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In my initial writing on decision making, I focused on the value of having an established process. Generally speaking, decision making is about what is most important to us. My prayer is that God holds that position in your life.
Before I address a “process” for decision making, however, let me reinforce what determines if a decision is “good or right”. For followers of Jesus, the outcome of any decision will reflect faithfulness to the instruction of the whole of Scripture. In addition, it will agree with His stated will for our lives, and ultimately bring God glory. Choosing to navigate our lives outside of these guidelines results in our decision making likely being based on our own will and desires. Unfortunately, this allows us to make a case for anything we choose.
A Litmus Test for Good Decisions
I advocate for choosing a life of discipleship to Christ as the foundation of decision making. Conversely, decisions that only satisfy our desires for pleasure, comfort, or ease do not produce such a life. I’m NOT saying that decisions to enjoy vacations, golf outings or travel are wrong. Such things should, however, line up with God’s purpose for our lives and be kept in their proper measure.
As an example, dear friends of mine recently purchased a second home. It will unquestionably provide them a place for rest and relaxation. However, such enjoyment will not prevent them from the ongoing ministry they have in the lives of many. If they had purchased it to be able to play shuffleboard and work on their tans, I would have questioned their decision. But because I know their priority to serve God will not be hindered by this decision, I encouraged them to buy it.
How do You Approach Decisions?
I believe that when we view our lives as living sacrifices and devoted followers of Jesus, both the purpose for and process of decision making becomes clearer.
In Part 1, I touched on the many things that drive our decisions. Things like our senses and emotions. But recognizing these “drivers” is only a start. For that reason, a great first step in the decision making process is to delve much deeper to truly understand yourself. Here are a few areas I suggest for exploration and reflection:
- Understand the dynamics of your family of origin and its impact on you. What tendencies do/did you see in your parents, and how are you similar? What do/did they do well or not well? What traits do you have in common?
- As a seasoned adult, are you a practical individual or an emotionally based responder?
- Are you compulsive, act out, or decide things on the spur of the moment?
- Are you a dreamer, prone to imagining things not very likely to occur?
- Are you fearful or risk averse?
- Are you money motivated, always counting the cost?
- Are you prideful and unlikely to change your mind once you’ve set it?
- Are you stubborn and want what you want?
Hopefully, through age and maturity, we continue to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves throughout our lives. Regardless, I encourage you take the time to truly understand the “you” you bring into the decision-making process. Clearly knowing your abilities and limitations will help guide your decisions in valuable ways.
A Decision Making Checklist
When the time for decision-making comes, it is best accomplished by thoroughly addressing all the details related to the issue. Here is a list to get you started:
- What is the spiritual benefit? Spiritual loss or unknown?
- What is the health benefit or risk?
- What is the cost of the decision and its effect on your budget?
- What goodbyes will be necessary by making this choice?
- What are any added benefits of this decision?
- How will this impact church relationships?
- How will this impact your family and friendships?
These are just some of the questions we should be asking God and asking ourselves.
At this stage of life, many of us have had opportunity to acquire an understanding of Scripture and an ability to discern God’s will. Furthermore, we likely have good, godly friends, who aren’t afraid to tell us the truth even when it is hard. If this is not your experience, it is never too late to begin and to incorporate all three into your decision-making process.
Counting the Cost
Friends, bad decisions produce horrible results that can impact the rest of your life. Fair decisions, those made with insufficient prayer, counsel, or analysis, bring questionable results. But good, sound decisions bring fruitful and lasting results. Results that bring pleasure and satisfaction that can last the remainder of your life. These types of decisions take:
- Biblical Consideration
- Godly Advice
- Analysis (timing, cost and consideration of the future)
In summary, good decisions require much time and effort. And the effort it takes to include all these things, and ensure our emotions don’t dictate an outcome, is of immeasurable value.
Philippians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV). Consider this: It is not an accident we are called to give thanks while making requests of God. I believe it serves as a reminder to be thankful and content with what He’s given us. It’s a reminder to ask with open hands and hearts, for sometimes the wisest, God-honoring decision must be a “no” to what we would prefer. But be assured that it is ultimately with this heart of submission that He WILL make known to us the paths of life (Psalm 16:11, paraphrase).