Choosing Wisely

May 14, 2018

Thought-provoking tips for making decisions we will never regret.

By Bobbi Downey

A

t about six years of age, I made the choice to cut my hair. It was not the wisest choice I ever made. While at school, I realized my bangs were hanging in my eyes and needed to be trimmed. The teacher turned off the lights and started a movie, so I took advantage of the darkness. Taking my blunt school scissors, I leaned underneath my little desk and carefully snipped across my bangs. The annoyance was removed, and the problem promptly forgotten. What a surprise I had when, upon arriving home, my mother expressed her shock at my appearance! She sternly asked if I had cut my bangs (as if there was any question about it). I wondered in amazement, How did she know?

We all make choices daily—from the least important, like whether to put jam or honey on our toast, to potentially life-changing, like whether or not to wear our seatbelts while driving. Some decisions will be forgotten almost as soon as they are made, while others can drastically affect our lives forever, as well as the lives of those around us. 

Looking back on this event in my childhood, I am reminded that although some choices we make may seem small or insignificant at the moment, they can sometimes have obvious or long-lasting consequences. My hair-trimming session did not cause any permanent damage, but I’m sure my appearance suffered for a time.

It is vital that we pray about our decisions, great and small, and are quick to obey God’s voice. He knows the future, He sees our hearts, and He knows what is best for us.

Many of the daily choices we make will have an impact on our spiritual lives. That impact can be a lot more serious than a bad haircut, so it is vital that we pray about our decisions, great and small, and are quick to obey God’s voice. He knows the future, He sees our hearts, and He knows what is best for us.

In the oft-quoted words of Joshua, we read the challenge: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15). The choice to follow Jesus is the first of many good choices we can make. And as we continue to follow Him in every area of our lives, He will lead us into a closer walk with Him and help us be a positive influence on others.

I can recall various times in my life where the Lord taught me to seek His will in my daily choices. Following His direction in these decisions has always brought good results, and ultimately, His blessing. Here are a few examples.

Making good use of media

I have always enjoyed a variety of styles of music. As a teenager, I liked anything from opera to country to pop, and Christian music as well as secular. However, over time I began to realize that each song had a message, and with the secular music, that message wasn’t always beneficial to my spiritual walk. Some songs encouraged a self-centered, proud attitude. Others glorified actions that were against Biblical principles. Many of them played on the emotions. I realized that when I was not careful in my choices when listening to this type of music, it affected my attitude in a negative way, and could even make me feel unhappy and discontented. On the other hand, music that carried the message of the Gospel made me feel encouraged, uplifted, and happy. While listening to Christian music, the Lord’s presence could be felt and my heart would draw closer to Him.

Similarly, I learned that movies, books, and other forms of media can have a positive or negative effect. For instance, as a young person I noticed that while sitting in a church service or kneeling down to pray, scenes from a movie that I had recently seen would replay through my mind. This made me realize that I needed to be careful what kind of movies I watched!

Today there are many options available for recreation, literally at our fingertips. We can take advantage of that, and make sure what we choose is positive and uplifting. For instance, podcasts, audio books, and videos can be found of sermons, inspiring stories of missionaries, or historical figures that had an impact on various revivals throughout the years. Even dramatized audio versions of the Bible are available, which I have enjoyed very much in my morning devotions.

Personal devotions

From a child I was taught to read the Bible and pray daily. It always made sense to me that choosing to do this would be beneficial to my relationship with the Lord. But as I grew up, I began to see just how important it is not to only “go through the motions,” but to really put earnest effort into it. So many times in my devotions the Lord has met me in a special way, giving encouragement, comfort, instruction, and blessing. Starting the day this way can get us off on the right foot for making good decisions throughout the day as well as keeping that communication line open with the Lord.

When I was in my early twenties, I moved out of my parents’ house. At that time, I was seeking my sanctification. Spending time in my daily devotions took on a whole new meaning as, in my own little place, I really poured out my heart to the Lord. On many occasions His presence would come down and meet me there. Those were precious times, and I believe they drew me closer to that experience, which I eventually received.

Think on these things

Experts say that anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts go through our minds in just one day. Growing up I remember hearing an expression quoted by a wise pastor: “You cannot keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.” In effect, he was saying that we can’t control all the thoughts that go through our heads, but we can choose which ones we will dwell on.

What we choose to let our minds focus on will affect our attitudes. It will affect our ability to forgive. It will affect our frame of mind, and our feeling of contentment (or lack thereof).

What we choose to let our minds focus on will affect our attitudes. It will affect our ability to forgive. It will affect our frame of mind, and our feeling of contentment (or lack thereof). And sooner or later, what we dwell on will come out of our mouths.

In my own life, there have been times when a frustrating phone call regarding personal business has left me feeling upset. Someone who takes my spot in a parking lot, or cuts me off on the road can try my patience. But I’ve learned that dwelling on these negative actions of others is not beneficial. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” If we do this, we will feel peace instead of frustration.

Pleasant conversation

Philippians 1:27 says, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” The tongue is a powerful weapon, for good or evil. The words we choose can have a huge effect on those around us, as well as our own spiritual condition. We want our words to lift up the name of Jesus. If they do, it will encourage our own hearts as well as others.

I cannot count the times I have been encouraged by the words of others. Often it is just little things they have said, but the end result is very positive! Letting someone know you are praying for him or her, sharing even a small answer to prayer, or just stating a heart-felt “God is good!” can have an amazing impact on those you speak with.

Forgiveness

Every day we come in contact with any number of people, from close friends and relatives to complete strangers. We all have different personalities, interests, and shortcomings. During the course of a day it is quite possible that at least one of these people will do something that hurts our feelings or frustrates us. Being quick to forgive minor offences as well as the bigger ones can impact us spiritually and also affect our testimony to others.

Forgiveness is a two-part choice, not just a feeling. It is choosing not to retaliate—an outward choice—and not to dwell on the perceived wrong—an inward choice. If we do our best in both of these areas, God will help us to truly forgive.

One way that helps us do this is to try to always give the other person the benefit of the doubt, knowing there is often a reason for their actions which we may not be aware of. For example, if we say hello to someone and he or she doesn’t respond, it’s possible that person simply didn’t hear us, or was too focused on personal concerns to notice us. More often than not, there is a reason for people’s actions other than an intent to hurt or offend. Choosing to remember this and to quickly forgive can give us peace of mind as well as to help us maintain good relationships with others.

When in doubt

Sometimes we are faced with decisions when there doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer. Anytime we don’t know what to do, it can be helpful to step back and consider two questions: could our choice have even the slightest negative effect spiritually? And, could this choice hurt our testimony in any way? In answering these questions, the best choice can become clearer.

I faced one such situation when taking a class at a university. The teacher offered extra help to anyone who wanted it, and I was definitely interested. However, when I saw the meeting location—a bar and grill—and that the group consisted of the female teacher and two young men, as a young married woman, I hesitated. It wouldn’t have been sinful for me to join in, but it gave me pause. How would it look? Would it put my testimony in doubt? Because there was a question in this regard, I did not attend. The Lord blessed my carefulness, and I received an A in the class even without the extra help.

Choose Christ

We want to do all we can, on a daily basis, to keep our hearts in tune with Jesus, and lift up His name. Some of the examples listed above may not seem like big choices—selecting a radio station, opening the Bible, having a conversation…but they do matter! In the second part of the verse stated earlier, Joshua affirmed, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Like Joshua, let’s daily choose to serve Christ!

About the author

Bobbi Downey is a member of the Editorial Staff at the Apostolic Faith Church Headquarters Office in Portland, Oregon.