“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
The book of Proverbs repeatedly warns against the dangers of arrogance.
The central challenge is this: Don’t believe everything you think. Don’t get caught in the gravitational pull of self-centeredness. Effective thinking and decision-making requires wisdom, and that requires you to untether from your ego.
God put you on this planet to be a decision-maker, and he wants to give you practical wisdom for making wise choices in response to the real-world situations you face every day. The Lord understands that navigating life and work in a fallen world can be messy and difficult. That is the very reason he makes his wisdom available to you.
There are four critical components of thinking and decision-making that you need to pay careful attention to: principles, process, people, and purpose.
- What principles guide the decisions you make every day? What reference point do you use for your decisions? These are your core beliefs and values. This is the "what" of your thinking.
- What process do you use for making decisions? This is your methodology for thinking and choosing. It is the "how" of your thinking.
- What people do you look to for advice and insight in your decisions? These are the influencers who shape the choices you make. This is the "who" of your thinking.
- And finally, what purpose guides your thinking? What are you trying to accomplish with your choices? This is the "why" of your thinking.
It isn't difficult to see the negative impact of getting any one of these four components wrong. There are devastating consequences if our thinking is guided by the wrong principles, or we use an ineffective process, or we are influenced by the wrong people, or we pursue a self-centered agenda.
Gain access to the wisdom of God by being intentional about the four areas:
1) Principles. Be faithful to the principles and precepts of scripture, and be faithful to the physics of the created world. God's Word and God’s creation are the authoritative reference point for making decisions. Beware using what is fashionable and popular in modern culture as a reference point for your decisions. Do not allow emotional impulse or old habits to guide the choices you make. Think and choose with your new nature, not your old nature (Ephesians 4.22-24).
Heed the warning of Proverbs 16.25. Your feelings are not the reference point for what is true. Neither are your thoughts. It is possibly to be deeply confident … and wrong. Do the work to find out what is true, then align your thoughts and feelings with the truth.
Facts don’t care about your feelings.
2) Process. Use a disciplined process for thinking and making decisions. Jeremiah 6.16 provides an outline of the key steps in decision-making: "Stop at the crossroads and look around you. Ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it. You will find rest for your souls." Here are the steps:
Pause, observe the situation carefully, and consider your options.
Use scripture, history, and prayer to identify the best way forward.
Choose, take disciplined action, and make adjustments along the way.
Keep in mind that your level of comfort with an option can be misleading. The most effective option may be something that is difficult and uncomfortable. Embrace the discomfort and do it anyway!!
3) People. Seek the advice and insight of wise, godly people. "Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed" (Prov 15.22). Do not allow the wrong people or groups to influence your thinking. "Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them, for their hearts devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble" (Prov 24.1-2). Choose your influencers and counsellors wisely!!
The book of Proverbs addresses your friendships and relationships, and it warns against two errors: a) Being arrogant and thinking you don’t need the input and guidance of wise counselors; and, b) Listening to the advice of the wrong people. Proverbs admonishes you to listen to the wise people in your life. Seek their counsel. Get their perspective. Tap into their wisdom and experience.
4) Purpose. Make decisions in alignment with God's purposes. Do not get caught in the gravitational pull of self-centeredness. You are called to be an agent of the kingdom of God, so think and act in alignment with that calling. "I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called" (Eph 4.1).
Here's the bottom line: Think about the way you think. Evaluate your decision-making with the four critical components, and as you evaluate, pray and ask the Lord to show you where you need to improve.
Trust God and do the work of thinking carefully and wisely.