DECISION-MAKING AND THE WILL OF GOD

Dennis McBride

The Bible gives Christians several principles to apply in the decision-making process to ensure their choices are consistent with God’s will. I present them here as a series of questions and answers:

1. Will my decision and subsequent action bring glory to God?

The Apostle Paul wrote, "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). Everything we do should bring glory to God--even mundane things such as eating and drinking. That’s the over-arching principle for every decision we make.

2. Does Scripture permit or prohibit a specific course of action?

Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine" (John 8:31). To abide in His Word is to think biblically and to respond accordingly. That is the hallmark of a true Christian.

Scripture gives specific counsel regarding many of the decisions we make, and what God says about a particular decision should determine the course of action we take. However, some decisions fall into the "gray area", wherein God has not given specific "yes" or "no" guidelines. For those we must apply more general biblical principles, as outlined in the remaining questions.

3. Will my choice be spiritually profitable?

Christians should pursue only those things that are spiritually profitable, even if God does not expressly forbid other choices. For example, speaking of his freedom in Christ, the Apostle Paul said, "All things [that are not forbidden by Scripture] are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything" (1 Cor. 6:12).

4. Will my choice bring me into bondage?

Even good things permitted by God can be a hindrance to spiritual maturity if overindulged or otherwise misused. "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything" (1 Cor. 6:12).

5. Will my choice build me up?

Paul also wrote, "All things are lawful, but not all things edify" (1 Cor. 10:23). To edify is to strengthen or build up oneself or another spiritually. That is another aspect of spiritually profitable choices. Rather than stopping with the question "will this decision harm me spiritually?", we must further ask, "will this decision build me up spiritually?"

6. Will my choice slow me down in the spiritual race?

"Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1). "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win" (1 Cor. 9:24).

A dedicated and disciplined runner keeps his or her eye on the prize, and would never consider running a race in hiking boots and backpack. Likewise, Christians must keep their eyes on the prize, and never attempt to run the spiritual race encumbered by sin.

7. Will my choice violate my conscience?

Some choices are proper for some Christians, yet improper for others. If a choice violates my conscience, I must avoid that choice. "Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves" (Rom. 14:23).

8. Will my choice cause another Christian to stumble (i.e., commit sin)?

"Let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way" (Rom. 14:13). "Take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak" (1 Cor. 8:9).

I must have more concern for the spiritual wellbeing of brothers and sisters in Christ, than I do for exercising my own freedom in Christ. Therefore, I must avoid any action that will encourage another Christian to violate his own conscience and thereby to sin.

9. Will my choice show preference to others?

Paul instructs us to "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interests of others" (Phil. 2:3-4). Almost every decision we make somehow affects others, and God honors decisions that give preference to others.

10. Will my choice harm my body in any way?

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

11. Will my choice help lead others to Christ?

Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16). Just at light dispels darkness, consistent Christian living beams the light of the gospel of Christ to a sin-darkened world. The choices we make should help keep our light shining brightly.

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