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As most Christians know, the scriptures are full of admonitions concerning our need for counsel and perspective relative to our decision-making process. That biblical advice falls generally into four broad categories.
1) Don’t follow advice from people living in opposition to God and His Word.
2) Factor your own fallenness and sinful motivations into your decisions before you foolishly follow them.
3) Get biblical advice from more than one source, i.e. a multitude (Prov. 11:14).
4) Obviously, seek God for His guidance.
Since life is full of the necessity of making decisions, and those decisions either bless or trap us, knowing how to go about making them, and who to seek counsel from in the process, is no small essential skill.
Unfortunately, few of us ever have been systematically trained by competent people to use any reliable gridwork by which to make those decisions. Few parents give this integral training to their children and, Lord knows, our school systems and social institutions major in dispensing information, often tainted, rather than any usable wisdom. The sad result is that life, meaning our mistakes, usually ends up training us by beating the stuffing out of us.
The art of decision-making, as we can now readily see, therefore must rise close to the top of our list of transferable skills we should be passing on to our children and others wise enough not to want life to train them in the school of hard knocks. Permit me, therefore, as one who has been trained in measure both by design and mistakes, to offer some rigorous, random remarks on the subject.
Firstly, advice given by God can come from anywhere or anyone, but it always has a sound to it that resonates in our hearts. However, to hear this, we truly must want to do what God wants us to do, not what we want to do. We hear clearly in direct proportion to the degree that we truly desire to obey truth, not our own will or wisdom. Having ears to hear means listening with a yielded heart.
Secondly, the person with real wisdom, born of experience, shares counsel that also resonates in our hearts. Advice from novices or those who really do not understand the issues lacks depth and sounds as if it is coming from someone who needs to give advice, more than one who gives an answer only if he truly has one. Knowing how to recognize that difference is a learned art and a gift.
Thirdly, I listen to advice, as a general rule, by this criterion: Does the person giving me advice have chips in the game? If the one giving advice stands to gain or lose something himself when I follow his advice, it means more to me than if it is free advice. Will you stand with me in the consequences of your advice, even to your own hurt? That is the question. Street wisdom often really is wisdom. As the saying goes, Talk is cheap. Advice backed up by sacrificial life is the sound of God, methinks, and that is the bottom line.
Dennis Peacocke is founder and president of Strategic Christian Services, Inc., a non-profit corporation that aids leaders in applying biblical truth to churches, business, and culture. He teaches widely in the Americas, Europe, New Zealand and Australia. He is the author of two books Winning the Battle for the Minds of Men and Doing Business God’s Way, and has numerous other ministry resources. Visit www.gostrategic.org.