Some of us are natural decision makers. Our decisive natures allow us to make decisions quickly, firmly, and with confidence. Others of us prefer to slow down and take a little more time to make decisions. We want to weigh the pros and cons and try to eliminate as many negative consequences as possible.
Whether we make decisions quickly or through a thoughtful process, however, the influences behind our decision-making are often the same. Along the way, we gather the opinions of friends, family members, and circumstances. Our past experiences weigh in on future expectations. Our emotional, mental, and physical health sways our instincts.
But no influence is more profound than our spiritual health. Where is our relationship with the Lord? How well do we know and draw on His Word? What is our habitual response to the voice of the Holy Spirit?
When I look back over my life, I can see so many times when I thought I was making right decisions because all of my influences – including my husband, pastor, friends, and circumstances – confirmed those decisions. Often, those are the voices through which the Lord confirms His will. In my situation, though, the “wisdom” from those voices often opposed the guidance of the Lord. Unfortunately, I missed the truth because I allowed those voices to be louder than the voice of the Holy Spirit.
The sobering reality is that I truly wanted to make the right decisions. I hungered to obey the Lord and follow His instruction. But, I allowed my heart and mind to be filled with faulty theology and human opinion. So, what I thought to be well-informed influence ended up directing me toward bad decisions.
Today, I thank God for the grace He has shown in my life. Not only has He redeemed my wrong choices, He has shown me that I do not have to fear a life of poor decision-making. I can instead move forward with a confidence because He has provided the perfect guidance for making solid decisions. I simply must choose to follow that guidance.
So, how can we know that we are making the right choice and listening to the right voices?
A Disciplined Life
We often think of discipline as a negative thing. We compare it to punishment or, at the very least, a removal of all things enjoyable. But, in reality, it is the opposite!
Discipline is life-giving. When we choose a disciplined life, we are making the foundational decision that automatically points us in the right direction for all other decisions. We are choosing work over laziness, health over illness, productivity over wastefulness, and relationship over isolation.
1 Corinthians 10:31 gives us a beautiful foundation for discipline: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If we make God’s glory the goal of all of our actions, we cannot help but create a solid foundation for decision-making.
IMMERSED IN SCRIPTURE
This is second only because if we are undisciplined, we cannot accomplish truly immersing ourselves in Scripture. We are so blessed to have the Word of God at our fingertips. We can read it in print, on our computers, on our phones, and in a multitude of translations. Unfortunately, that availability has so spoiled us that we simply rely on being able to access Scripture when we think we need it rather than absorbing it into the very fabric of our hearts and minds.
Donald S. Whitney illustrates this well: “Imagine yourself in the midst of a decision and needing guidance, or struggling with a difficult temptation and needing victory. The Holy Spirit enters your mental arsenal and looks around for available weapons, but all He finds is a John 3:16, a Genesis 1:1, and a Great Commission. Those are great swords, but they’re not made for every battle.”¹
God, in His knowledge of what decisions we will face, has given us full access to His wisdom through His Word. Our responsibility is to read it daily, meditate and ponder upon it, and even commit portions of it to memory. It should live in us so fully that it invades every aspect of our thoughts, speech, and interactions. In that way, it becomes a tool through which the Holy Spirit works in our lives.
listening to the holy spirit
Again, this tool only works if we are utilizing the previous tools of discipline and immersion in the Bible. Without those tools, it is hard to hear the Holy Spirit. But, as we discipline our lives and become soaked in the Word, it becomes easier to automatically discern whether or not the advice of friends and mentors, the input of our circumstances, and the myriad of thoughts running around our minds are consistent with the voice of the Holy Spirit. He will never, ever contradict Scripture.
surrounded with solid teaching
As we grasp the Word of God for ourselves and discern the Holy Spirit’s voice, we will also learn to distinguish wise voices around us. It is critical that we always take what we hear in sermons, read in books, or receive through words of advice and compare them to the truth barometer that God has provided through His Word. Then, we gravitate toward those who consistently fall in line with true wisdom. We have to be careful to remain disciplined to return to the Word and to a heeding of the Holy Spirit first, because even the most godly of believers can make a mistake! But, the more we surround ourselves with solid, godly influences, the more we will have accountability to keep our decision-making process solid.
I would be lying if I said that confident decision-making is easy. It’s not! It requires hard work and determined discipline. But, when we put in that hard work, James 1:5 reminds us that making a confident, godly decision is as simple as asking: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”