The Bible speaks clearly about many things which are sinful, such as covetousness, sexual sins, worshipping false gods, and so on. But what about those things where the Bible doesn’t give clear cut guidance? Should we make up a set of rules to follow as many Christians do?
The Bible isn’t going to tell you which bank to put your money in, whether you should take a certain job, or instruct you on something as trivial as what to have for lunch. But that doesn’t mean the Scriptures aren’t useful for helping us make decisions and finding God’s will.
What the Scriptures do give us is guidance by way of principles. As for applying those principles, God gave you and me a brain, and He expects us to use it. It should go without saying that prayer is key for our decision making, too.
What follows are my notes from a message about making decisions within the will of God, which was given by John MacArthur on his radio program. The sermon is entitled “Making the Hard Decisions Easy.”
I passed these tips along to my children and thought I’d share them with you with the hope that you’ll find them encouraging. It’s practical, though MacArthur does use some big words in his attempt to make important points begin with “e.”
Take time to meditate on the principles outlined below.
1. The Principle of Expedience: Will it be profitable or beneficial to me spiritually?
1 Corinthians 10:23 – All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.
2. The Principle of Edification: Will it build me up or help me mature? (Again, see 1 Corinthians 10:23.)
3. The Principle of Excess: Will it slow me down in my spiritual race?
Hebrews 12:1 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,…
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – 24. Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
25. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
26. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
27. But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
Notice that weight and sin are separate. Things that are not wrong in themselves can weigh us down and take away our enthusiasm for the things of God. We must exercise self discipline and perseverance.
4. The Principle of Enslavement: Will it bring me into bondage? Does it have the potential to enslave me? (Again, see Hebrews 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.)
Romans 6:12-14 – 12. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
We must not allow something non-moral to have mastery over us.
5. The Principle of Equivocation: Will it be a covering for my sin? Am I doing it in the name of freedom in Christ, or am I pandering to evil desires?
1 Peter 2:16 – As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
6. The Principle of Encroachment: Will it violate the lordship of Christ in my life? Does it violate my conscience? Is this something I believe the Lord would want, or not want, for me?
Romans 14:2-8 – 2. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
5. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
7. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.
People sense the Lordship of Christ in different ways. Don’t go against conscience or usurp God’s sovereignty in your life. Don’t go against what you believe the will of Christ is for you.
7. The Principle of Example: Will it set a helpful example for others? Do I want weaker Christians to follow my example? Or will it put a stumbling block in a Christian brother’s way?
1 Corinthians 8:9 – But take heed lest by any means this liberty of your’s become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
Romans 14:13, 19 – 13. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way…
19. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
8. The Principle of Evangelism: Will it lead others to Christ? Will others see a difference in my life?
When it comes to matters of conscience, do I risk offending a weaker believer? Or should I risk offending an unbeliever?
1 Corinthians 10:27-29 – 27. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.
28. But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof:
29. Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience?
Romans 14:18 – For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
Restricting your freedom by not offending fellow believers can show attractiveness of Christian love to unbelievers.
9. The Principle of Emulation: Will it be Christ-like? Would Jesus do or say this?
1 John 2:6 – He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
10. The Principle of Exaltation: Will it glorify God? Will it honor Him?
1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
The above guidelines should be helpful, whether you’re facing a big or small decision.
With all of that said, perhaps now isn’t the time to make a change. Consider the following passage.
1 Corinthians 7:17-24 – 17. But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk. And so ordain I in all churches.
18. Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
19. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
20. Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
21. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
22. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.
23. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.
24. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.
You’ll notice in these principles that there’s not an emphasis on feelings. It’s true that God may give us His peace when we’re in His will. However, whenever we have to make important decisions, our emotions aren’t nearly as trustworthy as the Spirit’s leading which is gained primarily from the Word of God.
God will never have you or me do something that contradicts Scripture. Any counsel you get from others should line up with God’s Word, too.
Though it sounds like an outworn cliché, learn to take your life one day at a time. Be faithful to do the tasks set before you, no matter how small. God doesn’t always move in dramatic ways.
James 1:5 – If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.