A client of mine once said, “just give me the 5 steps to achieving my goals and I promise I will faithfully implement them.”
While he said it tongue in cheek, I sensed a frustration in his voice as he searched for the silver bullet that would, without too much effort, quickly lead to a successful and trouble-free life. There are many tools and tips out there which promise a successful life if you just follow them. However, I think simple Biblical wisdom is more effective.
I am always reminding my clients and people I interact with that life is a long game; you need to have a clear vision of where you would like to end up. In our high-speed world, relationships are often not given the importance they deserve and, as a consequence, they suffer. So how do we ensure that all our family and other closely valued relationships remain meaningful and enduring? What really counts is our small daily decision making, it needs to be lined up to get us there.
Clayton Christenson, who is a born-again believer and professor at Harvard, wrote in his best seller, How will you measure your life?, that, “Over the years I have watched the fates of my HBS class mates from 1979 unfold; I have seen more and more of them come to reunions unhappy, divorced, and alienated from their children. I can guarantee you not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them. And yet a shocking number implemented that strategy.”
While these people did not set out to fail, they daily made small decisions which, they thought at the time, were inconsequential. However, the accumulation of these poor decisions ultimately led them to a life of regret and alienation from family. They did not keep their eyes fixed on their personal values and long-term goals.
King David trapped himself in this cycle. The book of Samuel says, “the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab” – his 1st poor decision. He wandered onto his balcony to look around – bored? – his 2nd poor decision. He then looked over his neighbour’s wall, – his 3rd bad decision. He saw Bathsheba and invited her to his palace and so on until the end was inevitable. It all started with his first unguarded choice.
Daily we make small decisions which, in isolation, would not significantly affect the direction of our lives. We work late one night in the week. This, we tell ourselves, will not change our destiny, and that is true, but one late night leads to another late night and then to another. The cost to family of one late night is negligible but, as one late night leads to another and so on, the marginal cost of each late night, in terms of impact on the family, increases significantly.
Imagine if we reverse this. The daily pursuing of our spouse, a kind and patient word to our children and prudence in all our financial affairs. The marginal benefit to everyone becomes a source of contentment for all.
Each decision we make is important in getting us to our vision, and we need to consider each action and each word in the light of our end goal, but more importantly, measure it against God’s best for our lives. There are some biblical guides that will help us ensure our decision making remains consistent with our God-given goal.
- Ask, “does this decision consider God’s glory?” 1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
• Ask, “what motive drives my decision?” Proverbs 16:2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.
- Ask, “what is the counsel of my community?” Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in an abundance of counsellors there is victory.
• Ask, “could this decision jeopardize my integrity or hinder my witness for the Lord?” Proverbs 10:9 He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out.
There may not be a silver bullet for a guaranteed and easy solution but there is a God who cares for us and by committing our daily decisions to His hands we can be assured of remaining in His will.