On Sundays I often get to greet visitors after I preach, and the question they ask most frequently is, “In my situation, how do I make a wise decision?” The circumstances vary from person to person, but there’s a common thread: Everyone wants to make the right choice. Usually they come hoping I can help them find a solution. I always tell them I have no quick answers but can offer good advice: Get to know the mind of God.
Collage by Adam Hale
The first step in making wise decisions is to learn who God is and what He has promised. Some Christians think the Lord is up in heaven playing hide-and-seek with His will for our life, as if He’s trying to make it hard for us to figure out the right move. However, that perception of Him doesn’t fit His character as revealed in Scripture. In Psalm 32:8, the Lord makes this promise to His children: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” As followers of Christ, we can confidently expect His clear guidance for every situation in life.
Scripture is filled with examples of God guiding His people: Abraham was instructed to leave his country and go to a land the Lord would show him (Gen. 12:1); in being assigned to lead the Israelites, Moses received very clear commands at the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-22); and in the New Testament, Jesus revealed the precise location of the blinded Saul so that Ananias could be used in restoring his sight (Acts 9:10-18). Although it would be unlikely for us to hear from God the same way today, these examples show He’s committed to guiding His children’s lives.
Today the Lord speaks to us through His written Word. Sometimes we want God’s guidance on an issue but are unwilling to learn what He’s already told us in His Word. Yet that’s the source we should consult. While the Bible may not present a direct answer to our specific question, it contains many principles and examples that can guide us. That being said, we must be careful not to force a Scripture passage to fit into our situation in order to justify what we desire.
It’s essential for us to know what God has said in His Word—if we are walking in direct violation of one of His commands, we can’t expect Him to overlook that and give us guidance in another area. God’s Word is like a fire that burns away the worthless dross in our life so we can be in a position for Him to answer our prayers. As we fill our minds with His truth, He changes our thinking to align with His so we can more clearly discern what He would have us do. Then we can pray with confidence, knowing He promises to do whatever we ask if it’s in accordance with His will (1 John 5:14-15).
The Holy Spirit is our Guide. Jesus promised to send a Helper, saying, “When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit not only interprets God’s Word for us; He also pricks our conscience when we’re heading the wrong direction and gives us a sense of peace when we’re going the right way. Each time we obey the Spirit’s promptings, He sharpens our conscience and perception so we are more attuned to His leading.
We especially need the Spirit’s guidance when the decision is not a matter of right and wrong. For instance, a few years ago I was moving ahead in a direction that looked right and seemed to be God’s will. However, every once in a while I felt a little twinge of unease. Since I was so far along in the process, I kept going, but each day the feeling increased until I abandoned the plan. Although the direction looked right, the Spirit was warning me that it was either not God’s purpose or not the right time.
To receive God’s clear instructions, we must watch out for pitfalls. Sometimes our desires get in the way. Suppose something in a store or online looks very appealing. You imagine how great it would be to own, and the more it dominates your thoughts, the greater your desire becomes. Before long, you can’t even hear the Spirit’s voice because your mind and heart have already made the decision. The solution is to bring that desire to a point of neutrality by surrendering it to the Lord. The more you let go, the weaker its hold will become, until you once again desire what God wants.
Beware of impatience. When a decision seems urgent, we want God to provide an answer immediately. We may pray about the matter, but if the Lord doesn’t answer soon enough, we take matters into our own hands. Who knows how many people have rushed into marriage because they thought it was their only chance, or felt pressured to purchase a car or house because the sale price was good only for a short time? The problem with impatience is that it can cause us to jump ahead of God.
Patience requires that we pause until we receive further instructions from the Lord. This can be especially challenging when we keep feeling pressure to settle a matter. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” To stand alone as we wait for God’s clear guidance takes courage, especially when other people are urging us to make a decision quickly. By choosing to wait, we will probably be misunderstood by those who don’t understand how the Lord works.
We must also avoid relying solely on the counsel of others. Although the Bible recommends that we listen to wise, godly counsel (Prov. 19:20), we must not make this a substitute for seeking personal guidance from the Lord. Sometimes He works through other people to direct our path, but ultimately, He’s the one who knows every aspect of the situation. Therefore, God is the only counselor who will never lead us astray.
What a comfort to know that we are not left on this earth to find our own way. As Christians, we can confidently count on divine guidance in every situation. When we’re making decisions, the key to peace is trust in God. Even if our prayers are not being answered quickly, we have confidence that the Lord knows what’s best and will make the way clear at just the right time.