How Can You Make Decisions God’s Way?
A MAN in the United States went into a bank with a check amounting to $25,000. He intended to put the money in a time deposit. However, the banker advised him to invest it in the stock market, claiming that in the long run, the stock market never loses its value. The man decided to take the advice. Not too long thereafter, his investment lost much of its value.
This experience illustrates that making wise decisions is a challenge. What about various decisions we face in life? Many decisions can make the difference between success and failure—and sooner or later, between life and death. How, then, can we be confident that we are making wise decisions?
“This Is the Way”
Daily, we make decisions about what to eat, what to wear, where to go, and so on. Some decisions may seem trivial, yet they may have grave consequences. For example, the decision to light a cigarette for the first time can lead to a lifelong habit of smoking. We should never underestimate the significance of seemingly minor decisions.
Where can we look for guidance when making decisions, even seemingly trivial ones? How wonderful it would be to have a reliable consultant to advise us when we face a difficult decision! You can find such an adviser. An ancient book with a message for today has this to say: “Your own ears will hear a word behind you saying: ‘This is the way. Walk in it, you people,’ in case you people should go to the right or in case you should go to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21) Whose words are these? And how can you be sure that his guidance is reliable?
The above assurance is found in the Bible, which millions have studied and have come to realize is inspired by Jehovah God, the Creator. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Jehovah knows how we are made, so he is the best source of guidance. He can also foresee the future, being “the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done; the One saying, ‘My own counsel will stand.’” (Isaiah 46:10) Thus, a psalmist expressed his trust in Jehovah’s Word: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.” (Psalm 119:105) Yet, how does Jehovah help us to steer our course to safety amid the troubled waters of today’s world? How can we make decisions God’s way?
Apply Bible Principles
Jehovah God gave Christians divine principles so that they can make sound decisions. Learning Bible principles and applying them can be likened to learning a language and using it. Once you have mastered the language, you can often tell when someone makes grammatical mistakes because what he says does not sound quite right. You may not be able to point out in specific grammatical terms exactly what is wrong with the statement, but you know it is wrong. When you learn Bible principles to the point of making them part of yourself, you can usually tell when a certain decision is inappropriate, out of harmony with divine principles.
Take, for example, the decision a young man might face in choosing his hairstyle. No Bible command specifically condemns a certain hairdo. Yet, consider a Bible principle. The apostle Paul wrote: “I desire the women to adorn themselves in well-arranged dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive garb, but in the way that befits women professing to reverence God, namely, through good works.” (1 Timothy 2:9, 10) Paul is here writing about women, but the principle applies to both men and women. What is the principle? Our appearance should reflect modesty and soundness of mind. So the young man can ask himself, ‘Will my hairstyle reflect the modesty that befits a Christian?’
And what helpful principle can a young person extract from the following words of the disciple James? “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) Christians loathe the thought of being a friend of the world, which is at enmity with God. Would the type of hairstyle that his peers are fond of make him seem to be a friend of God or a friend of the world? The young man pondering the question of hairstyle can use such Bible-based principles in making a wise decision. Yes, divine principles help us make decisions. And when we become accustomed to making decisions based on godly principles, it gets easier to come to wise conclusions that do not have negative consequences.
We can find many principles in God’s Word. To be sure, we may not find a text that specifically addresses our situation. Still, we can read about how some people obeyed divine guidance and how others ignored divine warnings. (Genesis 4:6, 7, 13-16; Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 10:11) Reading such accounts and analyzing the outcomes, we will perceive divine principles that can help us in making decisions that please God.
Take as an example a brief conversation that Jesus Christ had with his apostle Peter. The men collecting the two drachmas tax had asked Peter: “Does your teacher not pay the two drachmas tax?” Peter had answered: “Yes.” Shortly thereafter, Jesus asked Peter: “From whom do the kings of the earth receive duties or head tax? From their sons or from the strangers?” When Peter said: “From the strangers,” Jesus told him: “Really, then, the sons are tax-free. But that we do not cause them to stumble, you go to the sea, cast a fishhook, and take the first fish coming up and, when you open its mouth, you will find a stater coin. Take that and give it to them for me and you.” (Matthew 17:24-27) What divine principles can we find in this account?
By asking a series of questions, Jesus guided Peter’s reasoning: As the Son of God, Jesus was tax-exempt. Although Peter had initially failed to grasp that point, Jesus kindly helped him to do so. Faced with a mistake others make, we may decide, in imitation of Jesus, to treat them compassionately rather than harshly point out their fault or condemn them.
Peter could then see the reason for paying the head tax—not to stumble others. Here is another principle we can glean from this account. Taking into consideration the conscience of others is more important than insisting on our rights.
What motivates us to make decisions that will show respect for the conscience of others? Love for our neighbor. Jesus Christ taught that loving our neighbor as ourselves is the commandment second in importance only to that of loving God with our whole soul. (Matthew 22:39) However, we are living in a self-centered world, and our sinful tendencies incline us toward being selfish. So if a person is to love his neighbor as himself, he has to make his mind over.—Romans 12:2.
Many have made such changes, and they consider others when making decisions, whether major or trivial. Paul wrote: “You were, of course, called for freedom, brothers; only do not use this freedom as an inducement for the flesh, but through love slave for one another.” (Galatians 5:13) How can we do that? Consider a young girl who moved to a rural town to help people to learn about God’s Word. As she talked to the people, she realized that her clothes, though modest by the standards of urban fashion, were becoming the talk of the town. Her dress and grooming were modest, yet she decided to wear clothes that were more subdued “so that the word of God [would] not be spoken of abusively.”—Titus 2:5.
How would you have reacted if you faced some decision about your grooming or another matter of personal taste? You can be sure that Jehovah will be pleased when your decisions reflect your concern for the conscience of others.
Have a Long-Range View
Apart from Bible principles and the conscience of others, what may we consider when making decisions? Though the path of Christians is rugged and narrow, God gives them much leeway within his set limits. (Matthew 7:13, 14) We need to consider how our decisions will affect our spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being in the future.
Suppose you were thinking of accepting a job. Perhaps there is nothing immoral or inappropriate about the nature of the work. You will be able to attend Christian meetings and conventions. The paycheck will be more than you ever expected. The employer values your skill very highly and wants to use you to the fullest. Besides, you like the type of work involved. Should anything hold you back from accepting the offer? Well, what if you foresee the possibility of your falling in love with the work. You are told that you would not be forced to work overtime. But to finish a project, would you be willing to push yourself more than you should? Might such overtime become frequent? Could that take you away from your family and eventually from spiritual activities that you definitely should not miss?
Consider how Jim made a major decision about his employment. He worked tirelessly and moved up the corporate ladder. Eventually he became the managing director of his company in the Orient, the chief executive officer of its affiliate in the United States, and a member of the board of directors of its European operations. When there was an economic downturn in Japan, however, he realized how futile it was to pursue money and power. His hard-earned money quickly disappeared. He lost direction in his life. ‘What will I be doing ten years from now?’ he asked himself. Then he realized that his wife and children were focused on more meaningful goals in life. Over the years, they had been associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jim wanted to share the happiness and contentment his family enjoyed. So he started to study the Bible.
Soon Jim could see that his lifestyle hindered him from leading a purposeful life as a Christian. Constantly traveling between Asia, the United States, and Europe, he did not have enough time to study the Bible and associate with fellow believers. He faced a decision: ‘Will I continue to lead the life I have lived for the past 50 years, or will I pursue a new way of life?’ He prayerfully considered the long-range effect of his decision and decided to quit all his jobs except one so that he would have time for spiritual pursuits. (1 Timothy 6:6-8) His decision made him happier, giving him the opportunity to be busy with Christian activities.
Be they major or trivial, your decisions matter. A decision you make today may mean the difference between success and failure, even life and death in the future. You can make wise decisions if you take into consideration Bible principles, the conscience of others, and the long-range effect of your action. Make decisions God’s way.
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Seemingly trivial decisions may have grave consequences
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How could Bible principles help her decide wisely?
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Jesus spoke compassionately to Peter