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Biff and Mable are in love. They have been talking about getting married for a while. They love God, have been pure in their relationship, and want to honor their parents. They met in college but have waited until both have secured good jobs and paid off most of their college debt. They have known each other for five years and have dated for the past 18 months.
They come to you for counsel. While they are confident that they will marry, and both sets of parents are okay with the idea, they want your thoughts about a potential engagement and future union. You have a list of questions you want to ask them, but there is one that is more critical than the rest. And it is the first one that you ask Biff and Mable.
What is the question you want to ask them, and why is it more important than the others? Give Scriptural support for your question. This case study will explore your understanding of decision-making while giving you a few practical guidelines when making decisions, whether big or small.
The most critical question you want to ask Biff and Mable is, “Are you in faith to get married?” Or, stated another way, “Do you have a ‘word from the Lord’ that you are supposed to marry this person?” You could also query them by asking, “Do you believe this is God’s will for your life?”
All three of my questions are the same, and they cause you to explore whether or not you’re walking “in faith” as you embark on whatever it is that you hope to do. It does not matter exactly how you ask the “in faith” question, as long as you do and explain why you’re asking the question. When it comes to biblical decision-making, there is not a more important question that you can ask.
Caveat – Granted, in this case study, it will hardly matter to Biff and Mable. In nearly all cases where folks are “in love,” it does not matter what you say to them because they already know it’s “God’s will,” and they are on the right path. They will answer your questions in the affirmative.
Most young couples are so enamored with one another that any objectivity is out the window. Nevertheless, it would be best if you had a conversation with them about the “faith factor” because what you know is that there will come a day when they will wonder why they married each other.
When Paul talked about making decisions, he connected whatever you decide to your being in faith. His language was strong and clear. He said that if you did not make your decisions from faith, you would be sinning.
But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
A modern paraphrase of Paul’s verse is “when in doubt, don’t.” Paul says that it is a sin to proceed into any situation if you cannot move forward, knowing you are doing the right thing. Biff and Mable must be trusting God as it pertains to their future, potential marriage. They must believe that marriage is God’s will for them. They must be in faith.
Here are four typical questions around this idea of biblical decision-making. I will answer them and appeal to you to read the articles at the top of this piece as well as the ones embedded throughout so you can get a good grasp on how to make biblical decisions.
No Perfect Decisions – Some people can be so measured, calculating, and fearful that they cannot decide until all fear, doubt, and worry are gone. Sometimes these people are self-righteous; they want to look good in front of others. Failure is not an option, so rather than pushing forward, they make excuses and wait. Caution is wise, but paralysis is not.
There aren’t any perfect decisions where you will be 100% sure without any reservations that you’ve done the right thing. Faith does not work that way. If you had all the answers before you moved forward, you would not be operating “in faith” but moving forward because of the known outcome.
Impulsiveness – The other side of “paralysis” is the self-sufficient person who devalues the community and the other means of grace that God has given to help guide him. Other people should influence the decisions that matter.
The humble person always carries about a sense of self-suspicion. But rather than that awareness leading to paralysis, it motivates them to borrow brains. They want to gain the perspective of others so they can do proper due diligence. The gospel-centered person has nothing to fear, hide, or protect. He is humble, open to correction, and willing to seek the wisdom of other like-minded individuals.
Asking True Friends – There may be a temptation to ask only those who agree with you or those who do not have the grace to disagree with you. A true friend will tell you what you might not want to hear. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6) is an excellent verse to practicalize.
Don’t surround yourself with “yes people.” What good is that? Living in an echo chamber with folks who are not willing to disagree with you is not how you sharpen your iron (Proverbs 27:17).
Guard Against Being Offended – It is a definite sign of Christian maturity to receive correction with grace. Too often, the focus is on how the correction came rather than the truth that the person shared. Perhaps they were 90% wrong in delivery and 10% correct with the truth. For the need to make the right decision, the most vital thing is to hear the truth proclaimed. Perhaps you can talk about the delivery later.
It’s easy to focus so much on the desire to be right that we miss God’s corrective care through the imperfect people who bring their perspectives. Thus, guard against being offended while opening yourself up to another view.
Telling, But Not Asking for Help – There have been a few times in my life where someone has come to me and told me what he had planned to do. Then they asked me what I thought about what they had already decided. Here are a few of those scenarios.
Don’t do this to your friends because you will put them in an awkward position. Most of the time, particularly if I don’t know them well, I won’t tell them what I think. They have already decided, and my perspective won’t make any difference. They are telling me what they have done rather than asking me what I think about what they would like to do.
In preaching parlance, “remembering the letter V” is called “He had a topic in search of a text.” I use the illustration of a “V” when making this point. The letter “V” is narrow at the bottom and broad at the top. Meaning, you have a defined starting point, but there are many possible ending points. But if you flip the “V” upside down, there is a predetermined point at the top with no other options.
I have seen many people flip the “V” upside down, and through hell or high water, they were going to get to their predetermined destination. For example, a young man wants to go into the ministry, but he’s not qualified to do so. After careful evaluation, several individuals concur that he does not have the gifting for what he wants to do, but the “preacher wannabe” has already determined the outcome; he is going to be a preacher.
Wannabe biblical counselors will make this mistake too. They have a desire to be a counselor and conjure up a false continuum formula in their minds: a burden equals a calling, which is not always true. Many times these people are driven more by selfish ambition rather than by an actual call from God.
The big idea here is to hold your narrative loosely. There could be broader possibilities for God’s plans for your life. You should say, “If the Lord wills, you can do this or that” (James 4:13-17). If you predetermine how your decision should turn out for you, you may live in perpetual disappointment.
There are many instances in Scripture where someone made a decision, and the outcome was dismal, despairing, and deathly. Read Hebrews 11 with this perspective in mind. Sometimes the choice you make “in faith” leads you into hard times, and that is God’s will for your life. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-9.
Decision-making is an “imperfect science” because we’re fallen individuals. There are times when you make a decision and then realize it was not the best idea, so you change your mind and direction of your life.
It is best to make these “new decisions” in the context of the Canon, Comforter, community, and your conscience. That is the Bible, Spirit, friends, and what you believe in your heart of hearts. Perhaps your decision led you into hardship, and that is supposed to be your lot in life. Alternatively, it led to difficulty, and you should change your plans.
Each situation is unique and requires the utmost patience, wisdom, humility, and careful assessment before you change your mind and life trajectory. It’s not wrong to change your plans, but you want to make sure that you have weighed what you’re thinking carefully, using the means of grace provided by God: Canon, Comforter, community, and conscience.
Ultimately, you must be “in faith” to make or change a decision. The biggest pitfall of all is to not be in faith for what you are about to do. Usually, it’s other things that are at the top of the list for why we do what we do. For example, some of the wrong reasons for married couples are that they are “in love,” or “meant for each other,” or “it feels right.”
While all those things are great, they cannot be at the top of your decision-making process list. When all the secondary and tertiary reasons fade or change, you want one thing to stand tall, and that is your belief that God was leading you. You were “in faith” to proceed.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).