Making Big Decisions (Part 4): The Way of Wisdom

The Way of Wisdom: This is the fourth post in a series on God’s will. Here, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.

God guides in many ways: through His invisible providence, through His word, and through the Holy Spirit. “In everything, the invisible hand of providence is lovingly directing your life—behind the scenes—down to the smallest detail.”[1] While God has spoken to His people in many different ways, He has most clearly communicated through His Son. He continues to do so through His Spirit who illuminates the Scriptures to us. Apart from the Spirit working through the Scriptures, God does not promise to use any other means to guide us, nor should we expect Him to. While God can lead us through more subjective means (i.e., emotions, circumstances, etc), these are not God’s normative practice. The only infallible source of guidance is the Word of God.

(Photo Source)

Making Wise Choices

The normal practice, even for the Apostles who heard God speak audibly (and were compelled by the Holy Spirit), was to simply make wise, God-honoring decisions.  As they observed God’s providence and sought to please Him, they used wisdom to discern which desires were most fitting for the situation and then simply decided where to go and how to get there. “With few exceptions, Paul planned, strategized, and made his own decisions about the nonmoral matters of his life… But when he gets to a fork in the road, hesitating and pleading with God to know which way to go seems completely foreign to the apostle.”[2] Making well-informed decisions that were often faith-requiring risks was the normal practice of the biblical characters. “In most cases, they made their decisions by the use of what we often call ‘sanctified common sense’ and lived quite normal lives.”[3]

Open Doors, Wet Fleece, and Lasting Impressions

Many times we evaluate God’s will for us depending on whether or not there is an open door. Sometimes God legitimately closes down an option in order to redirect us—though, He sometimes tests our hearts in order to sanctify us. He intends to grow us in holiness, faith, and perseverance as we learn to depend on Him. God’s plan for us is not always the comfortable or convenient way, though we should not think that choosing the harder road is more spiritual simply because it deprives us of something good and God-honoring. Similarly, some people “put out a fleece” in order to test whether or not God is for or against a particular decision. Gideon did this in the book of Judges. However, “the book of Judges generally does not provide a good example of much of anything… Gideon’s request was probably an indication of cowardice and unbelief more than faithful, wise decision making.”[4]

Those of us who do not lay out fleece can often be led by instincts, intuition, or mere impressions. “Impressions are impressions… We all get intuitions and hunches and gut feelings all the time. Some are from the Lord. Some aren’t. Most often, it probably doesn’t matter. Listen to your gut or not, but don’t make it an extra-special factor in your decision making, and don’t think you need that peaceful easy feeling before you can make up your mind… We need to be careful that we don’t absolutize our decisions because we pray about them.”[5] Sometimes impressions may be legitimate, but others are little more than indigestion. We cannot always determine the difference, therefore reading too much into them is unwise. Instead, we should trust God and make wise decision based on other, more objective factors. We typically have enough solid evidence to make informed decisions.

The Way of Wisdom

God-centered Life: We should take a profoundly God-centered approach to life that affects our various decisions: “Biblical wisdom means living a disciplined and prudent life in the fear of the Lord.”[6] In other words, we seek to love what God loves and hate what God hates—and simply make decisions regarding the more “neutral” matters that are neither right nor wrong.

Study Scripture: We should have lives that are regularly saturated with Scripture as the primary influence upon our thoughts and emotions. Our behavior should be an outworking of the truths that we embrace. “[God] wants us to know Him so intimately that His thoughts become our thoughts, His ways our ways, His affections our affections. God wants us to drink so deeply of the Scriptures that our heads and hearts are transformed so that we love what He loves and hate what He hates… God wants us to develop a taste for godliness.”[7]

Seek Wise Counsel: The Christian life is lived in the context of community. God intends us to learn and grow alongside of other believers where we can offer and receive encouragement, accountability, instruction, admonition, service, and rebuke. Two major components of living in community are transparency and teachability, both requiring humility. In making major decisions, we should seek the wise counsel of God-centered, gospel-living Christians who are wise, mature, and know us well enough to offer objective counsel. Human counsel is never infallible, but it is often helpful in confirming or redirecting us. In fact, it would be wise for us to always have godly mentors in our lives who know our strengths, weaknesses, interests, and predispositions well. They will help to sharpen and refine us as we learn and grow to overcome some of the sinful biases, fears, or immaturities that we often experience.

Pray for Wisdom & Grace: “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15). We must pray for illumination so that we can understand and apply the Scriptures. We should also pray for wisdom—we have not because we ask not (James 1). “God wants us to make good decisions that will help us be more like Christ and bring Him glory.”[8] Pray for things you already know are God’s will—good motives in decision making, an attitude of trust and faith and obedience, humility and teachability, and for His gospel to spread. After all, Jesus instructs the disciples to “Seek first His kingdom… and all other things will be added to them.” (Matt. 6:33). God will provide for every need of theirs—including the need for wisdom and the faith to make decisions—when they seek to live according to His word.

Make a Decision: Finally, make a decision. After you’ve prayed and studied and sought counsel, make a decision and trust God to confirm or redirect you along the way. Don’t over-spiritualize your decision. Do what seems best in light of the biblical wisdom you have and the nature of the circumstances before you. Don’t be afraid to take a God-honoring risks, as that demonstrates your faith in God rather than in your flawless decision-making skills.

Concluding Thoughts

“The way of wisdom is a way of life… If you are drinking deeply of godliness in the Word and from others in your prayer life, then you’ll probably make God-honoring decisions. In fact, if you are a person of prayer, full of regular good counsel from others, and steeped in the truth of the Word, you should begin to make many important decisions instinctively, and some of them even quickly… Study the Scriptures, listen to others, and pray continually—that’s the best course of action, not just at the moment of crisis, but as a way of life. And as you engage in these practices, don’t forget to make a decision—always with wisdom, always with freedom, and sometimes even with speed.”[9]

*DeYoung provides examples in applying the way of wisdom to marriage and career, but I will not be posting notes from that chapter. However, it’s interesting to note how he addresses the fallacy of waiting for “the one” in terms of jobs or soul-mates and instead encourages believers to actively make wise choices that are flavored with godliness and led by faith.

 ____________

[1] DeYoung, Just Do Something, 64. This series is based on content adapted and expanded from Kevin DeYoung’s book.

[2] Ibid, 70.

[3] Ibid, 73.

[4] Ibid, 80.

[5] Ibid, 84.

[6] Ibid, 89.

[7] Ibid, 92-93.

[8] Ibid, 95.

[9] Ibid, 97-98.

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