Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. – James 1:12
One of the most difficult things to learn in life is how to say “no.” There are some opportunities that present themselves to us which, for one reason or another, we simply cannot seize or we cannot take. It demands a great deal of faith and courage to look at something so tempting and acknowledge that it is not the Lord’s will for us. However, I believe that this is the heart of why we are allowed to experience these trials and challenges.
There are many competing voices for our attention, and not all of those voices have our best interest at heart…even if they appear to at surface level. Second Corinthians 7:14 reminds us that even “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (HCSB). When opportunity – especially significant, life changing opportunity – comes knocking on our doors, we must be careful to determine if that opportunity is of God. Just because something appears good on surface level does not mean that it is God’s desire for us. On the other hand, when we give time to dedicate ourselves to true, prayerful reflection on a decision and invoke the guidance of God before we make the decision, we will find confirmation. There are several tests to be applied to determine what answer to opportunity is in the Lord’s will.
First, is it Biblical? Many people are quick to make the claim that ‘God spoke to me and told me….’ However, if that claim is not clearly in line with the Word of God, then it is not a claim issued from God. While life certainly presents us with complex situations, God is not the author of sin and will not call us to violate what He has established as truth. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 HCSB).
Second, is it reasonable? This might seem out of place given my emphasis on the important spiritual nature of decision making, but I believe sound logic is absolutely an important part of the rationale for good and godly decision making. God gave us a brain for a purpose. The use of our minds is not to supplant the Scripture, but it is certainly to be used in submission to it. If a decision is clearly the wrong one (i.e. deliberately driving off of a steep cliff…), then it isn’t the right decision. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Thirdly, does it agree with the counsel of trusted and godly advisors?Other individuals are not the Holy Spirit, and their opinions are not to be prioritized above God’s in our decision making processes. However, before making any significant decision of consequence, it is highly preferable to collect the advice and counsel of trusted and godly individuals. This does not mean to stop and ask any random person who claims to be a Christian what you should do. What it does mean is, if possible, discuss the situation with all of its involved circumstances with godly Christian mentors – pastors, teachers, parents, counselors, close Christian friends, and others who desire to put the Lord’s will first and who care about our lives – and seek their perspective and guidance. I have often been amazed at how God has profoundly spoken to me through the testimony and guidance of other people seeking to do the Lord’s will in their lives and to help me seek His in mine, also. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (Proverbs 12:15 ESV).
Finally, has God given peace concerning the decision? If a decision is the right one, the Holy Spirit will bring a sense of peace to the heart of a Christian. Even if a decision appears to be logically and Biblically acceptable, if there is a decided absence of peace, this should call the option under consideration into question. I should also point out that the absence of peace and the human experiences of fear and uncertainty are not necessarily the same thing. I have often been afraid of, uncertain of, or intimidated by the consequences of decisions that I knew were the right choices. How did I know? Underneath those uncertain feelings, the Lord had given me a confident conviction that the choice was the right one – a sense of peace. Using Biblical reasoning, human reasoning in submission to Scripture, and other means, including the counsel of trusted and godly advisors, God had solidified in my mind and heart what the right choice was. When I acted on it, even though I struggled with the typical human emotions that accompany a decision of great consequence, I experienced the inner peace of knowing I had made the decision God had led me to make. “I will listen to what God will say; surely the Lord will declare peace to His people, His godly ones, and not let them go back to foolish ways” (Psalm 85:8 HCSB).
Opportunities can appear so attractive, so enticing, and even sometimes so morally permissible – yet still be the choice that is outside of God’s will. As difficult as it is to turn down what otherwise appears to be a great opportunity, it is an important step of faith that all Christians are occasionally called to make.
If you don’t turn down the wrong opportunities, you won’t be free to experience the blessings of the right ones that God has in store for you.