Grocery shopping could be a much simpler process if there weren’t ten versions of the same thing for each product I want to buy. Every grocery trip I find myself standing in an aisle, holding a product in each hand, comparing labels and price tags, trying to decide which one is best. This one has only five ingredients and so many nutrients packed in one serving… But this one costs half the price… But this one has more inside one box… but this one would still cost less if I bought two boxes instead of one… But this one was recommended to me by a friend… I would be embarrassed by how long I stand in an aisle trying decide between cereal A and cereal B—but thankfully I know I’m not the only one doing it.
Choosing between products in the grocery store is probably the smallest of decisions we make, and the pros and cons lists aren’t conveniently before us in the form of labels and tags. We face decisions such as: What school should I attend? Who should I marry? Which major should I choose? When should I have children? How many children? Which house do I buy? What church do I attend? Which ministry do I serve in? Do I stay at home or find a job? Our list of decisions keeps pushing through every area of life like weeds growing up between the cracked concrete.
Decision-making can fill us with anxiety. What if I make the wrong choice? Sometimes we extend the necessary time to make a decision out of fear.
But what if I told you decisions shouldn’t cause us so much stress? What if I told you that as believers we have God’s Word as a perfect standard to bring our questions to? What if I told you that despite what you choose, it is still entirely in God’s hands? What if I told you that we are blessed with the gift of wisdom for the decisions that don’t have black-and-white answers? Would any of this relieve your anxiety, friend?
The Doctrines We Need for Decision-Making
There are two major doctrines that we need to set in our hearts to help us in making decisions:
The Sufficiency of Scripture
The sufficiency of Scripture declares that the Bible gives us all that is necessary for Christian life. The Bible defines sufficiency in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 by declaring the Bible as all we need for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, making us totally equipped for every good work. Psalm 19 similarly says that the Word is perfect, restores the soul, sure, right, rejoices the heart, pure, gives wisdom, and enlightens the eyes.
Believing that the Bible is sufficient doesn’t mean we believe the Bible is an encyclopedia, giving definitions and explanations on every single topic you could think up. While the Bible doesn’t tell you which college to choose, it enlightens our eyes to see the best decision. The sufficiency of Scripture says that God’s Word supplies us with the commands and wisdom we need to discern how to live in a godly fashion.
The Sovereignty of God
Being the Creator of the universe, God rules over all and he decides what will happen—in other words, he is sovereign. No one can change his mind. Our human hearts can easily be swayed by persuasive arguments or unsteady emotions, but God in his perfection is swayed by none. His sovereign will is decided within his faultless attributes—kindness, mercy, justice, love, grace, and holiness. Kings, rulers, angels, or demons cannot supersede God’s decree. The book of Daniel declares this about God’s sovereignty:
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34b-35 ESV)
Your life is not outside of his sovereign reach. You can have peace in your heart knowing that God is in full control of each event that takes place in your life. God did not create this universe and then sit back to watch it spin, but rather our loving and almighty God has control over each turn this earth makes.
So continue on in obedience. Stop worrying about the outcome—it is in God’s hands. And if this isn’t his will for you, rest knowing that you can’t mess up the will of God. He is the sovereign one, not you. If God has a different plan for you, he will make it happen. When Paul was doing his missionary work, he didn’t search for signs in the sky, but simply moved forward prayerfully. And when God didn’t want him to go, he prevented him (Acts 16:6-10). Trusting in God’s sovereignty, we can move forward in obedience and wisdom that we have gleaned from his Word.
Guide-Posts for Decision Making
With these two doctrines implanted in our hearts, here are five practical questions to ask yourself as you move forward in making a decision that honours God:
— Will it glorify God? Our purpose in life is to glorify God. Isaiah 40:7 makes this clear: “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
— Will it hinder my call to spread the gospel and make disciples? God has called us to be spreading the good news and making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Will the outcome of your decision prevent you from fulfilling that? Will it take away from your time in which you could be discipling others? Will it put you in a situation where you are prevented from telling people the gospel? If the outcome of your decision will hinder your ability to fulfill the Great Commission, you may need to reconsider.
— Will I be loving others? The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). If your decision is based on loving yourself more than your neighbour, you may need to evaluate. Or if the outcome of your decision will not be loving to your neighbour, it may be time to reconsider. God calls us to love one another, to the point of putting their needs before our own, becoming humble servants like him (Philippians 2:1-11).
— Is it wise? We all know the difference between a wise decision and a foolish one, so make sure yours is of the latter. Sometimes this will involve consulting with other wise people. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Talk to people who know you well, who are more mature, and who know Scripture well. Tell them about the decision you need to make and ask for their advice. Proverbs also says, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (28:26). True wisdom comes from Christ, not our own hearts and minds (Colossians 2:3).
— Is it obedient? Consult God’s Word. Is there any way your decision disobeys God’s commands? This is why knowing God’s Word is so important. Do not despise God’s commands when making your decision, but declare with the Psalmist:
In My Hands and In His
As we can see, there are two major circles here: The things I can’t control and the things I can—what’s to be left to God and what I am responsible for. I am responsible to exercise wisdom and discernment, but the outcome is left to God. He is sovereign, and I am to be wise. Sometimes these two confused—I try to control the outcome and desire to know the future. But that’s not my role. I am to trust God’s sovereignty and the sufficiency of his Word for making decisions. In the end, making godly decisions requires leaving sovereignty to God and striving for wisdom in the Word.