Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Some wisdom on making decisions:

One of the benefits of the cyber-world is it allows one to become friends with folk he would not otherwise meet. I have never met Pastor Charles Wood. I have benefited from his writing. He describes himself as, "Retired pastor and educator; current husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather,Bible teacher, writer and constrarian, now hidden away in Mish, Indiana."

He sends out his musings to an email list. If you want to be added to his mailing list send me a note and I'll forward it to him.

"Woodchuck" gave me permission to quote the following article:

DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS: Many years ago (1981 to be precise), I read Garry Fiesen and Robin Maxon's definitive work, Decision Making and the Will of God. My attention had been drawn to it by a very negative review in Written by Bob Sumner in his Biblical Evangelist. At the time, I wasn't very impressed by Sumner and assumed that something he would treat so negatively must have some value to it (well, at least I'm being honest about the matter). The work was exhaustive (and somewhat exhausting to read - and is still available from, but it got me to thinking a great deal about some of the issues involved in seeking and finding the will of God. The results of some of my thinking will likely show up in my next post. It has long been my contention - and it still is - that much of what we need to know about the will of God is already revealed in the Word of God. Quite often our problem is not with discerning the will of God but in being willing to do the will of God. My over-simplified version would be: if the Bible says to do it or not do it, then either do it or don't do it. There is, however, that gray area where we have to make major decisions that are not specifically covered by the Word of God. I stand fairly well convinced that such decisions make up no more than about 15% of all the decisions we face, but that group can be very significant and also quite vexing in practical reality. Thus, I took special notice of a recent article by Dr. Van in his "Cogitations." I think he gives some sound, concise, Biblically-based advice on the subject. "Christians ought to have some clear pattern to follow in making decisions, whether major or minor. We are constantly making choices. Many things we do out of habit, and establishing commendable habits is important in every life. Some, when they face an important decision, wonder, “What would a parent do?” A good question to ask is, “What would Jesus do?” We make some decisions quickly, without much thought. We may mull over pros and cons of some matters for days and never come to a solution. Too often we only mentally flip a coin (yes, that’s a type of gambling). "There are principles in the Word of God which a believer needs to keep in mind for every decision he makes each day. The first and most important principle is not really a decision open for discussion, and so, although it is primary, it does not involve any “process.” If Scripture says do it, do it; if Scripture forbids it, don’t do it. Many choices are just that clear cut. Should we ever lie? Ought we ever to steal? Should we spend time or money on lascivious living? Should we encourage a grieving brother? Our response to whatever God expects should not be just meeting “the letter of the law,” but a joyful willingness to do His will. "Many moral issues and personal choices are that simple: obey God; do what the Scripture teaches. Should I be a witness to others? That is clearly commanded. Should I go as a missionary to Germany? Several choices and decisions are involved. For such non-moral and unrevealed matters, a simple pattern seems helpful: Ask, Search, Believe. This ASB pattern for decision making should be easy to understand, easy to remember, and easy to put into practice. To repeat, it is not to be employed for anything which is clearly commanded or forbidden in God’s authoritative instruction book (2 Tim 3:16-17). "Adam was given only one restriction, Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of the other trees and other fruits he saw day after day, he could freely choose. The number, the variety, the color, the taste – for all of those fruits Adam had full freedom of choice. Whatever he chose and for whatever reason he chose it, he was honoring God. Similarly we today may freely choose to wear a green sweater or a blue one. We may prefer pie to cake. "Our choices, thus, are not always right vs. wrong, but good vs. better, acceptable vs. preferable. Making a “wrong” choice is not involved in non-moral or non-revealed decisions. Although many decisions are personal preferences within the scope of God’s provision, they pertain to matters which we consider really important: Which college? Which job? Knee replacement? To a nursing home? For these decisions involving the outcome of the choice, we desire to have guidance from One who knows us and who knows the future – that is, with God. Try: ask, search, believe. "Ask. You have not because you ask not (James 4:2). A quick, unspoken prayer will do it. Ask God for guidance, for wisdom, for discernment (James 1:5). Clear your heart of personal preferences and be open to whichever choice will most honor Him. Ask God for a proper attitude (see 1 Tim 6:17-19) while weighing which choice to make and in the full confidence of being guided by Him. "'Ask' does not take long. 'Search' means, Do not make a hasty or unfounded choice. You have asked for wisdom, now use the grey matter, and expect God to guide you. You have the Holy Spirit residing within to guide you. He can lead you to Scripture verses or to important principles. He can call to your remembrance things you should weigh. In His Word, God has given us all the guidance we need to make proper decisions; expect the Holy Spirit to impress those principles on your heart. "Do the 'smart' thing – God does not honor dumbness. Confer with godly advisors. Check with those most familiar with matters that are involved. Do not “put out fleece” or expect a lightning bolt. Carefully consider everything involved, and as you face a deadline, make the best choice you can based on all you have considered. "Then trust that God has guided you in your decision. That’s the B of our formula: Ask, Search, Believe. You asked God; now believe He heard and answered and guided you in your choice. Believe that the Holy Spirit directed in the wisdom employed in reaching your decision. Accept that God has provided the principles and the special wisdom needed. He has directed you to make the decision that will best glorify Him. Do not doubt. Do not replay the pros and cons over and over. You asked God to guide – why doubt that He has done so? "Does this mean that if we employ the ASB pattern every decision we make will be the “right” decision? Will we always profit financially? Will all problems always be cleared up? Any who expect that are missing one important phase of the process: the decision we make will “glorify God.” Sometimes that may not mean “success” or “profit” as the world sees it, but in God’s supreme plan for our spiritual maturity, it is that which will accomplish His best. We believe and accept that. We know that all that God wants for us is for our good. All that God allows to happen to us is for some eternal benefit. Till we see Him face to face, we just trust Him and rejoice in His grace and goodness."

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