Sometimes more time and effort than normal must go into a decision. We find this in the life of Abraham when he is being sent out of the country of Ur. We find this in the life of Moses when he is being groomed to lead the children of Israel. I would like to consider these two men from the Old Testament and gain a few more points of instruction on decision making.
“And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8).
“Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD” (Genesis 13:18).
In both of these situations in the life of Abraham, there is a common thread—he built an altar to the Lord. Why is this significant? In chapter 12, Abraham is told to pick up and move out of the land that he has established as his home. Then in chapter 13, Abraham and Lot split directions and it seems to be (once again), a time that Abraham does not have clarity on where to settle. In both cases, Abraham builds an altar. If you recall, this is before the establishment of the Mosaic law. Most believe that this altar and its offering was similar to a burnt offering. The burnt offering was an offering of complete surrender and submission to the will of God. By building these altars, Abraham repeatedly came to God in submission, seeking His direction. We must remember this important point on our journey through this life. God should not be sought after on occasion, but must be an integral part of our decision making process. We then submit to His will over and over.
And to use Moses as an example, we turn to Exodus 15:
“So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (Exodus 15:22-24).
In this instance, again a decision has to be made. The people of Israel had just experienced a mighty deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. Three days later, they have no water. This is a trial sent into the life of Israel to show them their need of God in their daily lives. Soon God leads Moses to a tree, and from that tree a solution is found. Keeping in close contact with God seems to be a key both for Abraham and Moses. They were very sensitive to the leading of God in their life.
The Independent Decision Maker
I would like to consider one other aspect that seems to be prevalent in America in regards to decision making. This is the “independent” spirit. Nobody—the government, some ungodly authority, some “woman”—is going to tell me what to do. However, we find that there are also guidelines to help us in not being rash while “standing for righteousness.” We need to be careful of being so independent that God is not able to use the authority He has placed in our lives to guide and lead us.
Scripture to Consider:
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour” (Romans 13:1-7).
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him” (Ephesians 6:1-9).
“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work” (Titus 3:1).
“Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (Hebrews 13:7).
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men”
(I Peter 2:13-15).
Some cautions as we consider this independent spirit.
- Be careful of enlarging a small issue so that it seems that you are standing for right when it comes to the government. An example might be a driver’s license or the health department checking your church’s kitchen. I understand having independence. We fundamentalists love throwing around the phrase, “Our founding fathers would be rolling over in their grave.” However, we are talking about soap dispensers and fire suppression systems. Be careful of enlarging these small issues to a doctrinal level. There are some things that might be good to have someone else checking in on us because we may not know everything about everything. There are folks who have expertise in fields and we should allow them to be a help to our ministries.
- Be cautious of going against authority. This can be in government, church, school or in other situations. Yes, authority can do wrong and it can overreach. Make sure to take some time of prayer and fasting before launching into a civil war against God-ordained authority. This goes along with the rash decision making. There are some times that in anger we can “rally the troops” to come behind us, but in reality it is a fleshly stand and not a Biblical approach to authority.
- Don’t open the door for rebellion. Rebellion is not something to be trifled with. In the case of King Saul, the prophet Samuel told King Saul that rebellion was as the sin of witchcraft. This seems to indicate that a fleshly rebellion can open the door for Satan to get a foothold into our lives and ministries. Be careful of allowing Satan to get an advantage by allowing your emotions to run your decision making process.
- Learn the Biblical concept of submission. This is taught over and over in the Bible. It is hard to find the word independent in the Bible. However, Independent Baptist have used this term to allow for all kinds of allowances which don’t align with Scriptural principles. For instance, when it comes to holiness in personal separation or God honoring music, when confronted the new independent Baptist say that they are “independent, brother, Don’t you believe in the autonomy of the local church.” The Bible always says that we are to be dependent upon the Savior, the Holy Spirit and even each other within the local church. This independent spirit must be put in check with a proper Biblical understanding of submission. Again, this is opposite of the recent thinking in the past 50 years in fundamentalism, but Biblical thinking is always the best option.
As we close with our discussion on dangerous decision making, I would ask of those who lead families and churches to make sure that you do not have non-Biblical tendencies in your decision making. Christians tend to love slogans and we seem to thrive on finding one-liners that can then guide us into perfect wisdom in our decisions. Be careful of “slogan Christianity” instead rely wholly on the Divine Word of God that has been given to us. We also have been given the Spirit of God that can guide us into all truth. May God help all of us to be wise in our daily decision making for those decision impact lives for eternity.