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April 8, 2020

Decision-making: The Pro and Con Method. Is It Biblical?

Os Hillman • Hearing God
Each of us will be challenged to make important decisions in this coming year. These decision often impact our jobs, our families and even where we might be living. However, many of us will fall into a trap by using a process for making decisions that may not be biblical. The bible encourages us to make decisions based on obedience, not outcome. Yet, business people are challenged every day to make decisions that will impact the bottom line. Is there a precedent we find in scripture about how to make biblical decisions?

Each of us will be challenged to make important decisions in this coming year. These decision often impact our jobs, our families and even where we might be living. However, many of us will fall into a trap by using a process for making decisions that may not be biblical. The bible encourages us to make decisions based on obedience, not outcome. Yet, business people are challenged every day to make decisions that will impact the bottom line. Is there a precedent we find in scripture about how to make biblical decisions?


.Samuel replied: "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams (1 Sam15:22).


After owning and operating an ad agency for almost twenty years, I have discovered that there are by far two primary ways people make decisions today. First, the pro and con method is a system of lining up all the pros on one side, then all the cons on the other side. Whichever makes the most sense is the choice that is made. This makes logical sense to all of us.


The second method of decision-making is based purely on how the decision will affect us, otherwise known as an outcome-based decision. Many of us are guilty of being driven by outcome versus by what is right or by what God is saying.  One cannot always determine how something is going to turn out on the front end. And, God will not allow a faith decision to be based on perceived outcome. This would cause all of us to make only outcome-based decisions. But, sadly, many Christians make such decisions every day. And, I must confess that as a businessman, I was driven to make decisions that were based on whether I would be financially impacted negatively or positively.


 I am not saying that either of these methods does not have a part to play in the process of making a decision, but they should not to be the determining factors. For instance, I recall when my business was going through a lean time. I was losing money every month when I was invited to attend a Christian conference in South Africa. Logically, it made no sense for me to take ten days out of my month to do this. And, I didn't have the money to go. However, I felt God wanted me to go, so I trusted Him for the resources. The last day of the registration a man gave me $2,500 to go to this conference. It became a strategic turning point in my spiritual and professional pilgrimage. If I had made my decision based on pros and cons or what I thought the outcome would be, I never would have gone on the trip and I would have missed a huge blessing.


In the early Hebraic church wisdom was gained by obedience. Hebrews learned that wisdom was gained by knowing and doing the will of God and that it often did not line up with logic. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding (Psalms 111:10). However, as the church became impacted by the Greek culture through the influence of scholars like Socrates and Aristotle, knowledge-based systems became more influential in the way education was taught and applied. Greeks believed that the way to gain knowledge was based on reason and analysis.


As a result, the church over the centuries has moved into a more knowledge-based and programmatic system of operation, rather than obedience-based methods that are motivated by a heart fully devoted to following God.


Following are the primary differences between the Hebraic model and the Greek model of learning and applying Biblical knowledge. Mike and Sue Dowiewicz, authors of Restoring the Early Church, provide a comparison of the Greek influence versus the Hebraic influence.


HEBRAIC                                         GREEK

Active - appeals to the heart              Cognitive - appeals to the intellect


 Process Focus                                        Program Focus



Obedience A Priority                           Information A Priority



Relationships are vital                          Controlled Groups emphasized



Transparency - love encouraged           Service - activity-based



Mature Believers                                Produces Shallow Believers


Ultimately, God desires us to take the Hebraic approach when making decisions.   He wants us to make decisions based on our heart's desire to follow Him.  That means decisions are made based on obedience and there are times when they will not line up with logic. The apostle Paul serves as a great example for us.


Whole-hearted Obedience

In Acts 21, we find an interesting scene involving Paul, the disciples and a prophet named Agabus. It would appear that Paul was going against the Spirit's leading at first glance when we read about the encounter. First, the disciples had a revelation from the Spirit to urge him not to go to Jerusalem. Then, the prophet Agabus actually tied his hands and feet in a prophetic act to dramatize the word of prophecy he was going give Paul that he would be persecuted in Jerusalem.


Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist.After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.'"


When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done." (Acts 21:4-14).


Was Paul acting in disobedience to the counsel of others and even the Holy Spirit's confirmation by other believers? Was the information true? If so, does that mean that Paul was not to go? By his response Paul seems to know something the others don't. He doesn't disagree with the prophecy, he disagrees with the interpretation of what it means. He was not fearful of the outcome of his decision. So often people who have a prophetic gifting deliver a word to an individual and then interpret the meaning and action required. This is not necessarily the role of the prophet. He is the messenger, the recipient needs to determine the action required from the message.


There is no reason to think that Paul went to Jerusalem in violation of the will of God. The prophetic forecasts were not prohibitions from the Holy Spirit but forewarnings of what lay ahead. As a result of these prophecies, Paul's friends tried to dissuade him from risking his life; but the apostle remained steadfast in accomplishing his mission that he believed was from God in spite of personal danger.  The important lesson for us is to understand that doing the will of God does not always have a positive outcome. If it did, we would make decisions based only on perceived outcome. This is not a Biblical way of making decisions. Jesus was obedient to the cross.


So, does this mean we are not to make decisions using our intellect? Absolutely not. God gave us the capacity to reason and think. I believe He fully expects us to thoughtfully consider all aspects in the decision-making process. We should research the pros and cons of any decision. Jesus even encourages us to consider all the factors before we take on any new endeavor.


Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, "This fellow began to build and was not able to finish" (Luke 14:28-30).


Fact gathering is an important part of the process for making Godly decisions. Joshua and Caleb were sent out ahead to spy out the land and report back what they found as a form of fact gathering. However, their decision to move forward against the counsel of the others appeared to the others to be an unwise decision. The difference was fear and faith entering into the equation.


Once we gather the facts, the final determining factor on whether we should do something is whether God has directed us to do it, not whether it makes sense.


If the fathers of our faith had made decisions purely based on reason and analysis do you think Moses would have brought the people to the edge of the Red Sea, or Joshua would have walked around the city of Jericho as a means of winning a battle, or Peter would have paid his taxes from a coin he got from a fish's mouth? I could go on and on with examples of how God confronted the intellect to test obedience. He performed miracles from the most bizarre situations that confronted the logic of His followers.


Partial Obedience

Someone once said that God is a very "pickiune" God. He is very picky. His instructions are to be followed exactly as they are given or we will suffer the consequences. Never is this principle more apparent than in the life of King Saul. Saul's life could best be described as one who was partially obedient. He obeyed God to a degree, but the areas where he disobeyed got him in trouble - even to the point of death.


When Israel appointed Saul as king the people were warned by the prophet Samuel that their nation was to remain a theocracy even though a human king was ruling.


But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away (1 Sam 12:24-25).


Saul disobeyed God and His appointed prophet Samuel on three distinct occasions that resulted in negative consequences for Saul and the nation of Israel.


When Saul first became king, he was instructed to wait for Samuel for seven days after they attacked the Philistines (see 1 Samuel 13:7-14). When Samuel was late, Saul decided to take things into his own hands and offered a burnt offering in order to gain God's favor for the coming battle. This was contrary to the instructions given by God through Samuel, in whom he was to give deference to as his spiritual authority. His disobedience resulted in a shortened reign for Saul.


The second time Saul disobeyed God was when he was instructed through Samuel to attack the Amalekites. He was told to destroy everything including the king, all the animals and other goods. Saul attacked them and destroyed everything except the king and his choice animals. When God tells Samuel that Saul has committed this evil, Samuel immediately confronted Saul. "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king" (1 Samuel 15:22-23). Saul then owns up to his sin and confesses he disobeyed because he was afraid of the people and gave in to their pressure. It is at this point Saul is rejected as king of Israel for his disobedience.


When I consider the life of Saul I realize that I have been like him many times throughout my Christian life. Saul was a religious man. He had a form of religion. He was obedient to a point, but it was the follow-through that got him into trouble. And that difference in complete obedience made God say some very hard things. And the Lord was grieved that He had made Saul king over Israel (1 Samuel 15:35). What horrible words to hear from God. Imagine if God has to say that about you or me. That should motivate us to walk in complete obedience that we will never have to hear those words about ourselves.


Remember what Solomon tells us in Proverbs regarding the balance between God's responsibility and ours: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5,6).


Os Hillman is president of Marketplace Leaders, an organization designed to help men and women identify and fulfill their God-given calling by applying biblical faith to their life and work. Visit faith and work resources.com for more resources by Os Hillman   

Visitor Comments (1)

Loved your teaching, never heard of you, googled, God Bless your ministry

Hi Os, loved your teaching. I am part-time church staff (Min of Music SBC) I think I will do some personal study on what you have covered and see if God leads me to share it with my church. God Bless, Rick

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