What Influences Decisions in Your Life?
“Listen to counsel and accept discipline, in order that you may become wise in your future.”—Prov. 19:20.
1. What part do decisions play in our lives?
WHAT shall I do? Each one of us, time after time, has found himself faced with this question when making a decision. Decisions have been an essential part of man’s life from the time of creation. How different things would be today if Adam had made the right decision—the decision to continue worshiping Jehovah God instead of being influenced to eat of the tree’s fruit in disobedience to Jehovah’s command. None of us have a decision to make that affects the entire human family, as was true of Adam and Christ Jesus; but individually we do have decisions to make that affect our everyday living, the lives of our loved ones and associates, and our eternal welfare.—Gen. 2:16, 17; Rom. 14:13.
2. With what variety of decisions are we faced?
2 While making decisions is an inevitable part of life, some are so small that we hardly recognize them as decisions, such as what we will have for breakfast, or what clothing we will wear that day. Other decisions are a joy to make. For example, our decision to attend a Christian assembly; or our decision to take a vacation, and selecting the places we will visit and the things we will see.
3. What are some weighty decisions that a Christian may face, and why must they be made with care?
3 From time to time we are faced with more difficult decisions, weighty ones that have considerable bearing on our lives. Sometimes a decision determines our circumstances for the rest of our life. These decisions require much thought and consideration. At times the matter weighs on our minds to the point that we cannot sleep, or we wake up during the night pondering the decision. Some of these decisions might be: What type of employment shall I pursue to provide the necessities of life? Should I marry or remain single? Should I continue as a good publisher of the Kingdom message, or do my circumstances permit me to pioneer? Shall I forgive my adulterous mate and continue the marriage, or get a divorce? What shall I do?
4. Why should God’s Word influence all our decisions?
4 In making decisions, whether they involve an emergency or not, whether they are large or small, it is vital that we follow the Christian’s standard, the Bible. Otherwise we will most certainly be influenced by our own fleshly tendencies of selfishness, fear, pride and jealousy. Or we may allow others with the same tendencies to influence us in the decisions we make. Never should we be influenced to make decisions based on emotions, or what appears at the moment to be the easy way, the path of least resistance.
5 This matter of how we can be influenced is better understood if we remember Job’s words to Jehovah: “Out of clay you have made me.” (Job 10:9) Just like literal clay that can be molded and shaped, we can be impressed and influenced by close contact with other people. Solomon recognized this when he said, “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Prov. 13:20) How important it is then that we choose carefully our associations so that their influence on our decisions is for good.
WORLD PERMEATED BY UNWHOLESOME INFLUENCE
6. What is the prevailing spirit of worldly people, and how can we avoid their influence?
6 When we look closely at the prevailing spirit of this world we see how vital it is that we avoid its influence. How accurately the apostle Paul describes the world of mankind today when he foretells that “men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Tim. 3:2-4) Whoever we are and wherever we live, do we not see these godless qualities in the people about us? How then can we avoid the ungodly influence of the worldly people among whom we live? Paul’s answer is simple and to the point. He says, “From these turn away.” (2 Tim. 3:5) In other words, though they may be our neighbors, they should not be our associates. Do not let them influence your thinking, your actions, your decisions.—1 Cor. 15:33.
7. What outlook toward the future do many people have, and why?
7 As Christians we should ask ourselves, “Am I complying with this good counsel that Paul gave Timothy?” Let us look into a few aspects of this Scriptural counsel. The scripture reads, “Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” Today the attitude of the majority of people is, “Let’s live now! Let’s eat, drink and be merry, and worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.” The majority think in terms of pleasure and ease, being materially well fixed. They live for this world. They want what they want now, believing it is now or never. They have no hope for the future. Their thinking is so influenced by Satan, the god of this system of things, that without realizing it they are his slaves. They give their lives to getting what they want in this system while it lasts.—2 Cor. 4:4.
8. What does materialism lead to, and how did Jesus reason on it?
8 Have you ever driven an automobile out on a muddy road and got stuck? If you have, then you will remember that the more you spun the wheels to get out the deeper you got in. Many today are allowing themselves to be led down the bottomless road of materialism in which they get bogged down more and more deeply until they are hopelessly stuck. Soon there are so many monthly payments that they have to have two jobs to meet them, or have other members of the family working who could be spending this time in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. When this happens, the materialistic world about us is influencing our decisions, influencing us to forget Jesus’ words, “Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) If we feel that our happiness depends on the things we possess, then it is time to remember the words recorded in Proverbs 16:20, “Happy is he that is trusting in Jehovah,” not in the things he possesses. Jesus further asked, “What benefit will it be to a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26) He could have one of all the things the world has to offer, but what benefit is it if he has no life with which to enjoy them? Yes, spending one’s life in the pursuit of material things is well compared to the spinning wheels of an immobile car—it is a life of frustration devoid of true satisfaction or progress.
9. Name some of the sources of wrong influence. How was one Christian affected?
9 The influence of the unbelievers is being felt and seen in other ways. Paul said, “Critical times hard to deal with will be here.” (2 Tim. 3:1) All of us have found the group influence encountered at our place of work, in school and from our neighbors to be particularly “hard to deal with.” No doubt many of us have felt as did one Christian who said it took him at least an hour after getting home from work to free his mind from the unwholesome influence of the worldly people with whom he worked.
10. Wrong association could have what influence?
10 The whole world is going in the way of destruction, but Christians cannot afford to turn and follow it in its mad race toward rebellion, hate and finally death. They cannot slow down, take time out to travel side roads, or follow others who do not know where they are going. Yet, this is exactly what Christians would be doing if they participated in office parties and company conventions or outings where, because of their association, they could be induced to let down their moral guard. At our place of employment have we been influenced by fellow workers to join in competitive sporting groups or leagues that rob us of our time for Bible study and for preaching the good news of God’s kingdom? This is unnecessary worldly association that can influence us to make wrong decisions and can easily lead to acts of immorality. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society has in its files records of just such cases.
11. (a) What influences do Christian school students need to guard against? (b) Standing firm for what is right may draw what reaction from other youths?
11 Young or old, none of us are exempt from the unwholesome influence of this world. Those of school age are surrounded with it, and their lot is by no means an easy one, with the gross immorality among youth today, cheating on exams, stealing, widespread use of dope and rebelliousness against parental and other authority. The natural desire of youth is to be accepted as one of the group. To be accepted as one of the crowd today would mean lowering your standards, being influenced to think and act without regard for Bible principles. When you stand up for what is right and conduct yourself as a Christian, fellow students will often be cutting and at times vicious in voicing their disapproval. They may call you a “square,” a “religious bug,” and many other even more unkind things. Because you will not let the barrier down, you are not invited to various functions in school and in the neighborhood and are more or less left alone. Be thankful for this, for it is actually a protection for you. Wisely continue to stick to what is right. Keep in mind Exodus 23:2, which says, “You must not follow after the crowd for evil ends.” You know the evil that is being practiced. Do not let it or those who practice it influence your decisions. Do you want to be a minister of God’s Word? Then take the right course!
12. How does the world view higher education, and how should we reason on this?
12 The influence and spirit of this world is to get ahead, to make a name for oneself. Many schools now have student counselors who encourage one to pursue higher education after high school, to pursue a career with a future in this system of things. Do not be influenced by them. Do not let them “brainwash” you with the Devil’s propaganda to get ahead, to make something of yourself in this world. This world has very little time left! Any “future” this world offers is no future! Wisely, then, let God’s Word influence you in selecting a course that will result in your protection and blessing. Make pioneer service, the full-time ministry, with the possibility of Bethel or missionary service your goal. This is a life that offers an everlasting future!
DECISIONS CHRISTIANS FACE
13. Why should we never be careless in making small decisions?
13 Now that we have discussed the influences that we must guard against in making decisions, let us turn our attention to some of the decisions we must make and to those things that will influence our decisions for good. It is vital that we build a pattern of making right decisions in our everyday life. Some of the decisions we face each day may seem small and unimportant, having little to do with our receiving everlasting life. But does not God’s Word counsel, “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much”? (Luke 16:10) If we can be influenced to disregard Bible principles in making small, everyday decisions, then what assurance do we have that, when we are faced with the necessity of making a decision affecting our everlasting welfare, we will suddenly reverse the trend and decide in harmony with Bible principles?
14. (a) What issue could arise that would demand an on-the-spot decision? (b) What should we consider now?
14 Then there are vital decisions that may arise very unexpectedly. Suppose we were involved in an accident and were faced with the decision of whether to submit to blood transfusion either for ourself or for one of our family. Are we convinced in our heart that we could undergo and withstand the pressure from doctors and unbelieving friends and relatives? Are we prepared to take a firm, unshakable stand because of our knowing what God’s Word says, although death may face us? Many of our Christian brothers and sisters have already been faced with this sobering decision.
15. The influence of nationalism poses what question to us all, and how real is this issue?
15 There is also the matter of neutrality. More and more the emotional tide of nationalism is increasing its demands toward the dedicated servants of the one sovereign ruler, Jehovah God. Are you prepared to defend your decision to remain neutral as to the political affairs of this system even though it means imprisonment or death as it has for Christians in some countries? These are decisions that could face every Christian in the future and would without question affect their everlasting welfare.
16. What assures us of making the right decision when emergencies arise?
16 Is there doubt in our minds that under these trying circumstances we might not have the strength and determination to make a wise and Scriptural decision? Only by a careful study of God’s Word now, discerning the Scriptural principles involved, can we be sure of making right decisions when such emergencies arise. The Bible is the accumulative wisdom of Jehovah and sets before us a perfect source of influence and example in the one who always made right decisions, Christ Jesus. Recorded in it also are the encouraging examples of how the early Christians met the problems of their day and were able to resist the influence of the opposers of Jehovah God. They were able to make right decisions for pure worship because they, like Christ Jesus, had studied God’s law and requirements ahead of time. When problems arose and decisions had to be made, they knew what to do and had the faith and courage to do it with the help of Jehovah’s spirit.—Luke 4:1-12.
17. (a) How are our problems today much like those of the early Christians, and why is this so encouraging? (b) How does preparing for decisions in advance ensure right influence?
17 Today we are faced with basically the same problems as the early Christians were—family problems, questions of neutrality, the blood issue and devoting our time to God’s work of helping other people understand his written Word. The solutions therefore are the same, for God’s Word never changes, and its principles remain the same now as then. If we have taken in a complete and accurate knowledge of Jehovah’s will as found in the Bible, and have analyzed it carefully, making decisions in advance on what we will do under varying circumstances that may come upon us, we are safeguarding our faith against the faith-destroying influences that confront us. This is what Jehovah is telling us when he says, “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, in order that you may become wise in your future.”—Prov. 19:20; Mark 1:17-21; John 18:36; Acts 15:28, 29.
RIGHT INFLUENCES FOR DECISIONS
18. What are the first steps we should follow in making decisions?
18 Usually we have time to ponder and consider the situation carefully before making weighty decisions. So when faced with such a weighty decision, take time to isolate in your mind the Scriptural principles that govern the matter involved. Apply them to your circumstances. Ask yourself, “What would Christ Jesus have done under the same conditions?” This question will help you to view the situation free from beclouding emotion, and often it makes the answer quite apparent. By reasoning this way you are allowing God’s Word and the faithful example of his Son to influence your decisions.
19. How can Jehovah’s organization assist us to make decisions?
19 Jehovah’s organization as directed by his “faithful and discreet slave” class should influence our every decision also. How may we avail ourselves of this good influence? By doing personal research in the Bible publications of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society on whatever subject our decision concerns. This always proves to be a real aid in making clear to us the Bible principles involved and their application to our lives.
20. What provision does Jehovah make through the congregation for influencing right decisions?
20 Another source of counsel and help that we can turn to is our mature Christian brothers. The overseer and other appointed servants in the congregation are Jehovah’s provision to aid us in our worship of him. Although we do have the responsibility of making the final decision, they can help us to discern the principles involved and give us the encouragement we need to hold to these principles. Their influence is good.—Gal. 6:5.
21. Why is prayer essential in making decisions?
21 It is also essential that we go to Jehovah God in prayer asking his blessing and direction on the decision that we have to make. Paul admonishes us, “By prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6, 7) While the Bible gives us Jehovah’s mind on matters and the guidance we need, not in every case can we find a direct “yes” or “no” answer, and at times when we have a clear-cut answer to our problem we are in need of strength beyond what we have to follow through properly. This is a time for prayer. Jehovah is interested in each one of us and invites us to petition him in prayer. By our so doing, we are assured, ‘the peace of God will guard our hearts and our mental powers.’ Yes, through prayer we can invoke the influence of Jehovah God to aid us in making the right decision and, while we do this, do not forget to search God’s Word. His answer very likely will be there.
22. From what unwholesome influences must we guard ourselves, and why?
22 These are perilous days in which each one of us faces many decisions, difficult decisions that involve our dedicated relationship to Jehovah and our everlasting future. Whether young or old, guard yourself from unnecessary association with worldly people. Do not let this world and its spirit influence you to the extent that it will affect your decisions to do Jehovah’s will. Keep in mind what John wrote: “Everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world . . . the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:15-17.
23. What should influence decisions in your life?
23 When faced with the need to make a decision, be influenced by God’s Word, study it carefully so that you will know the principles involved, carefully consider what he has counseled us on that subject through his organization, go to your mature brothers for their help and influence, seek the influence of Jehovah himself through prayer, and at all times consider your dedicated relationship with Jehovah God. This is what should influence your decisions in life!
My son, my law do not forget, and my commandments may your heart observe, because length of days and years of life and peace will be added to you. May loving-kindness and trueness themselves not leave you. Tie them about your throat. Write them upon the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and good insight in the eyes of God and of earthling man. Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight.—Prov. 3:1-6.
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The pursuit of material things is a life of frustration—like the spinning wheels of a car stuck in the mud