“Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.”—PROV. 3:5.
1, 2. Do you like making decisions, and how do you feel about some decisions that you have made?
DECISIONS! Decisions! Every day we are faced with many of them. How do you feel about the typical decisions that you face? Some people are eager to decide everything for themselves. They insist on their right to make their own decisions, resenting even the thought of someone else deciding for them. However, there are those who dread having to make decisions beyond the routine things in life. Some turn to guidebooks or counselors and perhaps spend large sums to get the advice they feel they need.
2 Many of us are somewhere in-between. We realize that some things are beyond our jurisdiction and we can do nothing about them; yet, we appreciate that in many areas of life, we can make decisions according to our personal preferences. (Gal. 6:5) Even so, we likely admit that not all the decisions we make are necessarily wise or beneficial.
3. What directions do we have as to making decisions, but what challenge remains?
3 As servants of Jehovah, we can be happy that he has provided clear directions regarding many of the important matters in our life. We know that if we follow such guidelines, we can make decisions that will both please Jehovah and benefit us. Still, we may face issues and situations that are not specifically addressed in God’s Word. How, then, do we decide what we should do? For example, we know that we should not steal. (Eph. 4:28) But what exactly constitutes stealing? Is it determined by the value of the object taken, the motive, or something else? How do we decide what to do in matters that some say are a gray area? What is there to guide us?
THE SPIRIT OF A SOUND MIND
4. We likely have received what advice when we faced a decision?
4 When we mention that we are about to make an important decision, a fellow Christian may comment that we need to proceed with the spirit of a sound mind. That, of course, is good advice. The Bible gives us this caution against rushing into action: “Everyone that is hasty surely heads for want.” (Prov. 21:5) But what does it mean to use the spirit of a sound mind? Does it simply mean that we should take our time, think the matter through, be reasonable, and exercise good judgment? All these factors are helpful in reaching a good decision, but there is more to exercising the spirit of a sound mind.—Rom. 12:3; 1 Pet. 4:7.
5. Why is it that by nature we do not have a perfectly sound mind?
5 We must admit that none of us are born with a perfectly sound mind. Why is that so? Because all of us are born in sin and imperfection and thus are far from being completely sound in body or mind. (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 3:23) In addition, many of us were once among those whose minds were “blinded” by Satan; we were once ignorant of Jehovah and his righteous standards. (2 Cor. 4:4; Titus 3:3) Hence, were we to base our decisions solely on what we feel is good and reasonable, we might be deceiving ourselves, no matter how much we ponder the decision before us.—Prov. 14:12.
6. What can help us to cultivate a sound mind?
6 Though we are far from being sound in body and mind, Jehovah, our heavenly Father, is perfect in every respect. (Deut. 32:4) Happily, he has made it possible for us to make our mind over and to cultivate soundness of mind. (Read 2 Timothy 1:7.) As Christians, we want to think and reason sensibly and to act accordingly. We must rein in, or control, our thinking and feelings and imitate the way Jehovah thinks, feels, and acts.
7, 8. Relate an experience of how a sound decision can be made in spite of pressures or hardship.
7 Consider an example. A common practice among certain immigrants is to send their newborn babies back to their relatives to be looked after so that the immigrant parents can continue to work and make money.a A woman living in a foreign country gave birth to a lovely baby boy. About that time, she started to study the Bible and made fine spiritual progress. Friends and relatives began pressuring her and her husband to send the baby back home to the grandparents. However, through her study the wife in particular realized that as a parent, it was her God-given responsibility to bring up her child. (Ps. 127:3; Eph. 6:4) Should she follow the custom that to many seemed to be the reasonable course? Or should she follow what she was learning from the Bible and risk possible financial hardship as well as the scorn of some people? What would you have done if you had been in her place?
8 Feeling pressured and stressed, the young woman poured out her heart to Jehovah, seeking his direction. Talking to her Bible teacher and others in the congregation about the situation, she began to perceive Jehovah’s mind on the matter. She also weighed the potential emotional damage to little ones who during their formative years are separated from their parents. After considering the matter in the light of the Scriptures, she concluded that it was not right to send the baby away. Her husband saw how the members of the congregation rallied to help and how happy and healthy the baby was turning out to be. He accepted a Bible study and commenced attending meetings with his wife.
9, 10. What does it mean to use the spirit of a sound mind, and how can we do so?
9 That is just one case, but it illustrates that using the spirit of a sound mind does not mean just going by what we or others think or feel is reasonable or expedient. Our imperfect mind and heart can be like a watch that is going either too fast or too slow. Being guided by it could bring us serious trouble. (Jer. 17:9) We need to calibrate our mind and heart by God’s reliable standards.—Read Isaiah 55:8, 9.
10 With good reason, the Bible admonishes us: “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. 3:5, 6) Note the expression “do not lean upon your own understanding.” It is followed by “take notice of [Jehovah].” He is the One with a truly sound mind. Thus, it follows that whenever we are faced with a decision, we need to turn to the Bible to see what God’s view is. Then we should base our decision on it. That is using the spirit of a sound mind—imitating Jehovah’s mind.
TRAIN YOUR PERCEPTIVE POWERS
11. What is a key to learning how to make wise decisions?
11 Learning to make wise decisions and to carry them out does not come easily. This can be especially challenging for those new in the truth or those just starting to make progress toward spiritual maturity. However, genuine progress is possible for such spiritual babes, as the Bible refers to them. Consider how an infant learns to walk without falling. The key to success usually lies in his taking small steps and doing so repeatedly. The same is true with a spiritual babe when it comes to making wise decisions. Recall that the apostle Paul described mature people as “those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” The words “through use” and “trained” both imply making continuous and repeated effort, and that is what new ones need to do.—Read Hebrews 5:13, 14.
12. How can we cultivate our ability to make wise decisions?
12 As mentioned earlier, each day we must make numerous decisions, big and small. According to one study, over 40 percent of our actions are not based on deliberate forethought but are the result of ingrained habits. For example, every morning you probably have to decide what clothes to wear. You might view this as a small thing, and you make your choice without much deliberation, especially if you are in a hurry. But it is important to think about whether what you put on befits your role as a servant of Jehovah. (2 Cor. 6:3, 4) When you shop for clothes, you may think about styles and trends but what about modesty and cost? Making the right choices in these matters will contribute to training our perceptive powers, which can help us to make right decisions in weightier matters.—Luke 16:10; 1 Cor. 10:31.
CULTIVATE THE WILL TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT
13. What is needed to make sure that we follow through on the decisions we have made?
13 We all know that making the right decision is one thing, but sticking to it and following through on it is quite another. For example, some who want to quit smoking fail because they lack sufficient motivation. What is needed is the determination to follow the chosen course. Some believe that our willpower is very much like a muscle. The more we use it or exercise it, the stronger it becomes. If we seldom use it, it will weaken or wither. What, then, can help us to develop or strengthen our will to stick to and carry out the course we have decided on? Turning to Jehovah can help us.—Read Philippians 2:13.
14. Why did Paul have the strength to do what he knew he should do?
14 Paul knew this from personal experience. He once lamented: “Ability to wish is present with me, but ability to work out what is fine is not present.” He knew what he wanted to do or what he should do, but at times something prevented him from carrying it out. He confessed: “I really delight in the law of God according to the man I am within, but I behold in my members another law warring against the law of my mind and leading me captive to sin’s law that is in my members.” Was his situation hopeless? By no means. He declared: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:18, 22-25) Elsewhere, he wrote: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.”—Phil. 4:13.
15. How may decisive action or the lack of it affect those involved?
15 Clearly, to please God, decisive action is needed. Recall Elijah’s words to the Baal worshippers and the apostate Israelites at Mount Carmel: “How long will you be limping upon two different opinions? If Jehovah is the true God, go following him; but if Baal is, go following him.” (1 Ki. 18:21) The sons of Israel knew what they ought to do, but they were “limping” with indecision. In sharp contrast, years earlier, Joshua set a fine example when he told the Israelites: “If it is bad in your eyes to serve Jehovah, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . As for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.” (Josh. 24:15) What resulted from his determined course? Joshua and those who stuck with him were blessed with settling in the Promised Land, “a land flowing with milk and honey.”—Josh. 5:6.
MAKE WISE DECISIONS AND BE BLESSED
16, 17. Illustrate the benefits that come from making decisions in harmony with God’s will.
16 Consider a modern-day situation. A newly baptized brother is married, and he and his wife have three small children. One day, a workmate suggested that he and the brother move to another company that paid a higher wage and provided more benefits. Our brother thought and prayed about the matter. He had originally chosen his present job, which did not pay particularly well, in order to have the weekends off, allowing him to attend the meetings and be in the ministry with his family. He reflected on the reality that he would not have such a schedule if he took the new job—at least not for some time. What would you have done?
17 Weighing spiritual benefits against a higher income, the brother turned down the other job. Do you think that he came to regret the decision? Not at all. He felt that the spiritual blessings were far more beneficial for him and his family than a higher salary would be. He and his wife were elated when their eldest daughter, age ten, told them that she loved her parents, loved the brothers and sisters, and loved Jehovah very much. She said that she wanted to dedicate her life to Jehovah and get baptized. How much she must have appreciated her father’s good example of putting Jehovah’s worship first in his life!
18. Why is it important that we make wise personal decisions each day?
18 The Greater Moses, Jesus Christ, has been leading true worshippers of Jehovah through the wilderness of Satan’s world for many decades. As the Greater Joshua, Jesus is now poised to bring that corrupt system to its end and lead his followers to the promised new world of righteousness. (2 Pet. 3:13) Therefore, now is not the time to return to our former ways of thinking, our old habits, values, and aspirations. It is the time to perceive ever more clearly what God’s will is for us. (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 13:5) Let the decisions and choices you make each day reflect that you are the sort of person who is worthy of God’s eternal blessing.—Read Hebrews 10:38, 39.
a Another reason behind the practice is that the grandparents can show off their grandchildren to friends and relatives.