Whom should I marry? What career should I pursue? Should I go for more education? Should I take this new job? Where should we raise our children? What house should we buy? What church should we attend? How should we parent our children?
We face a thousand difficult decisions in our life. But how do we know we are making the correct decision?
Here is a simple survey of questions based on James 3 that I use when I make decisions.
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. -James 3:13-18
Here are the questions I ask myself:
- Which direction would promote good conduct?
- What is most meek? What is most quiet, submissive, gentle, and non-aggressive?
- Do I have any bitterness, jealousy, selfishness, or personal ambition in either direction?
- Where is the source of my reasoning for one way or another? Is it earthly wisdom, unspiritual reasoning, or carnal desires?
- Think through the possible outcomes. What direction might lead to disorder? Evil practices?
- What is the most pure direction I can go?
- What is the most gentle direction I can go?
- Have I been open to reason/counsel from others? Or have I only talked to people who might agree with me? When I looked for counsel, have I shared the whole situation, or only enough to get the counsel that I want?
- What decision will exemplify the most mercy and good fruit in my life?
- Am I impartial? Have I been able to truly step back and examine what is most God-honoring?
- Do I sincerely think this is the best decision?
Sometimes all of these questions will be applicable, but other times only a few will be applicable.
The world is ravaged by sin, which is one of the reasons why difficult decisions are difficult. Our own and other’s selfish desires and actions complicate decisions. Sometimes, there only seems to be a wrong way and more wrong way, but other times, there seems to be two right ways. How do enjoy that peace of God as we make difficult decisions in the middle of a sin-ravaged world?
“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” – Colossians 2:2-3
In Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In other words, the wisdom we need to make decisions are found in Christ. This means that, in a right relationship with Christ, we find the wisdom that we need to make good decisions.
The first step is to recognize and confess our own sinfulness. In our sinfulness, we not only are self-deceived about right and wrong, but we are living in open rebellion to God, who is our only hope to determine right and wrong. By faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for our sins, we have access to God the Father and to the wealth of knowledge about what is right and wrong. All wisdom is in Christ because through Christ we have access to the God of wisdom.
The struggle is that we lose our way, become distracted, and become numb to God’s wisdom. This grid of questions helps to slice through our sinfulness and self-deception so that we can determine the best decision to make.
We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. – Colossians 1:9-10