Exploring Decision Making and God’s Will
Foundations for Decision Making
The following is my shortened version of “Principles for Decision Making” by Garry Friesen. It is used by permission, Garry Friesen. Also my clarifications are noted in brackets [ ].
The full text can be found at gfriesen.net. The full text is an updated version of the Principles for Decision Making by Friesen and Maxson, 1984 which in turn is a booklet based on the book Decision Making and the Will of God, Friesen with Maxson, 1980 (2nd edition 2004).
Principles for Decision Making
The obvious question is, how is the Christian to learn what God wants him to do as he is confronted with life's decisions?
"God Has Spoken”
Throughout history, the ways that God has communicated His will to men have varied. Before there was any Scripture, God revealed His will through direct revelation. Usually the message was received by a single individual who would pass along to others whatever content God would instruct. The means of revelation included visions, angels, theophanies (manifestations of God in human form), or simply the audible voice of God (see Genesis 28:12-16; 32:1-2. 24-30; 35:1).
As God's special revelation was committed to paper (Exodus 17:14; 24:4; 34:27-28), His people had two sources to know His will. They had the Book (Joshua 1:8) and the additional instruction that God gave by further direct revelation (Joshua 1:1-9).
Over a period of some 1500 years, God's will was written down (2 Peter 1: 19-21). Finally, after God had revealed Himself fully in the human person of His Son, Jesus Christ (John 1: 14, 18), the Book we call the Bible was completed (Revelation 22:18-20). Since God's special revelation culminated in His Son, believers in this age possess in Scripture the full disclosure of God's will until the Second Coming of that same Son.
Accordingly, God has provided for us all that we need in order to make decisions that are pleasing to Him! (2 Peter 1:3). The purpose of this presentation is to summarize the teaching of God's Word on how we can make decisions according to God's will.
The Principle of Obedience
When the Bible speaks of God's will, it does so in one of two senses. The first of these we will call the [desired] will of God. [It] may be defined as [God’s commands and statements in the Bible that express His wishes and attitude regarding His creatures and creation.]
Accordingly, the Principle of Obedience may be stated: Where God commands, we must obey. The ramifications of this principle are more fully recognized when four crucial characteristics of God's [desired] will are brought into focus.
1. [It] is fully revealed in the Bible. One hundred per cent of what God wants us to know about believing and living to please Him He has already told us. The Bible is our final and complete authority for faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 1: 1-2).
2. [It] is the expression of the character of God (Romans 7:12). Because God's moral will reflects His character, it helps to produce that same character in the life of the one who obeys it (Luke 6.35-36) and leads to fullness of life (Psalm 19:7-11).
3. [It] touches every aspect and moment of life. That is true because God's will encompasses more than overt behavior. For God is not concerned simply with what we do; He cares equally about why we do what we do, as well as how we do it…. To sum up: It is because God's [desired] will prescribes our goals, attitudes, actions, and perspective that it touches every aspect and moment of life.
4. Since the [desired] will of God contains His complete revelation for faith and life, expresses God's own character, and touches every aspect and moment of life, it is fully able to equip believers for every good work(2 Timothy 3:16-17). Our response to such abundant guidance from God should be obvious. First, we need to learn what God has said (Joshua 1:8). Second, we need to do what God has said (John 13:17). As one observes the decision-making practices of people, one is forced to the sobering conclusion that the greatest impediments to making good decisions are ignorance of God's Word and stubborn resistance to God's will (Proverbs 16:25; Acts 7:51).
The Principle of Freedom
It is obvious to the student of the Bible that God's [desired] will does not specifically address every decision we make.
The Principle of Freedom may be expressed as follows: Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose.
This principle asserts three things: 1) There are some decisions which have multiple options, any number of which may be acceptable to God; 2) the final decision made must not be in violation of God's [desired] will; and 3) God will not dictate to the believer what he must do - the individual is free to make the decision.
When we speak of freedom within the moral [ = desired] will of God, our terminology suggests a diagram. God's moral will can be represented by a circle. Whatever is commanded by God lies within the circle; whatever is forbidden by God is outside that perimeter. Within the larger circle of God's moral will is a smaller circle signifying an area of freedom where God has given no command.
[Examples of freedom of choice]
'If one of the unbelievers invites you, and you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you, without asking questions for conscience' sake' (1 Corinthians 10:27).
'Let each one [give] just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver' (2 Corinthians 9:7).
'A wife is bound as long as her husband lives, but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes. only in the Lord' (1 Corinthians 7:39).
In each of these cases, there is a clear line marking off the circle of God's moral will. The reality of an area of freedom is equally clear in each case. In the last passage, for instance, the moral will of God forbids marriage of a Christian to a non-Christian. But the choice of whether to marry and which particular believer to marry falls within the area of freedom. It is up to the individuals involved to make the decision and follow through on the commitment with the Spirit's strength.
[The principle of freedom assumes that believers will at times disagree over what are the better or best decisions regarding any given issue. In such eventuality all believers should embrace and permit others to embrace the Biblical teaching of Christian liberty. Simply put, it is anything that is not prohibited is permitted (Romans 6:12; 1 Cor 10;23 “All things are lawful…”). “Consequently, Christian liberty means that Christians are free to follow the dictates of their own conscience regarding “all things”; Romans 14:5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.”]
[So, the biblically driven believer begins with the the questions, “has God spoken”? If yes, the matter is settled. If no, then several additional questions with play into the decision making process - do I have doubts about the matter; will another believers conscience be violated; will the gospel be impeded; what will the results be; will it look right; and etc. - See more at: http://doulosnetwork.com/christian-liberty-in-real-life)]
The Principle of Wisdom
The other side of the coin is that freedom entails responsibility. If God is not going to dictate every choice we make, then believers are not only free to choose, we are required to choose. That raises a critical question: On what basis is the Christian to make his decisions in freedom areas?
That basis, in a word, is wisdom. And the Principle of Wisdom is: Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose. [See previous lesson on wisdom].
The standard of wisdom is proven by four lines of support.
First, The Old Testament teaches wise decision making by its Wisdom Books and examples of wise men….
The second line of defense for wisdom comes from Jesus. Jesus commanded His servants to be wise - "Be shrewd as serpents" (Matthew 10:16).
The third line of defense of the standard of wisdom is the example of the apostles. The apostles modeled wisdom in their decision making - "We thought it best" (1 Thessalonians 3:1).
The fourth argument for wisdom as the basis of decision making is the apostolic command. The importance of wisdom in decision making is emphasized by Paul in Ephesians 5:15-16: 'Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.'
The Principle of Humble Trust
Most of the biblical teaching concerning decision making relates the believer's choices to the [desired] will of God. God's [desired] will not only dictates what men must and must not do, but it also defines the sphere within which Christians have freedom and responsibility of choice. And it explains how that freedom and responsibility are to be exercised according to wisdom.
There is, however, another aspect of God's will that is found In the Bible and affects our decisions. We will call this category God's [decreed] will. Ephesians 1:11, for example, uses the term in this sense when it says that God "...works all things after the counsel of His will." God's sovereign will may be defined as [God’s plan that determines and includes everything in the universe (all events, circumstances, and creatures)… the decreed will of God is:].
1. Certain. It will be fulfilled.
2. Detailed. It is the ultimate determiner of all things (Ephesians 1:11), including which of our plans finds fulfillment (James 4:13-15).
3. Hidden except when revealed by prophecy. Man can only learn what it is after it happens (Deuteronomy 29:29).
4. Perfect. It is perfect in the sense that it will ultimately lead to God's greatest glory.
Since the [decreed] will of God cannot be known in advance (it is secret), it has no direct bearing on the activity of decision-making. On the other hand, since the sovereign [decreed] will of God ultimately determines whether and/or when our plans are accomplished, its reality should govern our attitude in decision making. Humble planning is the proper response to the sovereign will of God. Then, we trust in Him to work all things together for good. [James 4:13-16].
[This concept of the intersection of our decisions and God's decreed will should be encouraging for the the thinking Christian. Consider that even our most unwise decisions are never outside of God's control (his decreed will). Even our outright rebellious sinful choices are hemmed in by the circle of God's decreed will. Nothing at all escapes his sovereign control. Yes, it is true that we may make a mess of things by means of sin or foolishness, but ultimately all things, including our ridiculous decisions, will end in our good and God's glory.]
And in Conclusion
At the beginning of this presentation, we established that the goal of the Christian is to make decisions that are pleasing to God. What we have seen is that His Word establishes four principles for decision making according to God's will.
1. The Principle of OBEDIENCE: Where God commands, we must obey.
2. The Principle of FREEDOM: Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose
3. The Principle of WISDOM: Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose.
4. The Principle of HUMBLE TRUST: When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.
Above ©Copyright 2004-2005 Garry Friesen. Used by permission.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Sammy has asked to see you about “becoming a pastor”. After the expected pleasantries, you move the conversation along with, “So, you want to be a pastor. Great. Tell me about it” He shares how he has grown so much under the Bible teaching at the church that he now devours the Bible, looks forward to teaching junior boys every Sunday, enjoys shepherding his Small Group, and loves almost everything about the church.
But then he pauses and says, “But I’m really confused about ministry.” “How so?”, you ask. He squirms somewhat in his chair and then blurts out, “I don’t seem to have a ministry call. God does call people to ministry, doesn’t he? What does a call from God look like? How does it happen? And, how can I be sure it is God calling?”
You respond by saying….
I’m Here to Help
Near the end of her missionary report to your church, the missionary implored people to consider signing up for missions. She passionately suggested that everyone should be a missionary of one sort or another. She left the audience with this offer: “let me know if I can help you figure out if God is leading you into mission service or if you are having problems knowing what God’s plan for you is in missions. I can help.”
You are tasked to close the service. What concluding remarks might you have? You are also leading an missions committee interview with the missionary later in the day. Is there anything you might wish to say to her?
Delight in God; Get from God
Respond to the following true story: (names changed)
We are having a boy!!! And this is the story God has given us to share:
In July of 2012, we were asked by a very godly man if we knew what we were having … I responded, yes a girl. He asked, "do you desire a son"? I responded, "yes I do". He said, "Well if you delight yourself in the Lord, He'll give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4). I am very familiar with that Scripture, and l said "I will definitely be doing that" and thanked him for the kind word.
A year later on Aug 9, 2013 we were given a prophecy. We were asked if we had a son, we said no. The prophet then said, "There will be one, a son will come. A son will come and bring great healing to your house because of the pain of loss. Because of the pain, God says I am going to touch you and heal your broken heart." The prophet went on to say many other encouraging things that brought us great joy and filled us with a fiery passion to pursue the Lord even more than we presently were.
Upon receiving that word, we were wondering what the loss would be as both (Mia) and I had no pain in our lives at that time. We continued to pray about that prophetic word and wait on the Lord for the timing of it all.
Last September (2015), two years after receiving the prophecy about a son, (Mia) miscarried and we lost our child. Our hearts were broken over the matter, and yet we knew and had a peace in our hearts that the pain of loss the Lord was speaking about was definitely the miscarriage.
In January (2016) we found out that (Mia) was pregnant again and just yesterday the ultrasound showed that we are having a son! God is so faithful to His promises!
I believe God gave us this story to share it with others. We all have a story to tell, and He wants us to tell it. So the question begs, what is the significance or purpose of this story? To some, God is faithful to Keep His promises. To others, God still speaks prophetically through people. So pray, listen, and discern…
Assignment: Read chapter 9 textbook