Help in Making Wise Decisions
ALICE made an unwise decision that turned out disastrously. “I disassociated myself from Jehovah and from his organization,” she admits. Although she finally returned, it took her over 13 years to do so—“miserable years” she calls them.
A Christian should not underestimate the danger of making unwise decisions in connection with his service to God. It is not that wrong decisions are deliberately made after a consideration of relevant facts. Sometimes they are made simply on the basis of instinctive reactions. Once emotions succeed in beclouding the issue and an imperfect heart exerts undue influence on thinking ability, all manner of harm and grief can result.
Indeed, “the heart is more treacherous than anything else.” (Jeremiah 17:9) The Bible, however, tells us how to protect ourselves. “When wisdom enters into your heart,” it says, “discernment itself will safeguard you.” (Proverbs 2:10, 11) But how do we get wisdom to enter into our heart?
Learn From the Past
Try this. Put yourself in the position of earlier servants of God who faced trialsome situations similar to yours. Suppose, for example, that a situation inside the local Christian congregation is causing you concern. Try to think of a parallel situation mentioned in the Bible.
What about the first-century Christian congregation at Corinth? Imagine that you are a member of the Corinth congregation. You have been a Christian for two or three years. What a joy it was to come to a knowledge of the truth during Paul’s 18-month stay there! But now, things are looking bad.
A tendency to form cliques and factions is causing dissension in the congregation, threatening its unity. (1 Corinthians 1:10, 11) A toleration of immoral conduct is endangering its spirit. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5) A public airing of differences between the congregation’s members before worldly courts of law is damaging its fine reputation.—1 Corinthians 6:1-8.
Still imagining yourself in ancient Corinth, you are concerned that some members of the congregation are always wrangling over matters that are really of only minor importance. (Compare 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.) You are saddened by the strife, jealousy, anger, and disorder you see. (2 Corinthians 12:20) Indeed, you are disturbed by an arrogant few who are making Christian living unduly difficult. (1 Corinthians 4:6-8) You are pained to hear that some are even questioning the apostle Paul’s position and authority, making unjust accusations, and deriding him for his lack of eloquence as a speaker. (2 Corinthians 10:10; 12:16) You are worried lest those who openly promote personal opinions should undermine the congregation’s faith in basic doctrine.—1 Corinthians 15:12.
Faced With a Decision
‘This just should not be,’ you sigh. ‘Why do the elders not correct matters? Something is terribly wrong.’
Will you leave the congregation in Corinth, concluding that you will be better off serving God elsewhere? Or will you possibly even decide that it is best to stop associating with fellow Christians altogether? Will you allow these problems to dampen your joy and your confidence that Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are in charge of things? Are you going to develop a critical, complaining spirit, causing you to question the motives of fellow Christians? Will you slow down in the preaching work, reasoning that there is little point in directing interested ones to such a congregation?
Viewing the situation dispassionately from today’s vantage point, you may find it easy to say that your decision would have been loyally to stay close to God’s congregation, despite its imperfections. But if faced with a similar situation today, would you be able to maintain a clear mind and a calm heart? Would you decide today as you think you would have decided if you had lived then?
Benefiting From Wise Counsel
The Corinthian Christians who made a wise decision were those who stayed close to the congregation. They felt as Peter had years earlier. When some of the disciples left off associating with Jesus, Peter said: “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68, 69) Obviously, only by staying close to God’s organization can we benefit from its counsel.
In new congregations, like the one back in Corinth, it is not unusual for human imperfection to cause a problem that may require the giving of strong counsel. But in giving counsel to the Corinthian Christians, Paul remembered that by far the majority of them were still “beloved ones.” (1 Corinthians 10:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 12:19) He did not forget that Jehovah extends undeserved kindness and forgiveness to those responding to His direction.—Psalm 130:3, 4.
Of course, since the Christian congregation attracts all kinds of people, some take longer to respond to this direction than do others. This is true for a variety of reasons. Some changes are more difficult to make than are others. Also, every individual differs in physical and mental makeup, environment, background, and circumstances. So how wise it is to avoid becoming overly critical and to remember that “love covers a multitude of sins”! (1 Peter 4:8) After all, if Jehovah and his Son are willing to put up with human imperfection and immaturity in their congregation, should we not manifest the same spirit?—1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Ephesians 4:1, 2.
If you had been in the congregation in ancient Corinth, listening to Paul’s loving but firm counsel would have reminded you that Christ, as head of the Christian congregation, is keenly interested in its welfare. (Matthew 28:20) It would have built up your confidence in Jesus’ promise to keep his followers unified as they responded to help provided through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47; Ephesians 4:11-16) Yes, and Paul’s words would have helped you to maintain joy and stability even under trying circumstances. You would have been confident that God would give you strength to cope with any difficulty he might temporarily allow to exist.
This is not to say that a Christian should do nothing if a bad condition develops in a congregation. Back in Corinth, mature men like Stephanas, Fortunatus, Achaicus, and some from the household of Chloe, acted. They evidently advised Paul of the situation. (1 Corinthians 1:11; 5:1; 16:17) But once they had done so, they confidently left matters in his hands. Zeal for righteousness did not cause them to lose confidence in Christ’s headship or to become “enraged against Jehovah.”—Proverbs 19:3.
Our zeal for righteousness today will prevent us from even considering the option of slowing down in our God-given assignment to preach the good news. To do so would manifest a lack of concern for the welfare of others and would be a failure to do what Christ wants us to do. “Consequently, my beloved brothers,” Paul counseled, “become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 15:58.
Do Not Be Ignorant of Satan’s Designs
Congregation difficulties like those that existed in Corinth can sometimes be more difficult to handle than outright persecution. Satan exploits such situations in an attempt to cause us to make wrong decisions that will draw us away from Jehovah. But ‘we are not ignorant of Satan’s designs.’—2 Corinthians 2:11.
Paul told the Corinthian Christians that they could benefit from examining the record of earlier servants of God. “Now these things went on befalling them as examples,” he said of the Israelites, “and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) Likewise, we today can benefit from carefully examining the early Christian record. For example, we can consider what took place in Corinth. Meditating about how we would have made right decisions then will help us avoid making wrong decisions now.
After 13 “miserable years” of absence, Alice says of her first meeting in the Kingdom Hall: “I was afraid to talk lest I should cry. I was home—really home. I couldn’t believe it.” So be determined, despite problems that may arise, to hold to your wise decision never to leave Jehovah’s organization! Your blessings in association with God’s people will be many. And they will be without end.—Proverbs 2:10-15, 20, 21.