Some people make all their decisions in life based on the impact they will have on their "image". Others make all decisions based on the impact they will have on their status or sphere of influence. Still others use financial concerns as the basis for all decisions. Rare indeed it is to find someone who bases all the decisions in their life on the standard of the Word of God.
In order to ever make a decision, you must have a standard by which to judge the pros and cons by. Arbitrary decisions are nothing more than "whims". Although minor meaningless choices may be fine to make on a "whim", anything which will impact your life must be carefully weighed and considered in light of some standard.
Moving is a huge decision which never can be taken lightly. Physically moving from one place to another involves so much time and expense, any decision to do so HAS to be right. Making the wrong decision can have catastrophic consequences for years to come. Changing jobs is another MAJOR decision which must be carefully considered and weighed against the standard of short vs. long term gain. Making a big purchase is a huge decision which cannot be done on impulse without tragic results. A car salesman's dream customer is one who wanders into the showroom, sees a fancy vehicle and buys on impulse.
Deciding to have children is the biggest decision a couple ever makes. Deciding what to do with an elderly parent is a "gut wrenching" decision most children have to make later in life. Decisions regarding where to attend church and even which faith or denomination to become involved with cannot be made on the spur of the moment based on emotional impulses.
One of the most dangerous things in life is impulse decision making. Emotions cannot be trusted when it comes to decisions. The world's history is littered with examples of ruined people who made horrible decisions based on emotional "whims" or impulses. To avoid being yet another piece of trash due to making wrong choices, we must learn how to make Godly decisions based on the trustworthy standard of His faithful Word.
We make hundreds if not thousands of decisions every day which ARE made on impulse or split second choice. These minor choices are an entirely different subject for another day. The kinds of decisions I am talking about here are the major "life altering" ones where we cannot afford to be wrong. Believe it or not, we make many more of these kinds of decisions than we realize, and thus it is very important that we learn how to "choose wisely".
To make sound decisions that are in alignment with God's Word, we must of course first know a little bit of God's Word. But then we need wisdom to know how to apply His Word to the situations that come up in life. There are no short cuts for experience, even when it comes to understanding God's Word. Youth by nature are impetuous and extremely impatient. It is very difficult for someone under age 30 to grasp why an "elder" should be consulted for advice and why parents should be listened to instead of "blown off".
A teenage THINKS he knows it all. A twenty-something person KNOWS he knows it all. But a person in their thirties begins to realize they don't know everything and by the time they reach "middle age" they freely admit they don't know much of anything. Age tempers and age mellows. Age and experience allow for maturity and maturity provides for wisdom and understanding.
We were taken out to a very nice restaurant last evening by a dear friend to belatedly celebrate my wife's birthday. She was treated to a "center cut filet mignon" steak. The meat literally melted in her mouth. Part of the reason was that it was "aged" meat. Many things do indeed get better with age. It is interesting to note that people in their 50s and 60s and 70s make far fewer bad decisions than those in the 20s. Maturity does have its benefits. That is why in the Bible, elders are to be looked up to and treated with the utmost of respect. Pretty much just the opposite of what our silly world teaches.
Among the enemies to making sound decisions, the two biggest ones are stubborn pride and fear. Arrogant people make snap decisions and believe they are always right. Their basis for making a choice is their own superiority and greatness. Self confident people are excellent leaders but often make horrible decisions because of their inability to seek advice or heed counsel. Yes, decisiveness is a quality of leadership, but it is a two-edged sword. The ability to make a decision and act provides impetus to action but many times the action is flawed due to the original decision being wrong.
The Bible speaks of there being safety in a multitude of counselors. Major decisions in a business, church or family should be made in a group setting with all members of the "board" present. All sides of the matter should be presented and pros and cons discussed among the people present. If the "board" is not a democracy (majority rules), then at least the chairman had all sides of the argument presented before making a decision. One person operations run by the decisions of one person only are doomed to fail almost every time.
The worst enemy in making a decision is fear. Fear prohibits making a decision to begin with. Of course THE fear is the one of being wrong. No one WANTS to make a bad decision, but we all occasionally do. We cannot let a bad choice trap us forever in indecision. A person who cannot "make up his mind" is not only aggravating but highly dangerous. In matters of great consequence, the last thing you want is someone who is afraid to make a decision.
If you had surgery tomorrow, would you want a doctor who couldn't make up his mind which instrument to use to make the incision? If your car broke down would you want a mechanic to hem and haw and tell you he can't decide whether to fix the flat tire or put in new motor? I dearly love the old movie "Fiddler on the Roof"; but Tevye and his constant "on one hand, but on the other hand" indecisiveness is enough to drive a person crazy.
Fear of failure prohibits a person from making a decision. Every time the person thinks they have made up their mind, the doubts creep in and the semi truckload of "what ifs" are dumped on the mind. Oh my, the greatest killers to making a decision are the old "what ifs". What if the truck next to me on the road tips over? What if the jet flying 30,000 feet above me falls to the earth on my house? What if the person next to me on the elevator has bird flu? What if my kid blows up the school today? What if the pain in my little toe means a heart attack? What if the sun doesn't come up tomorrow?
"What ifs" choke the decision making process and make it impossible to ever make up our mind. "What if" the chicken is not good, so I better not order it. "What if" the beef is not aged, so I better not get it. "What if, the fish has mercury in it, I better not choose it. "What if" the pork has a bad disease, I better not get it. If this is the sequence of events at a restaurant or grocery store, the end result is starvation. Sooner or later the "What ifs" have to be silenced or the fear they drag into the equation will make it impossible to correctly make a decision.
To make a Godly decision, one must first and foremost pray. Any major decision must be discussed fully with Almighty God and our Lord Jesus Christ. We must have the humility and meekness to bring the situation before them or we are wrong to begin with. The bigger the decision, the more prayer is involved. Major life-altering decisions need a season in the wilderness, far removed from distraction, where hours, if not days are spent consulting the Lord on the matter.
Reading, studying, meditating upon and thinking about what the Bible has to say on the matter is critical. The Bible does give cut and dry instruction on some issues. But, in the majority of things, there are only guidelines in the Bible; specifics must be sought out through prayer and consulting elders. Never underestimate the importance of seeking advice from elders when making a big decision. In some matters, of course the pastor is to be consulted, but in many other matters a wise and experienced elder can provide wisdom even the pastor cannot offer.
Simple things such as listing the "pros and cons" or "good and bad" on a sheet of paper are nice for some matters, but never to be used in major decisions. Just because one column is longer than another does not automatically mean it is right.
The ultimate way to finally make a decision is to await the answer of peace promised by God. When Elijah was in the cave and needed an answer from the Lord, there were earthquakes and lightnings and thunders but the Lord was in none of them. Too many times we wait for the "writing on the wall" or for some horseman to arrive and blow the trumpet announcing the proper choice to make. It doesn't work that way in real life usually. People who wait for the dramatic answer usually wait a lifetime to find it.
Wait for the answer of peace. Wait for Almighty God to deposit an answer that is undeniable and 100% as peaceful as He is. "Be anxious for nothing...And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall guard your heart..." Philippians 4 tells us. God is Faithful and His Word is Faithful. God will never let us down if we trust in Him with all our hearts, and lean not to our own understanding. If we will acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will direct our paths.
Following the answer of peace is the Godly version of "listening to your gut" or "follow your heart". If your "gut" instincts are based on God's answer of peace, then follow them. If they are based on experience or emotions they are no more to be trusted than Oprah or Dr. Phil. God will deposit His answer of peace in our hearts, so if we have peace in our hearts, then we DO "follow our heart". But, if the heart is being emotional, then its advice is not trustworthy.
Take the matter to the Lord. Lay it out before Him. Work out all your worries, fears and misgivings with Him. Allow Him to lead you to His Word or to an elder where you can receive your answer of Peace. The answer of PEACE confirms that the answer came from God of PEACE. Once you receive your answer, never look back. Refuse to allow the "what ifs" to slip in to your mind. Squash doubts and refute fears. Resolve to do what your answer of peace told you was right. Then you can walk with the assurance of knowing you are doing the best you can do, and that is all God ever asks of us.