Key Scriptures: Joshua 23-24, Proverbs 19:21, Proverbs 3, Proverbs 13:16, John 14:15, Proverbs 12:15
Guiding Question: How can we consistently make good choices?
Optional Introductory Activity: Read to students a brief summary of an event – historical or recent when things happened because of a choice someone made. Ask students how the story might have changed had that person made a different choice.
Explain there is an entire genre of literature where history is rewritten based on the assumption that someone made a difference choice than they actually had in real life. The writer then imagines all of the possible ripple effects of changing that choice. Allow students to provide a couple of other examples of the possible ripple effect from changed historical decisions.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) Choices have consequences. Sometimes the consequences are so minor, we barely notice them. Other times, the choice can create major changes in our life and the lives of the people we know and love.
Joshua had to make a lot of choices over the span of his life. What are some of the choices he made that impacted himself and others? You may want to remind students of Joshua as one of the two spies who believed they should enter the Promised Land. Or Joshua’s choice to accept God’s call to lead the people after the death of Moses.
Read Joshua chapters 23 and 24. Joshua knew he was nearing the end of his life. He would no longer be there to guide the Israelites in the many choices they would have to make. He knew these choices could keep them close to God or move them farther away. What are some of the things Joseph said to encourage the people to make wise, godly choices?
Even though God always knows the best choices for us to make in life, He has given us free will. Read Joshua 24:15 again. Even Joshua acknowledges the Israelites have a choice to make. They can serve idols as their gods or they can serve the one true God. Joshua hopes his example will influence them to make the right choice, but he knows some may choose to worship idols in spite of everything.
Every day, we have choices to make. What are some of the choices you make every day? Which of these do you think could have some sort of positive or negative consequence depending upon your ultimate choice? Which choices could bring you closer to God or drive you farther away from Him? What is the key to make consistently wise, godly choices?
Read Proverbs 19:21 and Proverbs 3. What do these passages tell us is the secret to making consistently wise, godly choices? It sounds easy, but it must not be quite as easy as it sounds. What are some of the reasons we make poor choices?
You may have heard an adult tell you that young people have a part of their brain that isn’t finished developing yet. It’s called the prefrontal cortex. It is the part of the brain that helps you make good decisions, by helping you organize information, consider it carefully and then make a decision. It’s the part of the brain that can keep you from just immediately reacting to a situation – which can lead to making very poor choices.
What they don’t tell you is that your prefrontal cortex could be more developed if you knew the steps for making better decisions and practiced them regularly. Then when you have a choice to make, it would be easier for you to make a good choice.
So what are the steps for making a wise, godly decision?
- Slow down. Proverbs 13:16. You don’t have to speak or act immediately when you have a choice to make. Most of the time you have – or can ask for – more time to make a decision. As you become better at making godly choices, you won’t need as much time. Proverbs is right. If you think before you speak or act, you are much more likely to make a wise choice.
- Decide what the problem is that you are trying to solve. Choices exist because we have a problem to solve. Granted, it’s not always a bad problem, but it’s still a dilemma of some sort that creates choices. Clarifying the exact nature of the dilemma may help you better understand your possible choices.
- List all of your possible choices. This is where a lot of people make a mistake by only thinking there are two choices. In almost every case, there are actually lots of choices. Often the best choice isn’t one of the first two things that come to your mind. Making a list of all of them will help you in the next steps.
- Cross out any choices that would make God unhappy. John 14:15. This is when it helps to have studied your Bible a lot. Let’s say one of the choices on your list is to tell a lie. If you have read the Bible regularly, you will quickly know this choice needs to be crossed off of your list as God has said lying is a sin. If you aren’t sure, google to find Bible verses on the topic or ask an older Christian if they know of any verses that may apply.
- Think through the choices that are left carefully. Proverbs 12:15.Just because the choices you have left aren’t sins, doesn’t mean some of them still aren’t the best choice. For example, deciding to wear shorts outside when it is 0* isn’t a sin, but it definitely isn’t wise either! If you aren’t sure, ask your parents or another Christian adult with more life experience for their advice.
- Consider the natural outcome of any choices that remain. Sometimes the first thing that happens after a choice isn’t too bad. It can be the later ripple effect that causes us trouble down the road. Let’s say you decide to skip studying for a test one night. If it’s a while until the test, there may not be negative consequences. But what if you also know if you skip studying one night, you tend to never study for that test? Then what seemed like an okay choice has a negative ripple effect over time. Keep asking yourself, “What could happen next?” until you feel confident this is a good choice.
- Reflect on the consequences of the choices you make. Does a choice you make have negative consequences? Why? Did you skip a step? Did you miss something? Did you ignore God or godly advice? Figuring out where you made your mistake can help you avoid future mistakes when faced with a choice.
Choices are a part of life. The more you practice these steps, the more you turn to God and godly adults for advice, the more likely you are to make wise, godly choices. And those wise, godly choices can make life a lot easier.
Skills Activity: Review the main points of the lesson. Have written down on separate sheets of paper a few common decisions teens have to make. Try and cover a wide variety of topics. Make a few of them complex choices. If your students struggle with making good choices, write down the situations that tend to cause them trouble. You may even want to have students create their own decision questions to add to the pile.
Have students take turns drawing a situation out of the stack. Depending upon your students, you can make this more of a game or work on it together as a class. Even if the choice seems obvious and simple – walk them through the steps from the lesson. Give them time to come up with several alternatives – even if one or two are a little silly. It’s okay to have fun with the process a bit as long as they are learning how to do it.
If they seem to struggle in a particular part of the process, focus on talking through it more carefully. Give them additional practice on just that particular step. For example, if they can only think of two choices, give them scenarios. The only thing they need to do is to come up with as many alternatives as possible for that scenario. Practice until they can easily think of several ideas for almost any choice.
If they struggle with knowing whether or not a particular choice would make God unhappy, take the time to teach them how to find applicable Bible verses on any topic. This is a separate Christian Life Skill, but a crucial one. Without the ability to find the scriptures they need, they will consistently struggle with making godly choices. It’s worth the extra time to make sure they are all comfortable with finding the help they need in scripture.
Application Challenge: Read a story in the Bible when someone had a choice. How might the story have changed if they had made a different choice? Review the steps you learned in class for making good choices. Try to use them multiple times over the next few days until they become a habit.