The Right Way to Make Decisions
Decision making can be hard… but only if we let it. The truth of the matter is that decision making becomes easy when you have a clear set of standards on which to make those decisions. For instance, I hate cucumbers. If there’s a bowl of chopped cucumbers in the fridge, freshly seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled in dressing, while that might be tempting for you, it’s not for me. At all. There’s honestly no way you can dress up fresh cucumbers where I’ll decide to eat them. My clear standards make it easy for me to make that choice.
The Psalmist makes the same comment about sin. “I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every false way” (Psa 119.104). Like I feel about cucumbers, the psalmist feels about sin. It’s not tempting once it is recognized as sins. And it is by understanding God’s laws and precepts that we come to that recognition.
I have found a three-fold approach that makes every decision easy. And when I say every, I mean every single decision, big or small, important or minor, spiritual or secular, moral or inconsequential, no matter when or what circumstance, or whatever else is going on. Seriously, what I’m about to tell you will genuinely make every decision clear. All you have to do is ask these three questions.
1. Does this cause me to glorify God?
2. Does this fulfill my mission from God to share the Gospel with the world or prod my fellow believer towards heaven?
3. Does this allow me to live more righteously than before?
That’s it. But because I’m long winded, and because each of these deserves a fair shake, let’s spend a few moments examining each.
Does this cause me to glorify God? Paul is clear that every decision we make should bring glory to God. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10.31). No matter what you’re doing, no matter whether it is going to change the course of your life or just be a momentary action, it must be done for God’s glory.
Am I going to study for the test? Should I call that person back? Is this argument online worth it? This television show looks exciting, but admittedly little risqué; but will I be fine watching it? Every decision is affected by asking whether what we decide to do brings glory to God or not.
I’m not saying you cannot go fishing, or go to the movies, or eat that extra donut. I am saying that when you decide to do those things, you need to think critically about why you are doing those things. Most activities, even the ones that seemingly do not matter in the scheme of things, matter because they reflect whether we are seeking to glorify God or please ourselves. Take fishing for example. There is nothing wrong with fishing. It’s wholesome, can be therapeutic, and is a great way to spend time in nature. If you’re doing it to draw closer to God while sitting in His creation, praising His creativity and power, then you’re using it to glorify God. If you’re fishing to spend time with your kids, then you’re doing it to glorify God. If you’re fishing to spend time encouraging a weak brother, then you’re glorifying God in that activity. If you’re doing it to escape the kids, or get away from the wife for a few hours, or to do nothing but bring glory or fun for yourself, you’re not using that activity to the best of its potential. Again, there’s nothing wrong with fishing, but it can transform from something that is merely okay to something wonderful if we use it the right way. Like Paul says, “Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col 3.17).
For your next decision, no matter big or small, think back to this question. Am I doing this thing to glorify God? Or maybe rethink your “why” in making that decision. Can I do this same thing in a way that does bring glory to God?
Question 2 above is our next thought. Does this fulfill my mission from God to share the Gospel with the world or prod my fellow believer towards heaven? There are so many things we do that violate this purpose. The way we talk on social media. The way we fail to talk about God when opportunities arise. The way we raise our kids based on our own wisdom instead of pointing them to God’s ways. The way we permissively treat our spouse instead of encouraging them in their serving of the Lord. The way we attend worship, getting there late, leaving early, and little actual worship happening in between, along with little relationship building with our brethren. The way we complain about the elders, the deacons, the evangelists, especially in front of our children. Or even worse, in front of our neighbors so they have no desire to learn the truth. The way we get exasperated with the world as if we have no hope. The way we complain about the government.
Instead, we need to consider our influence in the world around us. If our words, or actions, or treatment of others are not purposed to gain genuine influence for the sake of Christ, then we are missing opportunities to truly be servants of God. Notice Paul’s description of a servant of the Lord: “The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim 2.24-25a) The way we treat others should be guided by these characteristics. We cannot quarrel (and there’s no worse quarrel than an online quarrel). We must be gentle with everyone, whether they deserve it or not, whether they are gentle with us or not. We should be focused on teaching people, not sharing our opinions with others, and doing this teaching with patience. These characteristics show what will effectively bring others to Christ. It shows how we should treat one another within the Lord’s family. Until we learn to act this way, we will limit our ability to help others draw closer to God. We will limit our effectiveness in bringing God glory.
The last question probably leads to the simplest answers – does this decision help me be more righteous? Does it promote personal growth towards God? Does it allow me to be more like Christ? This is a broad answer, because the Bible has much to say about this topic, but generally speaking, the answer is clear if we’re not trying to justify some decision or activity. We know God desires us to be holy, as He is holy. We are to be pure, be right, be innocent, be set apart for His service. That standard likely makes it clear whether we should be watching that show, engaging in that argument, or going to that party. While we cannot work our way to heaven, God’s requirement that we be holy and righteous does get us closer to Jesus’ perfect character. And if you’re unsure, generally you can rest assured that the answer is to do what you know is good and not engage in what you’re unsure is good.
Here’s the clencher when it comes to asking these questions. Notice, they are all framed positively. Either it IS the thing we have asked, or it isn’t. There is no in between. There is no grey area, because grey areas don’t exist if you’re determining that something is. It glorifies God, or it doesn’t—"maybe” doesn’t exist. It brings people to Christ or it doesn’t, there’s no “kind of.” It makes you more righteous or it doesn’t, there is no partial righteousness.
I must, as a Christian seeking to do what is best for God, choose what is best in each case. If I can confidently say that it answers each question affirmatively, then I can know, without doubt or worry, that it is the right thing to do. If I must play some sort of mental gymnastics or have a moral wrestling bout to justify a decision, then I’ve chosen poorly. It’s that simple.
The right way to make every decision is to do what is best for God. Not me. Not some other person. No selfish pursuits. Just God – every time – every way – every decision.
Is this easy? In understanding yes, but in practice no. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to meet this standard every time. Spend your time being the best God has designed you to be and you will find a peace and confidence in serving Him. Make the right decision every time you can and leave the rest up to the grace of God.