Biblical Decision Making Part 5: Wise Counsel
The principle of seeking wise counsel is shown throughout the Bible. No one should make life-changing decisions without receiving godly counsel. It is wise to think through who we can talk to when we need advice or direction (i.e., elder, parents, mentor).
Prov. 15:22, “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.”
Prov. 1:5, “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:” Prov. 12:15,“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”
Prov. 19:20-21, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end. There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.”
Wise counsel will help us seek God’s best for our lives by looking at all sides of issues. Wise counselors turn their own will and agenda over to God as they help guide us. It is better to receive counsel from those who can help review pros/cons and strengths/weaknesses of our decisions rather than listening to those who simply tell us what we want to hear or criticize us. As Prov. 27:6 shares, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” The Bible notes that choosing poor counselors can have disastrous consequences, so it important to be intentional about whom we seek out (see the story of Rehoboam in 2 Chr. 10).
Below are some characteristics of someone to seek out for guidance and wise counsel:
- Genuinely concerned for you and either knows or is willing to learn about your background.
- Known to be biblically sound, spiritually mature, and aware of their own blind spots.
- Skilled at listening and asking good questions.
- Somewhat experienced, knowledgeable, or trained in the area you are seeking guidance about (i.e. using an experienced professional when making career decisions).
- Exercises confidentiality and uses discretion.
- Exemplifies humility and gentleness yet loves you enough to tell you the truth or where you may be interpreting situations in error (even if it hurts).
- Provides an honest opinion and is direct when necessary.
- Able to be objective in the situation.
Application: First, in light of the scriptures listed above, how have we done at seeking counsel when we previously faced decisions in life? Identifying the 3-5 closest confidants we seek counsel from and reviewing them in light of the list of characteristics can be beneficial. Are there any people on the list that we should try to talk with more often? Are there any individuals who have been counseling us which don’t meet the criteria? What do we need to do differently?
Trusting and Having a Surrendered Heart
Sometime in life, we will experience a wholesome desire that goes unmet. For instance, we often wonder why a loved one who was ill had to die instead of being healed. Another example is we believe we are supposed to marry and even conclude we are ready to marry and yet it still hasn’t happened. Often, it is impossible to know why. Our struggle to understand why God hasn’t answered can lead to frustration and discouragement. This becomes the moment where trust in God is most crucial. Trust by definition is leaning on God and maintaining our faith in Him when we don’t have clear understanding. We can take comfort in knowing that God understands the fact we don’t understand. Thankfully, even in the midst of disappointment and hurt, we have the assurance of God’s sustaining grace in our lives.
Ps. 62:8, “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us.”
Jer. 17:7-8, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”
Having a surrendered heart means accepting His will may be different from ours. It doesn’t mean we were wrong in having our desires, but it does mean we should continually submit our hopes, dreams, and plans to Him. Most of us struggle with this to some degree. Do not be discouraged, but keep turning hopes, dreams, and plans over to God. We shouldn’t hesitate to make our requests known to God; however, we must always remember to follow Christ’s example in Luke 22:42 and say, “not my will, but thine, be done.”
Jas. 4:15, “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”
1 John 5:14-15, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”
Mat. 7:9-11, “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
Application: Take a few minutes to think about life and the concept of being surrendered to God. What areas of life are easiest for us to trust God with? What areas are the most difficult to turn over to Him? For the issues we tend to struggle in turning over to God, we often must surrender and then surrender them again. Pray and thank God for understanding the challenges we face with surrendering an issue or a decision to Him. Then ask Him to grant grace to trust Him with this challenge. Seek to reach the point where you are surrendered and open to living with the potential consequences of your decision, whatever these consequences might be. Share this commitment with a spiritual mentor.
Waiting on God’s Timing.
We must accept that ‘waiting on the Lord’ is often part of the decision-making process. Many times, patient waiting is necessary as circumstances develop or change over time in order to know what to do next. God is working even when we do not see or understand it.
Ps. 27:14, “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”
Jas. 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [trials]; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Ps. 130:5, “I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.”
Is. 40:31, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Waiting on the Lord is not the same thing as doing nothing. When we reach a point in the decision-making process and don’t know what to do, we can focus on the things we already know to be God’s will because they are revealed in Scripture. For example, Jas. 1:27 says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” So, while trusting and waiting on God we know one thing we can be doing is caring for the fatherless and widows and striving for purity.
Application: Identify an area or areas of life where our preferred timing and God’s timing seem to be out of sync. Take a few minutes to reflect on the reality that God sees the beginning to the end of time. Talk to Him about issue(s) where His intervention is sought. Remember God is at work in ways that we see and notice and ways that we don’t.
As we approach biblical decision making, it is important to realize there is no set “formula” on how to properly make a perfect decision every time. There are, however, several key biblical principles which should be applied. Using God’s Word as a foundation and having an accurate concept of God and His sovereignty are critical starting places. Walking with God daily, praying for His direction, and seeking wise counsel serve as key behaviors. Finally, trusting and waiting on God with a surrendered heart are vital attitudes which must be held throughout the process.
This article has reviewed a number of aspects of biblical decision making. We are encouraged to begin with right thinking toward biblical decision making harmonizing the ideas of walking by faith and godly wisdom, using Scripture accurately, and exercising balance between the freedom God has given us and the responsibility He has placed upon us. Once our thinking is aligned with God, we are encouraged to walk through the key principles He lays out for us in His Word. Though there are no “one-size-fits-all” answers, we can have comfort knowing we have access to something even better. We have the promise of a Heavenly Father who loves us as His children and will walk alongside us through these decision-making journeys. Knowing and appreciating this relationship is perhaps the key to the entire experience.
Ps. 138:8, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.”
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