Does the Bible Provide Decision-Making Guidance?
We make hundreds of decisions every day. Some are fairly insignificant – “Should I drink coffee or tea with breakfast today?” Some have a major impact on our lives – “What do I want to do for a career?” “Who should I marry?” Our brother, Ben Smith, recently penned an article describing the most significant decision we can make for our lives and our soul – “Should I follow God?” I encourage you to read this article, if you haven’t already. But what about the more temporal, though very impactful decisions, that we make daily? Is there general Biblical guidance we should heed?
In a recent class study on the various kings of Judah, one thing that stood out to me was how the decision-making process impacted the various kings’ successes in battle. Perhaps we can learn, how we should approach important decisions, based on these examples. Jimmy Griffith provided a lot of good research that classified kings of Judah into three general categories: “good”, “bad”, and started off mostly “good” then later turned “bad”. In this context, “good” indicates that the king followed God (for the most part) and enjoyed success in battles against enemies. The “bad” kings generally led the nation away from God towards idolatry, and ultimately, the nation of Judah was led into captivity by foreign powers.
Jehoshaphat is an example of one of the “good” kings. What do the scriptures tell us was his preparation for battle?
2 Chron 20:1-4 1 It happened after this that the people of Moab with the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat. 2Then some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, "A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria; and they are in Hazazon Tamar" (which is En Gedi). 3And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord. NKJV
Clearly, Jehoshaphat prepared for battle by leading the nation in a fast and seeking the Lord’s guidance. What was the result?
2 Chron 20:22-23 22Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated. 23For the people of Ammon and Moab stood up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir to utterly kill and destroy them. And when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. NKJV
The hand of God led them in soundly defeating the nations that had attacked them. In fact, the enemies destroyed each other!
Asa was another “mostly good” king. But after numerous successful battles, he made a significant blunder, when he failed to rely on the Lord.
2 Chron 16:7-9 7And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: "Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. 8Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. 9For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars." NKJV
Asa’s successes came when he relied upon the Lord. Failure against Syria was delivered, when Asa did not.
The Pattern - Many additional examples of good and bad decisions can be observed by studying the various kings of Judah. Based on such a study, the ingredients of a successful model for making good decisions appears to include:
3. Consult God’s will (often through prophets in the time of the kings)
4. Heed God’s guidance
Not only do the successful kings of Judah provide us this model, we also see that the King of Kings, our Lord Jesus the Christ, prayed and heeded God’s guidance during one of His biggest decisions. On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus was conflicted about what he was about to endure. He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: Matt 26: 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” ESV
Approaching major decisions - The Biblical pattern for approaching major decisions should start with prayer and fasting. We must also seek God’s guidance based on what He has revealed in His word. And, significantly, we should be willing to heed God’s will, even if it conflicts with our most earnest desires. Jesus’ prayers in the garden reinforce this last point. Jesus willingly accepted God’s will, that He go through with the plan. And we are all blessed as a result.
Approaching trivial decisions – What about the trivial decisions that we make each day? Do these warrant the same treatment? In most cases, such decisions are choices from among a variety of valid and good selections. In such cases, we should pray to God, thanking and praising Him, that we have been blessed with an abundance to select from.
Col 3:17 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. ESV
Personally, I am going to redouble my efforts to make sure to prayerfully seek and follow God’s guidance when I face major decisions going forward. Having seen the effects of not doing so from numerous biblical examples, I shudder to think of the consequences of relying on my own wisdom.
-- Steve Harbin