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Hearing God’s Voice — Part 4

Make decisions guided by wisdom and understanding

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: Seek God’s will when possible, However, be ready to make decisions “on your own,” guided by wisdom and understanding. Don’t be like a horse or mule that requires a bit and bridle (Psalm 32:9).

Part 4 of a 4-part series on “Hearing God’s Voice”

Part 1      Part 2      Part 3


In the first three parts of this Bible study on hearing God’s voice, you read several ways to know God’s will. You read about preparing your heartgoing to the Bible, and listening to the Holy Spirit.

Many times it may seem obvious what God wants you to do when you follow these steps.

Other times, it might not seem obvious. When it isn’t, you may find yourself immobilized by indecision becuse you don’t want to make a mistake.

God expects you to make decisions

God could tell you what to do moment-by-moment throughout the day. But that’s not the type of relationship he wants with you.

Although sometimes it’s clear what God would want you to do, many times he wants you to make good decisions “on your own,” guided by wisdom.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown. (Proverbs 4:7-9)

Don’t be like a horse or mule

God didn’t create us to be puppets or robots. Instead, he gives each of us the capability to make decisions. As Psalm 32:9 says, he doesn’t want us to be like a horse or mule that needs to be controlled by bit and bridle.

Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. (Psalm 32:9)

The horse and mule described in Psalm 32:9 are controlled by bit and bridle. The bit and bridle create pressure on the horse’s or mule’s head that makes it difficult—and painful—for the animal to go anywhere except where the rider wants to go.

Notice that the horse and mule “have no understanding.” God doesn’t want us to be like that. He wants us to be guided by “understanding.”

What do you think?

1. Read Psalm 32:9. Why does a horse or mule need a bit or bridle?

2. Why doesn’t God want you to be like a horse or mule? What does he want you to be like instead?

Learn from Luke’s and Paul’s examples

Luke didn’t say God told him to write the Gospel of Luke. Although I’m sure Luke prayed before writing to Theophilus, and I’m sure God directed his words, it’s interesting that he said he wrote because “it seemed good” to him to write (Luke 1:3-4).

With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:3-4)

Paul prayed often, yet sometimes he made plans on his own. Although I’m sure God was leading Paul, sometimes he didn’t say the Lord told him what to do. Instead, he took action when it seemed right,

I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. (Romans 15:24)

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. (1 Thessalonians 3:1)

Pray for wisdom

Throughout the Bible, we are told to seek wisdom to help us make good decisions.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. (Colossians 1:9)

For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 8:11)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

What do you think?

5. Why does wisdom help someone make a good decision? Explain your answer.

6. How can you obtain godly wisdom?

Ask wise, mature believers for advice

Sometimes we need to ask others for advice if we want to make good decisions.

Be careful to choose the right people. Many of your friends might simply tell you what they think you want to hear, not what is wisest. Look for mature people who will give you honest, godly advice.

For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers. (Proverbs 11:14)

The way of a fool seems right to him, but the wise listen to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. (Proverbs 19:20)

Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance. (Proverbs 20:18)

Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers. (Proverbs 24:6)

What do you think?

7. What type of person should you ask for advice? Explain your answer.

8. What type of person should you not ask for advice? Explain your answer.

Ask your leaders. If you have a pastor, parent, or someone else in authority in your life, you could ask him or her for advice. If the decision you are making comes under their area of authority, you should usually follow what they say unless it violates Scripture.

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

Ask others who will be affected by your decision. If you have a spouse, children, parents, friends, or employees who would be affected by your decision, consider asking them for advice.

Evaluate what people say. There may be times when godly people say what they think you should do, perhaps saying that their words are prophetic, or that they are from God. Be respectful and listen carefully, but be sure to pray and evaluate what they say. I remember one time a friend told me God wanted me to help in a specific ministry, but it didn’t seem to me that was God’s plan. I thanked him for his confidence in me, but politely said “no.”

When people give you advice, ask yourself if their advice is supported by:

  • God’s Word
  • Your circumstances
  • Godly wisdom
  • Other people’s advice
  • Your own sense of peace and direction

Make decisions

Every day, you make hundreds of decisions, ranging from major decisions to less significant ones such as choosing what to wear, who to talk to at work, what vegetables to buy at the grocery store, who to invite to dinner, which route to take on the way home, where to park your car, which podcast to listen to, what type of flowers to plant.

Pray throughout the day (Thessalonians 5:17), and be available to God. He may lead you in making some of these decisions.

However, don’t expect him to tell you what to do moment-by-moment, and don’t be immobilized if you aren’t sure what you should do. Make decisions and move on. (Of course, take more time when you face major decisions such as deciding where to live, what job to take, or whom to marry.)

A general guideline is that if you are growing in your relationship with God, loving others, praying daily, and studying his Word (the Bible), you will be able to make wise decisions.

Be prepared to make mistakes. You aren’t perfect. You will make mistakes from time-to-time. Try to avoid mistakes, but when you make a bad decision, ask God (and anyone you hurt) to forgive you. Then take care of any consequences as best you can, and move on.

What do you think?

3. Do you think there are times when it’s okay to make decisions even though you pray and aren’t sure what God wants you to do? Why or why not?

4. Imagine you are sure God wants you to play an instrument in an orchestra, but you don’t know which instrument—drums or clarinet. After seven years of intense prayer, you still don’t know what God’s will is. What should you do? Explain your answer.

Memory verse

Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. (Psalm 32:9)

Personal application

1. Do you think God expects us to make some decisions “on our own”? Why or why not?

2. The Bible says, “Do not be like the horse or the mule” (Psalm 32:9). What does this mean?

3. Why is it important to have understanding and wisdom when you make decisions?

4. Why is it sometimes wise to ask other people for advice?

5. What are potential dangers of asking other people for advice? How can you overcome these dangers?

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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