While sometimes yielding to God seems really scary, it's the ONLY way to guarantee that we make the "right" decision.
Here are four steps that will ensure that we make the best decisions:
- Let go of any pre-planned opinion about the decision -- the process and outcome.
- Listen to God's voice telling us what to do, showing us His plan.
- Obey God's directive -- whatever it may be.
- Follow through with continual prayer. Why?
- Decisions and their outcomes are ongoing.
- What may be right for one moment may not be right for another.
- If, perchance, we ignored God's voice and made the "wrong" decision, we want to be able to hear God telling us what to do to make it "right."
- It's never too late to make the right decision.
In order to make the best decisions, to "let go, and let God," to hear and obey God's voice, we have to silence our own personal voice and will. How? There are two qualities of God that enable us to execute these four steps -- humility and courage.
Humility encourages us to let go and listen. Humility dissolves self-will, ego, and pride. When we are humble, we are willing to let go of personal opinions and wills in favor of God's truth and divine will. Humility opens us up to divine strength, whereas pride blinds us and keeps us from seeing and understanding what God has in store for us.
The story of Naaman, a Syrian captain who had leprosy (a skin disease), reveals the danger of pride and the power of humility. Naaman desperately wanted a healing, but he had a lot of pride and human opinions. When the prophet Elisha told him to wash in the Jordan River, Naaman was angry. He declared:
Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. (II Kings 5:11)
His servants, though, pointed out his need for humility when they responded:
My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? (II Kings 5:13)
When Naaman swallowed his pride, got his own will out of the way, stopped outlining, humbled himself before God, and obeyed what he was told to do, he was healed. It doesn't matter who we are or where we live, the same humility that opened Naaman to healing opens us to hear what we need to do to make the best decisions.
It takes a lot of courage to be humble and to obey what God is telling us to do, especially when God's directive seems difficult. More than anyone else in the world, Jesus had the courage to be humble and obedient. Throughout his life, Jesus had many decisions to make – which disciples to choose, when to reveal himself as the Messiah, what to say to people who were against him. But one of the hardest decisions for Jesus to make must have been the decision to face the cross. So what did Jesus do? He prayed. Jesus' prayer the night before he was arrested confirms his courageous humility:
Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will but thine, be done. (Luke 22:42)
It's not difficult to understand why Jesus wanted this "cup" removed. Who would knowingly chose betrayal and crucifixion, especially if one has the opportunity to escape death? Jesus. The Greeks had offered Jesus the opportunity to go with them and teach them (John 12:20). But Jesus made the conscious decision to stay with his own people and to face the cross. Why? Because that's what God told him to do. And Jesus had the courage to be obedient. Had he chosen to go with the Greeks, he would not have been crucified, and we would not have the resurrection or the ascension. What courage it took to give up his personal desires, face the cross, and follow God's will! Though the path was full of hardship (harder than most of us will ever face), the reward for Jesus' courage was great -- eternal life, not just for Jesus, but for all of us.
Jesus' humble and courageous prayer included the word, "nevertheless." I've always loved that word in his prayer. It didn't matter what torture he would have to endure, Jesus was willing to yield, to give up his life to God. If we truly want to make the best decisions, then we must honor God with our lives. We must be willing to pray, "[N]evertheless, not my will but thine, be done."
When we can honestly, humbly give God our lives and turn every decision over to God, then we will find an unequaled sense of peace and confidence that comes from knowing we are doing God's will. This may not be easy or pain-free, but obeying the decisions that God makes for us empowers us to do God's work, enriches our lives, and blesses the world.
If we want to make certain that our decisions are God's decisions, let's ask ourselves these questions:
- Did I truly get rid of my own will, my own opinions about what I want?
- Did I listen to God's voice, not my own?
- Is what I'm doing in obedience with what God told me to do?
- Am I still praying, still open to God's voice?
- Do I have a sense of peace about this decision?
- Does this decision bless me and everyone around me?