Balancing facts, feelings, and faith uniquely positions us to discern God’s will and bring Him glory in our decision-making.
By Aaron Summers
122. According to research conducted by the psychology-based app Noom, that is the average number of conscious, informed decisions a person makes in a day. The number of unconscious decisions you make approaches 35,000, but it is the decisions you consciously make that are critical for this discussion. The obvious question then is “Does the Bible give any assistance in making decisions?” Yes!
“The one who gives an answer before he listens—this is foolishness and disgrace for him” (Proverbs 18:13, CSB). “The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it” (Proverbs 18:15, CSB).
There is a decision-making process that brings God glory. Imagine a triangle. Do you remember how to find the center of the triangle? In geometry, we learn that the center of the triangle is the convergence of the three lines that extend from each point to the center of the opposing line.
When it comes to decision-making, this concept is useful because there are three main points to consider with every decision: facts, feelings, and faith. When these are in balance, you will be able to discern God’s will and bring Him glory in the decision.
The triangle of decision-making
Ideally, you want to balance these three items, but the reality is we often do not. When one part is over-emphasized, it pulls the decision-making circle out of the center. That does not mean it is a horrible decision, but it might not be the best decision. What does that look like? Here are seven ways we go about making decisions.
This form of decision-making removes all emotion and spiritual components. I call this the “Spock Syndrome.” The facts-only person wants data. They will often use a T-chart of the pros and cons to make the decision.
The risk in this approach is it appears cold and insensitive to anyone else affected by the outcome. This decision-maker doesn’t care how it hurts other people as long as it makes logical sense.
This form of decision-making operates much like a fun meter. A few examples of these decisions would be: to cook or eat out, save or put it on a credit card, parent or let kids do it, fidelity or affair, marriage or divorce. Each of these decisions, when chosen based only on feelings, often encourages disaster in the future.
When we base our decisions on feelings only, we let the extremes of adrenaline rushes decide for us. The danger of feelings-only decision-making is that decisions become more passive. I have found many enablers and addicts operate from this position.
Joe came to my office, and we discussed his financial situation. He had been out of work for a while, and I wanted to help. Joe told me God was going to give him a job. I thought that was an admirable belief and encouraged this spiritual direction in his life. However, upon further discussion, I found he was only going to wait on God.
Now, I understand being dependent on the Lord and believing God can provide. However, God gave us a brain and two feet to go search for a job too. Joe wasn’t interested in my relationship with two managers in town who were currently hiring. He was waiting on God. He hadn’t looked up job openings because he was waiting on God. When we base our decisions on “faith alone,” we attempt to remove personal involvement and abdicate responsibility.“When we base our decisions on ‘faith alone,’ we attempt to remove personal involvement and abdicate responsibility.” — @aaronwsummers Click To Tweet
Facts and feelings
In Joshua 9, we see what happens when we make decisions based on facts and feelings but do not include faith. Joshua was fresh off the victory of Jericho and Ai.
When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they acted deceptively. They gathered provisions and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They wore old, patched sandals on their feet and threadbare clothing on their bodies. Their entire provision of bread was dry and crumbly. They went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant land. Please make a treaty with us.”Joshua 9:3-6, CSB
Joshua investigated the facts of their story. Awash with the pride and joy of victory, Joshua made a treaty with them. He didn’t ask God; he just decided. When we make decisions devoid of a spiritual connection, we run into humanism. We have logically and emotionally chosen. However, like Joshua, we must face the consequences of those decisions. Some will lack proper discernment while others will be disobedient.
Facts and faith
It is well-known that Jesus regularly took issue with the Pharisees. This could be related to this “facts and faith” type of decision-making. The Pharisees would often look only at the facts and tie that to the faith without regards to anyone else or even themselves. That they were charged with hypocrisy is self-evident.
In Luke 11, Jesus dines with the Pharisees, and we see an example of their process. They rigidly held to rituals instead of developing relationships. Jesus pronounces three woes. He addresses their attitude in giving a tenth without seeking justice and love. He addresses their desire for attention instead of humility. And he addresses their focus on outward appearances while ignoring their inner emptiness. When we make decisions without involving emotions, we run the risk of becoming like these Pharisees.
Feelings and faith
In our current landscape of worship, there is an increasing amount of emotion being introduced. There is a place for emotion but not when it is out of balance. When we make decisions based on how we feel about a situation and whether or not Scripture allows something, it lacks the logical requirements for balance.
In Exodus 32, we find Moses on the mountain and the people getting anxious. The people demanded an idol for them to see and worship. Aaron agreed and tried to tie it back to faith when he said, “These are your gods who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4b, CSB). This is the danger of removing the facts from decision-making. In this type of decision-making, we need to evaluate doctrinal and theological truths to avoid being out of balance. There is room for both logic and emotion when it comes to faith practices.“There is room for both logic and emotion when it comes to faith practices.” — @aaronwsummers Click To Tweet
When making one of your 122 conscious decisions today, begin building the habit of balance. This will take some time and practice, but the will of God is the best place you can be. David’s decisions concerning Goliath present an example of balanced decision-making.
David understood the facts of Goliath: his height, strength, experience, and skill. David also considered his own feelings and the feelings of those around him. He understood the Israelites’ fear; he just didn’t agree with it. He had a peace from God in the moment of decision. David exercised faith in the decision to attack Goliath. He spoke the name of God. He invoked the Spirit of God. The victory that he experienced is akin to what God desires for us in each of the 122 decisions we make each day.
For permission to republish this article, please email Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Aaron Summers, D.Min.
Aaron serves as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Crowley, TX and as a church consultant with Texas Baptists. He and his wife Dulcie have two kids in college and enjoy traveling in their RV.
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