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The Three Types of Choices
By Dan Vis
September 17, 2017
Comments: 48

Note: This is a repost from just a few months back, but it's so relevant to the goal setting process we're studying in ROCKET 2018, I couldn't resist sharing it again. If you haven't yet signed up for ROCKET, it's a FREE 10-day course on how to discover and achieve your most important goals. Enrollment closes at the end of the month.

Many Christians struggle with decision making. And it's not just young people that seem to have difficulty with this. Through the years, I've seen many believers, both young and old, make poor choices: They become confused, act rashly, and end up following some deception of the enemy. I could tell you several sad stories.

But it leads to a vitally important question: how can we know the will of God?

The first step in the process is to recognize that there are three different categories of choices:

Clearly Revealed Will
In the first category of decision, the best approach is simply to obey. Questioning God about the right course of action, when His will is clearly revealed, is actually dangerous.

I've seen it many times: You share some Bible topic with someone. Give them compelling evidence. And even secure consent that it is indeed what the Bible seems to teach. Then the dreaded words: "Let me pray about it, and see if God wants me to accept this". Almost invariably, they come back confirmed in their prior belief. The decision to pray was in fact stalling for time to come up with excuses to reject Bible truth.

Praying when we should be obeying, sets us for self deception! The only safe course when facing this first type of decision, is to obey promptly.

Areas of Discretion
The second category of decision deals more with the countless small choices we have to make every day. What clothes to wear, what food to eat, how to spend our time throughout the day. In these situations, we should be open to impressions from God, but not agonize about discerning His will.

As long as our clothing, food, and activities fall within biblical guidelines, we don't need to set aside special prayer about every decision. We should always be open to impressions from God, but to require an impression for every choice will leave us paralyzed in indecision, and ultimately stunt our ability to choose well.

Suppose a friend were to give you a nice, high-quality wristwatch. Which would be more appropriate: to ask your friend the time every few minutes or to glance at your watch? To use the watch, right? In the same way, God has given us a powerful brain with an amazing capacity for reason, intelligence, and judgment. God gave us these gifts to use freely within the parameters He has established within His Word.

Again, we should always remain open to impressions from God in these types of decision. Perhaps you'll be impressed to wear a certain outfit that makes a positive impact on some person you meet that day. Perhaps you'll be impressed to skip out on some food and avoid getting a bad tummy ache. Perhaps some word or act prompted by God will result in some great blessing to another person. You never know--but God does. So it is important to always be listening for these impressions.

In this category, we make the best decisions we can, trusting God to intervene with impressions when needed, and leave the results of our choices to Him.

The Tough Choices
The final category of decisions, includes the big, tough ones that have important consequences for our lives. These are the major life choices with so much potential for loss or reward. In these areas especially we need to learn how to seek and discern the will of God.

And by the way, there is a reason these decisions are so difficult. In many situations the Bible is not perfectly clear about which path to take. Either we are torn between two equally good choices, or between two that are equally problematic. It is when the options are most evenly balanced in the mind, and the consequences most significant, that we need the finest and most delicate discernment.

Going through my files a few weeks back I found an old scrap of paper attributed to George Mueller describing his process for making decisions. Here's what it says:

First, I seek to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in a given matter. When we are ready to do the Lord's will--whatever it may be--nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome. Having done this, I do not leave the results to feeling or simple impression. If I do so, I make myself liable to great delusions. I seek the will of the Spirit of God through or in connection with, God's Word. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If the Holy Spirit guides us, He will do it according to the Scriptures, never contrary to them. Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God's will in connection with His Word and Spirit. Finally, I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me. Thus through prayer, the study of the Word and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge. If my mind is thus at peace and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. I have found this method always effective in trivial or important issues.

Another popular writer from around the same time period described the same process in these words:

There are three ways in which the Lord reveals His will to us, to guide us, and to fit us to guide others. God reveals His will to us in His word, the Holy scriptures. His voice is also revealed in His providential workings; and it will be recognized if we do not separate our souls from Him by walking in our own ways, doing according to our own wills. Another way in which God's voice is heard is through the appeals of His Holy Spirit, making impressions upon the heart. If you are in doubt upon any subject you must first consult the Scriptures. Guidance comes to those that earnestly desire it. You should have an earnest desire to be pliable in His hands and to follow withersoever He may lead you. (Ellen White, 5T p 512).

If you compare the two, you will find the same basic steps in both: submission to the will of God, Bible study, a consideration of providence, and earnest prayer. Different words, but the exact same process.

The next time you find yourself facing a decision, first determine which category of choice it is. If God's will is clearly revealed in His Word, simply obey. If it is an area of discretion, make the best choice you can within the parameters you know, trusting God to send impressions when needed. And if it is one of those big, life decisions where the options are closely balanced, and the consequences significant, learn how to seek God. Through surrendering the will, Bible study, a consideration of providence, and earnest personal prayer, trust God to give you a clear understanding of His will, and then to confirm it with an inner peace, conviction, or assurance.

Following these basic guidelines can help us to fulfill God's best will for our life, and avoid the poor choices that so often frustrate His plans for us.

Comments

What about you? Can you think of examples of choices you make that fall into each category? What best helps you discern God's will when facing the toughest decisions? Share a thought or two in the comments below.

Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 01/19/18
It's good to hear that you have been blessed by the class, Shanthi. I have also been greatly blessed. It is so good to have a plan organized and ready in my mind and "on paper"/on the computer, for the year. It makes one feel able to tackle everything. And ticking off a goal is very satisfying! :-)
Posted by Shanthi Solomon on 01/16/18
This class has helped me understand some things I have been wrestling with. Thank you for Rocket 2018
Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 01/13/18
You're welcome, Dan.
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/12/18

Georgia, glad to hear you enjoyed ROCKET! And also about your exciting job/ministry opportunity. Praise God. Sounds like a great chance to grow!

Thanks Fiona for giving Georgia the link and directions. I should add, we will be doing a major revamp in the near future, so those instructions will likely need to be updated at that time... :)

You are so right Carole about the power of prayer. I think sometimes we don't value it enough as a very real and valid 2-way communication channel.

Thanks for sharing about us Arlene Webb! Hopefully we can see some of your friends from church here at FAST!

Thanks Janice, great to see you here! Say hi to everyone for us.

You are so right Christine! We can definitely use that answer as an excuse. That's why it is so important to understand the three types. We shouldn't use method #2 or #3 on a type #1 question. If God commands/forbids something clearly the answer should be a prompt yes/no. And the quicker the better! :)

Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 01/12/18

Georgia - there is a way to access the old Monday Memo's - here's the link :
https://www.fastmissions.com/news/archives

To get there yourself, you go to the home page (the Welcome page), and click on Recent Posts, and then under that heading, there are the words, Complete Archives, I think it is. The words are in blue. The whole list of Monday Memos is there. :-)

Happy reading!

Carole - you are quite right - we so need Divine direction for our decisions. The book of Proverbs warns us all the time of making decisions that we think are right, but are not.

Arlene Webb - what a lovely message to share in the 10 Days of Prayer time. It will be very helpful for all.

Christine - you have raised a valid point. I, too, have heard people say that they will obey when they feel convicted. But doesn't Christ ask the question, that when He returns, will He find faith on the earth? May I be one of those who listen and obey, and do not hesitate to do His will. May one verse be enough for me ...

Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 01/12/18

Dan has suggested I post my one comment from the Rocket 2018 class, to do with decision-making, here in the comment section of his Monday Memo on decision-making. Here it is:

"It is true, that God does not always make decisions for us - He leaves us with the power of choice. What we need to ask is if it is the right choice, if there is a better option, and whether the timing is right for the choice. I have found God answers these simple prayers promptly. It is very helpful. We need God's wisdom as His wisdom is much greater than ours - Isaiah 55:8,9For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.."

It is an excellent reading, Dan. Thank you. :-) It is very helpful.

Posted by Christine Godfrey on 01/11/18

Dan , thank you so much for this post on the 3 types of choices.
When I read “then comes the dreaded words: “let me pray about it, and see if God wants me to accept this”. my thoughts went immediately to the word convicted. I often hear the response “I’m not convicted yet or when I am convicted I will do it.”
I perceive the word “CONVICTED is often used for “feeling or being convinced, despite a plain “Thus saith the LORD” (I always perceive when the word convicted is used to stall obeying God’s word or believing the plain written word of God doubt is obviously present)

I can understand that a person outside of the faith when the word of God first comes to them a process of time is usually needed to come to a thorough “conviction” or “to be convicted” that God’s word is true. But what about those of us who have been in the message for a long time. Do we need to wait till we are “convicted” before obeying or believing a plain “Thus saith the LORD”. Is it in this context that we are using the word “convicted” in place of “feeling” because we doubt, or have a resistance to obedience.
When does this word become an excuse? What is the appropriate use of the word convicted in relation to God’s word?

Posted by Janice on 01/09/18
Thank-you Pastor Dan. I am greatly encouraged by your post.
Posted by Arlene Webb on 01/08/18
I,too, was blessed by this message. Wednesday our church begins the 10 Days of Prayer, and I am a group leader and will share parts of this article with them.Thank you for these wonderful readings. Arlene
Posted by Carole Bliss on 01/08/18
I am so thankful for the gift of prayer. When we pray about a situation and wait on the Lord, see His Spirit and direction, we can be assured HE will lead, if we let Him.
I really like the practical and wise advice stated in today's reading. Always reminding us how we need to get heavenly wisdom, for important choices.
Blessings,
Carole
Posted by Georgia K on 01/08/18

Thanks for re-posting this, Dan!
I've been greatly blessed by ROCKET 2018 so far as its really opened my eyes to see the importance of having purpose and an aim in life. Because of some choices and plans I wanted to make, I remembered your posts from around September-October about decision making and wanted to look them up again - and here is one of them!
After seeking God with all my heart these last days, I've had a large job-ministry opportunity offered me that involves moving to another city... It is something I feel totally incapable of, yet I know that I have not only myself to rely on, but a living Saviour.
To everyone making plans, I want to share a message a friend sent me about seeking first the Kingdom of God:
"A humble mind and a grateful heart will elevate us above petty trials and real difficulties..... The command to deliver Israel seemed overwhelming; but, in the fear of God, Moses accepted the trust. Mark the result: He did not bring the work down to his deficiency; but in the strength of God he put forth the most earnest efforts to elevate and sanctify himself for his sacred mission". What is our mission for this year that the Lord is calling us to do?

Also, Dan, is there a way to access old Monday Memos? I can't seem to find them...

Posted by Dan Vis on 01/08/18
Thank you everyone for sharing, and for your testimonies. Appreciate everyone's involvement in our community.
Posted by Margaret Major on 01/08/18
Dan this is so thrilling. I have forwarded the invitation regarding Rocket to my Pastor Dan who is a pastor of two churches, one a church plant where I attend. I believe he is a man after your own heart.
Posted by Qing Ling on 01/08/18

Lynn that's such a beautiful thing to hear our Lord's voice each morning.it's a good example of the statement above:
His voice is also revealed in His providential workings; and it will be recognized if we do not separate our souls from Him by walking in our own ways, doing according to our own wills.

I'm hearing that warning loud and clear to NOT SEPARATE OUR SOULS FROM HIM, because I want to continue to be able to hear/recognise His voice.

Posted by James on 01/08/18
Knowing God's will is also knowing his heart and comes from a daily walk with him, thanks for this wonderful site. God bless. James Bradley
Posted by David Grabe on 01/08/18

Greetings to all my FAST friends in Christ!
What a privilege(& responsibility)to be living in these times! Thank you so much, Pastor Dan, for this inspiring & insightful post! I have struggled at times with making some discretionary decisions-and obviously the major ones! But this post has really helped me to simplify by sorting them into the 3 areas mentioned(revealed will, discretionary, & life-altering). Your statement,"Through surrendering the will, Bible study, a consideration of providence, and earnest personal prayer, trust God to give you a clear understanding of His will, and then to confirm it with an inner peace, conviction, or assurance." So powerful! As I thought on this, the passage, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5,6Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
And another in Proverbs, "A man's heart devises his way; but the LORD directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.

GOD'S richest blessings in this new year to all as we "seek His kingdom & His righteousness" Matthew 6:33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Posted by Oreofeoluwa on 01/08/18
I'd definitely be sharing this, it really blessed me this morning. I have been seeking the will of God on certain plans and activities for my day and i sometimes get stuck, not totally sure of His views. But reading this has helped put some things in perspective, knowing what to do and when to do...Thanks Dan!
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/08/18
Consider keeping a notebook on your nightstand, just in case you get some great insight Lynn! :)
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 01/08/18
Linda,
Thanks for your question. It prompted me to share it on FB. You are right about this one needing to be read by as many people as possible.
Maranatha!
Posted by Lynn Badger on 01/08/18
Many times I wake up with God "talking" to me about something I've been praying about. In the stillness I am able to hear His voice and direction.
Posted by Dan Vis on 01/08/18

Sure Linda, you should see facebook and twitter icons on the side menu (on the bottom ??? on your phone). If you scroll all the way down, you'll see a personal link you can share as well. When someone clicks that url, you will be notified when they sign up in your invites area. That way you can give them a warm welcome! They do not have to be a member to read these posts.

And glad you enjoyed today's reading! :)

Thanks for sharing Valerie. Hope this is helpful to her...

By they way, for those doing ROCKET 2018, I encourage you to consider this reading when following the goal setting process there. Esp the third section. It adds helpful insights in choosing, selecting goals, priorities, etc.

Posted by Linda Gerace on 01/08/18
Dan, are these Monday Memos shareable on social media? Can people who have no FAST Missions account read them by clicking on a shared link? I'd like to share this one.
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 01/08/18
Dan,
Thank you so much for re-posting this. It is timely. I will share this with my friend who is at a crossroads in her life. It appears that the Lord is answering her prayers yet she still seems unsure of what to do.
God bless you.
Valerie
Posted by Linda Gerace on 01/08/18
This is the best and clearest explanation of knowing God's will for our lives that I have ever read or heard. I truly appreciate this, as my husband and I have occassionally gone round and round about this very thing. We have a huge life decision coming up in our immediate future, so I want to be sure that my heart is in the right place: with no will of it's own, pliable in His hands, and I will have to pray and seek the Scriptures for guidance.
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/04/17
Glad this was helpful Liza! I think you emphasized just the right points. All the best as you go through the coming changes in your life. Praise God we can always trust Him to help lead us...
Posted by Liza W on 10/01/17
Such a timely article. I've got lots of changes coming and needing a lot of discernment. I like the point about obedience once you know what God's will is, and not using prayer as a means to stall what should be action. I really appreciate the point on the unity between God's Word, the Holy Spirit and the providential circumstances that needs to happen when discovering God's will. Also being obedient to what you already know of God's will is extremely important. A good reminder to me to keep all I plan or think to do before God and to be obedient and open to changes that are of His design. Thank you for the blessing.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/28/17

You are very welcome Jackie! Praise God for His perfect timing.

Jackie, you are right about these principles keeping us from a ship wrecked life. I've seen people experience really negative consequences by failing to follow these principles! Great thoughts on prayer also...

Posted by Qing Ling on 09/28/17

Amen sis Valerie .it is my privilege to come to God's throne of mercy for our FAST family.

Thanks for tag Dan :)

Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 09/28/17
Qing
Thank you for your prayers for the group. John 3:30He must increase, but I must decrease. is the key to complete surrender.
Posted by Jackie Smith on 09/28/17
This is a fantastic article ! This will keep Christians from a ship wrecked life.   Prayer sure is the keys to unlock heaven's storehouse. Most of us are not using the power of prayer as we should. Prayer is the only way we can have a relationship with God. There is no other way. " If only my people would pray" Thank you again !
Posted by Jacqueline on 09/25/17
Thank you for this article. I n÷eded this right now.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/24/17

you are very welcome Valerie! We can definitely count on the Lord to give us that peace that passes all understanding.

To tag someone (like Qing), just click their picture and it will insert the member id automatically you.

Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 09/24/17
Thank you Dan for this memo. I find that when I am most perplexed or troubled, that is definitely the time to go to the Lord with the issue. I have learned that God is always near and ready to help. I have peace as I rest in Him and wait upon Him. He never disappoints.
Thank you Qing for your prayers and that scripture John 3:30He must increase, but I must decrease.. It is the key to complete surrender to God's will.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/20/17

I'll second that too Merilyn! We do have a great prayer team. So thankful for that...

And thank you for joining in!

Posted by Qing Ling on 09/19/17
Absolutely, Merilyn ...I have no doubt there are many regular prayer warriors for our FAST family amongst us, even if we don't see each one pipe up in comments. :)
Posted by Merilyn Aveling-Rowe on 09/19/17
Qing thanks, it's good to know someone prays for the entire FAST community. I hadn't thought to! ... FAST folk are now in my prayer list too.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/19/17

Glad so many of you found this helpful. And thank you Qing and others for helping to keep our FAST community uplifted in prayer. So many of us are facing important decisions. We need God's special guidance, don't we?

PS. I like that statement too. I think it is 90% of the problem.

And great point about "simplification" Nicole. I think that's another area we can all improve on, and it would definitely make decision-making easier...

Posted by Nicole Walker on 09/18/17
This is an excellent outline to make decisions. I will be sure to simplify instead of worrying about the second types of choices.
Posted by Qing Ling on 09/18/17

Am praying for our FAST family...God surely hears our sincere prayers :)

I really connect with the statement:

First, I seek to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in a given matter. When we are ready to do the Lord's will--whatever it may be--nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome.

John 3:30He must increase, but I must decrease. :)

Posted by Carole Bliss on 09/18/17
Just this morning when I was praying, I asked the LORD what HE wants me to
do in a family situation. HE alone knows all that is involved, going to another
person, would not have the full insight. I will wait on HIM, to show me what I should do, if anything. The one thing I am doing, is praying daily for my grandsons, who need Jesus. Please pray for them.
Thank-you,
Carole
Posted by Joyce Augustinis on 09/18/17
Thank you for this article. I have have used some of these ways especially looking at scripture, but it is really good to hear this message and remember and put these things into practice. You never know when you will come up against a major decision and need some good advice. I especially liked the first section about clearly revealed will of God and how we might dismiss it. One of the gifts of the spirit is discernment and I pray that I will have that one.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/18/17

It is important to commit our decisions to the Lord, isn't it Violeta. Once we've made them, we move forward and leave the results to God...

Glad you enjoyed this Terri. That's what struck me too--how similar the counsel was. Which reminds me of another helpful principle in decision making--getting good biblical counsel! :)

You are very welcome Art! All the best as you seek to discern God's will...

Posted by Art Chew on 09/18/17
Thank you for such a timely and great article. I am in the middle of a big decision. Would need prayers
Posted by Terri Swan on 09/18/17
Thank-you! This is basically how I have approached decisions, but this was laid out very nicely; easy to comprehend. Also so beautiful to see two humble disciples' counsel match so perfectly. Evidence of the Holy Spirit's leading.
Posted by Violeta Buckley on 09/18/17
When I face tough decisions, I just pray and say to the Lord, this is beyond things that I can do Lord, please take care of it. And then forget about it.
Whatever is the result, I considered that's what He wants for me and gladly accept it.
Posted by Marion Coppock on 09/18/17
I want prayers for my son Brent who desperately needs a full time job. He has been with out one for two years.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/18/17
Definitely a big decision John! Will pray God gives you clear direction...
Posted by John Gilmore on 09/18/17
I now face a choice that fits the third category; I need a change of employment. Please pray for me.

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