Obey God and Do What You Want
Exploring Decision Making and God’s Will
Making the Decision - the Template
I present the following observations and concepts that I have not directly addressed or only been mentioned in passing in our study. Some have been assumed. Nonetheless, I believe them to be helpful in the decision making process.
- God honoring decisions can only be made by those who are genuine believers. Unfortunately, genuine believers also can make awful decisions. It is also true that non-believers can make good decisions. In fact, we might be able to learn specific strategies from them. However, these decisions are good in a limited temporal sense only.
- Pastoral care and the community life of a congregation are valuable elements to good decision making. We are in it together. We can help one another. The church is central to God’s plan for this era. Within reason, we must not only submit to our spiritual leaders but we must value them as well. NAU Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.
- If we focus on doing what we know God’s wishes for us are, everything else will take care of itself. As a matter of fact, if we accomplish God’s desired will for us we can be certain that God is pleased. NAU John 14:21 "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." (cf Smith p 11). And in so doing, we accomplish His decreed will.
- God says you must marry only another Christian. That is his desired will.
- However, he does not give you a name! But, the name is already in His file. He just doesn’t tell you.
- And, He expects you to make a choice. It is His desired will for you that you choose. You are not to waste time trying to figure out the name in His file.
- So, you choose. And your choice matches the the name in His file. That is part of His decreed will. Of course, you couldn’t know it in advance.
- And, if you followed His desired will that you marry only a Christian you are “in” His will. Even if your choice ends up messy.
- Because we must know what God has spoken in order to make good decisions we also must know how to accurately interpret the Bible. NAU 2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (There is debate among evangelicals as to what “accurately handling” looks like hermeneutically).
A Model for Making a Decision
DeYoung (chapter 9) suggests an excellent decision making model that is applicable for making the big decisions of life. As examples, he fleshes how to decide on a job and choosing a spouse by means of a four step process:
“Step One: Search the Scriptures”
“Step Two: Get wise counsel”
“Step Three: Pray”
“Step Four: Make a decision”
At the risk of overkill, I suggest a similar but slightly expanded model. Remember, this (nor DeYoung’s) is not a Biblically prescribed model. There is nothing spiritual about this proposed model. Nor does it necessarily cover all contingencies. It simply seems to fit the the concepts and principles derived from Scripture and wisdom that we have been uncovering. And admittedly, this model is likely to be of use primarily in more complex or significant choices rather than routine ones such as what to wear today. The template is as follows:
- Clarify the decision to be made. Make sure you actually know what the issue or question is. It is easy to deal with a surface issue and miss the larger underlying issue. (An example: the immediate issue may be how to educate your first child, a five year old, next year. But do you need to also ask what your larger view of educating children is? Certainly the first issue can be decided before deciding the second, but both are significant and must be addressed.) So, gather lots of data - (NAU Proverbs 18:13 He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.)
- Pray. At the onset, tell God that you want to make a good decision and ask for His help. Let Him know you are committed to his glory regardless of how it turns out. (Continued example: your children belong to the Lord, you are just managing their affairs)
- Ransack the Bible. The foremost question you must answer is, “has God spoken”? Again, pray that you will accurately determine Biblical teaching. It might be good to ask the Holy Spirit to illumine the Scriptures to you. Again, gather data. You want a full plate of data.
As you search the Scriptures you should look for two things. First, is there any explicit Biblical teaching regarding the issue? If so, make the decision accordingly. Your search is over.
Second, if you can find no explicit teaching about the question at hand, determine if are there any related principles that should be viewed as direct teaching about the issue or are there any implications that carry the weight of prescription. If so, make the decision accordingly. Your search is over. If not, proceed to the next step. I offer a warning: be especially careful with this. It is easy to mistakenly view an implied teaching for an explicit one. What you think is a valid implication with prescriptive weight may be viewed differently by others. Thus, readily extend grace. (Continued example: you realize the Scripture holds you responsible for training your children but does not specify the exact method.)
- Pursue wisdom. God has not spoken to the issue and thus you have freedom to make whatever decision you prefer. In fact, it might even be that you have several valid options. In any eventuality, you must make the decision based on wisdom rather than Biblical fiat.
So again, get lots of pertinent data. Among other things you should ask wise questions, many of which are suggested in the Bible. Some might be: “Will the gospel be impeded? Will the results be good? Will it look right? Will God be glorified? And many more - see numerous sources for suggestions.
Be reminded that it is normally wise to make decisions keeping in mind your innate or learned abilities and your basic disposition. God has wired you in certain ways and has controlled all the circumstances that have molded you into the person you are. Consequently’ chances are that you would be ill advised to pursue a career in accounting if you failed basic math.
I suggest three actions: First and again, you must pray. This time ask God for wisdom. Second, this is also the time to seek counsel from wise and spiritually mature believers. Select “wisely”! And third, search the Scripture for wisdom bits related to this issue. (Continued example: you discover that Proverbs is loaded with a father’s instructions to his son.)
- Write it. Draft a pro/con list. Include everything that has surfaced from your wisdom search. When making this inventory make sure to assign weights or values to each factor. Some factors will be more germane or important to you. The column with the greater number of factors may not be the winning column! Then pray again. Ask God to bring to your mind anything you may have left out or wrongly weighted. (Continued example: your list reveals that there are several valid educational options open to you but many may not be feasible).
- Make the decision. Just jump into the deep end. Humbly tell God you are willing to change the decision if the decision turns out badly (if a change is possible). After the decision is made, trust God for the outcome whether the decision turns out well or not. Don’t fret the small stuff! God is still in charge.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Is He the One?
Several months ago, Rachel, a vivacious 24 year old teacher, had sought you and your husband’s advice regarding “uncertainty about marriage” with which she was struggling. Even though she “just knew” that James, a 25 year old sometime student was the one for her, doubts surfaced from time to time. So, she came to see you. As you explored their relationship you discovered several facts:
1. They first met while on a short term missions trip in another state and had been seeing each other for 18 months.
2. She was a relatively new believer but demonstrated a zeal for spiritual growth; he thought himself to be a spiritual leader but lacked basic Bible knowledge. His church back home was on the verge of “licensing" him to preach.
3. She was compliant; he was domineering. You noted that when they were together he normally did all the talking.
4. He carried $50,000 in school loans and consumer debt; she was financially stable and lived with another like minded teacher.
5.She was raised by professional parents in the city; he grew up in rural poverty.
6. Her parents were opposed to the marriage as was her roommate.
In spite of these realities and occasional doubts, she was convinced that James is God’s choice for her. He was the only one she should marry. And besides, she loves him!
After numerous sessions with them individually and together, you have determined that it is time to get to the bottom line. They both sit before you. What do you say?
The Job Offer Seems Right but…
Matthew, a 35 year old active member of your church, asks to see you about a job opportunity he is weighing. After catching up on the current fate of the Yankees, you ask him to tell you all about the job offer. Between his narrative and your questions several pertinent factors become apparent. He did not seek a job change; rather his previous boss, now with another company, contacted him. The position being offered would mean a move to another state an increase in salary, new and challenging responsibilities, a generous buy in option, standard medical benefits, acceptable hours, and a family friendly corporate culture. He had already checked out churches, schools, real estate, and infrastructure of the new city. His wife was on board. His four young children are worried about leaving their friends but otherwise okay. And her parents are pleased because they would be closer to the grandkids.
“Pastor, I just want to do the right thing. Everything checks out; it does seem like a good move. However, this is a major deal for me and my family. I don’t want to blow it. My wife is counting on me. How can I know for sure?”
Well, Matthew, here are a few thoughts…
Discussion: Respond to DeYoung p 107, “Is This the One?” Why is it difficult to embrace this view? Or is it?
Assignment: Bring a case study you’d like to have the class discuss. Bring questions for a Q/A session.
© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.
Posted on Sun, June 19, 2016
by Joe Flatt filed under