Proverbs: How to Make Wise Decisions

by Jeff Jones

Many people tell me that they want wisdom for decisions, as a lot of people are making really big decisions in life. We’ve all heard of the great resignation, as people are quitting careers and jobs and starting new ones—which involves big decisions. It seems like in all areas of life, coming out of the pandemic is causing us to rethink our lives, and people are making decisions that will affect the trajectory of the rest of their lives. So, people want some help in getting those decisions and other decisions right, which is smart—because our lives are determined largely by the decisions we make. When I was in high school, this grumpy guy in our church used to say this statement when people said they wanted to do something, and he felt like they wouldn’t actually follow through. He’d say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” That’s pretty grumpy, going all the way to going to hell. But he is right that good intentions will never get us to the destination we want. It’s way more about the path we are on and the decisions we make. Wouldn’t it be great to have a guide to make sure we make are on path and making good decisions?


A couple of years ago some wonderful person treated me and Patrick, a pastor friend from Houston to go fly-fishing in Montana. I had never done that, so I was excited about learning how. Patrick and I were in this little boat with a guide whose job it was to know what kinds of flies that would work on the particular day to catch fish, to teach us how to cast and catch a fish, to untangle all of our tangles and so on. We were with him for two days, and I felt so bad for him. Patrick is even more ADD than I am, so he had trouble concentrating on the little float. You would cast and then watch the float for a while and then cast again. He got distracted and stopped watching the float. When he looked up, he didn’t see it, so he shouted to the guide, “Hey! Somebody stole my float!” The guide was like, “It’s a fish! Pull up!” My challenge was different. I grew up bass fishing, where you jerk back really hard when you get a bite, and where you cast with a lot of speed. Flyfishing is much more Zen than that, everything smooth and slow. It took me all that first day to figure that out, as he would tell me to relax and be rhythmic instead of whipping it around so hard. That first day I sunk the fly with the hook into my back nine times, and in my hat two more times. Each time the guide had to get his little pliers and pull it out of my back or hat. At the end of the day, I asked him, “So, nine times, plus the two in my hat…how does that compare to other first timers? Is that above average or below average.” His response, “Let’s just call it record-setting.” So, there you go, I set a record on my very first day!


I did enjoy it, but I would not want to flyfish again without a guide. Imagine having a guide for all of life like that, who was there to walk with us in life, to get us out of tangles, to lend wisdom for every significant decision. The great news is that we all have a guide available. Proverbs 3:6 tells us:


SLIDE__________________) Proverbs 3:6

“Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”



That is a wonderful promise, and God is committed to guiding our lives when we are open and seeking.


However, what you see in the Bible and experience in life is that he does not always guide us the way we want to be guided. What I mean by that is that he doesn’t generally make the decision for us, just part the skies and reveal to us the specific answer to our guidance questions. That’s often what we want, and occasionally that happens, but typically he guides our process of decision making, which is why the Bible gives us wisdom on how to make decisions.


Why doesn’t he just push us out of the way and make decisions for us? I’m sure at times he wants to, just like my fishing guide had to roll his eyes quite a bit watching me struggle. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if he just took the fly rod and said, “Hey, can I just catch some fish for you so you can stop sinking hooks in your back?” If he did, I would never have learned how to cast and catch—which I did learn. The next day was way better, because I was actually catching fish and not just catching me. God wants us to grow in wisdom. Occasionally in my life I have sensed God leading toward a specific direction in a very strong way but usually he allows us to make decisions as he ultimately guides the process and grows us.


So, if God guides our process of making wise decisions, then how to we make wise decisions? God has provided a lot of help in his revealed will, the Bible, to let us know how to make good choices. All of us have a significant choice or two looming, so get that in mind as we talk about how to make wise decisions.



Get on a Biblical Path.


Andy Stanley wrote a helpful book called The Principle of the Path, which simply is that wherever you end up depends on the path you take, not the intentions you have. You will never end up at the right place if you are on the wrong path. If you are on a good path, you will have some options and choices, but as long as they are part of the path you know you are going to end up where you want to end up.


Psalm 119:105 says,


SLIDE__________________) Psalm 119:105

“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”



God has revealed his general will in the Bible, and those principles form the boundaries, the guard rails, for every decision we make. God’s Word lays out the path.


Let’s talk about choosing whom you are going to date or marry. The Bible is not going to give you names of girls or guys to consider, but it does give boundaries to that choice. 1 Corinthians for example tells us that we should as Christ followers marry only someone who shares that commitment. Listen to how he says it for widows:


SLIDE______________________) 1 Corinthians 7:39

“A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord.”



Note, she is free to marry whom? “Anyone she wishes.” That’s not as romantic as the thought that God has just one person for us, and we’ve got to find that one person. That maybe sounds better but think about it. If we had to find our one person and there was only one person for us, then all it takes is for one bozo to pick the wrong one, and guess what? The ripple effect of that means it is ruined for everybody. Now, God is ultimately in control, and on his end, there probably is just the right person for us, but on our end, we would never be able to figure that out. So, on our end, we marry whomever we want. But he does give a guard rail: “but only if he loves the Lord.” If you love the Lord, then you are free to marry anyone who also loves the Lord. So, if you are considering marrying someone who does not yet have Christ in his or her life and you do, then you really don’t need to pray about that choice. God’s Word is clear. The answer is no, at least not until that person gets on the same page spiritually.


Or let’s say you are contemplating a major purchase, like a car. You kind of like the Bentley convertible (show pic), which could be fine.



SLIDE_______________________) Special Sermon Slide

Picture of Bentley Convertible



But let’s talk about a biblical financial path. It starts with choosing to live on less than you make, and to build your budget around generosity rather than consumption. If you’ve been around Chase Oaks, you’ve heard Give, Save, Live. Meaning choose a percentage to give, to save, and then live on the rest, which is just a summary of biblical teaching. How much? You decide. The starting point we talk about is 10/10/80, but you choose. The Bible also talks a lot about debt, how to be wise with that and not end up becoming a servant to your debtor or your car. Does the Bentley fit? It might, but if it doesn’t, don’t get off path to get the Bentley. You might end up with a Kia, but you are going to end up at a better financial destination if you stay on path.


I find that when people come and talk to me about major decisions, that at least 50 to 60% of them are already laid out in the Bible. Those become easy decisions because they are a no brainer. Should I spend a bunch of money on lottery tickets? Should I move in with my boyfriend? What does the Bible say? Should I fudge on my taxes? What does the Bible say? The Bible gives us guidelines, and within those we are free to make decisions. The guidelines themselves will reveal God’s will for about 50-60% of the decisions we make, but what about when you are deciding between options within those boundaries, in areas where the Bible is not clear? God has given us help here, too. Let’s keep talking about how to make wise decisions.




Pray for Wisdom.


James 1:5 gives this wonderful promise: 



SLIDE__________________) James 1:5

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”


The God who has all wisdom will share it generously if we ask. When we have a big decision to make, we can ask God for wisdom in the process of making that decision. That’s different than making the decision for us. Part of every big decision should be prayer where we, with confidence, ask God for wisdom and then move forward in confidence that God will guide the process of making that decision. Jesus modeled this, where you see him before big decisions, like choosing the twelve disciples, go out and pray for an extended time. He also occasionally chose to fast, a spiritual discipline where you choose to not eat for a period of time as you focus on prayer as it heightens your sense of dependence on God. Jesus is God, but he wanted to do the will of the Father, so he fasts and prays. If you have a big decision, why not try what Jesus modeled? Fast and pray, asking God for wisdom. If it’s a smaller decision, still ask God for wisdom. This should give us a lot of boldness to make decisions and move forward, because God promises to give us the wisdom, we need to make tough decisions.




Seek Out Advice from Wise People.



Listen to these few Proverbs about how to become wise and make good decisions:


SLIDE_________________) Proverbs 1:5

“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wisdom.”





SLIDE________________) Proverbs 19:20

“Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.”



SLIDE____________________) Proverbs 15:22

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”



SLIDE__________________) Proverbs 12:15

“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”


Pretty clear. We need other people’s perspective to make wise decisions. That is so important because often in big decisions we can easily lose objectivity about our own lives. We get emotionally connected and lose perspective. Like the Bentley you want. You may know you can’t really afford it, but it is so easy to rationalize. You can picture yourself in the Bentley. You feel like you could really serve God better if you had the Bentley, ride poor people around in it and stuff. You rationalize. If you can’t really afford it, you need otherwise people to knock you on the head and say, “How about the Kia?” Or you are a Jesus follower and meet someone who is not, and they are really pretty or really handsome. Sure, they have some character challenges, but you start to talk yourself into how you can change them over time. You need someone who loves you enough to say, “Really? You think you are going to change someone?”


This is why it is so important to surround ourselves with people who are on the path of following God with us. As Solomon says in Proverbs 13:20:



SLIDE_________________) Proverbs 13:20

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”



In the Bible, a fool is not someone with a low IQ. They might be a genius. A fool is a person who goes down an alternative path from the path of wisdom God has laid out for us. If you want to make godly decisions and wise decisions, make sure you have people around you who are godly and wise, people who are on the path with you. If we don’t do this, what the Bible is saying is that we will eventually make some really bad decisions that will lead to regret. And the best way to become wise is to hang out with those who already are.


I had dinner with a friend from my life group last week, and he is a wise and generous person. He was passing on wisdom for me that I really appreciated. Then the conversation moved to generosity, where he said, “Jeff, how can we help people move to greater generosity, because if they don’t, they miss out.” The biblical answer is all about who you hang out with. If you want to become wise, which includes generosity, then hang out with people who are wise. Get in a group with people who want to help each other down a biblical pathway.


The biggest gift you can give yourself is the gift of teachability around wise people. Some people just want to be right, and seen as right, and they don’t really listen to others. Better than being right and seen as the one who is always right is to make the right decision by being teachable. I like to move fast, I really do. But I have learned the hard way that it is almost always worth slowing down to get advice from wise people. I can learn a hard lesson listening to myself or save myself a lot of pain by listening to others who are on the path and who are wise.



Consider your Purpose and Priorities.


Don’t make a decision in a vacuum, but ask yourself, “Which decision best furthers God’s purposes in this world and the priorities I have committed myself to?” I talked with a young adult a few weeks ago with a highly responsible job title and a young family. He was feeling tremendous pressure from his CEO to cheat his family to win more at work. He got that occasionally in a season you might have to do that, but he could see this was no season. It’s just the expectation, and he let his boss know that he would work really hard within appropriate boundaries but not at the expense of his family priorities. That’s tough to do, but wise if his family really his big priority.


In addition to priorities, consider your purpose. One of my concerns with the great resignation is people thinking about their comfort over their purpose. Here’s what I mean. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul talks to various groups of Jesus followers in uncomfortable situations who assumed the best decision was to get out of the uncomfortable situation, but Paul says, “Not so fast.” Here is his principle:



SLIDE____________________) 1 Corinthians 7:17

“Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you.” 



The key word is “placed,” that where you are is not random but an assignment. God has placed you there for a reason, to be light in an otherwise dark place, and if you leave too early you leave that place in the dark. The 1 Corinthians 7 placements were more binding than being in a job—he’s talking about Christians married to non-Christians and slaves bound to serve a household, but he also applies the principle to single believers who are considering getting married. It’s okay to get married, but have you fulfilled your single assignment. It’s okay to take another job or pursue another career but ask the purpose question first. Have you fulfilled your assignment where God has placed you, because where he placed you is not random. You may say, “Yep! I’ve fulfilled it,” and then cool—go do something else. But at least consider the question. We are not here to be comfortable but missional. And sometimes when things get hard, it is an opportunity to persevere, to toughen us up. Other times, we are free to go. But tap the brakes first and ask the purpose question.




Get on a Biblical Path.

Pray for Wisdom.

Seek Out Advice from Wise People.

Consider your Purpose and Priorities.



So, let’s put all of this together. The most important thing you can do in life is pursue a biblical path—to live a life within the wise guard rails of God’s revealed wisdom. If you get on that path, whatever specifics you choose, you are going to end up at a good place. However, on that path, you will have some choices to make. He occasionally will make a direction more obvious, but generally, he gives us the freedom to make a choice, going through the process of wise decision-making. You may go through that whole process of considering what the Bible says, asking God for wisdom, seeking godly counsel, considering your mission and purpose, and it’s still a tough call. If that’s your situation, then at some point you’ve got to do what every other godly person has had to do through the centuries. You make the best decision you can by faith, trusting that what God says is true, that if you really commit your ways to him and make decisions the wisest way possible, he will indeed direct your path and superintend the whole process. You make the best decision you can, and you leave the rest to God.

So, all that’s left to do then is to pray, to commit these decisions to God, and ask him to give us wisdom in the process. Do you have a decision looming? Let’s take it to God right now. And some of you may be off path, and you know it. That’s okay but be wise enough to get on path. Wherever you are right now, no matter how far off, there is a way to get on God’s pathway. I always appreciate that with GPS apps like Google Maps. My google GPS person never says, “You big dummy. Why are you here if you want to go there?” He just helps me get on a path from wherever I am that leads to where I want to go. God is not here to shame you but to guide you, so let’s get on path and ask him for wisdom with the choices we have.


Let’s pray.

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