Words of Wisdom for a New Year #3
In his book Manly Dominion, Mark Chanski gives three biblical principles for godly decision making so we can exercise spiritual wisdom and walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
- Enlist the mind
“Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Ro. 12:2). Wise Christians engage their minds in making decisions. But their minds must be renewed in the Word. Chanksi gives the example of a teenage girl who is looking at a dress she likes in the shop window. Suddenly the sun comes out and shines directly upon the garment. Is she tempted to see this mystically as God’s direction for her to take the dress, instead of critically assessing the purchase in line with what is fitting for Christian women? Is she checking her heart? Is she weighing the cost, the length of the hemline, the opinion of her mother?
Sinclair Ferguson has more insight for us here:
“There is much that is mysterious about the way God guides us. What is plain to him is frequently obscure to us. But we are not called by God to make the mysterious, the unusual and the inexplicable, the rule of our lives, but his Word.”
Enlist your mind and set it upon the Word of God as you think through dilemmas. Then you’ll begin to make more consistently Word shaped decisions.
- Search the Scriptures
However, Chanksi cautions us that setting your mind on God’s Word means applying it correctly. You might be thinking of a big life change or career move, like emigrating to Canada! One morning in your devotions you read 2 Samuel 7:3, where David expresses his desire to build a house for the Lord, and Samuel says, “Go do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you”. Would it be wise to take that as clear guidance from God to move country as you do all that is in your heart? Or should you consider your spouse’s opinion or church family’s advice. Should you not consider the wider cost to your extended family or aging parents? Shouldn’t you also consider what church you might attend in the new place, and whether the aim of glorifying God and spreading the gospel is your primary motive?
The Bible is not a magic charm or a crystal ball. There are correct historical, grammatical and theological principles of interpretation, by which we should seek the author’s original intent of the text. Then the whole counsel of God must be applied as we search the Scriptures. Rather than listening for personal whispers we should look for overarching principles as we apply the Word to our decision-making. Generally the bigger the decision the more time you should take.
And the more we do this the better at it we will become. For example, here are two proverbs: (i) “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Prov. 26:4-5) and (ii) “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” (Prov. 25:11).
Therefore, speak appropriate, timely truth. Sometimes you will give an answer and sometimes not. Practice will make you more consistent in discerning the proper timing and use of the tongue.
John Newton writes on growing in discernment according to divine guidance.
“By treasuring up the doctrines, precepts, promises, examples, and exhortations of Scripture, in their minds, and daily comparing themselves with the rule by which they walk, they grow into an habitual frame of spiritual wisdom, and acquire a gracious taste, which enables them to judge of right and wrong with a degree of readiness and certainty, as a musical ear judges of sounds. And they are seldom mistaken, because they are influenced by the love of Christ, which rules in their hearts, and a regard to the glory of God, which is the great object they have in view”.
- Seek counsel
Finally, after enlisting the mind and searching the Scriptures, Chanksi encourages us to seek the counsel of mature believers.
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but the wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Proverbs 12:15).
This involves being open to correction but also to actively seek it out. The wisdom of humility does not think of itself too highly but is aware of weaknesses and flaws and welcomes godly input. Moses took Jethro’s advice about delegating responsibility. Jethro tells him, “Now listen to me and I shall give you counsel…” Are you a good listener to the counsel of others particularly when that counsel corrects your course of actions? Many Christians ask for help but when they don’t like the wisdom offered they turn away from, or in some cases turn on the counselor. This is a sign of immaturity and maybe an unteachable spirit.
Charles Bridges says, “How rare is the sight of the younger submitting to the elder. If advice is asked is it not with the hope of confirming a previously formed purpose? In the case of a contrary judgment the young man's own understating usually decides the course".
We should esteem advice from others and especially older, mature believers in the church. Those who have walked longer and are more experienced in the Christian life are of great value to the body of Christ.
George Lawson makes comment on the proverbial principle of seeking counsel:
“The greatest fools are those who have the highest opinion of their own wisdom. Their self esteem disposes them to neglect the advice of others, and to prosecute their own schemes till they meet with fatal danger…The wisest men are they who are most sensible of their need to avail themselves of the wisdom of others, and most qualified to make proper use of counsel.”
So pray for the mind of Christ, which is yours already that you may put into practice these three wisdom principles for godly decision-making.