I’m not sure that this story is true, but it’s been told many times. As the story goes, when Ronald Reagan, a former U.S. President, was a boy, his aunt took him to get a new pair of shoes made. The shoemaker wanted to know if Reagan wanted the shoes to be square toed or round toed. Reagan couldn’t make up his mind. A couple of weeks later, the cobbler saw Reagan and asked again if he had a preference. Reagan still couldn’t decide and didn’t give the cobbler any instructions. So when he finally picked them up, he had one shoe that was square toed and one that was round toed. Reagan said he learned a valuable lesson: “Make your own decisions in life or someone else will make them for you.”
About the most consistent thing that any of us has to do on a regular basis in life is to make decisions. Some of those decisions can be easy, some more difficult. Some days, it’s a mix of easy and hard choices. Sometimes, it’s all we can do to decide which size coffee we want at Starbucks. At other times, we can quite easily make decisions that might be life-altering.
One of the greatest abilities that separates us from all the rest of God’s creatures is our ability to weigh factors, to recognize different alternatives, to make a decision and then to implement an action plan towards the successful accomplishment of that decision. From the beginning, people have had to make decisions. Adam and Eve had to make a decision – a choice – to obey or disobey God. We know the choice they made, and we can recognize rather clearly something of the repercussions that have flowed – even to us – from that initial choice of serving self rather than God
A few years ago, I clipped an article out of a Christian magazine that is no longer in existence. It has served as a kind of framework for me as I think about decision making:
- Decisions point us in a certain direction.
- Decisions have consequences.
- Decisions build on each other: with every wise decision, it becomes easier to make more wise decisions.
- Life is made up of a few big decisions and a billion little ones.
- Our ability to live wisely depends on how we handle the little decisions.
We can decide to lose weight, but that decision must be made every time someone offers us a jelly-filled donut. We can decide to defeat a certain sin in our life, but we have to make that decision every time the temptation comes our way. Each day that we keep taking those small steps, we grow stronger and wiser in the things of God. Our ability to live wisely depends on how we handle all those little decisions.
Jesus gave us his approach to decision-making in John 5:30: “l can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.”
The key element here is that he listens for the will of the Father. Many of us prefer to do our decision-making by talking, but Jesus says that the thing of first importance is to listen for the will of the Father. We need to place ourselves before him and be quiet so that we can hear him speak.
When we understand the importance of making wise daily decisions, we’ll understand the need for listening to God. It’s about our attitude and our heart approach to seeking God. As one of my favorite Bible characters says: “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” (1 Samuel 3:10)