Decision Making - Session 9

Obey God and Do What You Want

Exploring Decision Making and God’s Will

Lesson 9

Wisdom and Decision Making



Thus far we have learned that there are some things that we just can’t know in advance. These things are held tightly by God who hasn’t chosen to reveal them to us. He has every right to do this. Thus, we ought to be content with not knowing. We must let God be God. We have called this God’s decreed will. It always takes place. We can not thwart it.


On the other hand, we have been introduced to the notion that there are some things about God’s plan that we can know. He has unveiled His will by means of statements and commands contained in the Bible that are not specific to us by name. This will, what we called His desired will, does not always take place. But we can know it. It is not secret. But can also ignore it.

Furthermore,  we also learned that the specific details of our own individual lives are part of God’s decreed will and as such can not normally be known in advance. Of course information about general categories of people of which we may be a part is contained in the Bible. Apart from this relationship with the decreed or desired will of God there is no discernible individual will of God.

Additionally, we leaned that God almost exclusively guides us by means of the all-sufficient Scripture. Acts of providence and inner impressions are real but in no case should we interpret them as certain messages from God that reveal His individual will for us in a given situation. We circumstances and events are real but we can not know for certain what God means by them. Our attempts to draw a cause and effect relationship is a guess unless God has also communicated His meaning.

So, where do we go from here? We still have to decide whether to take that job or not. And often, there is a deadline. I propose that we ought to assume the aforementioned foundational concepts and then apply wisdom to our decision making.

In other words, we can’t do anything about what we don’t and can’t know. And we must act on what we do know. That leaves us with dealing with matters about which God has not spoken specifically or has not spoken clearly or about which there are only implications. This is where wisdom becomes essential in decision making.

So let’s look at what DeYoung calls “A Better Way” (p 53). In short, he argues that if we simply do and follow God’s desired will for us everything else normally falls into place. This is the first step toward applying wisdom to making decisions about matters to which there is no clear word from God attached.

His initial thoughts are gathered under the heading “Don’t Worry; Seek His Kingdom” based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:25-34. Perhaps it is helpful to express this didactic with a broader statement something like…

1. Make the most important thing the most important thing

The imperatives “do not be anxious” form bookends to this passage (v 25,34) and thus identify the main thought. The argument is simple - as you observe how God manages the creation (the imperatives “look” v 26 and “observe” v 28) you should know that God will take care of you also; so no worries! Frankly this is elementary truth!  Rather than worrying, the wise response to life’s concerns is to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (v 33). In fact, “seek” is another imperative. The term is used here to mean more than mere discovery. “Pursuit” seems to be in mind such as when used elsewhere - Mathew 7:7, seeking God in prayer; Colossians 3:1, seeking things above; Matthew 13:45, seeking life; Galatians 2:17, seeking justification. So, the next meal pales in comparison to the next opportunity to pursue hard after God!

As it relates to decision making, the idea of Matthew 6 is to make God’s interest our greatest pursuit rather than pining for a clear word from Him about our latest decision dilemma. The former orients us toward God’s kingdom; the latter toward our own kingdom. And, the orientation is a reflection of our heart, indeed our priorities and motives. DeYoung makes this clear:

“He doesn’t call on us to seek a divine word before scheduling another semester of classes or deciding between bowling or putt-putt golf. He calls us to run hard after Him, His commands, and His glory. The decision to be in God’s will is not the choice between Memphis or Fargo or engineering or art; it’s the daily decision we face to seek God’s kingdom or ours, submit to His lordship or not, live according to His rules or our own.” (p 55).

DeYoung then cites four passages that specifically mention God’s will (p 56-60). I am gathering his thoughts under the following heading:

2. In your living always live Christianly


“God’s will for our lives” is biblical code for living like a Christian. Based on the the clear statements of Scripture we know for sure that God’s will for Christians specifically touches on the daily round of life. His will is that Christians…

  • Cultivate an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit  -  ESV  Ephesians 5:17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
  • Appropriately represent Him in the detail of daily life - Colossians 1:9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. 
  • Live joyfully, prayerfully, and gratefully - 1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus
  • Commit to purity - 1 Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.

So, if we live in light of these two didactics we will position ourselves to make good decisions by applying wisdom to decision making process. If are pursuing hard after God rather than fretting over discovering “His will” for every conundrum we face, then we enhance the possibility of making reasonable, rational, and wise decisions. In short, we begin by trusting God! Then we desperately need wisdom. But what is wisdom and how do we get it?


3. The golden nugget of decision making is Biblical wisdom

 

  • Make sure you know what wisdom is. You must be able to discern the fake from the real thing. You don’t want fools gold! True wisdom is connected to but not equal to knowledge and understanding. Biblical knowledge may be described as a correct understanding of who you are, who God is, what the world is. Wisdom is connected to knowledge in that it is the ability to apply that knowledge to the sundry circumstances of your life here on earth under the providential care of God. So, wisdom is the practical outworking of knowledge or understanding. It is the difference between knowing how a gasoline powered engine works and being able to fix the engine in your car! Or, it is knowing that your friends’ marriage is in trouble but having no clue about how to help them apply Biblical principles so they can fix it.
  • A wise person is described by three different “wisdom” terms in Proverbs:
  • The discerning (בִ֑ין) refers to the ability to make distinctions or to consider matters and then separate things out (BDB 106). Thus this wise person is someone who observes, perceives and then makes decisions. He/she has understanding (often the KJV translation). For example, he/she weighs all possibilities (Prov 14:15) and listens and learns (Prov 1:5). 
  • The prudent (שָׂכַל) refers to attentively looking at a matter and being able to give insight our teach about the matter (BDB 908). He/she then is able to act accordingly. For example, he/she holds his/her tongue (Prov 10:19) and controls his/her anger (Prov 19:11).
  • The skillful (חָ֭כָם) refers to refraining from acting in an evil or foolish manner (BDB 3035). This wise person is crafty and shrewd and exercises skill so that he/she is free from defect. This is the most common word for wisdom in Proverbs. For example, the wise person listens and learns (Prov 9:9) and responds well to authority (Prov 16:14).
  • Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are key terms in Proverbs and appear together in 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding””. The general relationship between these related terms is as follows: knowledge is general information or data (Holiday 1880); understanding is insight or perception (TWOT 239c); and wisdom is good sense  or the skill to apply knowledge (Holiday 2525). 
  • The “fear of the Lord” is routinely connected to wisdom and knowledge in Proverbs. Simply put, to fear the Lord is to be so awed by Him that one revers Him (unpublished Practical Pointers from Proverbs, “The Fear of the Lord”). It is the key that unlocks true knowledge in that it is the beginning or basis of knowledge; knowledge is built on the fear of God (Prov 1:7).  It is also the both the key to wisdom and the product of wisdom (Prov 9:10, 15:33, 2:5).    
  • Make sure you know where to get wisdom. {DeYoung addresses this in “Way of Wisdom” (p 85)}. It is true that, when God has not clearly spoken in His Word, I should not seek for a direct personalized word from God; and I should not seek to discover the individual will of God for me; but I should make my decision by applying wisdom; then I must know where and how to get wisdom. 

 

  • There is wisdom in the Bible. Study it.  Proverbs is loaded with wisdom. As is Ecclesiastes and Job. Here is a suggestion: compile a catalogue of practical subjects addressed in Proverbs. Everything from money to child discipline to morality to speech and much more. Or just lay out everything taught in Proverbs about wisdom and foolishness.  
  • There is wisdom in the counsel of wise persons. Listen to them. However, choose your advisors carefully! Some starter qualifications might be: Does he/she model godliness? Evidence maturity in life choices? Have a good track record (and perhaps lengthy) of wisdom? Demonstrated commitment and service in a good Bible believing local church? Actually knows the Scriptures? Ability to apply Scripture to life? Controls the tongue?  If so, stand in line to get their input into your life including decision about which you struggle. 
  • Proverbs 19:20 Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days.
  • There is wisdom in God’s hand. Ask Him for it. The Bible is clear that wisdom belongs to the Lord and that it is available to people. In addition to James 1 (Lesson 8) note several encouragements to ask God for wisdom:
  • NAU  Proverbs 2:6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 
  • NAU  Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. 
  • NAU  Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever. 
  • NAU  Job 28:20 "Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding?… 28 "And to man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; And to depart from evil is understanding.”
  • NAU  Proverbs 2:10 For wisdom will enter your heart And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
  • NAU  Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 

 

Where the Rubber Meets the Road


Case Study (GF 512): “Two years ago Lisa and John Miller discovered they could not have any children. Last Tuesday she and her husband, John, told the members of their (and your) fellowship group, “We are planning to adopt a child, and we just know the Lord is going to work it out. By faith we are starting to buy baby furniture.” Several affirmed them. Your response was…

Case Study:

Special Revelation”

(The Christian Counselors Casebook p 52 Jay Adams)

“Now explain this to me again, Phil,” the counselor inquires. “Why did you quit your job?”

“Because the Holy Spirit told me to, “ responds the 23 year old fellow.

“An how did the Holy Spirit tell you?”

“He spoke to me. you know, I heard a voice. It always happens that way.”

“Well, I don’t understand. It’s never happened to me, and there is no biblical reason to expect that it would happen to you. But let’s quickly examine the results of this decision. Where do you live now?”

“Oh, I still live with my parents.”

“And how much do you pay them for room and board?”

“I can’t pay them anything now, because I don’t have a job. I’m trusting the Lord.”

“You mean you’re trusting the Lord to get you a new source of income?”

“No, I’m trusting the Lord to provide for me and to take care of me. He told me to spend my time witnessing downtown, so that’s what I do. I study the Word and witness - You know, like the apostles in Acts 6. The Lord called me to it.”


What do you need to communicate to this young man?


Do you first deal with the results of his decision or his decision making process?


Assignment: None

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.


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