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Making Wise Choices
By Dan Vis
March 25, 2019
Comments: 23

Enrollment in our Breakout Memory Challenge is well underway, and I'm sure some of you are trying to decide if this class is right for you. To help with this, I've pulled a new article together to give you a few tips on how to make important choices. Try it out and see what God says...

Ever been faced with a tough decision, and wasn't quite sure which way to go? Sure you have. We've all been there. And we use whatever means are available to us to make the best choice we can--and then hope for the best. But there's a better way.

If you are in that situation right now, allow me to suggest a simple strategy you can use that will not only help you make a good decision now, but will also help make you wiser in regards to future decisions as well!

Types of Decisions

In reality, the strategy you use use will depend partly on the kind of decision you are making. In particular there are three basic kinds of decision.

Minor Decisions
If you are faced with a small decision, without major ramifications, sometimes the best option is to pray for quick guidance and make the best choice you can, based on your knowledge of God's will at the moment. The strategy I'm going to share shortly takes some effort to implement, and practically, you won't be able to use it with every choice you encounter. Decisiveness is a character strength that involves the ability to deal with small decisions quickly.

Distant Decisions
Sometimes we have big decisions to make, with important consequences, but those decisions are not urgent. We may have months or years before we have to make a choice, and in these cases the best option is often to wait on the Lord. We may not have all the information we need. Or future circumstances may alter our options, changing the direction we will want to go. Trusting God sometimes involves not trying to force a decision prematurely.

Pressing Decisions
But there are those big life decisions that come crashing in every so often, with major implications for our life, and for which we have only a limited amount of time to choose. There is a deadline for our answer. But the impact is massive. We know we need to make these choices carefully, and we long for some kind of strategy to guide us through that process. These are the kind of decisions I'm talking about today.

A Recent Example

I was recently faced with just such a decision. I was offered a position with a ministry I highly respect, and I was definitely interested. In fact, I had been praying about possibly partnering with this ministry in some way for a number of years. So when the offer came, I was definitely intrigued.

At the same time, it was a different position than what I envisioned, and the timing was not ideal for us. There were other considerations that made this a difficult choice. And I had to consider the fact God led me to my current location for a specific work, and that that work is not yet quite finished.

Clearly this was a major decision that would have major implications for my wife and me. Either option could be a good choice--but we wanted clear direction from the Lord. And we had only a short time to give an answer. A few days, really. It was a pressing decision, and we had to choose fast.

Seeking Wisdom

There are some basic things you can always do, and these should not be neglected of course. Prayer is important, and sometimes even fasting. So is gathering as much information as possible. And making sure no option violates clear biblical principles. And of course, getting godly counsel can also be helpful. But ultimately, what we really want, is an answer from God about His specific will in regards to our decision. How do we get that?

There's a simple solution: the book of Proverbs.

The introduction to this book explains its purpose. "The proverbs of Solomon" were given to help us "know wisdom and instruction". "To perceive the words of understanding". To "receive the instruction of wisdom". To gain "subtlety", "knowledge and discretion". To "increase learning". And to "attain unto wise counsels" (Proverbs 1:1-51 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; 2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. 5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:). In other words, the book of Proverbs was given specifically to help us make good choices!

“The book of Proverbs was given specifically to help us make good choices!”

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How do you tap into that wisdom? Try this simple strategy:

  1. Prepare your heart. Ask God for wisdom, that the Holy Spirit will guide your thoughts. Often the biggest obstacle to hearing the Lord's voice, is our own clamoring to go one way or another. Ask the Lord to quiet all of that, and give you a heart that is willing to follow whatever He reveals.
  2. Take out a sheet of paper and divide it into two columns. At the top of each column write in one of your two options. If you have three or more possible choices, make a column for each and write in one option at the top of each column. Use more than one sheet of paper if you need to.
  3. Start reading through the book of Proverbs, jotting down notes about any verse that seems to point to one option or another under the appropriate column. Include the reference, and a note about what that verse says and how you think it applies. Often you will find different verses seem to point different directions, especially at first. Don't be concerned by this. If everything pointed only one direction, you would have no trouble making the decision.
  4. Keep going until you find a verse that clearly illuminates the path you should take, or you begin to discern a strong consensus in the verses you have found. Don't rush the decision, but neither should you drag it out beyond the point you have your answer. This may take several sittings, spread out over several days. Trust God to bring things into focus for you.
  5. Keep working at it until things click. Once you have done this a few times, you will start to recognize the "peace of God" that is supposed to guide us (Colossians 3:15And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.). That "unction" from the Holy Spirit through which God illuminates His Word (I John 2:20But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.). Once you have your answer, thank God for speaking to you, and move forward in the direction He points.

It sounds simple, and it is. But I suspect this is exactly what the book of Proverbs was written for. It is filled with warnings, instruction, counsel on how to discern different character types, principles that lead to blessings, and principles that lead to cursings, and much more. It is an amazing adventure in how to think with divine wisdom.

And that's actually the best part about this particular decision making process. Not only will it help you make a good decision now, but every time you work through this process, your ability to make future decisions will be strengthened. Your thinking will be shifted just that little bit. You will become more and more familiar with the principles that govern heaven, and how to use them in this dark fallen world.

“The book of Proverbs makes us familiar with the principles that govern heaven, and how to use them in this dark fallen world.”

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And the rewards of seeking wisdom? "Length of days" and "peace, shall they add to thee". You'll find favor "in the sight of God and man". The Lord will "direct thy paths". It will be "health to thy navel and marrow to thy bones". Your barns will "be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine". It is better than "silver" and "fine gold" and "more precious than rubies". Wisdom "is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is everyone one that retaineth her". (Proverbs 3:1-181 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: 2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: 4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. 8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. 9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: 10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine. 11 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: 12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. 13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. 14 For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. 16 Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.).

Who wouldn't want all these blessings?

Conclusion

What happened when we applied this method to our invitation to an exciting job possibility? The book of Proverbs helped us clarify the pro's and con's of both leaving and staying. It took a few days to sort it all out. But in the end, the Lord convicted us to remain right where we are.

To keep seeking Him every day.

And to keep serving you, our community.

Other opportunities will come along of course. And perhaps next time things will line up differently. But we have our answer for now.

Make a point to submit your next pressing decision to the principles of wisdom found here in the book of Proverbs, and you will likely get your answer too!


Take the Next Step

Want to experience the joys of memorizing Scripture? Sign up now for our Breakout Memory Challenge. Discover our practical nuts and bolts keys to effective memorization side by side with believers from around the world! And this session's book focus: PROVERBS!

Enrollment is March 14 to March 28. Classes run through the entire month of April. Don't miss out!

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Comments

How important is it to use the Bible in making decisions? How is Proverbs particularly well suited to helping us with this? What are the dangers of leaving important decisions to chance, preference, or coincidence?

Posted by Dan Vis on 04/12/19

Glad this was helpful Jeannie! As for your question, I don't have any specific insight into the 7 pillars, but I do know when I read it I felt impressed to add another priority to my 6 current life priorities. So I know what "my" seven pillars are. :) It is an interesting verse...

Thanks Leslie!

Posted by Leslie Caza on 04/12/19
This was amazing! Praise God!
Posted by Jeannie Marcoux on 04/11/19
I have started to read through the Proverbs daily, one chapter for each day of the month. Thank you for the insight that it was written specifically to give us wisdom in our decision making. Do you know what wisdom’s seven pillars are? Pro 9:1  Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars:
Posted by Dan Vis on 04/01/19
Praise God! Appreciate the helpful affirmation of the power in the book of Proverbs to help us make good decisions Kathy!
Posted by Kathy Rosenberger on 04/01/19
I was trying to decide, on a short time frame, which one of two directions I should take on any upcoming weekend. After reading your Monday memo, I started going through proverbs, and it didn't take long to make the decision and feel at peace with it. Definitely a word in time.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/31/19
No worries Laurie. Meeting the needs of our community is first priority. I would only consider something that would work well with my responsibilities at FAST. And so glad to hear your testimony. What an encouragement!
Posted by Laurie Wissink on 03/31/19

My heart skipped a beat when you said you were considering another job possibility Dan. I can see God beginning to work in a mighty way in my little church through this ministry God has called you to. Through discipleship training. I'm so glad for your decision! Can't wait to see where it leads!

Also I love this post. So practical and easy to implement. Thanks!

Posted by Patricia Jones on 03/31/19
Yes, Pam, our choices do have eternal consequences. Anything we can do to learn Godly decision making and share it with others is a blessing.
Posted by Pamela Kendall on 03/31/19
Patricia Your points from Dr. Nedley makes me think of Lot - if only he had used Doctor Nedley's method of considering the salvation of himself and his family and opportunities to develop Godly character of higher value and importance than the worldly considerations he allowed to decide his choice of where to make his home (ease, opportunity for amusement, social life, and gathering wealth). His choice of Sodom for his home was the downfall of his family and it appears from our perspective that all but Lot ( II Peter 2:7-97 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) 9 The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: ) lost their salvation as a result (of course only God is the judge).
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/29/19

I'm sure it's not an accident there are 31 chapters in Proverbs Denise! Good point. I don't read in Proverbs every day, but it's definitely a good 31 day challenge. And I do sometimes drop in on whatever the current date is whenever I feel a need for a little boost of wisdom. It's always good! :)

As for tagging, you should just be able to tap the picture of the person you want to tag, and it will insert the code for that person's account into the comment box. When you submit a comment with that code in it, the code translates into their first name, and sends a message to them that they were mentioned. Give it another try. I'm sure you'll get the hang of it. Technology gets me sometimes too!

Posted by Denise Buglino on 03/27/19
I still can't figure out how to get the names of people to highlight. Tried to click on each person's picture. That didn't work either. Certain technology is beyond me.
Posted by Denise Buglino on 03/27/19
Very good lesson here Dan. And also helpful SOP quotes Patricia and Pamela. I've saved these to remember. Good analogy about the little pills of wisdom John. I've also heard Dr Nedley say that reading one chapter of the book of Proverbs every day for a month (there are 31 chapters)will help to combat anxiety and depression as it gives direction and helps build the frontal lobe.
Posted by Jaime on 03/26/19
This is my second day here, since I sing up on this site... Just in the right time for me! im struggling in making important! this is a quick answer to my prayer. I will do this and share my testimony, I knew that God will have a way to find answers!
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/26/19

Good post Claudette! Decisions can really have big consequences, can't they? We need God's guidance so much.

And excellent insight Pam. We can actually use the whole Bible to make decisions, but it's just easier sometimes to focus on Proverbs because it is so concentrated in principles. And apparently written for that purpose. Curiously, Proverbs personifies wisdom several times in the opening chapters, and we're told that this personification represents Christ. So the wisdom of Proverbs is the wisdom of Christ.

Of course for that matter, the whole Bible is the Word. But I get your specific point, and I'm sure you could develop a decision making process using the words of Christ primarily just as well. Certainly, discerning our life purpose will come more from something like that. And that ought to play a huge role in prioritizing things... Just some random thoughts

Posted by Patricia Jones on 03/26/19
Pam, Dr. Nedley shared in his illustrations from his life how when he and later he and his wife used those principles, their decisions were not what they would have been if he was seeking the more common pros: ease, preference, money, advancement, etc. but how he could see how God was leading and how the choices were for their eternal good and the good of others. I too had heard of pro/con lists but he opened my mind to higher standards for my options. Pastor Dan made it even more basic with his referral back to Proverbs and you to Christ's teachings. I love how we can grow together in this community, to me it is a foretaste of heaven with Christ as our true Teacher as we learn through His Word and Spirit.
Posted by Pamela Kendall on 03/25/19

Really liked today's memo Dan . I have heard of making "pro and con" lists but had never thought of Proverbs as key to making wise choices and using proverbs in this way to point toward or against decision "options". Being the "book of wisdom" it does make since to use it this way! I'll definitely have to remember this!

Something I read in the bookEducation for the true education class stood out in relation to this memo. It speaks of the teachings of Christ in a similar way to how you spoke of Proverbs today:

"Christ's teaching, like His sympathies, embraced the world. Never can there be a circumstance of life, a crisis in human experience, which has not been anticipated in His teaching, and for which its principles have not a lesson. The Prince of teachers, His words will be found a guide to His co-workers till the end of time. "{Ed 81.4}

Sounds like Jesus words/teachings can and should be used the same way! I find myself tempted to use "wrong" or "unwise" criteria for some decisions - like "what is the easy way?, and which way is more in my comfort zone?" But that sounds like "building on the sand" as John mentioned. Building on (obeying/applying) Jesus's words, Proverbs, and the rest of the Bible is the only safe way to go if we don't want our spiritual houses to be destroyed by the storms of Satan. This method of going to the Bible for wisdom is a much safer plan than Satan's "easy way" temptation!   Applying Bible wisdom takes more strenuous "effort" just as digging a foundation into the rock takes much more effort than digging in the sand (or taking the path of least resistance), but building on the rock of God's wisdom builds stronger character that won't be destroyed by storms of trial because it is anchored in God himself and his word that cannot fail Isaiah 40:8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. .

Patricia I really appreciated the important considerations you pointed out from Dr. Nedley about factors to weigh in the pro/con list - very good points! Also love the quote you shared from PP!

John I like your "vitamin" illustration - Proverbs = concentrated principles for ease of swallowing - great point, thanks for sharing (I do love illustrations!)

Posted by Claudette Haynes on 03/25/19
Making wise decisions ic crucial to my wellbeing. I’ve been disappointed too many times, thinking that I’ve made the right decision only to realize that it was not so, there were times when I even prayed for Devine guidance but still made the wrong decision. I want to live in God’s will and be sure that He is the one leading me.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/25/19

Good post Patricia. The more we use an approach along these lines, or just use the Bible in general, the more we will build up our own criteria for making good decisions. The more developed these criteria, the easier it becomes to make decisions, and the better quality those decisions. Thanks for sharing some of those great "criteria" from Dr. Nedley.

I like that John - a bottle of concentrated vitamins!

Glad you are keeping up with you verses Carole! And next month in our Breakout Memory Challenge, our featured book is actually going to be the book of Proverbs!!!

You are very welcome Mary Alice. :)

Posted by Mary Alice Holz on 03/25/19
Thank you for sharing, Dan. Very wise words indeed.
Posted by Carole Bliss on 03/25/19
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths. This verse came to mind as I read this message today. I am still doing my Bible verses. We dare not choose, before we go to God first. I plan to read Proverbs again. Blessings Carole
Posted by Patricia Jones on 03/25/19
It reminds me of a quote from PP 621.5 "We should not follow impulse, nor rely on the judgment of men; we should look to the revealed will of God and walk according to His definite commandment, no matter what circumstances may surround us. God will take care of the results; by faithfulness to His word we may in time of trial prove before men and angels that the Lord can trust us in difficult places to carry out His will, honor His name, and bless His people." His Word is a faithful guide.
Posted by Patricia Jones on 03/25/19

The Bible is our guide in all things, and Proverbs is the book of wisdom, which we need to make decisions in accordance with God's will. It's small little nuggets of truth apply to every situation we might face. Leaving important decisions to chance or coincidence means we're drifting along, not charting a course. Following personal preference can lead us in the wrong direction, as the the way that seemeth right often leads to destruction.

Dr. Nedley talks a lot about the book of Proverbs and its strengthening effect on the frontal lobe where decisions are made. He has a great video on making decisions where he too outlines the process using decisions he has made in his life to demonstrate applying it. Very similar to what you've outlined, Pastor Dan, but this adds to it. A couple areas he weights highly in his pro/con list: 1) personal soul salvation, including spouse (time for personal devotions, opportunities for direct teaching of others, threats to soul's salvation), 2) salvation of each individual family member weighed individually, 3) salvation of others (in the church - including training others to win souls, and in the world).   

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