Tag Archives: decision making

Decision Making – Choosing God’s Will in Wisdom

As Christians, we are often faced with making difficult personal, family or even church based decisions.

  • Sometimes the correct choices are to be found explicitly in God’s word.
  • However, sometimes they aren’t.
  • And in these cases, Gary Friesen’s book, Decision Making and the Will of God, provides us with some much needed insight.
  • He outlines 4 principals which he argues can free us up to be much better decision makers for God’s kingdom.
  • This lesson is based largely on his book as well as J.P. Moreland’s The Kingdom Triangle; Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart; and Sam Storm’s The Beginners Guide to Spiritual Gifts.

 

The Four Principals Outlined:

(1) “Where God commands, we must obey” (chapter 8).

  • Here God provides Moral Guidance
  • Here God may also provide Special Guidance
  • Moral Guidance and Special Guidance express God’s Moral Will for us.
  • God’s Moral Will is “all the commands in the Bible” – Friesen.

(2) “Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose” (chapter 9).

(3) “Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose” (chapters 10-11).

  • Here, God provides Wisdom Guidance
  • Wisdom Guidance ultimately results in expressing God’s Moral Will for us.

(4) “When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good” (chapters 12-13).

  • Here, God provides Sovereign Guidance
  • Sovereign Guidance expresses God’s Sovereign Will for us.
  • God’s Sovereign Will is His “secret plan that works all things together” for His good purposes.
    • Certain—it will be fulfilled
    • Detailed—includes all things
    • Hidden—except when revealed by prophecy
    • Supreme—without violating human responsibility or making God the author of sin
    • Perfect—working all things together for God’s glory and our good

 

I will briefly cover all 4, but will spend most of our time on (3) Wisdom Guidance.

  • First, however, let’s begin with number (1) above.

 

 

1) WHERE GOD COMMANDS, WE MUST OBEY

 

When God commands through either His Moral Guidance or His Special Guidance, we must obey.

  • It is the de facto right thing to do.
  • And therefore becomes our moral obligation.
  • Let’s look at a couple of examples.

 

Moral Guidance:

A) Exodus 20:13–16 (ESV) — 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  • Just (4) of the Ten Commandments demonstrate the nature and breadth of God’s Moral Guidance.

 

Special Guidance:

B) Acts 16:7 (ESV) — 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.

  • God, in some supernatural way, made His will known to Paul.
  • Paul was not to go to Bithynia.
  • Paul was thus morally obligated through this Special Guidance to obey.

 

There really isn’t much else to be said on this topic.

  • It is plainly obvious that if God provides specific commands or direction through Moral Guidance and/or Special Guidance, we have no moral freedom – to obey is the right decision and to disobey is the wrong one.
  • He has revealed His Moral Will to us and there is no more discussion.

 

However, what about those decisions we face where God doesn’t give specific Moral or Special Guidance?

  • In these cases, we have some latitude of freedom in our decision making.

 

 

2) WHERE THERE IS NO COMMAND, GOD GIVES US FREEDOM (AND RESPONSIBILITY) TO CHOOSE

 

The below graphic will help us to visualize the freedom the Christian has in the decision making process.

decision-making-wisdom-chart

 

This circle illustrates that the freedom we have to decide exists within the purposes of God’s Sovereign Will (within which is His Sovereign Guidance) and within the restraints of His Moral Will (Moral and Special Guidance).

  • There are many biblical examples of this; let’s look at just a few.

 

A) Genesis 2:16–17 (ESV) — 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

  • Here God has made known to him His Sovereign Will in the form of a command which obligates Adam and Eve morally.
  • The command is simply, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat”.
  • However, they have freedom to choose from every other tree as they see fit.

 

B) Deuteronomy 14:26 (ESV) — 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.

  • Here, within the restrictions God outlined on clean and unclean foods, the Israelites can eat, “whatever you desire”.

 

C) 1 Corinthians 7:39–40 (ESV) — 39 A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

  • Paul advises Corinth that the widow can remarry, “whom she wishes”.
  • He suggests, however, that the wise choice may be to remain unmarried.

 

So we have some freedom to make decisions.

  • 2 Corinthians 3:17 (ESV) — 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
  • However, God has placed some restrictions on us.
  • As revealed in our graphic, our freedom is contained by God’s Moral and Special Guidance (as previously discussed) and by His Wisdom and Sovereign Guidance.
  • Let’s examine God’s Wisdom Guidance.

 

 

3) WHERE THERE IS NO COMMAND, GOD GIVES US WISDOM TO CHOOSE

 

So what is wisdom (in context of decision making)?

  • James 3:17 (ESV) — 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
  • It is “knowledge of God’s word and a pious mode of life” – TDNT.
  • It is that which “God imparts to those who are close to God” – BDAG.
  • It is “good judgment in the face of Christian demands” – BDAG.
  • Gary Friesen sums these up by suggesting that wisdom “enables us not only to live life morally, but to live it skillfully”
  • Finally, A.W. Tozer puts it very simply when he says wisdom is “sanctified common sense”.

 

Are we commanded to us Wisdom Guidance in our decision making?

  • Ephesians 5:15–16 (ESV) — 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
  • Colossians 4:5 (ESV) — 5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
  • Ecclesiastes 2:13 (ESV) — 13 Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly
  • Ecclesiastes 10:10 (ESV) — 10 If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.
    • These verses demonstrate that we are to use wisdom in a variety of contexts.
    • So, wisdom is something we are commanded to use and so are morally obligated to use.
    • Interestingly, in this sense, it is part of God’s Moral Will (the 2nd circle in our graphic).

 

How does God give it to us?

 

(1) We need to ask for it.

  • Colossians 1:9 (ESV) — 9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
  • I call this “Seeking Christ’s Living Water

 

(2) Life of the Mind – obviously we must learn, study and grasp the truths of scripture and acquire a “thoughtful Christian worldview” – J.P. Moreland.

  • I call this “Knowing Christ’s Living Water

 

(3) Heart/Spirit/Will – we must cultivate our “inner life, developing emotional intimacy with God, engaging in classic spiritual formation practices” such as prayer, worship, service, self-sacrifice, fasting, etc. – Dallas Willard.

  • I call this “Drinking Christ’s Living Water

 

(4) Relationship with the Holy Spirit – we must learn “to live in and use the Spirit’s power and the authority of the Kingdom of God, developing a supernatural lifestyle, receiving answers to prayer, learning to effectively pray” thereby growing in our ability to “hear God’s voice through impressions, prophetic words of knowledge and wisdom, dreams and visions” – J.P. Moreland.

  • I call this “Sourcing Christ’s Living Water

 

BTW – It must be emphasized that intent alone to grow as a believer and increase in wisdom will only lead to failure.

  • Because as we try in our own power with only our good intentions, we will wonder why we are making very little progress and will become disillusioned, disconnected and plagued by doubt.
  • However, the four points above provide us with the means, in Christ, to flourish in our Christian walk!

 

Clearly, then, God’s Wisdom Guidance does not come by osmosis.

  • Sure, simply being born again provides us with insights far superior to the world.
  • But, God’s wisdom is “deep and wide” and we are called to jump in and dive deep.
  • And because we are called on to use God’s Wisdom Guidance, we are morally obligated to seek it through the ways just outlined.
  • Not to do so is to reject God’s Moral Guidance.

 

So how do we use God’s Wisdom Guidance when we have “freedom and responsibility to choose”?

  • Paul gives us excellent advice on this in 1 Corinthians.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:23 (ESV) — 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

 

Friesen, in his exegesis of this verse, tells us that, “In the area of freedom, the believer’s goal is to make wise decisions on the basis of spiritual usefulness”.

  • So in the freedom we have to decide, we are to find the choices that “build up” and that are “helpful” in our Christian lives.

 

To really get at the meaning of Paul’s words, it will help to define the words Paul uses for “helpful” and “build up”.

  • HELPFUL – to be advantageous, help, confer a benefit, be profitable/useful – BDAG.
  • BUILD UP – to help improve ability to function in living responsibly and effectively, strengthen, build up, make more able – BDAG.

 

So if we insert these meanings into Paul’s verse, I think the way we are to use God’s Wisdom Guidance in the freedom we have to decide becomes crystal clear.

  • 1 Corinthians 10:23 (ESV) — 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are [advantageous, useful or confer a benefit]. “All things are lawful,” but not all things [improve ability to function in living responsibly and effectively or make more able].
  • So a decision made using God’s Wisdom Guidance is one that chooses the option that is the most advantageous, useful or confers the highest benefit to our Christian walk.
  • And it is the one that improves one’s ability to live responsibly and make one more able to be a Christ-centered Christian.

 

Biblical Examples of using God’s Wisdom Guidance:

1 Thessalonians 3:1–2 (NIV) — 1 So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best [choose as better] to be left by ourselves in Athens. 2 We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith,

Philippians 2:25–26 (NIV) — 25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.

1 Corinthians 16:3–4 (ESV) — 3 And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. 4 If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

2 Samuel 18:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Then David mustered the men who were with him and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 And David sent out the army, one third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the men, “I myself will also go out with you.” 3 But the men said, “You shall not go out. For if we flee, they will not care about us. If half of us die, they will not care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us. Therefore it is better that you send us help from the city.” 4 The king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood at the side of the gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands.

 

 

4) WHEN WE HAVE CHOSEN WHAT IS MORAL AND WISE, WE MUST TRUST THE SOVEREIGN GOD TO WORK ALL THE DETAILS TOGETHER FOR GOOD

 

As we have said, God’s Sovereign Will is:

  • Certain—it will be fulfilled
  • Detailed—includes all things
  • Hidden—except when revealed by prophecy
  • Supreme—without violating human responsibility or making God the author of sin
  • Perfect—working all things together for God’s glory and our good

 

It would take an entire month to discuss the Scriptural foundations that outline the nature of God’s Sovereign Will.

  • So instead, I want to briefly discuss what its implications are for our decision making when we do have freedom to decide – the center of the graphic discussed earlier.
  • Even though it is hidden from us, it still, nevertheless, provides us with Sovereign Guidance.
    • Romans 11:33–34 (ESV) — 33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

 

Examples of God’s Sovereign Guidance:

Philippians 2:12–13 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Psalm 37:4 (ESV) — 4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Romans 8:28 (ESV) — 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Job 23:10 (ESV) — 10 But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

 

Implications of God’s Sovereign Guidance:

The 4 principals of decision making are how God provides for us a “framework that enables us to avoid making the wrong choice but provides a range of ‘right’ choices” – Friesen.

  • And within this protective framework God “has created room for creativity and development.”
  • Yet, because of God’s Sovereign Will and its Guidance, we have no need to angst over every decision we have within the center circle of our graphic.
  • And though we are morally obligated to make wise decisions (as outlined).
  • We also know that we can’t thwart God’s Sovereign Will with our decision making.
  • This means that the pressure of trying to control final outcomes is off of us.
  • As a result, the decision making process is no longer about us.
  • It is about God’s Sovereignty over the decision we have made in Wisdom, as informed by our trust in Him and the Guidance(s) He has provided.

 

Proverbs 2:1–6 (ESV) — 1 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.