“Keep asking in faith, not doubting at all.”—JAMES 1:6.
1. What caused Cain to make a wrong decision, and what was the result?
CAIN had an important decision to make. He could choose to control his sinful feelings, which would bring good results. Or he could let his feelings control his actions, which would bring bad results. The Bible tells us that Cain made the wrong decision. His decision resulted in the death of his brother Abel and ruined Cain’s friendship with his Creator.—Genesis 4:3-16.
2. Why is it important to make good decisions?
2 In a similar way, we all have to make choices and decisions in life. Some decisions are very serious, and others are not. Still, many of our decisions can have a big effect on our life. When we make good decisions, we may have fewer problems and a more peaceful life. But when we make bad decisions, our life may be full of problems and disappointments.—Proverbs 14:8.
3. (a) To make wise decisions, we should have faith in what? (b) What questions will we consider?
3 What will help us to make wise decisions? We need to have faith in God, trusting that he wants to help us and will give us the wisdom we need to make good decisions. We also need to have faith in his Word, trusting his advice. (Read James 1:5-8.) As we draw close to Jehovah and love his Word more and more, this helps us to trust that he knows what is best for us. Then we will consult his Word before we make decisions. But how can we improve our ability to make good decisions? And should we ever change the decisions we make?
WE ALL NEED TO MAKE DECISIONS
4. What decision did Adam have to make, and what were the results?
4 People have had to make important decisions from the start of human history. The first man, Adam, had to decide whether he would listen to his Creator, Jehovah, or whether he would listen to his wife, Eve. Adam chose to listen to Eve, who moved him to make a very bad decision. As a result, Jehovah removed Adam from the garden of Eden, and he later died. Today, we too are suffering as a result of Adam’s bad decision.
Jehovah has given us his Word, which teaches us how to make wise decisions
5. How should we view the responsibility to make decisions?
5 Some may think that life would be easier if they did not have to make decisions at all. Perhaps you feel the same way. But it is good for us to remember that Jehovah did not create humans to be like robots that cannot think or make choices. He has given us his Word, which teaches us how to make wise decisions. Jehovah wants us to make decisions, and this responsibility can help us. Think of the following examples.
6, 7. What decision did the Israelites have to make, and why was it difficult for them to make it? (See opening picture.)
6 When they were living in the Promised Land, the Israelites had to choose whether to worship Jehovah or to serve other gods. (Read Joshua 24:15.) That may have seemed like a simple decision. However, their choice would result in either life or death. During the time of the Judges, the Israelites kept making bad choices. They stopped worshipping Jehovah and began to worship false gods. (Judges 2:3, 11-23) Later, during the time of the prophet Elijah, God’s people had to decide whether they would serve Jehovah or the false god Baal. (1 Kings 18:21) This may seem as if it would have been an easy choice to make because serving Jehovah is always best. A wise person would not want to serve a lifeless god. But the people could not make a decision. The Bible says that the Israelites were “limping between two different opinions.” Wisely, Elijah encouraged the people to choose to worship the true God, Jehovah.
7 Why was it difficult for those Israelites to make a wise decision? First, they did not have faith in Jehovah, and they refused to listen to him. They did not trust in Jehovah, and they did not spend time learning about him or his wisdom. If they had, what they learned would have helped them to make wise decisions. (Psalm 25:12) Second, the Israelites were influenced by people from other nations. Those foreigners influenced the Israelites’ thinking and even made decisions for them. As a result, the Israelites began to follow those foreigners and worship their false gods. This was something that Jehovah had warned the Israelites about many years earlier.—Exodus 23:2.
SHOULD OTHERS MAKE DECISIONS FOR US?
8. What important lesson do we learn from the Israelites?
8 The Israelites’ example teaches us that if we want to make wise decisions, we ought to use God’s Word. Galatians 6:5 reminds us that each person is responsible for his or her own choices. Clearly, we should not give someone else the responsibility to make decisions for us. Instead, each one of us should learn what God says is right and choose to do it.
If we let others make decisions for us, then we have decided to follow them
9. Why is it dangerous to let others make decisions for us?
9 How might we let others make our decisions for us? By letting them pressure us to make a bad choice. (Proverbs 1:10, 15) This is dangerous. It is our responsibility to follow our Bible-trained conscience. If we let others make decisions for us, then we have decided to follow them. That choice can lead to disaster.
10. What warning did Paul give to the Galatians?
10 The apostle Paul warned the Galatians not to let others make personal decisions for them. (Read Galatians 4:17.) Some of the brothers in Galatia were trying to make decisions for others in the congregation. What was their motive? Those selfish men wanted their brothers to follow them rather than the apostles. They were not humble, and they did not respect their brothers’ right to make their own decisions.
11. How can we help others when they need to make decisions?
11 All of us can learn from the good example of the apostle Paul. He knew that his brothers had the right to make their own decisions, and he respected that right. (Read 2 Corinthians 1:24.) Today, the elders can follow this example when they give counsel about a matter that involves a personal choice. They are happy to share information based on God’s Word with their brothers and sisters. Still, the elders are careful to allow each Christian to make his own decisions because he will have to live with the results. Here is an important lesson: We can help others understand the Bible’s counsel that applies to their situation. Still, our brothers and sisters have the right and the responsibility to make their own decisions. When they make wise decisions for themselves, they benefit. Clearly, we should never think that we have the authority to decide what other brothers and sisters should do.
DO NOT LET YOUR FEELINGS CONTROL YOUR DECISIONS
12, 13. Why is it dangerous to make decisions when we are angry or discouraged?
12 Today, many people follow their heart when they make decisions. But that can be dangerous. The Bible warns us not to base our decisions on our imperfect heart, or feelings. (Proverbs 28:26) We cannot trust our heart because “the heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate.” (Jeremiah 17:9) There are many examples in the Bible that show the sad results of relying on the imperfect heart. (1 Kings 11:9; Jeremiah 3:17; 13:10) So, what could happen if we follow our heart when we make decisions?
13 Jehovah has commanded us to love him with our whole heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39) But we need to be careful. The scriptures in the previous paragraph show that it is dangerous to let our feelings control our thinking and actions. For example, it is difficult for an angry person to make a good decision. (Proverbs 14:17; 29:22) It is also hard for someone who is discouraged to make a wise choice. (Numbers 32:6-12; Proverbs 24:10) We should let God’s law guide our thinking. (Romans 7:25) When we make important decisions, we should not let our feelings control what we do.
WHEN TO CHANGE YOUR DECISIONS
14. How do we know that it is right to change some decisions?
14 We need to make wise decisions. Still, a wise person knows that at times he or she may have to reconsider a past decision and perhaps change it. Jehovah God set the perfect example for us. Notice what he did for the Ninevites in Jonah’s day: “When the true God saw what they did, how they had turned back from their evil ways, he reconsidered the calamity that he said he would bring on them, and he did not bring it.” (Jonah 3:10) When Jehovah saw that the Ninevites had changed and had stopped doing what was bad, he adjusted his decision. This showed that he is reasonable, humble, and compassionate. Unlike many humans, Jehovah does not make thoughtless decisions, even when he is angry.
When Jehovah saw that the Ninevites had changed and had stopped doing what was bad, he adjusted his decision
15. Why might we need to change a decision?
15 There may be times when it would be good for us to reconsider a decision, such as when circumstances change. Recall that Jehovah sometimes changed his decisions. (1 Kings 21:20, 21, 27-29; 2 Kings 20:1-5) Another time to adjust a decision may be when we receive new information. Think about King David’s example. He made a decision about Saul’s grandson Mephibosheth based on wrong information given to him. Later, when David received accurate information, he changed his decision. (2 Samuel 19:24-29) At times, it may be wise for us to do the same thing.
16. (a) What suggestions are helpful when making decisions? (b) Why should we review previous decisions, and how can we do that?
16 The Bible says that we should not be hasty when making important decisions. (Proverbs 21:5) We should take time to think carefully about all the facts so that we can make a wise decision. (1 Thessalonians 5:21) Before deciding what to do, a family head should take time to research the Scriptures and Christian publications. It would also be good to listen to the opinions or views of other family members. Remember that God urged Abraham to listen to his wife. (Genesis 21:9-12) Elders too should take time to do research. When new information shows that they need to change one of their previous decisions, they are not afraid that they will lose respect from others. Reasonable and modest elders should be ready to adjust their thinking and decisions when necessary. And it would be good for all of us to follow their example. This can help the congregation to be peaceful and remain united.—Acts 6:1-4.
DO WHAT YOU HAVE DECIDED TO DO
17. What can help us to succeed in making decisions?
17 Some decisions will be more serious than others. For example, deciding whether to marry or whom to marry is a very serious decision. Another serious decision is when to begin the full-time ministry. Before making such important decisions, we need to think carefully about the situation and pray for Jehovah’s help. This may take time, but if we want to make a wise decision, we must trust in Jehovah, listen to his instruction, and follow his direction. (Proverbs 1:5) Jehovah has given us the best advice in his Word. So it is important for us to do research and pray for Jehovah’s guidance. He can give us the qualities we need to make decisions that are in harmony with his will. Before we make important decisions, we should always ask ourselves: ‘Will this decision show that I love Jehovah? Will it bring joy and peace to my family? And will it show that I am patient and kind?’
18. Why does Jehovah expect us to make our own decisions?
18 Jehovah does not force us to love him and to serve him. Instead, he has given us the freedom to make that choice. He respects our responsibility and right to choose whether we will serve him. (Joshua 24:15; Ecclesiastes 5:4) But he does expect us to do what we have decided to do based on his Word. When we have faith in Jehovah’s directions and apply the principles he has given us, we can make wise decisions. And we will show that we are steady in all our ways.—James 1:5-8; 4:8.