Yesterday I received an email from a Christian in India who reads The Christian Index. He asked me about when it comes to making decisions how we as Christians can be sure what to do, such as whether or not to take a certain job. As I thought about this question from a brother in faraway India, I asked myself: How can we as Christians be sure to choose wisely?
The Apostle Paul’s words in Eph. 5:15-17 came to mind:“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk – not as unwise people but was wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” As I read these words I realized how much I need to pray: “Lord, help me pay careful attention as I walk through each day making countless choices. May I be wise in what I choose to think and feel, say and do. Above all, may I not be misled by foolish feelings and opinions!”
As we think about the critical choices in life, those life-defining decisions that can make or break us, let’s reflect on Robert Frost’s poem Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood where he closed with these haunting words:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”
Few of us have the confidence of John Foster Dulles when it comes to making crucial decisions. Dulles is reported to have said: “Once, many, many years ago I thought I had a made a wrong decision. Of course, it turned out that I had been right all along. But I was wrong to have thought that I was wrong!”
Even the wise and knowledgeable Ben Franklin could make some not-so-wise choices. In 1784 he wrote his daughter about how wrong America was to have chosen the eagle as its symbol rather than the bird he had commended to the nation: the turkey. One wise person has observed that “nothing is more difficult than being able to choose wisely.”
How does our Christian faith equip us to make wise choices? When we face a critical choice it may be helpful to go through a check list – just to make sure we have considered the ins and outs.
Number One: Ask God to speak to us as we wrestle with this choice. James 1:5 says, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.” What does Scripture say to us? Just as God inspired the writers of the Scripture He inspires readers who open their hearts, souls, and minds to hear God’s Word. As Paul wrote to Timothy “all Scripture … is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training for righteousness.” God not only speaks to us through Scripture but also through good and godly people.
Guideline Number Two: Seek and take good advice. In Prov. 1:5 we read how a wise man will not only “listen and increase his learning” but such a “discerning man will obtain guidance.” He will seek the best kind of counsel from experienced and wise people. An older man known for his wisdom was once asked how he became so wise. He smiled and replied: “By making a lot of bad decisions and learning from them.” Better to learn from him than pay the high price of making bad choices. God also speaks to us through the talents and gifts He has given us.
Guideline Number Three: Think about our strengths and weaknesses. We have both. The Apostle Paul writes in Rom. 12:3: “I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” Paul also writes how God has distributed a measure of talents and gifts to everyone. A wise old Scotchman (William Barclay) once wrote: “We do not get far in this world until we know what we can and what we cannot do.” Let us build on our strengths and build around our weaknesses! God also speaks through the open door opportunities He has for us.
Guideline Number Four: Look at where the decision could lead. Prov. 4:25-27 says, “Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead. Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. Don’t turn to the right or to the left; keep your feet away from evil.” Will this choice be a step up the ladder or a slip down a slippery slope? What are the advantages and disadvantages? God also speaks through our God-given ability and responsibility to make decisions.
Guideline Number Five: Make up your mind and do what needs to be done – come hell or high water. We read in I Kings 18:21 how Elijah asked the people, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?” Sometimes the worst choice we make is not to choose – to dilly and dally, hesitate and prevaricate. We must make up our mind and make a decision. In the words of Joshua (Josh. 24:15) sometimes we must “choose this day” what we are going to do.
Former president Ronald Reagan tells how he learned to make decisions. When he was a young boy his aunt took him to a cobbler who was going to make him a pair of shoes. The shoemaker asked him whether he wanted a square or round toe, and he couldn’t make up his mind – even after several days. Eventually the shoemaker made him one shoe with a square toe and one with a round toe. Ronald Reagan said: “Looking at those shoes every day taught me a lesson. If you don’t make your own decisions, somebody will make them for you.”
The comforting fact is that even though we will make some bad choices and suffer the consequences, God is with us and for us. He will help us get through whatever difficulties we may face in spite of or because of our choices.