Character Traits of the Spiritual Life: Decisiveness and Determination


Character Traits of the Spiritual Life:

Decisiveness and Determination 

Richard Hollerman

Do you waver in your commitment to the Lord?  When you have a large question to settle in your life, are you able to choose what to do and then do it—or are you dubious in your decisions?  Decisive means “having the power to decide; conclusive,” and “characterized by decision and firmness; resolute.”[i][i]  Synonyms would include resolute, determined, positive, definite, absolute, and firm.  Antonyms would be indecisive, irresolute, wavering, fluctuating, and hesitant.[ii][ii]

Consider how people in the Scriptures manifested the quality of decisiveness and called on others to decide.  At the end of Moses’ life, he challenged Israel: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants” (Deuteronomy 30:19).  They needed to choose, they needed to decide on these life matters.  Toward the end of Joshua’s life, he said to Israel, “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).  Joshua didn’t hesitate to state firmly his resolve to serve the Lord God of Israel and he called on them to do the same. Do we have this resolution?  When Elijah met the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in Israel, he came near to the people and declared, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions?  If the LORD is God, follow Him; if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).

When Daniel was carried to Babylon as a slave, he was faced with a choice of whether to fit in to the King’s requirements or whether to choose God first.  The record says that “Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine which he drank” (Daniel 1:8).  “Made up his mind” (NET Bible) could be translated as “set upon his heart” (NASB margin), or “resolved” (ESV).  He decided that he would not defile himself and he followed through on this resolution.  “He predetermined that he would obey God, whatever the cost.”[iii][iii]  Are we willing to take a stand for God even when society compromises on their belief and lifestyle regarding the Lord?

When Paul gathered the elders of Ephesus together to review his three years of preaching, he manifested his resolve to continue with the Lord even if it would mean his death: “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). The apostle Paul told Timothy the reason for his suffering and persecution, but said, “I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).  Are we this decisive in our affirmation of faith and commitment?

It has been said that decisiveness is “choosing to do what is right based on accurate facts, wise counsel, and clearly defined goals.”[iv][iv]  How can we make good decisions?   First, we need to always put God and His kingdom first (Matthew 6:33).  This means that we must put him before friends, family, job, education, money, and possessions.  Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. . . . You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). Second, we need to have a thorough knowledge of the Word of God so that our decisions will be based on truth and not on personal taste and inclinations.  We must always ask, “What does the Scripture say?” (Romans 4:3).  Third, we need to seek wise counsel. Scripture says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Proverbs 12:15; cf. 11:14; 15:22; 19:20).  Finally, we need to keep clearly in view the destination we have in mind.  “Decisiveness is focusing on our destination, rather than focusing on distractions.”[v][v]  David Livingstone said, “I determined never to stop until I had come to the end and achieved my purpose.”[vi][vi]  If we have eternal life and the kingdom of God in focus, this will have much to do with the way we made decisions.

When you make a decision to do something or go somewhere or see a certain person, are you easily deterred?  When you make a commitment to eat more nutritious food for your health, do you follow through on your commitment, or are you indecisive even when you know what you should do?  When you determine to not waste money in the supermarket or the department store, do you have a hard time following through on your decision?  Or will you be undeterred in your earlier commitment?  When you decide to rise in the morning at a certain time, or decide to write a letter to someone, or follow through with your exercise program, or visit a difficult person, or do any other needed activity, do you follow through with this decision—or do you waver and hesitate and find reasons to avoid this earlier commitment?  Let’s decide to do what we know we should do and what we know will please the Lord—and  not waver in our resolve.

[i][i] The American Heritage College Dictionary.

[ii][ii] Family Word Finder (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, 1975), p. 206.

[iii][iii] The Power for True Success, p. 59.

[iv][iv] The Power for True Success, p. 59.

[v][v] Ibid., p. 61.

[vi][vi] Ibid.



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