Fr. Matthias Shehad | 31 March 2020
Fr. Matthias Shehad graduated from UT Austin with a degree in Computer Engineering. He was ordained as a priest of the Diocese of the Southern United States in 2015.
Making right decisions is one of the most important things that we must learn how to do. Often the decisions that young people make can affect the rest of our lives.
We make decisions about which school to go to, what to major in, which classes to take, where to live, etc. Once we are done with school, we must decide what job to accept, and then later who we will marry, etc. Life is full of very important decisions.
Just think about how much a decision you made in the past affected your current situation. How just a slightly different choice would have created significantly different results. For instance, deciding which college you go to can affect, not only where you live, but also where you study, what your future jobs will be like, who you meet, even your future husband or wife. In short, our lives are very much impacted by the decisions we make.
How do we make good decisions?
1) Decisions are important
The first step in decision making is to acknowledge that making right decisions is very important. We should not take decisions lightly, as the choice we make today will affect us greatly in the future.
An example of someone who made a right decision is Abraham:
Genesis 12:1-4. Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
Abraham’s decision affected the entire world, long after his death. Through Abraham’s obedience God made him the father of the nation of Israel, the nation that the Messiah was to come from. Abraham could not have possibly known how important it was to obey, and yet he did.
We too sometimes cannot see the importance of the decisions we make, but they are all important. We need to allow God to lead us so that we make right choices.
Abraham also made some bad decisions. He and his wife Sarah were getting old and she was barren. How could Abraham be the father of a nation unless he had some offspring? God promised him a son, but Abraham and Sarah lost faith and decided to try and get a son through Hagar, Abraham’s concubine.
Genesis 16:1-4. Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, "See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her." And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.
Hagar’s son was named Ishmael, and when he was born Abraham believed that this was the heir God promised him. When he was thirteen, he was circumcised. Then what happened:
Genesis 17:15-16. Then God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her."
Wait?? Wasn’t Ishmael the son of promise? No, God had another plan. Abraham and Sarah had acted hastily thinking that Ishmael was the one God meant.
Then what happened…
Genesis 21:10. Therefore [Sarah] said to Abraham, "Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac."
So Hagar and Ishmael were cast out of the family, but God promised to make Ishmael into a great nation. It turns out that one of the descendants of Ishmael was to be the Prophet Muhammed!
When Abraham was impatient and did not trust in God, he made a bad decision that affected the whole world even thousands of years later.
Decision making is very important. Every decision we make can have effects long after we are gone so we must be very certain that we are making decisions the right way.
2) We are inadequate to make right decisions alone
One way to make decisions is to gather all the information you need, get other people’s advice, and just think about it a lot and try and make a logical choice. There is nothing wrong with these steps, but they are not enough.
No matter how much we think about something, and no matter how much one path might look right to us, we cannot foresee what will happen and make the decision on our own.
Let’s say that you are looking for work and you have a few offers and you are trying to decide which is the best one. Do you just pick the one that offers the most money? Sometimes the obvious choice is the right one, but sometimes it is not. What if the company that offered you the “best” job will go bankrupt in 3 months because of a scandal? Or what if the “best” job pays so well, that you become very ambitious and start to become greedy, making money your only goal in life. There are a million “what ifs,” but the point is that we do not have enough information or insight to make a decision apart from God’s guidance:
Jeremiah 10:23. O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
Did Abraham have a clue how he was going to be the father of many nations? No, and neither do we understand what is going to happen to us.
We cannot know our own way. We cannot tell the future, but we can rely on Him who not only knows the future, but is also engineering it for our gain.
Romans 8:28. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
3) God will help us make the right choices
Why would God care about my work or school? Doesn’t He only care about spiritual things? Indeed He does, but God, as a caring Father, wants what’s best for us:
Psalm 32:8. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.
We have such limited vision but God sees our whole life from beginning to end and promises to teach us the way we should go:
Luke 11:9-13. "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
God promises us that if we seek Him out and ask for wisdom and enlightenment, we will receive it. He will give us the Holy Spirit to guide us and show us the path to follow.
So far we have discussed the following points:
We have an important decision to make
We are not in a position to make it ourselves
God wants to guide us
These three things lead us to ask Him for guidance. We need to make an important decision, and we’re asking God for help. We pray to Him to show us His will for our life.
4) When we seek Him out, He answers, so we must learn to listen
1 Samuel 3:9. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, "Go, lie down; and it shall be, if He calls you, that you must say, "Speak, LORD, for Your servant hears."' So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
We’ve asked Him to speak, now we must listen. First, we must believe He will answer, and then we must be able to decipher what the answer is.
God will answer
John 16:13. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
The Holy Spirit, living on the inside of us, is what gives us wisdom and guidance.
God will answer because He loves us. If children ask their father for wisdom and guidance, won’t he be more than happy to give it? Parents love it when their kids ask for help and they won’t turn them away. Neither will God turn us away; He will answer us:
Isaiah 58:11. The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
We must listen
Listening is one of the most important, and often the most frustrating part about making decisions. Listening requires patience during times when we feel nothing is happening. We feel the time is drawing near where we must make the decision, especially if it’s something that we must decide relatively soon, and we still don’t know what to do. But we need to have faith and remain confident that God will respond, He will not forget us or forsake us. He is our loving Father.
But how does God speak to us?
Through His Word
Psalm 119:105. Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
God’s word is a light to our path. It illuminates our lives and directs us. The Bible teaches us how to trust God. It shows us examples of other people who trusted and how God was faithful to them. God speaks to us through His Word, not just as an author speaks to his readers in general, but God speaks to each one of us individually. If you have a difficult decision to make, seek guidance from God through the Bible.
Joshua 1:8. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
God can also speak to us through other people. That’s why it’s always good to talk to wise people about your problem. Wise Christians, parents, and a father of confession will help you to decipher God’s will for you.
Proverbs 19:20. Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days.
God can also speak through circumstances. Sometimes God will close all options but one, and you’ll know that that’s the way He wants you to go. God will do amazing things to get our attention if we are just receptive to His voice and listen. Sometimes we’ll see coincidences happening around us in a wonderful way, although they’re not really coincidences at all, they’re God trying to tell us something.
No matter how He does it, God will speak and the more time we spend in prayer, the clearer His voice will sound.
Isaiah 30:21. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.
5) Once God answers, we must carry out what He said
We’ve come so far. We asked God about an important decision, and He has answered us. So, what do we do next? We do exactly what He said without wavering left or right…without changing the answer to make it “a little bit to better.” Sometimes we really, really want a certain decision or outcome, and even while we are praying for God’s will, we secretly want to tell God what His will should be. It can be hard to accept that what God wants is different from what we want.
Back to Abraham…God asked Abraham to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice. But how could this be? After all this time waiting, and after God promised that Isaac would be born, he wants him sacrificed?!? But it was an unmistakable command:
Genesis 22:2. Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."
And Abraham, in his amazing act of obedience, did not doubt, delay, or even second guess God:
Genesis 22:3. So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
Abraham didn’t question, he just followed. Certainly this was not what Abraham wanted, and definitely not what He expected. Abraham did not inject his biases into the situation. He received a clear directive from God, and because Abraham trusted that God knew what He was doing, he just obeyed. We see a glimpse of his faith when speaking with Isaac upon approaching the place of the sacrifice:
Genesis 22:7-8. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." Then he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together.
Abraham trusted that Isaac was the son of promise, but He also knew that God wanted him to sacrifice him. How could that be? It didn’t make any sense, and yet Abraham trusted in God’s ways.
Abraham got so far as to lift the knife to slay Isaac, but God stopped him. He wanted to test Abraham’s faith, and he passed the test. Even when what God says sounds so strange, illogical, or confusing, we must follow, because we simply do not understand God’s loving ways. God is love, he won’t tell us to do something that is bad for us.
Isaiah 55:9. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
6) Once we make the decision, we should have no regrets regardless of outcome
Finally, the best part of making a good decision is what happens afterward. The outcome is what’s best for us, even if it’s not what we expected, and even if it is painful, we should have no regrets.
When I decide on my own, then I own the consequences. If the outcome is not what I expected, then I can blame only myself. It’s easy to regret and second guess. But if I allow God to guide me to decide, then the responsibility is His. Even if the outcome is unexpected, I know that God did not make this decision blindly or out of a shortage of knowledge. He is allowing this situation for my good.
This is freedom. Freedom from worry or doubt, and just complete confidence that you’ve done the right thing. People may criticize your decision, but if you followed God then don’t let it concern you. God spoke, you listened and acted.
Now what if you did make a mistake? What if you made a bad choice because you didn’t seek God, or you didn’t listen to His answer, or you and were impatient and acted on your own? Are you doomed to a wrong path the rest of your life? Certainly not!
If we realize that we’ve made a mistake, God can still turn our situation into something good and get us back on the right track again. God does this everyday; it’s not hard for Him. Jonah disobeyed God, but God was able to bring him back on the path He chose for him. If we desire to come back, God will help us.
To conclude, decision making is very important. With some care, prayer, and listening we can all discern God’s will and live a life full of His blessings, regardless of outcome. We can be free from the anxiety of regret and fear, because we know that all our circumstances are in His loving hands
Psalm 73:24. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory.