I am all for taking decisions in faith. That is, doing all you can to ensure that it is a good decision, setting wheels in motions and taking appropriate actions but trusting that the Lord will provide. But it is very easy to let a decision taken in faith become a decision presuming upon the Lord. Similarly, I am all for making wise decisions that we entrust to the Lord. But it is very easy to let a wise decision become a decision that is driven by fear of the unknown.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the Lord principally guides through three things: scripture, circumstance and volition. So, the believer ought to first look at scripture and do whatever is obvious. If it says don’t do something, then don’t do it. If it says do something, then don’t do it. If facing a decision in which scripture leaves a level of openness, we turn to circumstance. Is it something that is even possible for us to do? Are there evidently closed doors stopping us from doing it or obviously open doors freeing us to take the decision? Have you prayed that the Lord would make the choice clear to you by closing and opening appropriate doors. Presuming circumstances allow us to do it, we finally take account of our volition. Do you want to do it or not? Based on all the evidence you have, and all the prior steps taken, does it still seem like a good idea to you or not?
If you take a decision having followed these steps, it is likely there will still be unknowns. There will be things that are not yet clear to you. You may find the necessary funds have been partially, but not wholly, found. You may see immediate obstacles removed but future obstacles not yet negotiated. Depending on the particular thing, potential unknowns abound. But at some point, you have to make a decision and you would never do anything if all unknowns were taken out of the equation. Sometimes we have to act in faith, prayerfully trusting that the Lord will bless the decision.
Problems typically come when we take these steps of guidance out of order. More often than not, it stems from putting our volition as the primary motivator and using the other two as reinforcing factors. In other words, we decide what we want to do and then worry about whether circumstances or scripture have anything to say about it. More often than not – if this is what we’re doing – we talk ourselves into believing scripture has sanctified the decision already. We read all sorts of things into the Bible as supporting the decision and convince ourselves that obvious hurdles are no such thing or that merely potential future problems are insurmountable.
Often, both ultra-caution and supreme presumption stem from an unwillingness to engage meaningfully with the Lord’s means of guidance. Both begin with a presumption of volition as the ultimate arbiter of decision-making.
The ultra-cautious person often doesn’t want to do what might be out of the ordinary. Anything that requires a measure of faith on their part is an issue for them. So, they ignore Biblical mandates and ready-made circumstances because they cannot bear to fail. Their own volition rules them. The rash person often wants to do what might be fresh and exciting and may ignore obvious circumstances (and sometimes scriptural mandates) standing in their way because they have a settled desire to do what they have already determined to do.
Both these positions may, in their own way, be presumptuous. They essentially presume that their volition is the ultimate determining factor in decision-making. One may appear faithless, but is actually controlled by its own desire to know all and will not act otherwise. The other may appear full of faith, but is actually controlled by its own desire to do what is exciting. Neither position is particular faith-filled but is driven by one’s own volition.
Both of these things may be avoided if we start with scripture, then assess our circumstances and only bring our volition to boot once we have assessed such things. We need to ask whether we are honestly following scriptural principles or if we are letting our own volition rule. We need to ask whether we are convincing ourselves that our circumstances stand in the way or if we are really allowing them to do so (or ignoring them) because we have already decided what to do. Are we allowing gospel priorities to rule us or is our decision-making process ruled by our own volition, how we think things will appear and, essentially, what we have already decided to do?