President Reagan enjoyed telling the story of how he learned to make firm decisions.

When he was a boy, his aunt sent him to a cobbler to have a new pair of shoes made for him. When the shoemaker asked, “Do you want a square toe or a round one?” he hemmed and hawed, so the cobbler said, “Come back in a day or two and tell me what you want.” Later the cobbler saw Reagan on the street and asked what he had decided about the shoes. “I haven’t made up my mind yet,” he answered. “Very well,” the cobbler said, “your shoes will be ready tomorrow.” When Reagan got the shoes, one had a round toe and the other a square toe! Reagan said, “Looking at those shoes every day taught me a lesson. If you don’t make your own decisions, somebody else will make them for you.”

Most people, some more than others, have problems at times when making decisions. However, life is made up of a multitude of decisions – so we are constantly called upon to make decisions. Some of these decisions are not critical ones and are of minor importance, having little or no impact on our life’s journey, such as what to wear, what to have for supper. However, other decisions will affect our lives forever. What career will I pursue? Will I marry? If so, who will I marry? These decisions and more not only have a far-reaching effect on our life’s journey, but they will also often affect other people as well.


The dictionary defines it as ‘the art of deciding as of a question or a doubt.’ Now the question that analysts have studied is ‘How do people make decisions?’ This opens up the whole process of decision making. How do we choose between different possibilities or different courses of action? How do we make these decisions?


It seems there are two basic forms decision making.

Reasoning – This is where a person seeks to look at, study and analyze a situation, often looking at the pros and cons of the decision and what it will mean to all concerned. It leans upon our mental capacity to examine issues and make a decision in the light of the information we have at the time.

As one writer puts it, there are four steps to making a rational decision.

  • Identify the problem
  • Generate multiple possible solutions to the problem
  • Select the solution most likely to solve the problem
  • Implement the solution and evaluate its effectiveness

Intuition – Intuition is that feeling within you that you should make a particular decision even if it is not necessarily rational. However, as one writer puts it, ‘Although people talk about it as if it was a magical ‘sense,’ intuition is actually a combination of past experience and your personal values. . . . It is, however, not always based on reality, only your perceptions, many of them may have started in childhood and may not be very mature as a result.”

In practice, people probably use a bit of both reasoning and intuition, even though one may lean more heavily to one side or another.

Some further observations regarding decision making –
We shouldn’t seek to avoid decision making. Some people do that. How? By procrastinating and putting off making a decision (as in the story of President Reagan). Others try to push it off on to others to make the decisions for them. Then, too, there are others who simply ignore the issue that requires a decision, as if by ignoring it, they hope it will just go away.


Let us take this a bit further and examine decision making from a Christian perspective. Here there are some points to consider.

1. The promise of wisdom in decision making – James 1:5 declares, ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach and it will be given to you.’ In other words, if you need wisdom in making a decision, ask God for His wisdom. In actual fact, it is more than just asking for wisdom; it is submitting to His lordship and seeing His will and purpose in every aspect of one’s life. Remember too, that James declares, ‘a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.’ So, do what Proverbs 3:5 says, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.’

2. There are two different kinds of decisions that we are often faced with.

  • First, not knowing what we should do; maybe confusion. This is where we need God’s wisdom.
  • Second, we know what decision needs to be made, but we do not want to do it. This is where we need faith and courage.

3. We should not live in fear of making decisions. Like the person on the diving board at the swimming pool who wants to jump, but if fearful of doing so, a Christian should never live in fear, but rather act in faith. Take the step of faith, and even if you fail, it is not necessarily the end of the world. We can learn from our wrong decisions in ways that will benefit us and others in the future. Romans 8:28 fits in here.


Ian Jagelman, in his book ‘Identifying and Developing Christian Leaders,’ uses an interesting example of a pastor having difficulty in choosing between two candidates, Kevin and Sue, for the youth pastor in his church. He asked Ivan, a friend, who suggested they invite both candidates to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, with both himself and the pastor attending. Nothing much of significance seemed to happen, but on the way home his friend told the pastor his choice ‘Sue.’ The pastor asked, ‘Why?’ With a twinkle in his eye, Ivan said, ‘Kevin took too long to choose from the menu. He obviously struggles with decision making and will make a less effective leader.’ As it turned out, Ivan was right. Now, I am not suggesting you take people out to a Chinese restaurant when you need to choose a leader. However, what I am emphasizing is that being decisive in decision making is a necessary quality in a leader.


My own approach is to seek a combination of reasoning and intuition, or what I would call the witness of the Spirit, but as I wrote in a previous Langstaff Letter, the major decisions that Dorothy and I have made have come from God taking the initiative and revealing to us what He would have us do. Times when He had a decision for us.

I realize that there is no one right way to make decisions and there are a variety of ways that people approach this important matter. So, find the way that works for you. If you want to study this more them, simply google decision making, and you will find many resources that are available. Check out the Bible, too.


I would be amiss if I did not mention the most crucial decision of all. The decision regarding Jesus. The decision to receive the gift of salvation that Christ has made available to us when He died in our place on Calvary’s tree. Salvation doesn’t happen automatically. It has to be received in faith and involves committing our lives to Him as Savior and Lord. The President of the United States has the power to pardon people who have broken federal law, but the person concerned can decline the pardon. Same with the Lord. The gift can be rejected. The decision that Joshua challenged the people with years ago still stands today. ‘Choose you this day who you will serve.’