You know I didn’t want to entitle this piece “My Worst Decisions,” although a good number of those are known throughout our church. Some of those will make you smile while others might cause you to cringe little bit. We make decisions every minute of the day, big ones and little ones. Conscious ones, unconscious ones. Habitual ones, becoming habitual ones. Giving the Lord your day before you get too busy can help you make good decisions all day, every day.

Here is a principle worth living by: God’s directions are my best decisions in life. So many of our decisions are made for us in His Word; all we have to do is choose to obey His directions. We read in Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”

What about the big decisions in life that are not so clear in the Bible? What about those decisions? If you would allow me, I will give you ten guidelines that God and life have taught me about making decisions and being in the will of God. These are not necessarily to be your guidelines, because God works differently in different lives. I am thankful for all ten of these and how God has used them to smooth out the rough places in walking my path each day.

1. Make decisions that are in line with Scriptural principles.

We know the commands we need to submit to, but studying the Bible will also give us principles for making wise choices. Sometimes when facing a big decision, the Word gives us a perfect verse for enabling us to make the right decision. Give the Spirit time to teach and guide you on a daily basis. Seek to give Him every thought—let God capture your thinking.

We were married a long time before God gave us children and we consciously gave them to God by faith—that is, we gave them to Him before we actually had them. Knowing that they belong to Him made it easier than waiting until they were born. We purposefully determined not to train them to stay close by us when they went into the world seeking to do God’s will. We would love to have them in Raleigh, but we trained them to leave us if that was God’s will.

2. Make decisions that include some measure of faith.

Such faith-based decisions are what pleases God; show Him that you trust His leading more than your own wanting. When we left Kinston to come to Raleigh, it was a hard time for us. We were leaving jobs that gave us financial security and friends that we loved dearly. We were advised by one Christian not to burn our bridges behind us, so if things didn’t work out in Raleigh, we could return to Kinston. It seemed wrong in our minds to so order our lives. We moved and burned the bridges necessary to come to Beacon. Faith usually involves a period of waiting. That’s the hard part, isn’t it? It is not so much a leap of faith as it is a leaning on the Lord.

3. Make decisions with your wife and not always for your wife.

No, this wasn’t a guideline Gwen told me to put in my list, but I have learned over the years, this one is better for our family, if I am sensitive to the Spirit’s leading. We decided together how many children we would have; it wasn’t my call alone, but a “one flesh” decision that brought us together. Don’t go out and buy your wife a car; work together to determine if it is affordable, wise, and the right time for an added expense. Even when we bought a house, we consulted together. When we bought our first home, we were 100% together, but that was not the case when we moved to Raleigh. Gwen was sure, but I wasn’t. After considerable talking to God and to each other, I decided to trust her on this one and it turned out to be one of the best decisions we ever made.

4. Make decisions to stay where you are until you know God is opening a new door.

Everyone will not agree with this one because God does work differently in our lives. However, I have found that moving ahead of God is risky in a number of ways. Whenever we lost a teacher in RCA, I found that God had one already picked out to take that person’s place. David was anointed King three times and still he waited for the Lord to say, “Yes. Go forward.” I once was offered a position at a wonderful Christian college and it was an open door through which I sensed I could go, but I decided to wait another week and continue to pray. By the fifth day, God made it clear to me to stay here and keep working in the ministry to which He first called me.

5. Make decisions that stretch you.

I am not so much a people pleaser as I am a people pusher. Many of us are somewhat reserved and unsure of ourselves. We like out little comfort zones and we resist anyone or anything that might try to move us. Timidity and shyness can restrict God’s plan in our lives. We often need pressure to motivate us to grow. That pressure can come from God, from His Word, and from others. Don’t dread plans and programs that cause you to make commitments. Let God direct you in each decision. This is how you grow spiritually.

6. Make decisions fully assessing the coming consequences.

There are always consequences with making decisions and they are not always positive ones. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, would be a good example of a man consciously making one bad decision after another, never thinking how it would affect his own household. If you give your life to God in missionary work, it is likely that you will be leaving home to live in another city or another country. Pray it through and be sure.

7. Make decisions after a great deal of prayer.

Just because there is an open door, it doesn’t mean you are supposed to go through it. It’s like the old joke about the farmer who saw the letters “GP” in the sky and decided God was telling him to “Go Preach.” When he did, everything he encountered was a problem and he ended up with a miserable life. When he got to heaven, he asked the Lord about it and the Lord told him, “Yes, GP was there to help you “Go Plow,” not “Go Preach.” Who to marry, where to go to college, and what to do are the big three; be sure you continually pray over these decisions—even years before it is time. When my brother was dying of cancer, a preacher encouraged his heart with a message from Psalm 23.

Bert later wrote me and shared his heart: “As I listened, I realized that I do not have to fear death, for the Lord is with me. That has been a big thing in my thinking and prayers for the past months. At some point I became aware that Dianne can only go with me so far. There will come a moment when I will leave her behind. The thought of being alone is scary. But the promise that He echoed in my mind more times than I can tell you is, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ I know I won’t be alone. In fact, I will be more ‘with Him’ then than ever before. Now, isn’t that exciting? So, Ricky, do you understand why I wouldn’t trade places with you?”

8. Make big decisions after a great deal of personal Bible study.

How can you possibly know God’s will if you are not intensely studying His Word? Without Scripture, all you have left are feelings and hunches. Intuition may be okay in where to go for supper, but not for whether to take a new job and move your family. Search the Bible for verses that indicate the right way to go. Keep your heart in neutral so you can move forward or back up when you see the Spirit’s leading in God’s Word. Strengthen your study with prayer as a partner.

9. Make decisions with the help of a mature Christian mentor.

People are great for confirming what you are thinking in making an important decision. Reject going to a mentor first; go to God first. Then go to a wise Christian who will counsel you. This needs to be someone who has been walking with the Lord over a significant period of time; think decades, not just years. This Christian’s life should be marked with humility, submission, and discernment in the Scriptures. Encourage your counselor to be transparent and honest in every way and then listen carefully with a teachable heart.

10. Make decisions after considering the mistakes of others.

Begin by looking at men and women in the Bible who made bad choices. How did they come to the wrong decision? What influences were on their lives? Think about the rich man in Luke 16, Ananias and Sapphira, Gehazi, David, Lot, Elimelech, Jonah, Jephthah, and Demas. Then take a close look at the lives of people all around you; look at your own extended family, coworkers, neighbors, fellow church members and even pastors. Our sovereign God has detailed your life and the people that touch your life are significant in greater ways than you may think at first. Look and learn.

I pray that the Lord will continue to lead all of us in both His revealed will in the Bible and in His prepared path individually. There is absolutely nothing that will give you the joy and peace of God like making godly decisions that give Him the preeminence.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.  – Psalm 111:10