* Decisions teach us to be responsible
God gave Adam responsibility for the garden and told him not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Rather than physically preventing him from eating, God gave Adam a choice and, thus, the possibility of choosing wrongly. God still gives us choices, decisions, and we, too, often choose wrongly. These wrong choices, decisions, may cause us pain, but they can help us learn and grow and make better choices, decisions, in the future. Living with the consequences of our choices, decisions, teaches us to think and choose more carefully. (NLT)
Genesis 2:15-17 – The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and care for it. But the Lord God gave him this warning: “You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die.”
* Principles for making sound decisions
In these concise statements, there are three basic principles for making sound decisions: (1) Get the facts before answering; (2) be open to new ideas; (3) make sure you hear both sides of a story before judging. All three principles center around seeking additional information. This is difficult work, but the only alternative is prejudice–judging before getting the facts. (NLT)
Proverbs 18:13 – What a shame, what folly, to give advice before listening to the facts! 18:15 – Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them. 18:17– Any story sounds true until someone sets the record straight.
* Deciding daily to follow God
Moses challenged Israel to choose life, to obey God, and therefore to continue to experience his blessings. God doesn’t force his will on anyone. He lets us decide whether to follow him or reject him. This decision, however, is a life-or-death matter. God wants us to realize this, for he would like us all to choose life. Daily, in each new situation, we must affirm and reinforce this commitment. (NLT)
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 – “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live! Choose to love the Lord your God and to obey Him and commit yourself to Him, for He is your life. Then you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
* Don’t delay decisions when God gives you all the facts
Was Gideon testing God, or was he simply asking God for more encouragement? In either case, though his motive was right (to obey God and defeat the enemy), his method was less than ideal. Gideon seems to have known that his requests might displease God, and yet he demanded two miracles, even after witnessing the miraculous fire from the rock. It is true that to make good decisions, we need facts. Gideon had all the facts, but still he hesitated. He delayed obeying God because he wanted even more proof.
Demanding extra signs was an indication of unbelief. Fear often makes us wait for more confirmation when we should be taking action. Visible signs are unnecessary if they only confirm what we already know is true.
Today the greatest means of God’s guidance is his Word, the Bible. Unlike Gideon, we have God’s complete, revealed Word. If you want to have more of God’s guidance, don’t ask for signs, study the Bible.
Judges 6:37-39 – prove it to me in this way. I will put some wool on the threshing floor tonight. If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.” And it happened just that way. When Gideon got up the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water.
Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request. Thus time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.”
* Decisions have lasting consequences
Samson, the mighty warrior, became a slave. Rather than kill him, the Philistines preferred to humiliate him by gouging out his eyes and making him grind grain. Samson now had plenty of time to wonder if Delilah’s charms were worth spending the rest of his life in humiliation.
Although God did not completely abandon Samson, he allowed Samson’s decision to stand, and the consequences of his decision followed naturally. We may choose to be close to God or to go our own way, but there are consequences resulting from our choice. Samson didn’t choose to be captured, but he chose to be with Delilah, and he could not escape the consequences of his decision. (NLT)
Judges 16:21 – So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes. They took him to Gaza, where he was bound with bronze chains and made to grind grain in the prison.
* Weigh both positives and negatives of decisions
Samuel carefully explained all the negative consequences of having a king, but the Israelites refused to listen. When you have an important decision to make, weight the positives and negatives carefully, considering everyone who might be affected by your choice. When you want something badly enough, it is difficult to see the potential problems. But don’t discount the negatives. Unless you have a plan to handle each one, they will cause you great difficulty later. (NLT)
1 Samuel 8:19-20 – But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will govern us and lead us into battle.”
* Don’t let impatience affect your decisions
It is difficult to trust God when you feel your resources slipping away. When Saul felt that time was running out, he became impatient with God’s timing. In thinking that the ritual was all he needed, he substituted the ritual for faith in God.
When faced with a difficult decision, don’t allow impatience to drive you to disobey God. When you know what God wants, follow his plan regardless of the consequences. God often uses delays to test our obedience and patience. (NLT)
1 Samuel 13:11-12 – but Samuel said, “What is this you have done?” Saul replied, “I saw my men scattering from me, and you didn’t arrive when you said you would, and the Philistines are at Micmash ready for battle. So I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt obliged to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.”
* When making decisions, you may need to seek more options
David put both Bathsheba and Joab in difficult situations. Bathsheba knew it was wrong to commit adultery, but to refuse a king’s request could mean punishment or death. Joab did not know why Uriah had to die, but it was obvious the king wanted him killed. We sometimes face situations with only two apparent choices, and both seem wrong. When that happens, we must not lose sight of what God wants. The answer may be to seek out more choices. By doing this, we are likely to find a choice that honors God. (NLT)
2 Samuel 11:15 – The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.”
* Getting support for your decisions
David took time to confer with all his officers. As king, he had ultimate authority and could have given orders on his own, but he chose to involve others in leadership. Perhaps this is why there was unanimous support for his decisions. When we are in charge, it is tempting to make unilateral decisions, pushing through our own opinions. But effective leaders listen carefully to others’ opinions, and they encourage others to participate in making decisions. Of course, we should always consult God first. We can run into big problems if we don’t talk to him. (NLT)
1 Chronicles 13:1 – David consulted with all his officials, including the generals and captains of his army.
* Don’t let money affect your decisions
Amaziah made a financial agreement with Israelite soldiers, offering to pay them to fight for him. But before they could go to battle, Amaziah sent them home with their pay because of the prophet’s warning. Although it cost him plenty, he wisely realized that the money was not worth the ruin the alliance could cause. How would you have reacted? Money must never stand in the way of making right decisions. The Lord’s favor is priceless, worth more than any amount of money.
2 Chronicles 25:9-10 – Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what should I do about the silver I paid to hire the army of Israel?” The man of God replied, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!” So Amaziah discharged the hired troops and sent them back to Ephraim. This made them angry with Judah, and they returned home in a great rage.
* How prayer helps in decisions
Nehemiah fasted and prayed for several days, expressing his sorrow for Israel’s sin and his desire that Jerusalem would again come alive with the worship of the one true God. Nehemiah demonstrated the elements of effective prayer: (1) praise, (2) thanksgiving, (3) repentance, (4) specific requests, and (5) commitment.
Heartfelt prayers like Nehemiah’s can help clarify (1) any problem you may be facing, (2) God’s great power to help you and (3) the job you have to do. By the end of his prayer time, Nehemiah knew what action he had to take. When God’s people pray, difficult decisions fall into proper perspective, and appropriate actions follow. (NLT)
Nehemiah 1:5 – Then I said, “O Lord, God of heaven, he great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands,
* After Christ was taken up into heaven, the disciples immediately returned to Jerusalem and had a prayer meeting. Jesus had said they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days, so they waited and prayed. When you face a difficult task, an important decision, or a baffling dilemma, don’t rush into the work and just hope it comes out the way it should. Instead, your first step should be to pray for the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance. (NLT)
Acts 1:12-13 – The apostles were at the Mount of Lives when this happened, so they walked the half mile back to Jerusalem. Then they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. Here is the list of those who were present: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Batholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the Zealot), and Judas (son of James).
* Too much alcohol affected the king’s decision making
Xerxes made a rash, half-drunk decision, based purely on feelings. His self-restraint and practical wisdom were weakened by too much wine. Poor decisions are made when people don’t think clearly. Base your decisions on careful thinking, not on the emotions of the moment. Impulsive decision making leads to severe complications. (NLT)
Esther 1:10-11 – On the seventh day of the feast, when King Xerxes was half drunk with wine, he told Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven eunuchs who attended him, to bring Queen Vashi to him with the royal crown on her head. He wanted all the men to gaze on her beauty, for she was a very beautiful woman.
* Identify your motives when making decisions
People may mistakenly think they are doing right, but God sees the motives of their hearts. We often have to make choices in areas where the right action is difficult to discern. We can help ourselves make such decisions by trying to identify our motives first and then asking, Would God be pleased with my real reasons for doing this? God is not pleased when we do good deeds only to receive something in return. (NLT)
Proverbs 21:2 – People may think they are doing what is right, but the Lord examines the heart.
* God increases the available options in decisions
Perhaps Joseph thought he had only two options: divorce Mary quietly or have her stoned. But God gave a third option–marry her. In view of the circumstances, this had not occurred to Joseph. But God often shows us that there are more options available than we think. Although Joseph seemed to be doing the right thing by breaking the engagement, only God’s guidance helped him make the best decision. When our decision affect the lives of others, we must always seek God’s wisdom. (NLT)
Matthew 1:19 – Joseph, her fiancé, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not disgrace her publicly.
* Following Christ requires difficult decisions
When Jesus called Matthew to be one of his disciples, Matthew got up and followed, leaving a lucrative career. When God calls you to follow or obey him, do you do it with as much abandon as Matthew? Sometimes the decision to follow Christ requires difficult or painful choices. Like Matthew, we must decide to leave behind those things that would keep us from following Christ. (NLT)
Matthew 9:9 – As Jesus was going down the road, he saw Matthew sitting at his tax-collection booth. “Come, be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.
* Maintain an eternal perspective when making decisions
When we don’t know Christ, we make choices as though there were no afterlife. In reality, this life is just eh introduction to eternity. How we live this brief span determines our eternal state. What we accumulate on earth has no value in gaining eternal life. Even the highest social or civic honors cannot earn us entrance into heaven. Evaluate your life-style from an eternal perspective and you will find your values and decisions changing. (NLT)
Matthew 16:26 – [Jesus said] “And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?
* To “believe” is more than intellectual agreement that Jesus is God. It means to put our trust and confidence in him that he alone can save us. It is to put Christ in charge of our present plans and eternal destiny. Believing is both trusting his words as reliable, and relying on him for the power to change. If you have never trusted Christ, let this promise of everlasting life be yours–and believe. (NLT)
John 3:16 – [Jesus said] “For God so love the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
* Taking responsibility for your decisions
In making no decision, Pilate made the decision to let the crowds crucify Jesus. Although he washed his hands, the guilt remained. Washing your hands of a tough situation doesn’t cancel your guilt. It merely gives you a false sense of peace. Don’t make excuses–take responsibility for the decisions you make. (NLT)
Matthew 27:24 – Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this man. The responsibility is yours!”
* You must decide for yourself who Jesus is
Pilate made four attempts to deal with Jesus: (1) He tried to put the responsibility on someone else; (2) he tried to find a way of escape so he could release Jesus; (3) he tried to compromise by having Jesus flogged rather than handing him over to die; and (4) he tried a direct appeal to the sympathy of the accusers. Everyone has to decide what to do with Jesus. Pilate tried to let everyone else decide for him–and in the end, he lost. (NLT)
John 18:31 – “Then take him away and judge him by our own laws,” Pilate told them. “Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,” the Jewish leaders replied.
* How peer pressure affects decisions
Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the crowd loudly demanded his death; so Pilate sentenced Jesus to die. No doubt Pilate did not want to risk losing his position, which may already have been shaky, by allowing a riot to occur in this province. As a career politician, he knew the importance of compromise, and he saw Jesus more as a political threat than as a human being with rights and dignity.
When the stakes are high, it is difficult to stand up for what is right, and it is easy to see our opponents as problems to be solved rather than as people to be respected. Had Pilate been a man of real courage, he would have released Jesus no matter what the consequences. But the crowd roared, and Pilate buckled. We are like Pilate when we know what is right but decide not to do it. When you have a difficult decision to make, don’t discount the effects of peer pressure. Realize beforehand that the right decision could have unpleasant consequences, social rejection, career derailment, public ridicule. Then think of Pilate and resolve to stand up for what is right no matter what other people pressure you to do. (NLT)
Luke 23:13-25 – Then Pilate called together the leading priests and other religious leaders, along with the people, and he announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent. Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty. So I will have him flogged, but then I will release him.”
Then a mighty roar rose from the crowd, and with one voice they shouted, “Kill him, and release Barabbas to us!” (Barabbas was in prison for murder and for taking part in an insurrection in Jerusalem against the government.) Pilate argued with them, because he wanted to release Jesus. But they shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
For the third time he demanded, “Why? What crime has he committed? I have found no reason to sentence him to death. I will therefore flog him and let him go.”
But the crowd shouted louder and louder for Jesus’ death, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate sentenced Jesus to die as they demanded. As they had requested, he released Barabbas, the man in prison for insurrection and murder. But he delivered Jesus over to them to do as they wished.
* Indecision about Christ is deciding against him
John, the author of this Gospel, has been demonstrating that Jesus is the true Son of God. Jesus sets before us the greatest choice in life. We are responsible to decide today whom we will obey, and God wants us to choose him and life. The wrath of God is God’s final judgment and rejection of the sinner. To put off the choice is to choose not to follow Christ. Indecision is a fatal decision. (NLT)
John 3:36 – And all who believe in God’s Son have eternal life. Those who don’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life, but the wrath of God remains upon them.”
* Making wise decisions in difficult circumstances
By “wisdom,” James is talking not only about knowledge but about the ability to make wise decisions in difficult circumstances. Whenever we need wisdom, we can pray to God, and he will generously supply what we need. Christians don’t have to grope around in the dark, hoping to stumble upon answers. We can ask for God’s wisdom to guide our choices. (NLT)
James 1:5 – If you need wisdom–if you want to know what God wants you to do–ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.
* “Ignore it and it will go away!” Sound familiar? This was Israel’s response to Jeremiah’s warnings. They kept listening to predictions of peace because they did not like Jeremiah’s condemnation of their sin. But denying the truth never changes it; what God says always happens. Sin is never removed by denying its existence. We must confess to God that we have sinned and ask him to forgive us.
The right path for living is ancient and has been marked out by God. But the people refused to take God’s path, going their own way instead. We face the same decision today–going God’s old but true way, or following a new path of our own choosing. Don’t be misled. The only way to find peace and “rest for your souls” is to walk on God’s path. (NLT)
Jeremiah 6:13-19 – “From the least to the greatest, they trick others to get what does not belong to them. Yes, even my prophets and priests are like that! They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when all is war. Are they ashamed when they do these disgusting things? No, not at all–they don’t even blush! Therefore, they will lie among the slaughtered. They will be humbled beneath my punishing anger,” says the Lord.
So now the Lord says, “Stop right where you are! Look for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you find rest for your souls. But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’ I set watchmen over you who said, ‘Listen for the sound of the trumpet!’ But you replied, ‘No! We won’t pay attention!’
“Therefore, listen to this, all you nations. Take note of my people’s condition. Listen, all the earth! I will bring disaster upon my people. It is the fruit of their own sin because they refuse to listen to me. They have rejected all my instructions.
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