This post is the manuscript of my message for Elevate Makati two weeks ago (March 21).
Last Monday, I blogged about ways we hyper-spiritualize decision-making. There are three hyper-spiritual approaches: (1) The “There is an Open Door” approach; (2) the “Lord, Give Me a Sign” approach; and (3) the “The Lord Impressed on Me” approach. We shouldn’t go the way of hyper-spirituality (which is not spiritual at all). Rather, we should go the way of wisdom. Wisdom comes from God and begins when we fear Him, an awe-filled reverence of Him.
So how do we gain wisdom? We go to Proverbs 2:1-6:
My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding
This text mentions 3 practical ways: (1) “treasure up my commandments with you” (dive into the Bible); (2) “[make] your ear attentive to wisdom” (listen to sound advice); and (3) “call out for insight” (pray).
DIVE INTO THE BIBLE
As I wrote last week, the Bible was given to us “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” For what purpose? “[T]hat the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible, breathed out by God, equips us for life and faith.
Moreover, the Bible makes us wise. Referring to the Scripture, Psalm 19:7-11 (NIV) says:
The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9The fear of the Lord is pure,
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward. (Emphasis mine)
As I’ve wrote before, the Bible doesn’t function as our Magic 8-Ball. Or, as Kevin DeYoung says, our casebook. In his short excellent book Just Do Something, DeYoung wisely writes:
[The Bible] doesn’t give us explicit information about dating or careers or when to build a church or buy a house. We’ve all wished that the Bible was that kind of book, but it’s not because God is interested in more than getting us to follow His to-do list; He wants transformation.1 (Emphasis mine)
God wants us to be transformed. He wants us to be like His Son, Jesus (Romans 8:29). DeYoung adds:
God doesn’t want us to merely give external obedience to His commands. He wants us to know Him so intimately that His thoughts become our thoughts, His ways our ways, His affections our affections. God wants us to drink so deeply of the Scriptures that our heads and hearts are transformed so that we love what He loves and hate what He hates.2 (Emphasis mine)
When “we love what [God] loves and hate what He hates,” then we have wisdom. But we will only love what He loves and hate what He hates when we are familiar with Bible, for in it we will know what He loves and what He hates.
I once watched Top Chef Masters, a cooking reality show where famous chefs battle one another. In one of the episodes, the chefs were given a taste test challenge. They were given dishes and a spoonful of it to taste it. Then they will say what the ingredients were. Amazingly, the chefs were able to name most of the ingredients, if not all. That’s how familiar they were with the ingredients’ taste that they can instantly say if it’s included in the dish.
Are you that familiar with God’s ways that you can instantly say what He loves and what He hates? Are you familiar with the Bible, where His ways can be found? If not, then dive into it. Read it. Meditate on it. Memorize parts of it. Study it. Obey it. Let it transform you heads and hearts. Let it turn you into a wise person.
Before we move on to the next point, let me show you how the Bible can help us in making wise decisions. Let me give you scenarios.
Scenario No. 1: Let’s say you’re already graduating from college and is looking for a job. You got an offer to be a hitman. Obviously, the Bible speaks against murder. Will you take it? I hope not. Really!
Scenario No. 2: You got a good offer from an advertising firm. But you learned that if ever you accept the job, you’ll be handling the account for a men’s magazine. So what do you do? Ask, “What does the Bible say about it?” The Bible doesn’t say anything directly about jobs and men’s magazines. But it does speak against lust and sexual immorality, which is the purpose of men’s magazines. So if you accept that job, you’ll be indirectly promoting lust and sexual immorality.
Scenario No. 3: Now let’s talk to about a non-moral decision-making where the choices are inherently sinful or without moral consequences. Let’s say you’re graduating from high school and is choosing which school to go to and what course to take. Again you ask yourself, “What does the Bible say about it?” Now, the Bible doesn’t say anything about what school to go to. Also, it doesn’t say whether you should choose IT or nursing. There’s nothing sinful about making such choices. In this case, proceed with seeking counsel. (Of course, you must weigh the pros and cons [cost, location, school values, ministry opportunities, etc.]. What I want you to avoid is the hyper-spiritualizing of decision-making.)
Of course, motives matter. There is nothing sinful in taking up IT or nursing in college. But if your motive in taking IT is so that you can learn how to hack banks and steal money, then it is wrong. And if your motive in taking nursing is so that you can pursue medicine and work in an abortion clinic, then it is wrong. Again, motives matter.
LISTEN TO SOUND ADVICE
If the Bible makes us wise already, then why do we have to listen to others (assuming they are godly men and women, walking faithfully with the Lord)? The answer is that we can learn from them, who have tons of experience in reading, meditating, memorizing, studying, and applying the Bible.
What does the Bible say about sound advice or godly counsel? Let’s take a look at some verses from the book of Proverbs:
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
/ but a wise man listens to advice. (12:15)
Without counsel plans fail,
/ but with many advisers they succeed. (15:22)
Listen to advice and accept instruction,
/ that you may gain wisdom in the future. (19:20)
Finally, let’s consider the story of Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:1-20). Rehoboam was the successor his father King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived in the planet. When Rehoboam was made king, the people went to him and asked if he could lighten their load. If he did, they will serve him. So he sent them away and told them to return after three days.
Then he sought advice from old men, who had been with his father. It is safe to assume that these men were also wise, since they were exposed to the wisdom of Solomon. They told the king that if he becomes the people’s servants and speak kind words to them, he would gain the support of the people.
But Rehoboam rejected their advice and instead sought the advice of young men who had grown with him. Young people can be very proud and foolish. So what did these young men advise? Make the people work heavier and discipline them harder. And that’s what the king did.
The result? The people rebelled and the kingdom was divided into two. A kingdom was divided simply because a king did not listen to sound advice.
Of course, there will be times that we will have to make a decision on our own, where we simply do not have the luxury of time to seek advice from others. And there will be times where we will have to make unpopular decisions because we know it is right. But when we have the time, let’s go to godly men and women who can give us wise counsel over a decision that we’re making.
When making decisions, especially the major ones, it will be helpful to ask, “What do my parents (or if married, spouse) say? My small group leader? My pastor?” “What do the people around me say?” And whatever they say, be humble to consider their input. Be willing to change your mind and plans should there be a need. Be teachable.
Finally, we go to prayer. But if the Bible already makes us wise and sound advice helps, what is the role of prayer? Well, we pray for three things. First, we pray that God open our eyes to His word. Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes that I may see / wonderful things in your law.” We must pray for illumination or enlightenment. God can reveal things in His word that are amazingly relevant to us.
Second, we pray for wisdom (see James 1:5). Given what we know from the Bible, we need wisdom on how to best apply them in our lives, especially in our decision-making.
Third, we pray for the things that we already know are God’s will. It is God’s will that we would have good motives in making decisions. It is His will that we would an attitude of trust and faith and obedience. It is His will that we would be holy. And so on and so forth. We must pray for these things while we make major life decisions.
These are way that we can become wise people and decision-makers. Let me close with words from DeYoung:
The way of wisdom is a way of life. And when it’s a way of life, you are freer than you realize. If you are drinking deeply of godliness in the Word and from others and in your prayer life, then you’ll probably make God-honoring decisions. In fact, if you are a person of prayer, full of regular good counsel from others, and steeped in the truth of the Word, you should begin to make many important decisions instinctively, and some of them even quickly.3
Is the way of wisdom your way of life?
1Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 91-92.