How Do You Make Personal Decisions?
“Keep perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.”—EPH. 5:17.
1. What are some examples of Bible laws, and how does obeying them benefit us?
THROUGH his written Word, Jehovah has given us a number of specific commands. For example, he forbids sexual immorality, idolatry, stealing, and drunkenness. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10) Additionally, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, gave his followers this challenging, though thrilling, command: “Go, . . . and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) What a protection divine laws and commandments have proved to be! Obeying them has increased our self-respect, contributed to good health, and enhanced family happiness. More important, our loyal adherence to Jehovah’s commands, including the command to share in the preaching work, has brought us his approval and blessing.
2, 3. (a) Why does the Bible not give us rules for every situation in life? (b) What questions will be considered in this article? (See opening picture.)
2 However, there are numerous situations for which the Bible provides no specific command. For example, the Scriptures do not contain detailed rules regarding what kind of clothing is appropriate attire for Christians. How does this reflect Jehovah’s wisdom? Styles and customs vary not only in different parts of the world but also from one decade to the next. If the Bible had provided a list of acceptable styles of dress and grooming, it would now be out-of-date in that regard. For similar reasons, God’s inspired Word does not provide a lot of rules designed to govern a Christian’s choice of employment, health care, and entertainment. Individuals and family heads are therefore free to make decisions regarding these matters.
3 Does this mean that it does not matter to Jehovah what we choose to do when we face the challenge of making important decisions, some of which might have a profound effect on our life? Will our heavenly Father approve of any decision we make as long as it does not break a Bible law? In the absence of specific laws, how can we know what choices will please Jehovah?
DO PERSONAL DECISIONS MATTER?
4, 5. How could our decisions affect us and others?
4 Some may feel that it does not matter what we choose to do. To make wise decisions that please Jehovah, however, we must consider the laws and principles found in his written Word and comply with them. For instance, to have God’s approval, we must act in harmony with his law on blood. (Gen. 9:4; Acts 15:28, 29) Prayer will help us to make decisions that relate to Scriptural principles and laws.
5 Weighty personal decisions can have quite a bearing on our spiritual health and welfare. Every choice we make will likely affect our relationship with Jehovah—either for good or for bad. A good decision will strengthen our relationship with God, whereas a bad one may damage it. Moreover, a poor decision could injure others spiritually by disturbing, or even stumbling, them or by disrupting the unity of the congregation. Indeed, our personal decisions do matter.—Read Romans 14:19; Galatians 6:7.
6. What should guide our decisions?
6 What should we do in situations that do not involve a direct Bible command? Under such circumstances, it is our personal responsibility to examine the details and make a choice that is guided, not by mere personal preference, but by what Jehovah will approve of and bless.—Read Psalm 37:5.
PERCEIVE JEHOVAH’S WILL
7. Where there is no Bible law, how can we find out what Jehovah would want us to do in a certain situation?
7 You may wonder, ‘How can we know what Jehovah approves of if his Word provides no specific command on the matter?’ Ephesians 5:17 states: “Keep perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” In the absence of a direct Bible law, how can we perceive the will of God? By praying to him and accepting his guidance by holy spirit.
8. How did Jesus perceive what Jehovah wanted him to do? Give an example.
8 Consider how Jesus perceived what his Father wanted him to do. On two reported occasions, Jesus first prayed and then miraculously provided food for large crowds. (Matt. 14:17-20; 15:34-37) Yet, he refused to turn stones into bread when he was hungry and was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness. (Read Matthew 4:2-4.) Because he was familiar with his Father’s thinking, Jesus knew that he should not turn the stones into bread. Yes, Jesus realized that it was not God’s will that he use such power for his own personal benefit. By refusing to do so, he showed that he was relying on Jehovah for guidance and sustenance.
9, 10. What will help us make wise decisions? Illustrate.
9 If we are to make wise decisions, as Jesus did, we must rely on Jehovah for guidance. We need to act in accord with these wise words: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not become wise in your own eyes. Fear Jehovah and turn away from bad.” (Prov. 3:5-7) Getting to know Jehovah’s thinking through Bible study can help us to perceive what God would want us to do in a particular situation. The more familiar we are with Jehovah’s thoughts, the more our heart will become sensitive to his guidance.—Ezek. 11:19, ftn.
10 To illustrate: Imagine a married woman who is shopping. She sees a pair of shoes that she would like to have, but they are very expensive. So she asks herself, ‘How would my husband feel about my spending that much money?’ Likely, she already knows the answer, even though her husband is not with her. Why does she know? Because over a period of time, she has become familiar with his way of thinking about their limited budget. As a result, she perceives what her husband’s thoughts on such a purchase would be. In a comparable way, as we become progressively acquainted with Jehovah’s thoughts and ways, we improve in our ability to perceive what our heavenly Father would want us to do in various circumstances.
HOW CAN YOU FIND OUT WHAT JEHOVAH THINKS?
11. What questions can we ask ourselves when we read or study the Bible? (See the box “When Studying God’s Word, Ask Yourself.”)
11 To acquaint ourselves with Jehovah’s thinking, we need to make personal study a priority. When reading or studying God’s Word, we might ask ourselves, ‘What does this material reveal about Jehovah, his righteous ways, and his thinking?’ We need to have an attitude like that of the psalmist David, who sang: “Make me know your ways, O Jehovah; teach me your paths. Cause me to walk in your truth and teach me, for you are my God of salvation. In you I hope all day long.” (Ps. 25:4, 5) As you meditate on a Bible passage, you might consider questions like these: ‘How can I apply this information in my family? Where can I apply it? At home? At work? At school? In the ministry?’ Once we have determined where the material can be applied, it may become easier to perceive how we can put it to work.
12. How can our publications and meetings help us to get to know what Jehovah thinks about various matters?
12 Another way to become more familiar with Jehovah’s thinking is by paying close attention to Bible-based guidance from his organization. For example, the Watch Tower Publications Index and the Research Guide for Jehovah’s Witnesses are produced to help us learn about Jehovah’s thinking on numerous situations requiring that we make personal decisions. We also benefit greatly by listening carefully at Christian meetings and participating in them. Meditating on what is being taught will help us to discern more about Jehovah’s thinking and to make his thoughts our own. By making diligent use of Jehovah’s provisions for spiritual feeding, we will progressively become more familiar with his ways. As a result, we will be in a better position to make personal decisions that our loving God will bless.
LET JEHOVAH’S THINKING GUIDE YOUR DECISIONS
13. Give an example of how we can make a wise decision when we consider what Jehovah thinks.
13 Consider an example that shows how knowledge of Jehovah’s thinking can help us to make wise decisions. As Kingdom publishers, we may desire to enter the full-time ministry as regular pioneers. In order to make this possible, we begin taking steps to simplify our life. At the same time, we may find ourselves worrying about whether we could be genuinely happy with less in a material way. Of course, there is no Bible command that we pioneer; we could continue serving Jehovah as faithful publishers. However, Jesus assures us that those who make sacrifices for the Kingdom will receive abundant blessings. (Read Luke 18:29, 30.) Moreover, the Scriptures show that it pleases Jehovah when we make “voluntary offerings of praise” to him and cheerfully do what we can to advance true worship. (Ps. 119:108; 2 Cor. 9:7) From these Scriptural points, along with prayers for guidance, can we not perceive Jehovah’s thinking? Reflecting on these thoughts may help us come to a decision that will be practical for us and will have our heavenly Father’s blessing.
14. How can you determine if a certain style of clothing is pleasing to Jehovah?
14 Consider another example: Suppose you are drawn to a certain style of dress that could possibly disturb some in the congregation. Yet, you may know of no specific Bible law that forbids it. What is Jehovah’s mind on the matter? The apostle Paul offered this inspired counsel: “The women should adorn themselves in appropriate dress, with modesty and soundness of mind, not with styles of hair braiding and gold or pearls or very expensive clothing, but in the way that is proper for women professing devotion to God, namely, through good works.” (1 Tim. 2:9, 10) In principle, this counsel applies equally to Christian men. As devoted servants of Jehovah, we are concerned not only with our personal preferences but with the effect that our dress and grooming could have on others. Modesty and love move us to take into account the opinions of fellow believers in order to avoid distracting or even offending them. (1 Cor. 10:23, 24; Phil. 3:17) Bearing in mind what the Scriptures say can help us perceive Jehovah’s thinking on this matter and can guide us in making decisions that please him.
15, 16. (a) How does Jehovah feel if we keep on thinking about sexually immoral things? (b) When we are choosing entertainment, how can we know what is pleasing to Jehovah? (c) How should weighty decisions be made?
15 The Bible reveals that Jehovah is saddened when people pursue a wicked course and ‘the inclination of their thoughts is only bad all the time.’ (Read Genesis 6:5, 6.) From this we can perceive that sexual fantasizing is wrong because it can lead to serious sin that is forbidden in the Scriptures and is out of harmony with Jehovah’s way of thinking. The disciple James wrote: “The wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, not hypocritical.” (Jas. 3:17) Being aware of this, we should be moved to reject entertainment that fuels impure thoughts and inclinations. Perceptive Christians do not need to ask whether it is acceptable to be entertained by a certain book, movie, or game that features what Jehovah hates. His mind on such matters is made clear in his Word.
16 Many matters could be decided one way or another, and Jehovah would still be pleased. In the case of weighty decisions, though, it is sometimes advisable to seek counsel from the elders or the advice of other experienced Christians. (Titus 2:3-5; Jas. 5:13-15) Of course, it would be inappropriate to ask others to make a decision for us. Christians must train and exercise their powers of discernment. (Heb. 5:14) All of us should act in accord with Paul’s inspired words: “Each one will carry his own load of responsibility.”—Gal. 6:5, ftn.
17. How do we benefit from making decisions that please Jehovah?
17 When we base our decisions on Jehovah’s thinking, we draw closer to him. (Jas. 4:8) We enjoy his approval and blessing. This, in turn, strengthens our faith in our heavenly Father. Therefore, let us be guided by Bible laws and principles, for they reveal God’s mind on matters. Of course, we will always have something new to learn about Jehovah. (Job 26:14) With diligent effort, however, we can even now acquire the wisdom, knowledge, and discernment needed to make wise decisions. (Prov. 2:1-5) The ideas and plans of imperfect humans come and go, but the psalmist fittingly reminds us: “The decisions of Jehovah will stand forever; the thoughts of his heart are from generation to generation.” (Ps. 33:11) Clearly, we can make the best personal decisions when our thoughts and actions are in harmony with the thinking of our all-wise God, Jehovah.