The Bottom Line
“If only God would speak and tell me what I should do.” Many people have asked in frustration for divine guidance. Surely you have also often thought or wished for the same guidance on many occasions. Making decisions is one of life’s biggest challenges. How can a Christian know what is the right or best thing for them to do? Sometimes the results of decisions, large or small, can be far reaching. Therefore, decision making is extremely important. Perhaps this frustration is even more common in this busy 21st century than ever before. Life has become more complex, with more options than ever before.
Some decisions are small and apparently insignificant like, What shall I eat for lunch? How shall I spend my time tonight? How can I solve relationship problems in my workplace? There are other decisions which are huge, such as, Whom shall I marry, or What shall I do for my life’s work? With these big questions, we are committing ourselves for the rest of our lives, so we need to be sure!
There are conventional methods of seeking advice or counsel from God. These include asking advice from a pastor or experienced Christian, but these persons are not always around when we need them for making everyday decisions. Some Christians prefer to ask God for a special sign. Others search the Scripture to find a verse that might give direction.
However, we may well ask, Is there some way that we can find more specific instruction from God? After all, since God is omniscient (Isaiah 46:9,10), He sees the end results and knows which will be the best for me in each decision. He longs to guide us, but He has given us freedom of choice and in Scripture given us principles that can be applied in a general way to any problem or decision.
The prophet Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah. Around 700 B.C., Micah faced much frustration amid widespread apostasy. The southern tribe of Judah was ruled by the descendants of David. Although they made a show of serving God, they were very inconsistent. On the other hand, the northern kingdom of Israel had become more and more rebellious during Micah’s ministry. In 722 B.C., Israel was carried off into exile. The prophet Micah must have been horrified by these events and in this little book, which bears his name, he blended stern warnings with heartrending tenderness, sympathy and love.
In chapter six Micah rebukes God’s people in the form of a lawsuit. He reminds them of the wonderful acts of their faithful God. For example in verses four and five, he lists the way God had brought them out of slavery in Egypt and then continued to bless and deliver them from various enemy attacks. He then in effect says: Do you really want to know how to please God?
In verses six and seven, Micah lists a number of extreme things, which the contemporary custom of the times might have recommended: making huge sacrifices of high monetary value, or even sacrificing first-born children to God on an altar. But Micah rules out these unnecessary and unacceptable actions and spells out what God really wants. This is where God gets our attention! Although times have changed, we are asking the same questions. We want and need to know what God wants of us today. How can we make the best choices so that we can be approved by God, and happy and fulfilled in our own lives? Micah dictates the answer.
Micah 6:8 reads, “He has shown you O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
In other words, this verse tells us that God’s will for us is summed up in three short stipulations that can guide our decision making.
First, we should act justly. This indicates that whatever actions we decide to pursue should be fair and honorable. They should benefit our neighbors or family and have a positive outcome.
Next, we are to love mercy. This suggests that we should have good motives. If our actions will hurt anyone or be detrimental in any way, we should not follow them. In our decision making, we must be careful to be kind and sympathetic. We should build up those around us and consider what helps or encourages others. We should not be selfish and seek our own advantage at the expense or loss to our neighbors. If our motive is love and thoughtfulness for others and is not dominated by personal gain, then that is the test of appropriate motives on our part.
The third test is to ask ourselves if our decision will build up our personal relationship with God. The personal aspect is important because it speaks of what we do because we love God and claim Him as our God. It also calls for personal humility, such as “walk humbly with your God.” This implies that we claim no credit for ourselves, but experience the satisfaction of being in harmony with God. Moses experienced this identity and was known as a man of humility. Humility is not self devaluation, but getting ourselves in right perspective with God and others. Moses wrote of Enoch that he “walked faithfully with God three hundred years” (Genesis 5:21), but he, like Moses, lived to bless and enrich the lives of those around him.
As we consider these three stipulations or principles for pleasing God as listed by Micah, it seems that they are listed in climactic order, that there is a progression. Acting justly is to be accompanied by living with good, unselfish motives (loving mercy) and these characteristics are to be followed and enabled by walking humbly with God.
Will this verse and these principles work for us? Can we apply them to our situations and come up with not just good choices, but the best? Is this a practical and realistic guide for daily decision making? Can I really think of others? Can I give my neighbor the benefit of the doubt? Am I the one who is wrong sometimes?
Taken in its context the Bible indicates that these principles or guidelines will work. Every day we can pray for God’s companionship in evaluating the right thing to do, and the kind and Christlike thing to do. Will this be the “bottom line” for really testing what is God’s will for us in the innumerable situations of life? Yes, God does speak to us today. Because He desires the best for us, He wants us to really listen and follow what He says.
Lloyd Willis is an Australian native and archeological scholar with a Ph.D. from Andrews University. He taught at Southwestern Adventist University for 24 years as a professor of Religion. He lives in Keene, Texas with with his wife, Edith.