As a pastor I counsel hundreds of people every year. Sometimes it is to help someone out of a mess and other times it is to give guidance. All decisions do not carry equal weight; some have greater consequences than others. That means decision-making is a skill that is crucial to a successful life.
What are some of the weightier decisions we face? I believe there are four decisions that will shape the rest of one’s life and eternity. In sequential order they are:
- A decision concerning Christ, whether to receive the gift of salvation or to reject it.
- A decision concerning your companion, whom you marry.
- A decision concerning your church, the place you and your family will serve and grow spiritually.
- A decision concerning your career, the means by which you will use your gifts and earn a living.
If you get these right the quality of your life will become exponentially better and the fog will clear in a lot of other areas. However, if you get these wrong you will experience confusion and sorrow.
The quality of your life is inextricably related to the quality of your decisions. Good decisions will yield a good future; average decisions will yield an average future; bad decisions yield a bad future. The above four decisions are the basic foundation in building a successful life.
The starting point in making wise decisions is to take responsibility for them. Our tendency is to blame others for our problems when the decision was ours, or at least, we had a part in it. When we become a victim the responsibility for our condition shifts from us to others. This results in anger and a sense we cannot change things.
Blameshifting (avoiding responsibility) is in the DNA of every person, part of our corrupt nature we received from our first parents, Adam and Eve. Both of them refused to admit to their wrong choices to sin. Note how they blamed others when God confronted them over what they had done.
“Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” (Genesis 3:11-13)
Taking responsibility for choices leads to better decisions. This is especially important in the family. When a husband or father makes bad choices he can saddle the family with debt for decades, leave hurts in the hearts of his wife and children that cause them to be bitter, and damage their interest in spiritual matters. The same is true with others in the family. We do not sin alone in terms of the consequences.
Distinguishing between good and bad is not difficult, but what about when the choice involves good, better and best? How can we know what we are to do when it appears that both options are equally advantageous? I have faced this conundrum in my life. Let me offer some examples.
- When I was in college I was working in a church about forty miles from campus and received a call from a pastor in another state to come and work with him in his church. The problem is that I was a Junior and still had a year to go in school. His proposal was to his area and work in his church while attending a school nearby for my Senior year. Later, I would join his staff full-time. It was a tremendous opportunity and had advantages to both situations. What to do?
- Years later I was enjoying a fruitful ministry working with teenagers and I received a call from a pastor in another state to come and work in that church. Again, it was a great opportunity. What to do?
- Another occasion I received an inquiry letter from a much larger church asking me to consider being their pastor. In most realms of business this was a “promotion”. What to do?
In the following posts I will share my personal decision-making process. I have used five questions that have served me well in making wise choices. Here is what I believe – if one will take an issue through this funnel, at the end of it will be wisdom.
One of the most important pieces of information parents can give to their children is how to make wise decisions. I hope these posts will be a help to that end and to help you make wise choices.