By Patrick Miller
The Key to Godly Decisions
Most Christians want to know what God wants for them next. They just aren’t sure how to figure it out.
Should I ask for signs? Does God part the heavens and come down? Will a little voice speak to me in my head? Should I “feel a peace” to know it’s right? Or am I waiting for an “open door”?
The trouble is, these are all faulty strategies. That little voice in your head is as likely to be a devil as an angel. “Feeling peace” is often code for “God wants me to do what I wanted to all along.” And if Gideon’s story is any indicator, looking for signs is an act of weakness and foolishness, not wisdom.
So what should we do?
Prefer to listen?
We should make decisions with wisdom.
Wisdom comes from putting God first. He is the one we respect, trust, and love above all others. So his word should shape our actions more than anything else. This is what proverbs calls “the fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 9:10).
Proverbs is not preoccupied with reading signs and listening for voices. It wants to transform our entire disposition toward decision-making.
In other words, rather than speaking to us directly about our decision, God gives us the tools to make decisions that are in line with his values. And he doesn’t just want us to make spiritual decisions or big decisions by putting him first. He wants us to make all decisions that way.
This is why the book of Proverbs covers communication, family life, work, farming, parenting, friendship, justice, counseling, money, education, drinking, eating, and far more beyond.
God gives us wisdom, not signs.
How to Get Wisdom
Imagine a college sophomore who wants to play flag football with some buddies on campus. He calls his dad, who lives four hours away, and says, “Dad, is it okay if I play flag football with some guys today?”
If I were that dad, I would begin to wonder if I failed. Surely, I gave my son the tools he needs to decide whether he should be playing football or studying or whatever else he chooses to do? Surely, I trained him how to prioritize and how to be self-controlled?
I often wonder if God feels the same way with us. He tells us to ask him for wisdom and spend time learning with him. He promises to give us what we ask for. It really is that simple.
So, ask God for wisdom.
Here’s the good news: you don’t have to deserve wisdom. God dispenses it freely as an act of grace. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
Let’s look at how to make wise decisions. Here are three reasons you make bad decisions and then three ways to make good decisions instead.
3 Reasons You Make Bad Decisions
1. You only listen to people who agree with you.
It’s nice being told you’re right. For example, a 1960s study presented smokers with two headlines: “Smoking Does Not Lead to Lung Cancer” and “Smoking Leads to Lung Cancer.” Guess which one they were more interested in reading? Humans prefer what’s affirming to what’s true.
If you only listen to friends or experts who agree with you, you’ll never stop believing everything you think. But you shouldn’t believe everything you think, because you’re often wrong!
“The way of fools seems right to them.”
2. You trust your emotions.
We all like to pretend that we make rational decisions. But the truth is, we’re often motivated by our emotions. Now, emotions are not bad things, but they’re rarely trustworthy when you’re looking for truth. For example, when I get angry or irritated, I find I make my worst decisions. And this makes sense because brain scientists have found that anger decreases your ability to think!
“The wise turn away anger.”
3. You focus on the short term.
If you could have $100 today or $120 in a year, which would you choose? Studies show that most of us pick the $100 today. Delaying gratification is hard, because it’s hard to imagine. We know we should save for retirement or our kids’ education, but that is so far off that it’s tough to think about. A nice car, on the other hand, is quite easy to imagine. Just go to a car dealership.
The Bible calls us to focus on the long term, the eternal term. Ask yourself this question: What do you want people to say at your funeral? That you never missed a chiefs game, that you loved your phone deeply, that you never stopped working? Or that you reflected God’s character, put others first, were present with your family, made a difference? Don’t get fixated on what’s temporary. Focus on what lasts forever.
“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”
3 Ways You Can Make Good Decisions
Here are three ideas to help you make good decisions instead.
1. Be honest with yourself about your motivations.
Good decision-makers don’t hide from their motives. They understand that even when their motives seem pure on the surface, the reality is that their hearts are “deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Are you buying that car for its safety features or the status you’ll feel when you pull up? Are you buying those clothes because they will last longer or because the logo shows how much you have? Or are you going on that work trip because it’s necessary or because you’re trying to get alone with someone you know you shouldn’t? Just like David, stop when you’re conscience-stricken (1 Samuel 24:3).
2. Give yourself distance.
A little distance goes a long way. If you’re confronted, don’t respond defensively. Instead, ask for time to think. This space allows you to stop seeing red and start seeing the truth.
3. Get an outside opinion.
Have you ever noticed how, when a friend is the one making a bad decision, you can see the issues right away? That’s because you’re on the outside. You are not emotionally invested, and therefore, you’re able to see clearly. So wouldn’t it be smart to find someone on the outside when you’re the one making the decision?
When I have a marriage question, I go to someone on the outside with a good marriage and ask for their opinion. When I have a financial question, I go to someone on the outside who manages their money well and ask for their opinion. And When l have an ethical problem, I go to someone on the outside who acts with integrity and ask for their opinion. Do they say what I want them to? Rarely. But that’s the value.
“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”
Your Smallest Decisions Matter to God.
“History is just one damn thing after another.” No one knows who said this, but it perfectly describes how some people think about history and life. Some people think, “My life is just one damn thing after another.”
Should I eat that brownie? Will I buy that house? Will I spend the night doom-scrolling?
Some decisions might seem incredibly important. Others might seem insignificant. But the truth is, your life is not just a random collection of decisions. Your life becomes whatever you decide in the smallest moments.
Just ask yourself, which decision matters more: whether to eat a brownie or whether to buy a house?
If you say yes to the brownie every night, you might become obese, develop heart disease, and die an early death. It won’t matter how nice your house is because you won’t be there to enjoy it.
All of your decisions, big and small, matter to God. Why? Your life is the sum total of all your choices—even the smallest ones. So don’t waste them by treating these decisions like random, meaningless little throwaways.
Instead, use your decisions to build a life worth living. Spend them building the life God calls you to live.
Want to hear more practical wisdom on how to make good decisions in your day-to-day life? Join Patrick Miller and Keith Simon on Ten Minute Bible Talks as they discuss how to improve bad decision-making.