The Right Decision
[Originally published in The Fort Bend Herald]
Perhaps the most common question a pastor is asked counsel on is simply, “what should I do?” Many decisions that life throws at us are difficult. Options have widely varying potential outcomes. How can one know what the results of a decision will be?
While this is a complex issue this article has not enough space to answer fully, I’d like to focus on the very first question that should always be asked when making a difficult decision. Many times, this one question is all that need be asked; as it will render null and void all further potential circumstances.
That question is simply, “is this really my decision?” What is meant by the question is, “do I already have instructions on what I should choose (that perhaps I’m actually trying to avoid)?”
Christians overwhelmingly claim to have a biblical worldview and follow a biblical model of faith, practice and morality. Yet, I’m surprised how often I’m asked about a decision that has already been made for those of us who claim such a position. My experience is that people sometimes seek counsel because they are looking for “permission” of sorts, that they may in fact make the wrong choice with the blessing of someone else. However, if I have a clear scriptural teaching on a subject, the answer to question one, for me, is “no.”
We who claim allegiance to Christ accept his terms that “if you love me you will keep my commands.” In short, we have the overwhelming volume of God’s Word which already answers so many of life’s decisions very plainly.
“Should I misrepresent my marital status on my tax forms to save money?” “Should I lie to someone when asked a question, which when answered, might make them upset?” These are not my decisions. They have already been made for me as one who bears Christ’s name and trusts his previously-given instructions.
In short, if there is a clear, biblical, “right” or “wrong” to follow, my decision should be already made. I should to what is right. No further consideration is needed.
While most believers agree in principle with this sentiment, they tend to begin to weigh outcomes rather than to act in faith when doing the right thing might cause some personal harm or inconvenience. “What if doing the right thing gets me fired?” “What if the right thing costs me a relationship?” The truth is, we are temporal beings with no vision of the future. We simply cannot know with any degree of certainty what the outcome of any decision will be. We might do what we think will cause the best outcome only to be surprised that it did not turn out as expected. Believers are not given the burden of such considerations when a clear biblical right and wrong are at stake. We are called to choose what is right and let God sort out his own results.
Such is the nature of the lives of those who we consider heroes of our faith. In Acts 7, Stephen died for doing the right thing; as did Christ himself in the gospel accounts. And, in both cases, even though the right action brought about an undesirable temporal consequence, I never hear anyone preach a sermon on “how Jesus may not have died” or “Stephen’s big mistake.” It is clear to us that it was God’s plan for these events – both the results of a right action – to bring further glory to himself; even though quite undesirable at the time.
Paul noted in Philippians 3:8 (ESV),
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
This same Paul died at the hands of Nero for his unyielding faith. We consider him a foundational example of what it means to serve Christ to the fullest. Why should we necessarily expect a story book ending to our own cause of serving Christ? On the other hand, after being imprisoned for his faith, Peter was miraculously freed (Acts 12). One simply cannot know what God has in store for a faithful decision. But that result is His alone. That, frankly, is what it means to have faith in God: not that He will do what we want – but that He will do as He wants.
Obviously, not every decision in life involves simple “right or wrong” as potential choices. But sometimes it truly is that straightforward. If scripture teaches a clear right and wrong in a given context, then for me, question one should be considered as “answered.” This is not my decision. It has already been made by He who I claim to trust and follow – to whatever end may come.