We make decisions every day – without exception. Some of them are important life decisions like who will we marry? Will we get married? What career path are we going to pursue? Should we accept the new position in another city or state? Decaf or full strength? You get the picture. Other decisions carry considerably less weight – chicken or beef? Eastern or Lexington style barbecue? Flip-flops or shoes?
No matter what choices we are facing we all have a decision making process that we go through or a framework which guides us in making choices. I would wager that for most Christians if we do think about making a decision in a “Christian” way the extent of that is praying about it. Now, please don’t misunderstand me, we must pray about our decisions. However, is that all that God wants us to do and consider when we are faced with choices and decisions in our daily lives? Do you think that God just wants us to pray about something and then use worldly means to arrive at his wisdom on a particular matter? Do we say a quick prayer then weigh the pros and cons and go with the pros? I believe the Bible actually gives us a framework for making decisions according to God’s wisdom. Let me explain.
In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul addresses a number of issues but the context he uses to address them is marriage, or human relationships. In verses 25-40 he specifically uses the example of someone who is not bound in marriage whether they be a “virgin” or someone who has been released from marriage. To be sure, marriage is one of the most significant life choices we will make and I believe Paul uses this monumental decision as a case study in Christian decision making in general because in verse 29 he says, “This is what I mean, brothers and sisters…” In other words, “here is my point,” and that point is larger than just marriage. It applies across the board. Then he gives us three things we need to consider when making decisions as Christian. Three realities that must inform our choices.
1. Urgency – “the time is limited.”
The time is limited in two ways that I can see. First, is the fact that we simply do not know how long we have. Something could take us out in the blink of an eye. James 4:14 reminds us that our life is like a vapor , we’re hear one minute and gone the next.
Second, we do not know how long it will be until the Lord returns and the end comes. Over and over again Jesus warned his disciples of this fact. “Two women will be grinding grain with a hand mill; one will be taken one left. Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming (Matt. 24:41-42).” In Matthew 25 Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins and concludes with, “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.”
Since the earliest days of the Church there has been an urgency about accomplishing the mission that God has set before us. Paul writes to the Ephesians church, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live – not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:15-16).” Then in Colossians 4:5, “Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.”
Is there a sense of urgency that influences our decision making? Not to make decisions hastily, but to make them with the understanding that this life is a blip on the radar screen, a tiny dot on the timeline of history. Are we making the most of that time?
2. Temporary – “For this world in its current form is passing away.”
The world in which we live, not just the physical world but the world’s system, is passing away. This is where history has been headed since the time Adam and Eve sinned and launched the world into a system of sin, suffering, brokenness, pain, and evil. Since that time God has been carrying out a plan of restoration. With the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ a new world system was inaugurated. It will be consummated in the end (see Revelation 21) but we catch glimpses of it even now.
Considering that this world is not going to last forever, how should that change our decision making? Think about how much time, energy, and money we spend preparing the next generation for a future in this life. How much time and effort do we dedicate to making sure our children get into a “good college” so that they can get a “good job” and have all kinds of nice things that they can’t take with them into eternity? Now, I’m not opposed to college, good jobs, or nice things in any way. However, compare the time and effort we devote to that with the time and effort we devote to preparing our kids for eternity. Can you honestly say the ratio makes any sense? I want my children to go to school and be successful in whatever career path they choose, but that doesn’t mean anything if I don’t do my absolute best to point them to Christ and eternity. Christian parent, do you really want to get to heaven and find out that your children went to an Ivy League school and were multi-millionaires but missed out on heaven? We need to start making decisions that are influenced by the reality that this world is passing away.
3. Focus – “so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.”
The third and final element of the Christian decision making process outlined in 1 Corinthians 7 is focus. Whatever our life situation is, we are called to be completely devoted to the Lord. Remember, he has purchased us at a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20, 7:23) and you belong to him as a bond-servant now. I fear that we often have the attitude of, “Thanks for my salvation, now kindly leave me alone until I’m about to die and I’ll get back in touch with you then.” The God of the universe is no genie in a bottle that we rub and use whenever the fancy strikes us or if we’ve had a particularly bad day. He is our Lord and he demands full allegiance. Luke 9:57-62 gives us a sobering reminder of the cost of following Jesus. The account concludes with, “Another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'” When we come to Jesus it is all or nothing. Like the slaves of old we are to go to the doorpost and have our ear pierced to show that we are his forever.
Does the question, “Is this going to distract me from the Lord?” play a role in our decision making process? If not, it should.
I firmly believe that God wants his people to seek his wisdom for every decision that we make. That means we should saturate our lives and choices in prayer, but it doesn’t stop there. Paul clearly gives us a framework for making godly decisions by considering the brevity of life, the temporary nature of this world, and focusing on Jesus with undistracted devotion. I am convinced that if God’s people start making decisions with these things in mind, we will be changed. If we are changed as individual Christians, our churches and families will be changed. If our churches and families are changed, this world will be changed.