Estimates suggest that the average individual faces 35,000 decisions each day. The vast majority of those have little-to-no long-term impact on us, but are mostly insignificant, preferential decisions, like “Do I want the watermelon or cherry sucker?” How should we, as Christians, go about making sound decisions about aspects of our lives that really are important and consequential? Let’s take a step back to basic algebra. When solving an algebraic equation, there is a specific order that you have to use to work through problems or you’ll come up with the wrong solution, even if you correctly solved the individual components throughout the problem. Some people use the acronym P.E.M.D.A.S.—or the mnemonic Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally—to help remember the appropriate order.
When it comes to decision-making as a Christian, we can use a similar approach. Any time we are faced with a critical decision, we can simply work our way down a sort of “order of operations” of Christian decision-making by using the acronym P.S.A.L.M.
Our first step in any major decision-making should always be to bring that decision before our loving Father in prayer. In Matthew 7:7 we are urged to, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” God is eager and ready to help us in all facets of our life. It’s important to remember our dependence on Him and the wisdom that He offers. Go to Him and pour out your heart and ask for Him to be actively involved in the process—to guide you and grant you wisdom as you make your decision.
SPECIFIC BIBLICAL INSTRUCTION
Once we have prayed, our very next consideration should be: is there an answer in black and white (and sometimes red) as a direct instruction in God’s word? In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Some examples of specific biblical instructions are: “You shall not commit adultery,” “let another man praise you and not your own mouth” and “obey God rather than men.” The vast majority of the chaos in our current society stems from the situation warned against in Isaiah 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Only God has the right to declare good from evil, and His Word has to be the primary basis for all Christian decisions.
APPLYING BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES
Sometimes after diligent searching we aren’t able to find a direct instruction from God’s Word, but there might be biblical principles that can be applied to the situation. For example, we aren’t given direct instructions on exactly what clothes to wear, but we can certainly find guiding principles about the topic. In 1 Timothy 2:9, we’re told to be modest in appearance. In 1 Corinthians 8:9, we’re urged to avoid becoming “a stumbling block” for others. And in Deuteronomy 22:5 we read, “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.” While we aren’t given the specifics as they would apply to us in our culture today, the principles are there to be our guide.
LAWS OF MAN
In Acts 5, Peter and the other apostles were being scolded by the high priest for teaching in the name of Jesus Christ, and we can read their response in verse 29—“We ought to obey God rather than men.” But what about when there isn’t conflict between God’s law and man’s law? Romans 13:1-2 states, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”
These verses clearly show that God allows for there to be rules outside of His Word, and that they are to be given by those in positions of authority. These could be leaders in our church organization, government officials, teachers or bosses. As long as the rules aren’t in conflict with God’s law, we are told that we should be subject to them. It is our Christian duty to be respectable citizens, family members, students and employees when the law of God is not being violated. An example of this could be your state having a minimum age for driving a car on a public road. That certainly doesn’t violate God’s law and therefore, a Christian should make the appropriate choice to follow the rule.
Evaluating our motivations for making a certain decision requires examining our consciences and intentions too. Why? Because only we, as the individuals involved in the decision-making process, can truly know and evaluate what’s going on inside our hearts. We must be willing to take some time and honestly evaluate ourselves. What is it that makes you want to make a certain decision? Maybe the decision is fine in and of itself, but our reasons for wanting to do it are not. Motivations, intentions and consciences need to be influenced by the Word of God, but can differ from person to person as we each work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). It’s great to be able to share our blessings with others and donate money or volunteer to help out, but if our motivation for doing it is so we can post it on TikTok for views, then we need to re-evaluate how we’re going about serving.
In addition to the suggestions above, keep in mind that when it comes to making important decisions, it can be very helpful to seek counsel from others. The Bible is full of scriptures urging us to seek counsel in decision-making, such as Proverbs 11:14, in which we are instructed that, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” It is important to pick our counselors wisely, though, as we should be leaning on people who have the same belief system and passion for following God’s way. When we’re younger it is always best to start out with our parents. Other great resources are our pastors and trusted adults in our congregations. Even if these individuals don’t have experience with the exact situation, they can give you general guidance and help lead you to the appropriate person for the specific situation.
This certainly is not a complete list and I’m sure there are many other considerations that could come into play along the way in a decision-making process. Life can be complicated and sometimes we can feel like we’re being pulled in every direction all at once. But my hope is that this gives you a basis to consider as you work through the many important decisions that you’ll come to in your Christian journey. May you go forth and lead a spiritually fulfilling and successful life as God has purposed for you.