I wonder how many readers are wrestling with a difficult decision in their lives. You want to obey God but are unable to discern His will. Perhaps the Bible offers little specific guidance on how to move forward. On the surface, all alternatives appear acceptable to God, yet you suspect He prefers one choice. But which one? How can you determine with confidence the path forward?
Let’s look at Jesus’ life to understand His approach to decision-making, and in the process glean several important lessons and insights.
One of the most important decisions Jesus made was His selection of the twelve apostles; those men who would serve as future leaders of the church and in whom Jesus would invest Himself over the course of His ministry. Did Jesus simply trust His instincts in making this critical decision? If not, what pattern did He give us?
Scripture tells us that before making His decision Jesus “went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Him; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13, NKJV).
Jesus devoted significant time alone in prayer with God, making known His request and listening for direction. Similarly, our decision-making process should always begin with prayer as a foundation. We may not spend all night in prayer seeking God’s direction but we should certainly invest considerable time soliciting His guidance when confronting any decision of consequence.
We would also do well to exercise caution in placing too much trust in the advice of others. Though soliciting godly counsel is often valuable – Solomon tells us, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14, NKJV) – we must remain mindful of the fact that others do not always share God’s perspective, no matter how spiritually mature they are.
Recall Peter’s response when Jesus revealed that He would suffer many things before being rejected and killed. Scripture tells us, “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him” (Mark 8:32, NKJV). Jesus’ teaching made no sense to Peter because he was processing the message from a temporal perspective, not God’s eternal one. Peter was certain God’s plan did not involve a tortured and brutal death for His mentor, especially at so young an age. Had Jesus followed His outspoken disciple’s counsel He would have avoided a violent demise, but humanity would have forever remained separated from God with no hope for reconciliation.
Take a moment to digest the significant insight this encounter produced: God often leads us to actions and decisions that appear foolhardy to the world and may confound believers and church leaders as well. Learning from this, we must not assume other Christians always know God’s direction for us, irrespective of their spiritual depth. God’s path for us is just as likely to contradict the consensus of those around us as it is to align with it.
By extension, we also ought to avoid assuming God’s plan always fits nicely with our own desires. Recall Jesus’ prayer the night before His crucifixion. “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will but Thy will be done” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus made known His desire to go down a different path, but also proclaimed His willingness to follow God regardless of the consequences. He refused to prioritize personal aspiration above obedience. We must adopt a similar mindset as we navigate choices throughout life. Inform God of our longings but always subject them to whatever plan He lays out for us.
Another important component of biblically sound decision-making involves actually acting on whatever direction God gives us. That can be challenging when His revealed path involves financial risk or jeopardizes our freedom, safety or life. In such situations it is critical we enlist the help of others, to hold us accountable and intercede with God on our behalf – asking Him to give us strength and boldness to move forward as directed.
An excellent example of this is found in the book of Esther. Following her decision to intercede with the king on behalf of the Jewish people, an act that had the potential to cost her her life, she makes the following appeal to her uncle, “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Susa, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:16, NKJV).
Esther knew what God wanted her to do. But she also understood that obedience carried the risk of an early grave. So she asked the local Jewish community to fast and pray for her – that she would follow God’s plan, that her life would be spared, and that God would honor her obedience by saving the Jewish people. Don’t hesitate to ask other believers to bathe you in prayer and fast on your behalf the next time you find yourself struggling to travel down the path God has revealed to you.
Finally, as you contemplate current and future decisions, consider taking the path that draws you closer to God and demonstrates His love, mercy, and truth to others. In doing so, it’s possible your decision will not just have an immediate impact on you; it might just have an eternal impact on others.