Some of the many decisions we make every day turn out well— others not so well. What can we do to make better decisions?
How good are your decision-making skills? Have you ever wondered "What if I had ... ?" — especially when you didn't realize the outcome you had expected?
Perhaps you never realized the Bible is a book about making wise decisions. Not only that, it's filled with examples of good and bad decisions and their outcomes. It shows good decisions based on right principles lead to good results. If you make emotional decisions based on anger, lust and selfishness, you should expect poor results.
The Bible reveals a principle that applies in many areas of life: You reap whatever you sow (Galatians 6:7). Sometimes this direct correlation isn't obvious, but as we grow older the results of our decisions become clearer.
If you look at the Bible as a textbook on decision-making, you'll find many helpful hints. If you want to make right choices, you can save yourself a lot of trouble if you take a closer look at the examples recorded for us in God's Word.
The first child makes a bad decision
The first child, Cain, born to the first parents, made selfish decisions that led to a painful life. Cain's decisions led to his status as the first murderer; he killed his own brother and was banished from his home. How did Cain's life turn so tragic?
"... He [God] did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it'" (Genesis 4:5-7, emphasis added throughout.)
God told Cain that if he made the right choices He would bless him. Cain's offering wasn't pleasing to God because it apparently showed a lack of proper respect.
This short story gives us insights into making right decisions. Learning to put God first orients us away from the egocentric, self-first approach that ultimately leads to frustration and unhappiness. We must learn to rule over the selfish desires common to us all. Cain's arrogant attitude and jealousy led to a disastrous act on his part—the murder of his innocent brother, Abel, and his own banishment.
"And He [God] said, 'What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.' And Cain said to the LORD, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear!'"(verses 10-13).
Cain chose poorly and reaped a life of curses and misery.
A blundering king
Another illustration of choices and their far-reaching implications is to be found in the life of the first king of Israel, Saul.
Saul was confronted with a dilemma when the warring Philistines threatened the nation of Israel. Saul felt pressured to act. The responsibility of leadership fell heavily on his shoulders. What should he do?
He knew he should consult with the prophet Samuel. But, when Samuel did not arrive after seven days when Saul expected him, Saul made a rash decision. He decided to present an offering to God himself, something he wasn't entitled to do.
When Samuel did arrive shortly afterward, he was shocked. He asked Saul, "What have you done?" Saul replied: "When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, then I said, 'The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the LORD.' Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering."
Samuel responded: "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue ... because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you" (1 Samuel 13:8-14, emphasis added).
Saul forfeited his kingship, lapsed into depression, turned to a fortune-teller for help, attempted murder and in the end took his own life. His decisions cost him dearly.
Are these examples relevant to us today? Perhaps they seem remote and out of context in our modern world. However, we should keep in mind that the principles still apply.
Don't forget that we exist for a purpose. God created us with the potential to one day be a part of His family. Learning to make wise decisions based on God's instructions is one of the primary lessons everyone needs to learn.
God tells us not to rely on our "own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death," He tells us (Proverbs 14:12). How, then, do we learn to make wise decisions?
Keys to right decisions
Seek wisdom. Making the right choices is much easier when we seek wisdom. "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom," wrote King Solomon (Proverbs 4:7). We are overwhelmed with options and opportunities. But core values do not change. Learning to show respect for God as Creator of all things is fundamental to a successful life. Read the wisdom of the book of Proverbs and make it your daily quest to seek understanding and knowledge and apply them to decision-making.
Obey God. After a blessed and comfortable life that enabled Solomon to experiment with all types of pleasures and projects, he summarized what he had learned. His conclusion, based on a lifetime of experimentation, was this: "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13, King James Version). Jesus of Nazareth taught His disciples a similar lesson: "... Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
Both Jesus Christ and Solomon knew that the physical things that seem the most important to us aren't all that significant in the long run. In the end, obeying and pleasing God are what matters. That's the only way we can live a truly rewarding and productive life. We should keep this in mind when we make decisions.
Develop healthy relationships. The Bible is all about relationships. God wants us to be in His family. He wants us to learn to work together and get along with each other in peace and love. Some of the greatest mysteries of life are revealed in learning to work together—which takes patience, respect and hard work to build friendships.
Having friends to encourage and inspire you can be a wonderful aid to helping you make right choices. Often, by talking to a close friend or someone else you respect, you come to see a clearer path.
On the other hand, some relationships can be harmful. "Evil company corrupts good habits" (1 Corinthians 15:33). Being around the wrong people will affect your judgment and lead to bad decisions.
Structure your life. Athletes realize that to accomplish great feats they need to practice and train. Some who desire to compete in the Olympic Games or play professional sports dedicate themselves to rigid training schedules. The apostle Paul cited an athlete's regimen as an analogy to show that a Christian should strive to live a godly life: "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:27).
In a world of easy addiction to games, food, alcohol, work or sloth, it makes sense to take a look at how we manage our time. Making right choices involves setting and organizing goals, then carrying them out.
Find meaningful work. "In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty," wrote Solomon (Proverbs 14:23). God gave us a mind capable of amazing discovery, one that is stimulated by problem-solving and building. Doing something profitable can help you find meaning in life and make the days go by quickly. Some people in the midst of challenging projects lose track of time and may even forget to eat and sleep.
Remember that God gave man six days to work and one day to rest, which shows our Creator's intention that we should be productive. Making right choices means we will work toward productive goals.
Take care of your health. When you are sick or depressed it is difficult to get excited about much of anything. Staying healthy involves watching your diet, keeping physically fit and maintaining a positive mental outlook. You'll operate much better when your body and mind are healthy.
Paul asks: "... Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit ...? Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God gave each of us an awesome, intricate gift in the form of our body—and He expects us to take care of it.
Daily contact with God. If you grasp the reason for your existence, then you realize God has made you in His image. Naturally He wants us to develop a relationship with Him. This realization helps us know the purpose for our lives.
Wise decisions, when stemming from a desire to live up to our potential, make life less pressured and more rewarding. Paul encourages us to maintain this right perspective so that "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).
Cause and effect
Centuries ago God inspired Moses to present to the children of Israel the same choices we must face.
Moses directed the congregation of the Israelites to assemble to hear and understand that their choice to obey God—to do His commandments—would lead to life. On the other hand, choosing not to obey would lead to death. "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19).
May you choose wisely! GN