How Should Christians Make Decisions? Should Christians Cast Lots? #199

Hello friends and happy Tuesday to you! Today begins a multi-part series on decision making, and I will lean on a couple of great books on that topic: Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen and Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something. Our Bible readings for the day are Joshua 20 and 21, Acts 1, Jeremiah 10 and Matthew 24. I am so tempted to discuss the ‘Abomination that Causes Desolation,’ but will refrain, since we have had two mystery oriented episodes in a row. I hope to revisit that topic when we get to the book of Daniel!

Today we consider a topic that I don’t believe is preached on enough: How should Christians make decisions? Most Christians would say that they should be led by the Spirit, and I heartily agree, but would note a couple of things: #1 When many Christians speak of ‘being led by the Spirit,’ what they mean in practice often boils down to being led by their feelings. #2 – Many decisions by the mighty men of God in the Bible were not made by praying until they ‘heard from the Spirit.” I am not saying that is a bad approach, I am just saying that the biblical paradigm for making Godly decisions might be different than what you think it is, and in Acts 1, we see a very significant decision made by the disciples – a decision that has been second-guessed by Christians for hundreds of years, even though the Bible does not call the decision into question. Let’s read Acts 1 and then discuss the casting of lots.

So – The disciples CAST LOTS to decide who would replace Judas. I’ve literally heard people suggest that this was a terrible mistake, and that if they had only listened to the Lord, then they would have made the right decision and chosen Paul as the 12th disciple. (I guess they would have to wait until Paul got saved, of course, and stopped persecuting the church – an event that would not happen for some years after Acts 1)  Was this a sin? One thing to keep in mind in answering that question is to know that, according to the Bible used by the disciples and Jesus – the Old Testament – casting lots was a VERY biblical practice:

The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.  (Proverbs 16:33) 

As we have just read in Joshua, the very land that the Israelite tribes inherited was distributed to them BY JOSHUA CASTING LOTS! I should also note that the pagan soldiers cast lots to divide the clothing of Jesus and the pagan sailors on Jonah’s boat cast lots to determine which one of them was the one that should be thrown overboard to stop the storm…so casting lots was practiced by more than just the Hebrews. Was it a sin? I don’t think so – at least, I don’t see it condemned in the Bible anywhere, and there seems to be no indication whatsoever that the disciples erred in Acts 1. A bigger question: Should WE cast lots now to make decisions? ILLUSTRATION. Let me say that I don’t know that it is a sin, but I would like to present a better (I think) paradigm for making biblical decisions today, and for the next couple of days.

The Following parable is from Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen:

“THE FIRST SUPPER” Adam was hungry. He had had a long, challenging day naming animals. His afternoon nap had been refreshing, and his post-siesta introduction to Eve was exhilarating, to say the least. But as the sun began to set on their first day, Adam discovered that he had worked up an appetite. “I think we should eat,” he said to Eve. “Let’s call the evening meal ‘supper.'” “Oh, you’re so decisive, Adam,” Eve said. “I like that in a man. I guess all the excitement of being created has made me hungry, too.” As they discussed how they should proceed, they decided that Adam would gather fruit from the garden, and Eve would prepare it for their meal. Adam set about his task and soon returned with a basket full of ripe fruit. He gave it to Eve and went to soak his feet in the soothing current of the Pishon River until supper was ready. He had been reviewing the animals’ names for about five 5 minutes when he heard his wife’s troubled voice. “Adam, could you help me for a moment?” “What seems to be the problem, dear?” “I’m not sure which of these lovely fruits I should prepare for supper. I’ve prayed for guidance from the Lord, but I’m not really sure what He wants me to do. I certainly don’t want to miss His will on my very first decision. Would you go to the Lord and ask Him what I should do about supper?” Adam’s hunger was intensifying, but he understood Eve’s dilemma. So he left her to go speak with the Lord. Shortly, he returned. He appeared perplexed. “Well?” Eve said. “He didn’t really answer your question.” “What do you mean? Didn’t He say anything?” “Not much. He just repeated what He said earlier today during the garden tour: ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.’ I assure you, Eve, I steered clear of the forbidden tree.” “I appreciate that, but that doesn’t solve my problem,” Eve said. “What fruit should I prepare for tonight?” From the rumbling in his stomach, Adam discovered that lions and tigers were not the only things that growl. So he said, “I’ve never seen such crisp, juicy apples. I feel a sense of peace about them. Why don’t you prepare them for supper?” “All right, Adam. I guess you’ve had more experience at making decisions than I have. I appreciate your leadership. I’ll call you when supper’s ready.” Adam was only halfway back to the river when he heard Eve’s call. He jogged back to the clearing where she was working, but his anticipation evaporated when he saw her face. “More problems?” he asked. “Adam, I just can’t decide how I should fix these apples. I could slice them, dice them, mash them, bake them in a pie, a cobbler, fritters, or dumplings. I really want to be your helper, but I also want to be certain of the Lord’s will on this decision. Would you be a dear and go just one more time to the Lord with my problem?” Adam was not keen on bothering the Lord again, but after Eve said some very nice things about him, he agreed to go. When he returned, he said, “I got the same answer as before: ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.'” Adam and Eve were both silent for a moment. Then with light in his eye, Adam said, “You know, Eve, the Lord made that statement as though it fully answered my question. I’m sure He could have told us what to eat and how to eat it; but I think He’s given us freedom to make those decisions. It was the same way with the animals today. He told me to name the animals, but He didn’t whisper any names in my ear. Assigning those names was my responsibility.” Eve was incredulous. “Do you mean that we could have any of these fruits for supper?” Eve said. “Are you telling me that I can’t miss God’s will in this decision?” “The only way you could do that is to pick some fruit from the forbidden tree. But none of these fruits are from that tree. Why, I suppose we are free to eat a little from each one of them.” Adam snapped his fingers and exclaimed, “Say, that’s a great idea! Let’s have fruit salad for supper!” And so they did.

5 Principles for decision-making that I believe that the Bible teaches and models: 

  1. Where God commands, we must obey.

    Should I marry an unbeliever – the Bible leads us – clearly – to say no to that question. We are not to be unequally yoked together with those who don’t follow the Lord.
  2. Where there is no command, God gives us the freedom to choose and sovereignly orchestrates and leads our choices for our ultimate good, His glory and to accomplish His will.

    So – WHO should I marry? Does God have the perfect person picked out for me and I have to pray until I get a shiver, or a Word whispered in the night….Jessica….or Janet… – Is that how big decisions work? NO  We have freedom and trust that God orchestrates our decisions in His sovereignty.

    Psalms 37:23 A person’s steps are established by the Lord,

and he takes pleasure in his way.

Proverbs 16:9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.

3. Where there is no command, we follow the example of Jesus and devote significant time to praying – trusting that God will divinely lead us and lead our decision. 

Luke 6:12  12 During those days he went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. 13 When daylight came, he summoned his disciples, and he chose twelve of them  

  1. Where there is no command, God calls us to seek wise counsel, walk in wisdom and make a decision.

5. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.

Romans 8:28 28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.


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