You make a ton of decisions every day. What are some things you can do that can ensure you are making the right decisions? What about ones that honor God?
As a new year begins, a multitude of opportunities awaits us. It is estimated that adults make a staggering 35,000 decisions a day. That's roughly 13 million choices we will make in 2023 alone! Some of these decisions will be easy and ones we will make instinctively, while others will be weightier, requiring much time, thought, and prayer. Some will be more obvious, right-and-wrong choices, but more often than not, life will present us with two (or three or four) seemingly good options, and it will be challenging to determine which one is best for us in our current season of life. While making wise, godly decisions when other good and godly options appear to compete, the path we are to take can be unclear. With so many options available and decisions to make, how can we ever be confident that we are making the right ones?
Fear of missing out (FOMO) and the paralysis of analysis that accompanies our every step in the modern world due to greater access to information than ever further complicate the process. Bottom line: we want our cakes, the perfect recipes, the pics on Instagram to prove it, AND we want to eat them too.
Because we aren't perfect and do not live in a perfect world, it is unrealistic to expect that we will make perfect decisions one hundred percent of the time. But the Bible assures us that if we have dedicated our lives to following Jesus, we can walk in wisdom and make choices that honor God, who is faithful to guide and direct our steps. No matter the outcome, God will use our decisions for our good and His glory if we actively seek to honor and obey His instructions. Here are some ways to ensure we follow His will while in this process.
We tend to save prayer for the big stuff; when a crisis hits, and we don't know what else to do, we pray. But our everyday lives should be bathed in prayer. God created us for a relationship with Him and wants to guide us in every part of our life. We should train our thoughts to automatically and reflexively turn to Him in everything. Prayer should be an intentional, daily practice in our lives, and our decisions should reflect that. Our days should be bookended with prayer, beginning and ending every day. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul says, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." Prayer should be a habit as natural as breathing so that when trouble does come, we know what to do and where to go, replacing panic with prayer and peace. Again, Paul says in Philippians 4:6-7, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."
Prayer is how we communicate with God and tell Him what we need. When we pray, it doesn't mean God will always give us a neon sign pointing in the direction we should go, but He guarantees us His peace and that He is with us. We often want concrete evidence and empirical data, while God is most pleased with our faith, walking with and doing life with Him. Dietrick Bonhoeffer writes, "We begin the day in silence because God should have the first word. We end the day in silence because God should have the last word." So we must be sure that we are giving God space to hear from Him.
- Read God's Word
Like prayer, reading God's Word should also be a daily practice in our lives. The Bible contains His words, ways, and wisdom; we want to fill our minds with it because it's the primary way God speaks to His people. In her book, The Best Yes, Lysa TerKeurst says, "Wherever we focus our attention the most will become the driving force in our lives. We steer where we stare." Isn't that good? If we stare at our problems, our phones, the world's solutions, terrible advice, or our strengths, abilities, and talents, we will lose focus and veer off course. We have a choice: fill our minds with man's wisdom and opinions or God's. We need a higher and better direction than any person can give. In the book of Exodus, God sets his people free from slavery in the land of Egypt and leads them through Moses to live in freedom in His promised land. Take a moment and read Exodus 33:12-17. Moses asks God to show him all the blueprints, to reveal the details of His plan, who will go with him, and all God guarantees to Moses is Himself! As with Moses, He promises us His presence instead of demanding perfection. God desires a relationship with us, and we read His word to get to know Him and His voice.
- Practice Using Discernment
Did you know that as a Christ follower, you have everything you need for a godly life through the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of you? (see 2 Peter 1:3) I think we tend to overlook and underestimate this incredible truth because we don't always feel it or aren't always aware of it; it takes practice cultivating and learning to abide in His Spirit. In John chapters 14-16, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to the disciples as He comforts them and prepares them for when He will leave them and return to the Father. But He did not leave us without a Helper and an Advocate. In John 16:13-15, Jesus says, "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, 'The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.'" Believer, you have this same Holy Spirit!! Isn't that wonderful news?!
Try this: After you've prayed about a decision, and you've made a practice of reading your Bible and spending time getting to know God's voice through His word, ask yourself, what do I sense the Holy Spirit saying to me? Write down or journal what comes to mind, and don't overthink it. Do this a few days or weeks in a row, however long it takes, depending on how big the decision is. What consistently keeps coming up? Is there a verse or passage that seems to be guiding you? This might seem like some magical practice reserved only for the super-spiritual Christian, but we have been given the gift of discernment through the Holy Spirit, and we should exercise this daily. This gift is better than any proverbial sixth sense or intuition. We have God's spirit dwelling inside us, leading us to His wisdom and truth. Sometimes we will get it wrong, and that's ok. It takes time and practice to discern and hear what He is saying, but don't be discouraged, and don't give up. God always speaks and wants you to be confident about hearing His voice. Jesus said in John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."
When discerning God's voice, we should ask ourselves: Does it line up with Scripture? God will never contradict His Word. Hopefully, you are beginning to see the importance of studying Scripture: to know His voice and discern when He speaks to us.
- Seek Godly Counsel
After we sense God's direction, verse after verse in the Bible tells us it is wise to seek the counsel of others who love God, know His voice, and have experience discerning His will. "Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others" (Proverbs 12:15), and "Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers" (Proverbs 11:14) are just two examples. God will often use godly and trustworthy people to confirm or convict us and guide us along the right path. However, we must be careful with this one. Everyone wants to give advice, but not all of it is good or even godly! We should be very selective about who we let speak into our lives. So who should we listen to? Always consider your sources. Do you respect the way this person lives their life? Is it evident that the Spirit of God is at work in their life, and are they fruitful? In other words, don't seek godly advice from someone whose life is a train wreck! Some may even be Christ-followers but haven't begun implementing good habits or practicing discernment in their own lives. Also, well-intentioned Jesus followers sometimes mistake fear for wisdom, potentially discouraging us from stepping out in faith to do what God is telling us. Just because they are a Christ follower doesn't mean they will always be able to give you the answer you are looking for. Use wisdom, be selective, ask more than one person, and determine what seems to be the prevailing sentiment.
- Make Your Decision, Own It, and Trust God With The Results
As long as we trust in the Lord with all our hearts, not solely relying on our faulty understanding and seeking His will for our lives, we can trust that God will show us which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 is just one of many promises in Scripture that assures us of this. According to Romans 8:28, God works all things together for our good; if we have a heart that loves God and seeks to honor Him and surrender to Him in all that we do, He is faithful to guide us. He won't let us down.
At the end of the day, we can rest and trust that we have a Good Shepherd who knows our names, just as He promised Moses. Our lives are in His hands, and if we ask Him for His help, He will not lead us astray or abandon us. Jesus calls us His sheep, and sheep need a shepherd; they are incapable of leading themselves. He knows we need His help, and He is ready to give it. Just ask! Take great comfort in the fact that you have a God who sees you, loves you, and wants to help you. We were never created to do life on our own but with Him. He takes great delight in helping His children. We are not bothering Him when we ask for His help. Ultimately, we don't put faith in our ability to make stellar decisions but rather in the one who loves us, created us, and is ready to lead us and guide our every step.