How do you make decisions in life? We’re not talking necessarily decisions like what shirt you will wear tomorrow or whether you should go for the double scoop of salted caramel ice cream, but more life-impacting decisions like who to marry, where to go to school, what career to pursue. Sometimes these questions can lead to confusion, anxiety or paralysis while you attempt to weigh all the knowns and unknowns, all the “could"s and “should”s and wrestle back the ever-looming FOMO (fear of missing out).
The good news is that Jesus changes everything about how we live in this world—including how we make decisions. He enables His people to make decisions not in the dark but the light of His will. The will of God concerns both the micro narratives of our lives and the macro narrative of God’s grand purpose of redemption. So, Christian, take heart that God gives direction in how to make decisions so that your small story serves His Big Story.
A few weeks ago we studied Acts 1:8-26 in our worship gatherings. We read how the first disciples returned to Jerusalem still waiting for the Holy Spirit and needing to make a major decision—who would replace Judas as the twelfth apostle. Even though this was a weighty decision and one they were making without the physical presence of Jesus with them, they were able to discern God’s will and commit to a course of action. How?! Let’s look at several principles and practices we saw them demonstrate and would do well to likewise commit to memory and action:
Being in Community (see verses 12-14) God’s will is discerned by being in community. In other words, as a Christian, we no longer need to make decisions in isolation but rather rely on the internal witness of the Holy Spirit and external affirmation of the Church.
Persisting in Prayer (see verse 14) Prayer is mentioned 31 times in Acts with 20 of the 28 chapters of the book mentioning prayer. The early disciples new what Jesus was teaching in Luke 11:9-13. Namely, we are to ask and keep asking; knock and keep knocking. As theologian R. Kent Hughes writes, “A hurried request soon forgotten and unrepeated will produce no fruit.” The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives is connected to persistence in prayer.
Submitting to the Scriptures (see verse 16) Two aspects of God’s will are present in this story: God’s “revealed will,” which is what is revealed in the Bible (vv. 15-22) and God’s “concealed will,” which is what is simply not in the Bible (vv. 23-26). When discerning God’s will, you are to start with what we know: trusting the Bible as your authority, letting the Bible interpret your life, and doing what the Bible says. It’s incredible to see how starting with what we already know instead of obsessing over what is concealed will lead us to know and be able to rest in Him more during and after the decision making process.
Considering the Options (see verse 23) The reality is that there may be more than one “good” option so there is certainly a place for asking questions, filling out applications, doing research, making visits, and drafting pros and cons lists.
Examining the Heart (see verse 24) Acknowledge that God knows your heart and others’ hearts better than we do (Psalm 139:33-34), so ask Him to help you to not just lean on what you can see. Ask him to examine your heart as you live, act and make decisions.
Trusting God’s Sovereignty (see verse 26) In this story we see the men using a common system in ancient times (casting lots) for making decisions while trusting the Lord to reveal His will through it. They were working off the wisdom of Proverbs 16:33 which says, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” What’s interesting is that while we see casting lots being used in the Old Testament and early in the New Testament, after the Holy Spirit falls upon God’s people in Jerusalem shortly after this, we never see it being used again. Why? Because as children of God, on this side of Pentecost, we have something even better than lots we pray are directed by God. We have the Holy Spirit indwelling in us and whose purposed desire is to conform us into the Son’s image and help keep us in step with the Father’s will!
Committing to a Decision (see verse 26) See that the disciples finally made a decision. We are often afraid of making the wrong decision—paralyzed we will miss out on God’s best (or maybe the world’s best if we are real honest). The beauty is that as Christians, our lives no longer have to be lived looking back with fear and double guessing. If we make our decisions in gospel community, in prayer, in submission of what is revealed in Scripture, while asking God to examine our hearts, trusting God’s sovereignty as we consider the options, we can be from anxiety as we commit to decisions.
Ultimately we can have peace and confidence that God will answer and have His way when we go to Him asking, “Lord, which decision will give me the best position to bear witness to You through my works and words? How can my small story best serve Your Big Story?”