“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” —Proverbs 4:26 NIV
Moses. The hero of Israel. Deliver of the Hebrew people. Visionary, prophet, wise leader. A man of great judgment and character. A significant historical figure. Moses’ name is found some 750 times in the Old Testament and approximately eighty times in the New Testament. The Bible even says that he was God’s friend, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11 NIV). What an incredible privilege.
Moses was also very human and made some bad decisions.
In Numbers 20, the Bible tells us that the Hebrew people were still wandering in the desert before arriving in the Promised Land. They set up camp in the Desert of Zin, “a terrible place” according to the Hebrews. There was no water to quench their thirst, let alone for their livestock.
The people became angry and gathered in protest. They argued with Moses and said, “Really? You brought us all the way out here and there’s no water. Are you trying to kill us?”
So, Moses goes to God, his friend, and asks what to do.
God tells Moses to speak to a rock and water will flow from it. Easy enough.
Moses gathers the people around the rock. But he is frustrated, even angry with the people. He becomes irrational and doesn’t carefully think about potential consequences. Standing with his staff in hand, Moses cries, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10 NIV).
The Bible tells us that Moses struck the rock twice with his staff and water immediately flowed from the rock. Did you get that?
He struck the rock. Twice.
He didn’t speak to the rock as God had directed. Moses acted out of anger and frustration and made a bad decision. The consequence?
God told Moses that he wouldn’t enter the Promised Land with the Hebrews. That’s hard news.
Moses’ frustration and anger were barriers to his ability to make a sound decision. Like Moses, you’ll face many barriers to making quality, sound, wise decisions, including:
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- Emotions: In addition to frustration and anger, feelings like anxiety, depression, despair, envy, fear, jealousy, and resentment can compromise your rationality. It’s best to step away from your emotions and examine the situation. Consider what’s triggering your feelings and think about potential consequences of emotionally driven decisions. Exercise self-control. The Bible says, “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city” (Proverbs 16:32 NLT).
- Knee-jerk reactions: Ever had your knee tapped by a rubber mallet? What happens? Your leg automatically kicks out. Similarly, automatically reacting to a problem, issue, or circumstance without thinking it through may lead to making a bad decision. When you’re hit with something, don’t react so quickly.
- Personal bias: The way you see the world and your preferences and prejudices are often a barrier to sound decision-making. You lose objectivity and lean toward your own assumptions. To overcome bias, seek facts, evidence, diverse advice, and define reality. TV journalist and author Tom Brokaw said, “Bias like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. Facts are your firewall against bias.”
- Analysis paralysis: Overanalyzing or overthinking can be an obstacle to sound decision-making. It will stall momentum; no decision will be made, and no course of action will be taken. Recognize that you’ll never have all of the facts and take a risk. Someone once said, “It doesn’t matter in which direction you choose to move when under a mortar attack, just as long as you move.”
- Time pressures: The amount of time you have to decide will greatly impact its quality. If you’re under the gun, how you consider and choose between options may be distorted. You’ll make mental shortcuts and not think deeply about significant decisions. You’ll lose objectivity and be more influenced by intuition. And, you won’t have the appropriate time to gather all of the necessary information. When you can, slow down to speed up.
When thinking about decision barriers, ask
- What barriers do you face when deciding?
- How do the obstacles affect you?
- What will you do to avoid or overcome the impediments you face?
Decision barriers impact your ability to make sound choices. Don’t be like Moses when he struck the rock out of frustration and anger. Exercise self-control, temper reactions, mitigate personal bias, don’t get stuck in analysis, and slow down. If you do, you’ll overcome the impediments and make sound decisions.
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1 Wayne Jackson, “A Character Portrait of Moses,” Christian Courier, last accessed July 5, 2020, https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/253-character-portrait-of-moses-a.
2 Tom Brokaw, “Lesson from a Life in Journalism,” NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, last modified October 8, 2004, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/6207274/ns/nbc_nightly_news_with_brian_williams/t/lessons-life-journalism/#.XwG8VpNKjUI.
3 Jeff Boss, “How To Overcome The ‘Analysis Paralysis’ Of Decision-Making, Forbes, last modified March 20, 2015, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffboss/2015/03/20/how-to-overcome-the-analysis-paralysis-of-decision-making/#6b9822031be5.> Read More
“My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them, for they will refresh your soul. They are like jewels on a necklace.” —Proverbs 3:21–22 NLT
Indiana Jones is one of my all-time favorite cinematic heroes. In the climactic scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Indy and the Nazi collaborators, Elsa and Walter, find themselves in a cave after an arduous journey searching for the Holy Grail. Legend has it that the cup was used by Jesus during the Last Supper. The Grail is purported to have mystical powers granting eternal youth, happiness, and abundance. Whoever finds the highly sought-after relic will possess great power, and the Nazis wanted it for evil purposes.
The old and weary Knight guarding the Grail stands in front of a broad shelf displaying several vessels, all different shapes, and sizes, many of which are ornate. Any one of them could be the Holy Grail. The Knight proclaims, “Choose wisely. The true Grail will bring you life. The false one will take it from you.”
The villains go first. With glory in her eyes, Elsa chooses a lavish chalice and hands it to Walter. He admires the chalice and says, “It certainly is the cup of the King of Kings.” Walter fills it with water, toasts to eternal life, and takes a drink. Walter looks satisfied when suddenly he starts to shake and cough. Expecting to find eternal youth, he experiences quite the opposite. In horror, his age accelerates, and he disintegrates right before their eyes. Life was taken from him.
The Knight states, “He chose poorly.”
Next, Indy surveys the vessels, discerning which one to choose. He knows history and looks for a humble cup. “The cup of a carpenter,” he says. Indy reaches to the back of the shelf, past all of the lavish chalices, and chooses a simple goblet. To test the cup, he fills it with water and takes a drink. Nothing happens.
Indy turns to the Knight and hears, “You have chosen wisely.”
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Indy exercised discernment. He had good sense, a particularly keen way of seeing things that seemed hidden or obscure. But what exactly is discernment? Scottish Theologian Dr. Sinclair Ferguson sums up the attribute beautifully: “True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best. . . . It is the ability to make discriminating judgments, to distinguish between, and recognize the moral implications of, different situations and courses of action. It includes the ability to ‘weigh up’ and assess the moral and spiritual status of individuals, groups, and even movements.”
God-given discernment will help you go deep below the surface of an issue or problem to see the motives, causes, and agendas. Additionally, it will enable you to distinguish good from evil (2 Samuel 14:17) and to see through outward appearances (Proverbs 28:11). Discernment will also help you to be sensitive to potential trouble, be keenly aware of danger, and prevent unintended consequences.
Do you choose wisely? Consider these self-reflecting questions.
- How can you exercise discernment in your daily life?
- What’s blocking you from being more discerning?
- Would people say you have “good sense”?
- Why or why not?
When faced with a decision or problem, don’t be like the Nazi collaborators who lacked discernment and made the wrong choice. Be like Indiana Jones, exercise good sense, and “choose wisely.”
Do you want to learn more? Visit www.prestonpoore.com
 Sinclair Ferguson, “What Is Discernment?” Ligonier Ministries, last modified May 8, 2020, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/discernment-thinking-gods-thoughts/.> Read More
I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.
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