“A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident. A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated. The simple inherit folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.” Proverbs 14:16–18

We make decisions, big and small, all throughout our days. Most decisions are seemingly made on autopilot, without much forethought, but usually in keeping with our acquired wisdom, habits, and traditions. In more irregular instances, we find ourselves faced with decisions that occupy new ground for us, but often come with the luxury of time to pray and think. Decision-making is bringing order to a chaotic situation. Decision-making is, for the dedicated Christian, bringing God-honoring order to the chaos that comes from living in a fallen world.

When a man ponders his ways (Proverbs 4:26f), he is attempting to simplify the complexities, clarify the murkiness, filter the noise, make sense of the contradictory, and bring focus to the blur of life. After all, “the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He ponders all his paths” (Proverbs 5:21). The decision-making process for the believer is a little different from earthbound thinking in that every major decision must be weighed with eternity in view. The believer’s decision-making process may be boiled down to four steps: devote, discern, deliberate, and decide.

The crucial first step in the believer’s process of decision-making is to be already living a devoted life to the Lord. Job’s experience teaches the lesson that when the dry season of testing comes upon you, what has been stored up in the deep well will tide you through the trial. Because our natural bent is the folly of our sin nature, we are all too aware that without God’s aid our “own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin. He shall die for lack of instruction and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray” (Proverbs 5:22f). Proverbs 4:23 admonishes, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” The greatest aid to decision-making is to constantly be preparing for the big decisions of your life by steeping yourself in the Bible in the quiet times before the storm hits. 2 Timothy 3:16f declares, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

A devoted life will keep your priorities in order. First, is your duty to God, and then your duty to your fellow men. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Proverbs 3:5ff reminds you, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” There is a reason that we are called “sheep” and the Lord is called our “Shepherd.” Sheep become familiar with their shepherd, grow used to hearing his voice, and will follow none other than the voice of their shepherd. You must grow used to recognizing the voice of your Lord! Live in dependence upon Him (Romans 12:1f)! Many of life’s knotty problems are answered by this first step.

The second step in the process of decision-making is to discern and to honor God by seeking to bring order out of chaos (1 Corinthians 14:33). To discern is to perceive, recognize, distinguish, and apprehend. Discerning is the process of identifying the decision to be made. This step is the time of gathering the facts and clearing away the distractions (Proverbs 18:13, 17). It is also the time of defining and formulating the question to be answered by the decision (Jeremiah 6:16). It is the time to identify the deadline for the decision to be finalized (Proverbs 21:5; 19:2). Prayer is a significant part of this process because this is also the time you are drawing upon your knowledge of Scripture (James 1:5) and digging out what God has revealed (James 3:17).

The third step is the season of deliberating (Luke 14:28). It is the time of asking for the wisdom and counsel of fellow believers (Proverbs 11:14; 18:1f). It is the time to try to answer the following questions in light of the decision you are asking God to help you make:

  • Revelation—What does God say? (Matthew 4:4)
  • Convictions—What do you believe? (Hebrews 11:6)
  • Fear—Of what are you afraid? (Matthew 6:33)
  • God—What is my duty to God? (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1)
  • Others—What is my duty to others? (Proverbs 11:30)
  • Purpose—What actions bring God glory? (Philippians 1:9–11)
  • Consequences—What actions protect others best? (Proverbs 14:1; 27:12)
  • Peace—What is the leading of God? (Philippians 4:6f)

It is at this juncture that a believer is reflective and vigilant concerning the impact the decision will have on his personal integrity and effective witness for Christ (Job 2:9f; Proverbs 10:9; 20:7; 22:1).

The final step is to decide and follow through. Isaiah 30:18, 21 say, “There the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him…Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” Trust and obey.