Why does God allow us the freedom to make choices?
BIBLE READING: Genesis 2:15-25
KEY BIBLE VERSE: The Lord God gave the man this warning: “You may eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the Tree of Conscience—for its fruit will open your eyes to make you aware of right and wrong, good and bad. If you eat its fruit, you will be doomed to die.” (Genesis 2:16-17, tlb)
We can learn from our mistakes. God gave Adam responsibility for the garden and told him not to eat from the “Tree of Conscience,” also called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Rather than physically preventing him from eating, God gave Adam a choice, and thus the possibility of choosing wrongly. God still gives us choices, and we, too, often choose wrongly. These wrong choices may cause us pain, but they can help us learn and grow and make better choices in the future. Living with the consequences of our choices teaches us to think and choose more carefully. We can demonstrate our obedience to God through the choices we make. Why would God place a tree in the garden and then forbid Adam to eat from it? God wanted Adam to obey, but God gave Adam the freedom to choose. Without choice, Adam would have been like a prisoner, and his obedience would have been hollow. The two trees provided an exercise in choice, with rewards for choosing to obey and sad consequences for choosing to disobey. When you are faced with the choice, always choose to obey God.
How can we make good decisions?
BIBLE READING: Nehemiah 1:1-11
KEY BIBLE VERSE: When I heard this, I sat down and cried. In fact, I refused to eat for several days, for I spent the time in prayer to the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4, tlb)
Prayer is an essential resource in good decision making. Nehemiah fasted and prayed for several days, expressing his sorrow for Israel’s sin and his desire that Jerusalem would again come alive with the worship of the one true God.
Nehemiah demonstrated the elements of effective prayer: (1) praise, (2) thanksgiving, (3) repentance, (4) specific request, and (5) commitment. Heartfelt prayers like Nehemiah’s can help clarify (1) any problem you may be facing, (2) God’s great power to help you, and (3) the job you have to do. By the end of his prayer time, Nehemiah knew what action he had to take (1:11). When God’s people pray, difficult decisions fall into proper perspective, and appropriate actions follow.
BIBLE READING: Proverbs 18:10-17
KEY BIBLE VERSE: The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out. (Proverbs 18:15, niv)
Wise decisions result from seeking information. Among these concise statements, there are three basic principles for making sound decisions: (1) get the facts before answering; (2) be open to new ideas; (3) make sure you hear both sides of the story before judging. All three principles center around seeking additional information. This is difficult work, but the only alternative is prejudice—judging before getting the facts.
BIBLE READING: John 5:16-30
KEY BIBLE VERSE: But Jesus replied, “My Father constantly does good, and I’m following his example.” (John 5:17, tlb)
Jesus is our best model for good decision making. Because of his unity with God, Jesus lived as God wanted him to live. Because of our identification with Jesus, we must honor him and live as he wants us to live. Asking ourselves the questions, What would Jesus do? and What would Jesus have me do? may help us make the right choices.
BIBLE READING: James 1:2-8
KEY BIBLE VERSE: When you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to tell you, for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (James 1:6, tlb)
Good decisions can be made in spite of doubts. If you have ever seen the constant rolling of huge waves at sea, you know how restless they are—subject to the forces of wind, gravity, and tide. Doubt leaves a person as unsettled as the restless waves. If you want to stop being tossed about, rely on God to show you what is best for you. Ask him for wisdom, and trust that he will give it to you. Then your decisions will be sure and solid.