Making Important Decisions (Part 1)

In case you’re wondering, as a penance for some of the heavy reading I offered last week (tongue firmly in cheek), I’m trying to write as practically and concretely as possible this week. Four or five years ago, my good friend John Potts, who was something of a mentor to me when I lived in Minneapolis and continues to be a wise guide for me and others, forwarded two articles by Neil Anderson to me, entitled “Facing a Decision,” and “Changing Directions.” I copied these articles into my Palm (now a Pocket PC) and have re-read them numerous times, particularly when it came time to make three especially weighty decisions: (1) whether or not to leave family, friends, a great job and ministry, an exceptional church, and my beloved hills and lakes of Minnesota to come to Trinity; (2) whether or not to leave the first church at which we became members in the Chicago area on account of what we perceived to be biblical unfaithfulness on the part of the senior pastor; and (3) whether or not to continue on at Trinity for a Ph.D., despite our longings to start a family and to enter immediately into church ministry.

I’d like to reproduce the articles here, today and tomorrow, in hopes that they will help you to think through important decisions wisely, and to honor Christ in the choices you make.

Facing a Decision

“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths” (Psalm 25:4 NIV).

…I would like to share with you 10 questions you’ll want to ask yourself and pray about when you’re faced with a decision. The first five are generic. They represent moral issues and godly wisdom that are normative for all times.

Have you prayed about it?
Prayer was never intended to be a fourth-down punting situation in which we ask God to bail us out of our hasty decisions. It was intended to be a first-down huddle. We aren’t supposed to ask God to bless our plans; we’re supposed to ask God for His plans.

Is it consistent with the Word of God?
In our culture, ignorance of God’s Word is no excuse since resources abound. I believe that every home should have at least a concordance, a Bible dictionary, a topical Bible, a good commentary, and a study Bible with notes. Most pastors would love to share what God has to say about a given matter. If they wouldn’t, you have called the wrong pastor!

Can I do it and be a positive Christian witness?
A seminary student stopped by my office and told me about a job he had been offered. It would take care of his financial needs, but he had some reservations concerning the sales pitch he was required to use. I asked him if he could use the sales technique and be a positive witness for Christ. He didn’t take the job.

Will the Lord be glorified?
Can I do this and give glory to God? In doing it, would I be glorifying God in my body? Am I seeking the glory of man or the glory of God? Am I doing this to be noticed by man or am I seeking to please the Lord?

Am I acting responsibly?
God doesn’t bail us out of our irresponsibility. But when we are faithful in little things, He will put us in charge of greater things. Don’t get ahead of God’s timing or you will be over your head in responsibilities. Seek to develop your life and message, and God will expand your ministry.

“Dear Lord, help me take a good, hard look at these questions and then avoid at all costs any compromise with Your will in my life today.”

NB: On Neil Anderson and his writings in general, please see comment #7 in the “comments” link.

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7 thoughts on “Making Important Decisions (Part 1)”

  1. i always find this sort of discussion engaging. i keep a file of decision making articles on hand for my own use as well as those who stop by with questions. as i type this comment i am waiting for a single mother to stop by my office “for some advice.” she has some decisions to make and wants me (of all people) to talk through some scenarios with her. could i ask you to send me those articles if you have an electronic copy. i would like to add more to my arsenal. good words for tuesday.

  2. This is a great checklist to walk through in making decisions. Good post, B. I’d throw in a general caveat about Neil Anderson, though. His teaching on spiritual warfare is pretty aberrant, to put it mildly.

  3. Thanks for the comments, fellas. Vince, I do not have the articles on my hard drive, but the sites at which they are permanently posted are: http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/3494.htm and http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/3496.htm.

    Matt, I do know that about Anderson. He’s a little nutty on a couple of things. So that raises an interesting question, maybe: If we use resources from a minister whom we think may have serious problems in certain theological matters, must we always include a disclaimer (in sermons, books, blogs, etc) that we do not approve of many of their views, even if we think them helpful on particular points? What do you guys think?

  4. i know nothing about anderson but it probably would be helpful to make a disclaimer about theological differences – especially if your audience is not discerning enough to do so. i fall into the trap of listening and believing those i respect – even when they are quoting someone else. i think “if so-and-so is quoting a work then i should be able to trust that work and others by the same author.” that is not always the case so it may be best to say something as simple as “although i do not agree with everything anderson says i do find his list about decision making quite helpful.” carson is a great example of one who quotes others while using truth and charity to describe some of the other views.

  5. I agree with wince. Quotation can easily be misconstrued as blanket approval in an undiscerning audience or one that is otherwise unfamiliar with the source. It’s usually best to accompany quotation with a caution when it comes to sources who have significant doctrinal or character problems.

  6. In accordance with the sentiments of my brothers (see above), let me state clearly that it is my understanding that Mr. Anderson has some heterodox and potentially corrupting elements in his theological framework. I have not read a lot of his work, and so I admit that this is only hearsay.

    Nevertheless, my use of his articles should not be understood to be a blanket endorsement of his writings. I just find these two particular articles insightful and helpful.

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