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What should you do when God's Word doesn't give you a clear answer on a choice you have to make? Blake Holmes discusses how to utilize the wisdom and principles in God's word that can help us make wise choices in the gray areas of life.
Should I? - Part 2
Should I? - Part 1
When you think about it, if you could write a letter back to yourself at 17, what would you say? I know a lot of things I would tell myself and a lot of things I would do differently. If I could just take this letter and send it back to me at 17, to insecure little Blake, a junior in high school, I'd say,
"Blake, that girl you are worried about impressing? Save your time. You're going to marry really well, so don't waste your time chasing her. That coach whose attention you so desperately need and so desperately want and that letter jacket you so desperately want? When you get to college, nobody cares! That letter jacket is sitting in your closet collecting dust, and no one will ever see it again."
In fact, if you're in your 20s still talking about how great you were in high school, that's a problem! I may have offended a few of you just then. I didn't mean to. Always worry about the guy who peaked in high school. You think about it. If we could go back and write a letter to ourselves at 17, how many things would we do differently?
The relationships we maybe still would have and the time commitments we made and the people whose opinions we cared about and the regret and all of the things we pursued that we look back on now and just go, "Oh, no! Why did I do that?" We desperately try to tell our kids, "Listen to me," but unfortunately, they look at us like, "Dad, what do you know?"
Then, they learn, and they would write a letter back to themselves at 17, but it's not just 17. How about college? Would you write a letter to yourself back in college and save yourself a tremendous amount of pain? What about in your early 20s starting out in that new job or that new career with all that worry and all that angst and all of those things you were chasing?
What about when you first got married? Oh, man! The heartache you could save yourself if you could just tap the brakes and write the letter and go back to yourself. When your first kid was born and the first time you blew it with one of your children, you go, "What a terrible parenting mistake!"
Life doesn't allow us to work backward. We have to work forward. God doesn't intend for us to make those mistakes. He wants to help us. He has written a letter to us, in fact, and it's called the Bible. God has been very specific through his Word. Do you want to know what God's will is? God's will is found in God's Word.
Some of those desires of God are very explicit, and we understand them. We know them. They're easy to understand but sometimes hard to follow, but we don't wrestle with, "Should I lie?" We know God's will for us in that. That's an easy one. We don't wrestle with, "Should I steal? Should I be deceitful?" Those aren't hard. No, you should not lie. You should not be deceitful. You should not steal.
"Should I be forgiving?" Of course. Yes. Forgive, because God in Christ has forgiven you. If you understand what God has done for you, then you in turn should forgive those who have hurt you. We know Scripture is clear on those things, but where it's a little tougher sometimes are those places in life where we encounter big decisions where God's Word is not as explicit, and that's where it gets tougher.
"Should we enroll our kids in this school or that school?" It's a wisdom issue. It's not a black and white. It's not a right or wrong sometimes. It's a wisdom issue, and it gets a little tougher. "Where should I spend my time? Where should I volunteer? Should I volunteer here in the church for X amount of hours or should I volunteer at my kids' school or in this hospital? How should I spend my time? Should I buy this home? Should I lease? Should I sell this car?"
These are wisdom issues that are sometimes tough for us to answer, but I don't think God wants us to struggle. I don't think God wants it to be unclear, so he has given us wisdom principles in his Word, and we're looking at the book of Proverbs. This is the second week in a two-week series I've entitled Should I?
I hope when you walked in today and you got a Watermark News, you got a little card like this. The first week we answered the first five questions. This is a grid, if you will, or a tool that when you come across the crossroads of making decisions in life and when God's Word is not explicit, based on the Proverbs you could ask yourself these 10 questions.
What I've simply done is collected proverbs where Solomon in writing to his son has said, "Son, it will go well for you if you consider this. There are times in the gray areas of life, Son, that you need to consider these things." I've collected these Proverbs and have written 10 questions.
The first week we looked at the first five questions: What biblical principles should inform my decision? _Do I have all of the facts?__ Is the pressure of time forcing me to make a premature decision? What possible motives are driving my decision? And…How should past experiences inform my decision?
Incidentally, I just have to push pause. For those of you here last week, I received emails and questions, so I feel like I have to go back and set the record straight quickly. You know what I'm going to discuss here. About that whole deck… Todd and JP talked to me. They had no defense, but that's beside the point. What I want to say to you is, "Thank you for your emails. I saved all of the steaks."
They were great! When the deck was on fire, I thought to move the grill, like this. No kidding! I took the five seconds to save dinner. It made for a good story, and we ate well. I just wanted to clarify that. Thank you for your emails. I did get those emails. That was really funny. "What happened to the steaks?" They were saved. Now, tune back in.
What I want to do today is look at the next five questions. What are the other five questions we should ask ourselves? I want to share these proverbs with you. Then, I want to give you a few very practical applications with each one. We're using this billiards theme, because when you play billiards, notice, first service, I already had it broken this first time since I scratched in front of 5,000 people last time. When you're playing billiards, the way you play this game is sometimes, gang, there are multiple options for every decision we're trying to make here.
There is not necessarily just one option. God's will, as I made the point last week, sometimes is more like a circle than it is a dot. If I'm playing stripes here, my best move would be to turn and hit the ball into this pocket. That's the safest play I have here. Sure, I could go over here and try to hit one of those balls. It is an option for me. There are stripes. It is possible, but the safest and wisest move would be to hit in this corner pocket.
Given the number of choices we have when we look at these other five questions, I want you to think about what you're wrestling with today. Use these 10 questions. Considering all that is on the board and my options before me, what would wisdom have me do? Are you ready? The first question you should ask yourself is…
I just sit there and go, "Proverbs 18:1, says, 'He who separates himself…' He who lives in isolation and he who is not in community quarrels against all sound wisdom." Why would you not avail yourself to a God who so clearly says in his Word about the benefit of living in community?"
I'm not talking about just being in a small group. That's different, checking a box, being in a small group. I'm talking about living in community where you're living life with other people where they can affirm or, rather, challenge what you say is the condition of your heart. We need sometimes the collective counsel of our community so we don't quarrel against all sound wisdom and we're not in isolation way out here.
Proverbs 18:2, the very next verse, says, "A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind." Have you ever run into somebody like that? They really don't care what you think. They don't want your feedback. They don't want your help. They're just going to tell you what's on their mind. It says,"A fool does not delight in understanding…"
Gang, unfortunately, this is how many of us make decisions and, unfortunately, I'm speaking from experience. There are times in my life when I know what I want to do. I already know what I want to do, so you know what I then set off to do? I go out and look for confirmation from other people of what I've already decided. Let me make that really clear. I don't really look for people's counsel. What I'm looking for is their confirmation of what I've already decided, and that's a dangerous place to be.
Let's say I'm making a spending decision. Let's say I want to buy something nice for my wife, for instance, or I want to go on a nice trip, or there is a new bike I want to buy. Whatever it is, what I can sometimes do if I'm not wise and I'm just focused on what I want, is I can present a case to certain individuals, and I can share just enough such that I can seek their confirmation. I'm really not looking for their counsel.
Do you see the difference? Then, I can feel good about myself, because I can say, "Well, he thinks I should do this, she thinks I should do this, and he thinks I should do that." Now, I'm having many separate conversations, and I'm avoiding the collective counsel of community. When I do run across those who disagree with me or aren't telling me what I really want to hear, I'll think of a reason as to why I should disqualify them.
"Well, he doesn't understand. She doesn't even like bikes. He doesn't like to vacation. She…" Really, all along what I'm doing is I can check the box that I sought counsel, but that's not really what I was doing. I was seeking confirmation. Scripture is clear here. "Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory."
There is much wisdom in gathering in a room with other folks at the same time saying, "Gang, let me share this idea with you. I know when left to myself I can try to start selling to you, and I don't want to do that. I know what I want to do, so what I need is all of you in the room so I can't manipulate the decision, and I need your feedback. I need your help so I can make a wise choice here."
There was a rather large financial decision my wife and I recently had to make, and let me tell you the blessing of putting those folks who I know, love, and trust in the room with me who I know always have my back. I know they are in the trenches with me. They celebrate the successes in my life, and they mourn with me during the sorrowful times in my life.
These people are for me, and to sit down with them and go, "Gang, this is what Rebecca and I are thinking about doing, but I need your help, so help me look at this," and let me tell you something. To have those who I know, love, and trust stand there with me and look at the same information…
I can't hide anything. They know where I'm spending things. They know what I'm making. They know what I owe. They know the whole bit and they are able to look at the whole financial picture and go, "That is a great idea." There is great freedom with that. There is great wisdom with that. Do you see? It takes everybody getting in the room together to help make a decision like that. When you're making a decision or you're counseling others, there are a few things I would tell you to do.
A. Avoid having many separate conversations. Don't do that. Don't go to him. Don't go to her. Don't go to this person over here. Avoid having all of those separate conversations. Get everybody who is either part of the problem or part of the solution in the room at the same time so you can't manipulate the situation.
B. Recognize the difference between selling and sharing. There is a big difference when I am facing a decision. I know what I want to do, and I can get into the selling mode. All of a sudden, I'm selling to my friends. "Don't you like this idea? Come on board. Join me! Don't listen to my wife over there. I don't want to do what she wants to do. Listen to me." I'm selling.
What I need to do is say, "Rebecca and I don't see eye to eye on this. I need your help, so let me share with you the best I can all of the facts. Let her share. Help us make a wise decision that honors both of us and honors God in the process." Know the difference between selling and sharing.
C. Know when to open the circle. This is one thing I love about being in this church. I know when there are Community Groups and when there are folks who are together, there are times when a group will go, "I'm not sure we're making progress," and every group here (all of those who are members and join with us in locking arms here) have the permission to raise their hand and go, "We need help."
I've seen it happen dozens and dozens and dozens of times here. We open the circle and invite more people in to help make a wise decision, and it saves folks from so much pain. The first question is…What is the collective counsel of my community? You don't want to live on an island making decisions all by yourself. In an abundance of counselors there is victory.
2 . _Have I honestly considered the warning signs? _ Proverbs 10:17, says, "He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, But he who ignores reproof goes astray." In Proverbs 16:25,"There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." This seems like the right decision. Be careful! Be careful when you're just so confident this seems like the right decision. It seems right to you, but in the end it can lead to death.
Proverbs 27:6… I love this one. "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." What does that mean? Faithful are the wounds of a friend? That means a real friend isn't always going to tell you what you want to hear. With a real friend it is sometimes going to feel like, in fact, they are wounding you, but they love you enough to tell you the truth. They love you enough to say, "That is not a wise play. You have better options."
God gives us those friends to warn us of foolish choices. Then, we have the choice to either, in our pride, go, "I don't even need your counsel, so why do I need to listen to you?" or in humility, go, "That really is hard for you to say and good for me to hear, and I appreciate that. I need to consider your counsel."
Gang, let's be honest about warning signs. The problem with warning signs is everything has a warning sign. Everything! Mattresses have warning signs. I bet that pool table has a warning sign. "Don't run with this stick." Everything has a warning sign, so they're easy to ignore, and we assume, do we not, that warning signs are for everyone else but not for us.
I was recently jogging early one morning, and I was running through an area where it said, "Road closed except for through traffic." Well, let me just tell you something. A lot of people must live on that street, because when I was running down that block, I bet a dozen cars assumed, "I'm through traffic. I get to go down this road." The warning sign just did not apply to all of those drivers, and that's the way we see warning signs. "Yeah, yeah, yeah…" and we move on.
A terribly sad example of this is every year growing up I'd go to South Carolina with my family. When we'd go to the beach, there was this sign on the beach. We have a picture of it. I actually found it on the Internet. This is how it reads. "Warning! No lifeguard on duty. Swim at your own risk. Strong currents, deep holes, and drop-offs near sandbars."
What you don't see, which I couldn't find, is a billboard behind this one with literally a picture of the Grim Reaper, this image that is this horrific picture, and it says, "Dangerous riptides. Do not swim. No lifeguard on duty. Swim at your own risk." Gang, I kid you not. Every summer when we would go in this one particular area, you'd read the newspaper in the morning and someone just assumed, "That sign must be for somebody else. I'm a good swimmer."
Every summer we would read about somebody who made that terrible choice and didn't heed the warning, and it cost them their lives, and it couldn't be any clearer. Gang, there is something underneath the surface here. "I know it looks shallow. I know it looks safe. I know you're a great swimmer. You were first in your high-school swim team, but this is a dangerous area. There are rip tides, and it will kill you." But people continue to swim. Gang, I think God in his kindness gives us many warning signs.
A. Be mindful of the warning signs. What are warning signs God gives us? He gives us his Spirit who lives in our hearts who convicts us. It's that little sense in us that is like, "I'm not so sure this is the wisest thing to do." He gives us his Word. He gives us the counsel of others. God tries to warn us. "This is not a wise choice. Don't swim here. Others who have swum here have gotten into trouble."
B. Don't think you're the exception to the rule. No matter how great a swimmer you are, we just need to be sober-minded and humble enough to go, "This may be in God's Word for a reason. These friends right here may be actually sharing this with me because they love me and they're warning me. I don't need to swim here." How many times have we continued to push through and make decisions we later regret because we failed to heed the warning?
C. Remember that God's way is always the best way. This is a little mantra through my house. I tell my kids this all of the time. "God's way is the best way. God's way is the best way." If there's a warning sign right there or a prohibition, it's because he loves you, and he wants what is best for you.
Yet, gang, I remember the heartache of one of my very good friends whose sister was just intent on getting married. She was just certain this gentleman who was pursuing her was the one. Despite the fact that her brother, her close friends, and those in her community all sat her down and said, "We have real concerns," do you know what she thought?
She thought she was the exception. She thought, "You just don't know him. You're just trying to keep something away from me. You don't have my best interest in mind." I remember watching my friend literally weep, and instead of on the day when everybody gathered for the wedding there would be real excitement and joy, there was a sense of, "I'm not so sure this was a good decision."
Gang, no kidding. It was within several weeks that she was coming home crying, going, "I made a terrible choice," and she was married. I'll never forget that. I'll never forget the pain of my friend. I'll never forget the pain of the mom and the dad and the poor girl. I just sat there and went, "God sent so many warning signs," but we sometimes think we're the exception and we don't need the counsel of others. "There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." Be careful. Be careful. We've all made that mistake.
3 . Have I considered the possible outcomes for my course of action? Some of these things seem so basic, don't they? It almost feels silly sharing them. I wish I had not stubbed my toe on every single one of them. I could give you examples, but I have. It's not complicated, but it is often hard.
Do you see the difference? It's not complicated, but sometimes it's really hard to do. Sometimes we just don't consider the possible outcomes for our course of action. Proverbs 14:1… I love this verse. "The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands ."Have you ever read that proverb before? Isn't that strange?
"The wise woman builds her house…" We all say, "Amen! The wise woman builds her house," but no one reads themselves into the latter part of that verse. "…but the foolish tears it down with her own hands." I get it. In life, there are some things that are going to happen to you that are outside of your control, but it seems to suggest right here that sometimes we bring so much pain and suffering into our own lives, and it's no one else's fault but our own.
The foolish woman tears her own house down with her hands, not intentionally but because she foolishly doesn't consider the possible outcomes of what could happen. If I take this shot, it's safe. If I'm haphazard and I go shoot over here or over here, I'm going to scratch. It's not wise. I'm just not considering and I'm not connecting the dots. If you hit this ball, it's going to hit that ball which is going to hit that ball which is going to lead to a disadvantage.
Proverbs 14:15: "The naive believes everything, But the [prudent] man considers his steps." The prudent man connects the dots. Proverbs 27:12: "A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, The naive proceed and pay the penalty." Do you see how Proverbs just screams to us over and over and over again, "This is wisdom, and this is foolishness"? "This is wisdom. Take heed. This is foolishness."
It's tempting to focus on what is immediate and fail to consider the long-term consequences. It's easy to do that. We just focus on what is right before us. We focus on this ball right here, because we want to hit that one, but we don't understand the chain reaction or the domino effect, if you will, of what that means and what the consequences are to that choice.
How will this decision affect other people? What's the long-term financial impact if I make this choice? What will this commitment cost me in terms of time and energy? Have you ever felt, "I'm just overcommitted"? You look back and go, "Why did I ever do that?" It's because we didn't do the long math, and we didn't consider how that decision and that commitment would cost us.
I was thinking about this point here, and for all of the Millennials who are out here (that generation), this is where you need to wake up. You need to take notes. The examples of the Millennial generation out there are so numerous of the poor choices made with social media. They are abundant. I want to show you a tweet that was sent out that got a lot of play nationwide.
Read this tweet right here. "Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work." If you're not understanding the foolishness of that tweet, this series is for you. This particular individual is offered a job and then, in all of his infinite wisdom, thinks, "Why don't I tell the world how much I hate the work?"
This got a lot of play, of course, and kind of was an example of what not to do and how not to use social media, because Cisco then called this individual and said, "You no longer have that job offer." True story! Had this person had just stopped and thought for a second, "Hold on! Let me think about his. What are the possible outcomes here? If I send this tweet, what could possibly happen?" Maybe your potential employer is going to read it.
You've heard the stories about folks who post things on Facebook and they don't even get an interview. Do you realize Facebook is public? Yes! What you tweet people can read, and employers look at it. You have to do the long math. Not just your friends see it. When you're making a decision or counseling others…
A. Do the long math. As my friend Gary Stroope says, "Do the long math." I can't tell you how many times I've been in a meeting with Gary and something happens. There's a decision that is made that hasn't been made well and it hasn't been a wise decision. He just goes, "They just failed to do the long math." That's exactly right. We didn't think things through. We focused on the immediate and not the potential consequences.
B. Assess the potential risks.
C. Have a contingency plan. What are you going to do if you make this decision and things don't go as planned? What are you going to do?
Do the long math, have a contingency plan, and assess the potential risks. My son and his friend several months ago… It pains me to tell this story. If I touch my teeth a lot, there is a reason for it. They decided to lower the basketball goal like to here. When you want to be cool and show off for your friends in the backyard and slam the basketball goal, there is a risk that comes with that. You have to consider the possible outcomes of what could happen.
It just so happened I was driving down the street. I had only been gone for like a minute. The phone rings. "Dad! Dad! My friend just lost his two teeth!"
"My friend lost his two teeth!" I'm thinking that kids exaggerate. "No. He didn't lose his two teeth. Did he chip his tooth? What happened?"
"No! I have his teeth in my hand!"
That's fact. Did you know that your teeth aren't just what you see? They go way up there! Apparently, when he was Phi Slama Jama'ing the ball, his front two teeth got wrapped in the net. Oh, yeah! I told you. You're touching your teeth now, aren't you? It worked like a vice. When he came down… Yes, sir! It hurts every time I tell that story.
Long story short… I show up, and no kidding, my son has picked up his two teeth and wrapped them in a napkin. I was like, "Who are you?" He wrapped them in a napkin and called me. His friend… The blood and the screaming were so bad. I called two friends of mine who are both dentists and an MD friend of mine, and they say to me (this is another illustration for another time), "Put his teeth back in his mouth."
Should I put his teeth back in his mouth? Let me tell you something. I could not do it. I couldn't do it. I could not physically do it. I couldn't do it. My friend who is an MD was at my house so fast. He grabs those two teeth and says, "This may hurt a little bit." Boom! Boom! In just like that! "Ah!" My friend who is a dentist goes, "How long have they been out?" I said, "Ten minutes." He says, "You have 10 minutes to get him to my office, and we'll save his teeth. If you're later than that, they're gone."
"Ah! Ah!" If I cut you off on Northwest Highway, let me tell you something. I was going fast! It's good to know people because they actually saved his teeth. Ugh! It still hurts me to say that. Why did I share that story? You have to consider the possible outcomes! When I told my friend what happened, he goes, "Oh, yeah!" I go, "What do you mean by, 'Oh, yeah'? You said that with familiarity there."
He goes, "Oh, yeah! I do dental conferences. I have actually trained other dentists on what to do, because with the trampolines that have the basketball goals, it happens all of the time." Ugh. Let's move on to another story. Ugh. It really makes me more queasy to tell that story than the nervousness of standing up here and speaking in front of 5,000 people. The next point or whatever we're on in this list.
4 . Could this decision jeopardize my integrity or hinder my witness for the Lord? This is a great question to ask yourself. What would wisdom have me do? I have to ask the question, "Could it potentially jeopardize my integrity? Could it hinder my witness for the Lord? Could it be misunderstood?"
Proverbs 25:26 says, "Like a trampled spring and a polluted well Is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked."Ugh! That one hurts, doesn't it? You know what happens when you have a trampled spring or a polluted well. You can't get that back. You can't un-ring that bell. When the water source has been contaminated, it's over! No one is going to want to drink from it, and when the righteous man gives way before the wicked his integrity is lost. It's hard to un-ring that bell.
Proverb 10:9: "He who walks in integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will be found out." Proverbs 20, verse 7, says,"A righteous man who walks in his integrity—How blessed are his sons after him." Proverbs 22, verse 1: "A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold."
We talk about this a lot in my home. "Son or daughter, you need to realize something. You have been given a trust that not just came from me but came from my parents which came from their parents, and you don't just represent you. You represent this family, and when you make that choice, do you know what then happens? Other people go, 'Do you know who that is? That's So-and-so's boy,' and the same is true for me. When you're making choices, if they're foolish choices, you borrow on that good name."
You have to ask yourself, "Can this hinder my witness? Can this potentially jeopardize my integrity?" Tragically, sitting there you don't have to look far to see examples for this. I just name names to you, and you just tell me the first thing that comes to your mind. Think about it. What's the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Lance Armstrong? What's the first thing that comes to your mind when I say Ryan Braun, Pete Rose, Bernie Madoff, or Kenneth Lay?
I can go on and on and on. I say one of those names to you, and you're like, "Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That guy. Yeah." It's a trampled spring. It's a polluted well. The integrity has been compromised. When you're making a decision or counseling others, here is my advice to you.
A. Work toward the center rather than flirt with the edge. You may go, "What?" Work toward the center rather than flirt with the edge. This is what we often do. We go, "How far is too far?" We work toward the edge. "How much is too much?" We work toward the edge. Those are questions I'm asked all of the time.
"How safely can I play closest to the edge of this stage?" Instead, just go, "Why are you even getting toward the edge? Work toward the center." I'm back here. There is zero chance I'm going to fall off that stage. I might trip over this cord, but I'm good! In issues of integrity, gang, why do we always seem to work toward the edge? Work toward the center. We're asking the wrong question.
B. Ask yourself, "Will this pass the newspaper test?" What do I mean by that? Well, I've been entrusted with a budget at Watermark that I can spend, and before I pay a dollar… Literally, every time I draw from that budget, I ask myself, "If this were put in the newspaper or if this transaction were put up on the screen on Sunday morning, would I go, 'Ugh,' or would I go, 'Yep, I thought it was a good choice'?"
If there is any sense in me that is going, "That doesn't pass the newspaper test," that's a problem. Wisdom would have me say to ask myself, "Would this pass the newspaper test?" I want to sit there and be able to look my friends in the eyes and look at you in the eyes. When I'm spending the money God has entrusted to this local body of believers who have faithfully given, I don't want to have the surprised look. I want to be able to say, "Here are my expenses. This is a wise choice. This is why we did that." We need to ask ourselves, "Would this pass the newspaper test?"
C. Keep short accounts. We're not always going to get it right. Sometimes we're going to get near the edge, and we're going to make a foolish choice. Again, this isn't always the black and white things we're talking about here. I'm talking about in the gray areas. We look back and go, "Oh, man! That was an unwise choice." Keep short accounts.
When you blow it, it is okay to say, "I blew it." Own your part. Don't hide it. Don't cover it up. Just say, "Will you forgive me? That was not a wise choice on my part." Paul in Acts 24:16, says, "So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." That's a great verse to memorize." So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." That's Acts 24:16. In Romans 13:14, he says, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires."Make no provision.
5 . Is there a better option that would allow me to make a greater impact for God's kingdom? This is a really important question. Is there a better option that would allow me to make a greater impact for God's kingdom? Proverbs 11:30 says, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives."Do you see that? He who is wise wins souls. He who lives in wisdom and practices these wisdom principles is somebody who wins others. He is influential.
Gang, let me just say something. Whenever we are wrestling with the will of God and we're trying to figure out what God would have me do and what wisdom would have me do, we sometimes wrongly assume what is comfortable is God's will for us. We'll take the path of least resistance.
We have a hard decision to make. We'll go, "It must be God's will for me to go this way, because it's just easier." Tap the brakes on that. Slow down a little bit and ask yourself, "Is there a better option that may not be the easier option but a better option because it would allow me to make a greater impact for God's kingdom?"
You see, we tend to value the things that make us comfortable, popular, and more money. God is not always calling you to another job just because it pays more money, so you have to ask yourself, "Is there something God may be doing here that I need to be attentive to? Is there a way in which he may want to use me?"
A. Ask yourself, "What story could God be writing?" I'm here in this particular situation. I have this decision to make. I have to ask myself not what the easiest option is, but I have to ask myself, "Is there a better option that would allow me to further God's kingdom and to be more greatly used by him? What story could God be writing with this decision I have to make? What if I were to take the road less traveled, if you will? What could God be doing with that decision?"
B. Don't assume just because something is hard that it is not God's will. It may very well be God's will for you to wrestle and be challenged and struggle through.
C. Understand how God has uniquely gifted and resourced you. You've come to that crossroads where you have to make a hard decision (a wisdom decision) and you've gone through questions one through nine and you get to the tenth, you go, "What would I do differently if God were to show up? Am I allowing my fears to hinder me or my lack of faith to hinder me? Am I just taking the path of least resistance, or is there something here God could be doing?"
I think oftentimes we'll look for those things that are just easier. Then, we draw a circle around that and go, "That must be God's will." There is a quote I've read many times here on Sunday and I've read to myself many times. In closing, I just want to read it to you. I think it's so good. I remind myself of this often.
In his book, Don't Waste Your Life, John Piper says, "I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader's Digest, which tells about a couple who 'took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball, and collect shells.'
At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke, a spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn't. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells. Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: 'Look, Lord. See my shells.' That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don't buy it. Don't waste your life."
Gang, my point in telling you that and reading it again is that sometimes we get to that crossroads and we have to make a decision, and we'll go, "It sure would be nice to collect shells. I'm just going to go do that." Now, I can't chapter and verse, "Don't collect seashells." In and of itself, have a seashell collection, but when you make it your aim, your ease, or your comfort, you take yourself out of what God may intend for you to do.
Ask yourself, "How has God uniquely gifted and resourced me for this particular time to where I can further his kingdom?" Don't just assume it's about seashells. Again, there's nothing wrong with seashells. Don't send me an email. However, when you make it your goal (what is the path of least resistance) rather than saying, "God, how can I further your kingdom? What would wisdom have me to do?" you're traveling down the wrong path. Let's pray.
Father in heaven, I have undoubtedly made many foolish choices, and I could write a lot of letters to me, but you don't intend for us to live life in reverse. Lord, you intend for us to come across each decision, and with wisdom and in the plurality and collection of community and by the power of your Spirit, you desire for us to make wise choices that are going to win souls.
You want us to be about your kingdom business. You want to keep us from those things that are going to hurt us. You warn us. You give us community and your Word, so would you help us today to be honest with ourselves and consider the possible outcomes for the choices we're making and how our choices are affecting other people? Father, we consider how our choices are hindering our integrity and are jeopardizing our witness for you.
Lord, to make things right with you and to confess what we need to confess and own what we need to own and rely and depend on you, we thank you for your Word. We thank you for your grace when we blow it. In Christ's name, amen.
Gang, the truth is we all need him. We all need him. We've all made decisions. It's painful, isn't it, those decisions we regret, but what you need to know is there is a God in heaven who loves you, and there is nothing you could do to make him love you more, and there is nothing you could do to make him love you less. If you're at that point where you're going, "I have been a fool," well, join the crowd. Right?
We would love nothing more than to help you recognize how you can have a relationship with this God who forgives, who restores, and who redeems foolish decisions. Take that little tear-off and give it to us. Go to the Welcome Center. Come down here. Let us pray for you. Let us love you and connect you with other people who can help you. Amen? Y'all have a great week of worship.