Smoother Sailing Article – Decisions, Decisions
By Pastor Barry Black
“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.” Hebrews 6.19
We all face choices and decisions every day. No matter who you are, how young or old, whatever your educational background, or your social standing; making decisions is something that we all have in common. We have all made unwise decisions at one time or another. Things we wish we had NOT done. Maybe we have made purchases that we later regretted; emotions we wish we had controlled, attitudes we wish we had changed, taken the dishonest way out of something when we could have just as easily done what was right, formed relationships that we later regretted. Or maybe it is something that we didn’t do, that we wish that we WOULD have done. A class we should have taken, a degree or training program we should have taken, a job we should have applied for, someone to whom we should have explained the gospel, or given a gospel tract, taken more quality time with family, stopped to enjoy life more.
Maybe there are decisions that we have made that we just knew was God’s will, but may not have been.There’s a story of an old Scottish woman who went house-to-house across the countryside selling thread, buttons and shoe strings. When she would come to a fork in the road she would toss a stick up in the air and go in the direction it pointed when it landed. One day, however, she was seen tossing the stick up several times. “Why do you toss the stick up so many times?” someone asked. “Because,” she replied, “it keeps pointing to the left and I want to take the road to the right.” She kept tossing the stick until it finally pointed to the right. Sometimes we treat God like that.
Basically, we have all made choices and decisions we wish that we could go back and do over. This article is certainly not an “all you need to know guide” for making decisions. Hopefully it will help you to make decisions more wisely.
Making Godly wisdom my Spiritual map
Let’s look and see what scripture has to say. As Christians, one of the first guidelines for making decisions should be the desire to do God’s will for our life, whatever God’s will may be or may include. Romans 12.1,2:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
With that in mind, to find His will, we certainly need His wisdom. We need to see our decision – the circumstances of it, the choice(s) we face, etc. from God’s perspective. Let’s begin with the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 5.15-17:
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”. He uses the word, “circumspectly” – meaning: carefully, precisely. Paul the gives a command in the negative: “be ye not wise”. In other words, we need not be ignorant in our spiritual walk (including the decisions we make). It is God’s desire for us that we walk wisely (including our decisions and choices), so therefore we should obey Him and seek that wisdom – from His word, from the direction of His Holy Spirit, through godly counsel, etc. The first step in seeking God’s will should be to desire God’s wisdom about the decision(s) we are making. In the book of James, we are promised:
James 1.5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
3 Categories of Unwise People in Proverbs
Let’s take a moment to look at what Proverbs has to say about making wise decisions. In fact, since we saw the command in Ephesians 5.15-17 to “be not unwise”, there are some passages in Proverbs which warn about those who are unwise. Let’s look at them and learn what to avoid.
1.The “simple” or naïve person – Proverbs 1.22
“How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?” The simple or naïve person lacks wisdom. The simple or naïve person could make better decisions and choices in life if they listened to and applied wisdom. The simple or naïve person LOVES his simplicity.
The Greek philosopher, Demosthenes was lecturing on moral issues. His audience soon seemed bored and uninterested, so he told them a story. There was a man struggling to cross a mountain with a great load of sticks on his back. Along came another man with a donkey who said, “Why stumble along? Rent my donkey, and he will carry those sticks.” So he did. He put the sticks on the donkey’s back and resumed his journey. The sun was blazing hot, so he sat down to rest in the donkey’s shade. But the donkey’s owner tried to rest in the same shadow. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough room. So they began to argue about who owned the shade of the donkey. The argument became furious. At this point in the story, Demosthenes walked off the stage. The audience began to whisper, then mumble, then some began to call for Demosthenes to come back on stage. So he returned to the stage and said to his audience, “A few moments ago I was talking to you about issues of life and death, and you paid no attention. But now you are all up in arms about who owns the shade of a donkey?” His audience was of simple minds. They had a mindset that tuned out serious issues and fed on simplicity. Look at Proverbs 14.15, 22.3.
The simple or naïve person walks right into danger, they don’t think about it; make no preparation to avoid consequences. Someone well said, “When the helmsman does not know what port he is heading for, no wind is the right wind.” If you take a walk and you aren’t looking, you may run into something. You may head down the wrong path or the wrong direction.
2.The Scoffer or Scornful person
Scoffers/scorners are different from the simple. Whereas the simple lack wisdom, the scoffer realizes what is wise and right, yet shows contempt for wisdom. A scoffer/scorner knows the difference between right and wrong, but just does not obey. They would rather “gamble with the odds” so to speak, than to avoid wrongdoing.
Proverbs 13.1 “The wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.”
The wise persons hears and heeds when instruction is given; scorners refuse to listen instruction becomes rebuke.
Proverbs 9.7a,8a “He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame…Reprove not a scorner, let he hate thee…”
A simple person can possibly be corrected. However, a scorner mocks what is right, and applauds wrongdoing.
3.The Foolish Person –
Ephesians 5.15 “be not unwise”
A foolish person is one step down from the scorner/scoffer. The simple lack wisdom, the scorner/scoffer refuses wisdom, but the foolish person hates wisdom and righteousness: Proverbs 14.9 “Fools make a mock at sin…”
The fool rejects wisdom and will not receive correction: Proverbs 17.10 “A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.”
Some helpful guidelines
Every time we make a decision, whether we realize it or not, it is preceded by questions such as:
“What is at stake, or at risk here?” “What could I possibly gain, or possibly lose by making this decision?” “What are the consequences?”It is very wise to realize that every decision has consequences, whether good or bad.
When we make decisions, we usually do so by following basic guidelines:
One, we want to get the most out of life. Since the decisions we make carry consequences, we most likely want what will benefit us now or later, or hopefully both. Ask yourself, “will this get me where I want to go in my life?” Or maybe word it in the negative, “will this decision keep me from circumstances in which I know I do not want to find myself?”
Secondly, we want to have the least amount of unpleasant consequences. It is human nature to follow the path of least resistance; and whether it is a financial decision, a moral decision, a business deal, or a relationship, it is human nature to see just how close we can get to the edge, and be “safe”. The bible tells us that we will reap what we so, whether good, or bad (Galatians 6.7,8).
However, as a believer, we should add at least this third guideline: Will this decision please my Lord, and result in His blessing? “Will this get me where the Lord will want me to be so that He can bless me, and make me a blessing to others?”
And keep in mind…
There are very few shortcuts in life.
It is human tendency to ask, “What is acceptable?” But what is acceptable is not always right. What seems to be acceptable now may result in much more difficult circumstances or consequences further down the road. If you make a mess of your life, you should not expect one decision to change everything overnight! I have found this quote to be true and helpful: “We make our decisions, and then our decisions turn around and make us.” – Frank Boreham
There are some choices that we face in which it may be easier to do what is wrong than to do what is right.
In other words, there are times when doing right is not easy at all. It is always best to do what is right, even when it is difficult. Sometimes the choice is clear “this choice is wrong, this choice is right”. Sometimes either choice could be a “right” choice.
There are few if any “perfect decisions” in life.
There are times in life when things come our way. We didn’t ask for them to happen, and we wouldn’t have chosen the circumstances. But whether it is something that seems to be forced upon us, or something that totally catches us off guard; NOTHING comes into the life of the Christian without first making its way through the all-knowing mind, the all-loving heart, and the all-powerful hands of our Holy, Awesome Heavenly Father! Sometimes we can have several choices, and all of them could be good choices (i.e. could all have more positive consequences than negative). When that is the case, we should seek God’s will and apply biblical principles of wise decision making.
Realize that even the best decisions can result in negative consequences!
In the scriptures, there are several examples of people who did right, and “took it on the chin”. Joseph did what was right – he fled from enticement by Potiphar’s wife, yet he was falsely accused and imprisoned. Daniel was a man of faith, a man of prayer. He prayed 3 times a day, and even when it was, if I may say it this way, “politically incorrect”. Knowing that there would be consequences, he continued to pray, and into the lions den he went. God delivered him miraculously. Paul and some of the other Apostles in the book of Acts were beaten and imprisoned for preaching the gospel. Or as someone said, “You can’t do what is right, and get away with it.”
Sometimes the easiest choice is the choice that is wrong.
Unfortunately, some right choices are very difficult; and there are times where it would be much easier to give in and do wrong than to take the “higher ground” and do what is right. The fact that it is sometimes easier to do what is wrong than what is right is exemplified in this poem:
Are You A Builder?
I saw them tearing a building down,
A group of men in a busy town,
With hefty blow and a lusty yell,
They swung with zest, and a side wall fell.
I asked of the foreman “Are these men skilled?
The kind you’d hire if you had to build?”
He looked at me, laughed and said “No indeed!
Unskilled labor is all I need!
“Why, they can wreck in a day or two
what it has taken builders years to do!”
And I asked myself as I went my way,
“Which of these rolls have I tried to play?
Am I a builder with rule and square
Measuring and constructing with skill and care?
Or . . .Am I a wrecker who walks the town,
Content with the business of tearing down.”
Of course the point here is not that working on a demolition crew is wrong! The point is that sometimes the easier choice – the path of least resistance, the quickest results – may not always be what is right or what is best.
Mistakes and failures are opportunities to start over more intelligently.
Mistakes and failures sometimes occur as a result of our choice(s); but sometimes they are the result of the choices that others make which in turn affect us. The person who fails is not necessarily a failure. A failure is a person who gives up and never tries to move forward in their life.
It is never too late to do what is right.
It may not be easy to do what is right, but it is never too late. It may not be possible to undo or redo what has been done, but it is never late to do what is right.