When deciding anything, it is essential that you are “in faith” regarding that decision, which is why the most important question you will ever ask yourself when making a decision is, “Am I ‘in faith’ to (insert the thing you’re thinking about doing)?”
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I said this to a friend recently, and then he asked, “What do you mean when you say, in faith?”
But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. – Romans 14:23
The term “in faith” comes from Paul’s language in Romans 14:23. He was saying that all of our decisions must go forth from a heart of faith. Maybe a few synonyms will help to bring more color to the word faith: trust, belief, hope, or confidence.
Here are a few sample questions to ask yourself when working through the process of biblical decision-making. You’ll notice how they are five ways of asking the same thing.
- Are you in faith to proceed in doing what you want to do?
- Are you trusting the Lord to proceed forward in your decision?
- Do you believe this is the right thing for you?
- Is your hope in the Lord as you move forward with this decision?
- Is your confidence resting in the Lord, which releases you to proceed in the thing that you want to do?
All of these questions are similar in that they are asking this one thing: Are you in faith to do what you believe you should do? I chose to use the term in faith because it is how Paul appealed to the Romans to think about their decision-making.
My friend was in the process of deciding on joining a particular church. That is why I asked him if he was “in faith” to move forward–to proceed with becoming a member at that specific church because he was confident God wanted him to do that.
We spent the next hour or so unpacking how to grow in faith while addressing some of the ancillary pitfalls to biblical decision-making. While I cannot recreate that discussion in its totality here, I do want to present some of the most critical points that we discussed, which is essential for any couple thinking about marriage.
Case Study: Making a Decision
Biff and Mable are thinking about joining a new church. I asked Biff if he was in faith for this new adventure with a new church. The life of a Christian is born out of and proceeds from a life of faith (Romans 1:17; Hebrews 11:6).
- Our decision to trust God is by faith.
- Our decision to marry is by faith.
- Our decision to eat at that (restaurant) is by faith.
- Our decision to not sin is by faith–you believe it is wrong to (insert sin option here).
In the context of this discussion on decision-making, faith believes that what you are doing is the right thing to do. It means you are confident the Lord wants you to do the idea that you are about to do.
This kind of decision making applies to the simplest things in life as well as the more complex decisions that you must make to live well in God’s world.
Biff and Mable’s decision is one of those more complex choices in life. Participating in a local church is one of the top three things we do in life. Family, work, and church are the three spheres where most Christians spend the bulk of their lives.
You will not wrestle as much about whether you should eat at McDonald’s, Burger King, or have a meal at home, but you will spend considerably more time trying to be sure (confident) that the church you attend is the one you believe God wants you to join.
Faith is like a stool upon which you sit. That stool has four legs: Canon, Community, Conscience, and Comforter. If you place yourself in a context where these four means of grace give you sound advice, you will probably be safe to move forward with what you want to do.
- Canon – What does the Bible say about what you want to do? (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- Community – What do a few trusted, courageous, and wise friends say about what you want to do? (Proverbs 11:14)
- Conscience – What do you think about what you want to do? (Romans 2:14-15)
- Comforter – What does the Spirit of God say about what you want to do? (John 16:13)
Most poor decisions happen because the person who made the decision was not benefiting from these four powerful means of grace that the Lord provides for us. They either did not know about this process or, even more sinister, they did not want to hear what God and others had to say to them.
One of the marks of humility is when a person will hold their ideas loosely while submitting them to God’s Word as well as to His community for more careful analysis.
This idea reminds me of a time when I became angry at my daughter. After I lashed out at her, and after she had slithered back to her room, I asked Lucia if she felt I was too harsh with her. I was not asking because I was humble. I was asking, hoping Lucia would side with my evil motives by saying I was not unkind to our daughter.
The truth was, I did not want to know the truth. I was hoping to be justified in my sin. Mercifully, Lucia did not side with my sinister motives, but she admonished me in a loving, but firm way, by saying I was wrong in the way I treated our child.
I suppose there are times when we know what we should do, but we don’t want to do it (James 4:17). We can be so deceptive that we do not want to submit our ideas to others because they may not side with us.
We can be even more deceptive when we present our thoughts to those we know will not have the courage or the wisdom to counter what we want. We pick certain people who have no potential or courage to offer an alternate opinion.
Such a person is not looking for God’s thoughts on the matter. They are seeking a way to justify what they have already determined to do, and they go the extra mile by finding people who agree with them.
Distancing Yourself From Truth
- This deception has immediate and long-term results.
- The direct result is you can get what you want. The long-term effects are twofold:
- The outcome will not be as you hoped, and your unwillingness to cooperate with God will complicate your life when inevitable disappointment comes (Jame 4:6 – God resists the proud).
If you continue to work people and situations to accomplish your selfish goals, you will eventually harden your conscience, which will make it more difficult in the future for you to perceive God’s truth and direction for your life (Hebrews 3:7-8).
Individuals who want to manipulate people and situations rarely consider this second point because they want to fulfill their desires. They do not understand that when you alter God’s truth, there is a proportional adverse effect on the conscience (Romans 1:18).
The conscience is our “moral thermostat” that God gave to us to alert us of right and wrong. Even the non-Christian has this gift from the Lord (Romans 2:14-15).
Problems happen when we tweak our moral thermostats through justifications, rationalizations, or blame-shifting, the three most important ways we alter God’s truth. As we do this, it creates a hardening effect on the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2).
- Justification – Pronouncing my actions as not guilty, regardless of what the Bible says about them.
- Rationalization – Comparing what I did with others by minimizing the wrongness, while creating tolerance for doing what I want to do.
- Blaming – Rather than perceiving and acknowledging my wrongness, I blame others for what went wrong–I refuse to own my sin.
If your conscience, like a thermostat, is altered, it will not give you an accurate reading. It may be ninety degrees in your home, but the thermostat says everything is fine. A conscience manipulated is worse than useless. It’s dangerous.
The more you mute your conscience, the more distance you will put between (1) yourself, (2) God’s Word, (3) His community, and (4) the Spirit’s illuminating power. You will become more and more isolated from the truth, with no conscience (inner voice) to persuade you otherwise.
- Canon – Can you humbly seek God’s Word to find the answers to your questions?
- Community – Can you humbly place your decision in the hands of trusted, wise, and courageous friends who will not automatically tell you what you want to hear?
- Conscience – Can you not only listen to what your conscience is telling you but will you respond to it–assuming your conscience is in line with God’s Word?
- Comforter – Can you honestly say you have not exchanged the truth of God for a lie because you have submitted your desires to scrutiny through the means of the canon of God’s Word, the community of God’s children, your conscience, and the Holy Spirit?
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. – Romans 1:24
One of the more interesting things I have seen about decision-making is after we make a decision and proceed in faith, we forget to factor in future disappointment. It is like we don’t remember how our life is a call to suffer (1 Peter 2:21).
On a dark and stormy night, the Lord asked Peter to step off a boat and walk on water. Peter did as he was asked to do (Matthew 14:28-36). He stepped off the boat and proceeded in faith, probably believing it was going to turn out well for him.
After Peter had walked a few steps on the water, he began to notice the waves and the wind. He quickly forgot who called him, as his faith shifted from the Lord to the waves. What he could see and experience was more influential to him than the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Aren’t we like this? We pray. We seek counsel. We move forward in faith. Then all hell breaks loose, and we lose faith for the process. That is what the Lord rebuked Peter for after they returned to the safety of the boat.
O you of little faith, why did you doubt? – Matthew 14:31
Let me go ahead and state the obvious here: no matter what your decision is after you move forward with your plans, you will be disappointed in some way, whether small or large.
One of the more recurring applications of the gospel is how the Lord uses the process of dying to ourselves to accomplish His purposes in our lives and relationships (Matthew 16:24-26; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
At times we can think more like first world people than Christians. We embrace the happily-ever-after worldview, which is right in a sense: We will be happy forever in eternity (Revelation 21:4), but that is not our reality for the here and now.
If you smuggle in the notion that your decision is more about your happiness than God’s glory, you will surely be set up for disappointment. Plus, you will live in doubt, regret, bitterness, and anger as you think about your past decisions.
Self-preservation must not be the driving theme of your decision-making. While you should not be foolish by blindly jumping off a cliff, you must not err the other way by trying to insulate all your decisions from potential suffering.
Sometimes God gives us multiple options to choose from, none of which are necessarily wrong options. It might not be wrong to eat at McDonald’s or Burger King or home. Decision-making does not have to be like an archer standing one-hundred yards from a target with one arrow trying to hit the bull’s eye.
If you follow the steps outlined in this chapter, you may come to the end of the process with multiple choices from which to choose. Maybe you want to go on a vacation, and you land on two options: the mountains or the beach.
Perhaps there are two potential marriage partner options. They both fit within the four-legged stool metaphor:
- Canon – The Bible does not prohibit either one.
- Community – Your friends weigh-in and they see no problem with either one.
- Conscience – Your conscience is free on the matter.
- Comforter – It appears there is no quenching or grieving of the Spirit with either choice (Ephesians 4:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).
In such a situation as this, you are free to choose one or the other. In the case of a vacation, you may want to do both–an option that is not available when selecting a mate. You should not sweat your decision. Be free. Where sin is not involved, go for it while rejoicing in God’s kindness to give you more than one option.
Just before I met Lucia, I had gone out with another girl. All of a sudden I had two girls in my life. After going through this process, it proved how it was not wrong to continue seeing either one of them. Then I made a fabulous choice.
Call to Action
- Are you sure the Lord wants you to do the thing you are thinking?
- Are you holding your desires loosely, while submitting them to others?
- Do you want to know the truth and are you humbly seeking answers–specifically from competent people, who do not always agree with you?
- Is your motive more about God’s glory than selfish desires? How do you know?
- How much does self-protection or self-preservation influence your decision-making? How much does foolish thinking impact your decision?
To the Premarital Counselor
There is one question that transcends all other matters in premarital counseling. It is this: “Are you sure, confident, or in faith that you are to marry this person?”
The reason that question is the most important one that you can ask is that there will come a time in this couple’s future marriage when bad things will happen to them.
- They may lose their home.
- They may lose a job.
- They may become bankrupt.
- They may develop a lifetime disability,
- They may discover a spouse is hiding a life-dominating sin.
- They may have a miscarriage.
- They may learn hurtful things about their spouse that they did not know while dating.
- They will become older.
- They will change.
They will not be the same people they were while dating.
My point is this: There may be a time when all the reasons they had for their marriage and the things they liked about being married goes away. If that is the case, there must be one thing left on the table:
They believed God wanted them to marry each other.
It is essential that all premarital counseling walks through this concept of biblical decision-making while exploring the couple’s reasons, motives, and agendas for marriage.
They will more than likely tell you that they are in faith to move forward to matrimony. Do not be deterred; you must explore their motives and reasons. The couple must know that being married to each other is the right thing to do, or as Paul said, they must move forward in faith.
Also published on Medium.