From This Point Forward
by David Jeremiah
While I was in London some years ago, a radio station invited me to participate in a call-in show. Several people called with questions about decision-making and the will of God. One listener said, "Dr. Jeremiah, I pray and talk to God, but I must be doing something wrong. I can't seem to make wise decisions, and I have trouble knowing what God wants me to do in various situations."
Most of us can relate to that. We can find ourselves stuck in holding patterns because we can't decide what to do. One young couple, for instance, needs a vacation but they aren't sure they can afford it. Instead of deciding one way or the other, they just flounder in frustration. Another young lady, a high school graduate, missed an entire semester of college because she couldn't decide which school to attend.
I'm reminded of what the late Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain said about decision-making: "Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides."
Big Decisions Are Based on Unseen Values
We need to think of all our decisions as big decisions. Oh, I don't mean whether to have a hamburger or a hot dog at the ball park; but most decisions reflect, in one way or another, our unseen values. If I'm a Christian, my every decision should be a Christian decision. What entertainment I'm going to enjoy, how I'm going to invest an extra hundred bucks, what I'm going to do on my day off—all these are big decisions because they reflect my desire to glorify God in all I do and say.
"Every time you make a choice," said C. S. Lewis, "you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all of your innumerable decisions, you are slowly turning the central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature by simply making the decisions that you make."
Learn to consider every decision as an opportunity to honor God, and keep your unseen, biblical values as the underpinning for all the choices in life.
Big Decisions Are Birthed in an Atmosphere of Prayer
Big decisions are also birthed in an atmosphere of prayer—and I don't mean muttering a quick prayer just before a decision is made. I'm talking about living in an atmosphere of prayer so that our hearts are constantly pondering the choices that represent God's will for our lives. Very often it's while at prayer that certain convictions develop or ideas come.
Dr. Henry Blackaby wrote in his book, Spiritual Leadership: "One of the grave realizations of many fallen leaders is that they neglected their relationship with God. Numerous men and women have testified, often in tears, that they became so consumed with fulfilling their official responsibilities that they inadvertently spent less and less time with the Lord."
As a result, Blackaby says, they were unprepared spiritually when they suddenly had to make important decisions.
"How tragic," he wrote, "when leaders face a major decision that desperately calls for God's wisdom but they have grown unfamiliar with His voice." 1
Big Decision Thinking includes God as partner in the decision-making process, and prayer is our way of recognizing the presence of the heavenly Father and acknowledging Him in all our ways. It's our way of asking God for His proffered wisdom, given liberally and willingly to those who ask for it. It's the incubator of our best ideas and the source of our freshest creativity. Prayer is our lifeline to finding and fulfilling God's perfect will in all we say and do.
Remember Israel's first king—King Saul—who, when faced with a crisis, invariably made the wrong decision. Why? He was alert, intelligent, and charismatic, but his daily walk with God was virtually non-existent. He didn't make His decisions in prayer or with a view toward God's glory. His successor, King David, was just the opposite, earnestly seeking God and inquiring of the Lord before every decision.
Big Decisions Require Wisdom from Others
We also need the wisdom of those we trust. The book of Proverbs repeatedly reminds us to seek godly counsel before deciding what to do:
- For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure (Proverbs 11:14, NIV).
- The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise (Proverbs 12:15).
- Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice (Proverbs 13:10, NIV).
- Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established (Proverbs 15:22).
- Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days (Proverbs 19:20).
- By wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 24:6).
Big Decision Thinking Benefits from Time
Speaking of Proverbs, we can learn another lesson about big decision-thinking. Whenever possible, take your time so you can mull over issues long enough to understand them. Proverbs 14:8 says, "The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way." And Proverbs 14:15 says, "A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps" (NIV). Proverbs 13:16 adds, "A wise man thinks ahead; a fool doesn't" (TLB).
Peter Drucker, one of America's favorite leadership gurus, wrote that effective executives are not overly impressed by speed in decision-making. And Ted Engstrom wrote in his book on leadership: "Don't make snap decisions. The spur-of-the-moment decisions are merely guesses…. Before announcing a decision, it's best to take a little time, sleep on it first. God may have other plans."
Big Decisions Must Be Committed to God
Finally, big decisions must be committed to God. Several years ago, Senator Jennings Randolph, the legendary politician from West Virginia, met with a group of pastors and told this story. Randolph was elected to Congress in 1933 in the great landslide that swept Franklin D. Roosevelt into office during the Great Depression. Shortly after the election, he was called to the White House. There, in the president's private quarters, sat FDR. The lights were low, and a fire was roaring in the fireplace. About a dozen or so leaders of Congress had come at FDR's request. Jennings Randolph couldn't believe he had been included, as young and inexperienced as he was. But Roosevelt had his eye on him.
The young congressman didn't say much that night. He just sat in awe as Franklin Roosevelt began to speak. Roosevelt told the congressional leaders what he had in mind, and how quickly he wanted to move during the first 100 days of his administration.
He said he intended to declare a bank holiday, which was a positive-sounding phrase that really meant closing all the nation's banks until the government could regain control of the situation. He wanted to send Congress a record number of bills quickly and furiously, including the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.
He went on and on, speaking confidently, but in such low tones that Randolph had to strain to hear him. But when FDR was finished, Randolph said, the group was stunned and speechless until one of the senators said, "Mr. President, if we move that quickly, aren't you afraid we'll make mistakes?"
Roosevelt looked at the man and said, "Senator, if we don't move that quickly, we will soon find that we no longer have the opportunity even of making mistakes."
At that critical moment in history, America needed a man who knew how to make decisions, even with the potential of making mistakes. You and I have a lot of decisions to make every day. We're fallible people and we'll make mistakes along the way. But when we earnestly base our decisions on our unseen values, pray over them, make them thoughtfully, based on wise counsel, and commit them to God, He can bless them. If we make a wrong decision, He knows how to correct our paths or redeem our mistakes.
At this critical moment in history, the Lord needs men and women who know how to make wise choices, who are growing more mature day by day, and who can then commit their decision to the Lord and press on.
1 Henry and Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership (Nashville: B & H Publishers, 2001), 180-181.