Sunday, July 10, 2016

Choices, Choices, Choices...

Have you ever met someone who was super indecisive?  Every single decision they made was overwhelming for them.  I mean I, myself, struggle with the big decisions, but when it comes to simple things like where to eat or what kind of ice cream flavor I want… it’s really no big deal!

Making decisions can be hard at times.  I get it!  There’s really no special training when it comes to decision making in life.  We learn as we go on the spot from our own bad choices or from those of others.  It’s a live and learn kind of process. 

When I was little, I remember learning quickly that touching a hot pan on the stove top hurts a lot and guess what?  I didn’t do it again after that.  Well… not intentionally.   I also learned that walking barefoot through a bunch of dandelions in the yard could open up the possibility of me stepping on a bee… which hurts too.  Hmmm… it seems like a lot of my life lessons have been gleaned from moments of pain.  Interesting?
The decisions we make on a daily basis really do matter!  As a matter of fact, sometimes our bad choices (if we aren’t careful) can turn in to life-long consequences that we have to live with forever! 

 The decisions we make today can affect our future tomorrow!

As believers, we should live differently when it comes to decision making.  We should want God to be smack dab in the center of our lives… at the core of who we are and everything we do.  That includes asking Him to help guide us to make “right” decisions.

Many times we rush ahead making decisions about things on the spot never even considering what God might think about it all!  Friend, I don’t know if you realize it or not, but God wants to be involved in our decision making process. 

I know, for many it seems a little crazy to ask God’s opinion about our decisions.  I mean how can we really know what He is thinking?  How can we hear His voice or even expect to know His will for our lives?  Is there a “Learning to hear God’s voice” book for dummies anywhere I can buy? 

I hear you friend.  I’ve been there too, but believe it or not God really can actually speak to us personally.  He’s done it for me time and time again.  Rarely is it ever in an audible voice, but there are lots of other ways God can speak to us and help direct our steps in the right direction. 

The first thing we need to do if we really want God’s help in making better decisions is we need to get to know Him better.   We need to recognize His voice above others.  I can say confidently after twenty three years of marriage that I can recognize my husband’s voice in a crowded room.  It is a unique sound to me.  We have talked often and I have listened intently to Him…. So I am familiar his voice.  (It helps that he is really loud and outgoing making his voice all the more undeniable!)

Connecting with God and growing a stronger relationship with Him takes time and effort.  If you aren’t spending time with Him, I will guarantee you that you won’t hear His voice or sense His leading when it comes to the choices you make.  “Come close to God, and God will come close to you...”  (James 4:8)

As we draw closer to Him by reading His word (The Bible), praying (talking to Him like we would a friend), and going to church (surrounding ourselves with others who love God), we will begin to discern His nudges, sense His promptings, and follow His leading in making right choices.

God speaks in many ways.  Here are a few He has used with me….

The Bible:  God uses His word to speak truth to our hearts for our everyday lives as we read it.   I like to read the book of Proverbs several times a year (one chapter a day over a month).  It’s a book of wisdom.  God’s words placed deep inside of us help us make wise decisions.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11). 

Memorizing scripture helps us make wise decisions as well.  Whenever I have been struggling in the past, old scriptures I have memorized have always come back to my mind to encourage me. 

Prayer:  Whatever decision we are seeking guidance on, we need to involve God in the process.  Ask His opinion.  Pray over all of the details involved for an extended period of time.  For major decisions I might pray a week or a month before deciding.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Don’t allow your emotions to lead you.  Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you.  “…when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13a).

The goal at the end of your focused prayer time should be a sense of God’s peace when you think about your decision.  If you feel uneasiness it may be God directing you AWAY from that particular decision. 
“The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17).

Other People:  God uses other people as instruments to encourage us, speak wisdom into our lives, and tell us the truth in love.  It is always good to have two or three people in our lives that we trust (that are godly examples to us) to confide in and confer with when we need wisdom. Plans fail without good advice, but they succeed with the advice of many others.” (Proverbs 15:22).

As we are seeking God’s direction in a particular area of our lives, we need to be open to asking those closest to us for wisdom and direction.  Don't just tell them what you are thinking about doing and ask them to pray.  Ask them the following question(s)…
1.  As a friend or mentor in my life, do you feel any hesitation or reservation in me doing this particular thing?  If so, why?
2.  What wisdom do you have to offer me in this particular situation? 
3.  What are your thoughts about this area of my life?

Ask them to be completely honest with you. Be ready to receive, open to correction/godly wisdom, and prepared to love them no matter what they say.

In major decisions involving transition, our goal should be 100% positive responses.  If you get a variety of responses that aren't all positive, then you need to go back to your prayer room and seek God's face. A sense of peace should be the outcome in the end.

Wisdom from others should only confirm to us what God has already been directing us to do.  God’s direction should be our primary goal.

Circumstances:  Sometimes circumstances can help lead us to right decisions.  Let me give you an example….

Years ago my husband and I were serving at a church as youth leaders while in college.  We were heavily involved… practically the unpaid assistant youth pastors.  Before we graduated we were offered a job as just that, but part-time. The only stipulation was that we would have to work as janitors for the church as well.  They weren’t at a place to be able to hire us full-time.

It was an awesome church and we were up for the challenge, but we wanted God’s will.  We decided to pray for a week seeking God intently concerning all of this.  We knew even though it looked like an awesome opportunity, the right thing at the wrong time was still the wrong thing. 

We prayed separately and determined to share our thoughts with one another on Sunday night.  That morning at church as we glanced down at the sermon title for the evening message, we were shocked at what it said…   “When God says GO!” 

With that message, plus our prayers, and the wisdom of others, God was beyond clear in His direction for us.  Even though it didn’t make sense to us at the time in the natural, we were committed to follow God’s leading. 

As I look back today, I can see His hand guiding us specifically to each place we went after that and all the people we encountered.   I am overwhelmed at God’s faithfulness.

Circumstances…  I guess God likes to use this one a lot for me.  Maybe it’s because many times I’m too busy DOING things for Him that I don’t take time enough to really LISTEN. 

Lots of instances come to mind of where circumstances were brought into play to get my attention.  You can check them out at the links below…

Trusting God with the details when the future looks unclear:

Waiting on God’s direction can be scary at times:

Facing difficulty head on in faith:

 “… when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow…” (James 1:2-3)
The decisions we make today can affect our future tomorrow!  I have had Christian friends who have made some horrible decisions. Their bad choices landed them in jail, led them into affairs (that have destroyed their families), and gotten them wrapped up into a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol.  In the end, they discovered (after all of the consequences of their actions) that it’s not where they really wanted to be.  When I think about it all, it baffles my mind. 

How did they get to that place when at one point they seemed so close to God?  It’s not something that happens overnight, friend!  It’s a slow process of us deafening our ears to God day by day.  It begins with us choosing to allow other things to come before Him or replace Him in our lives.  The end result is our hearts far from God and our lives centered on ourselves.  That’s a dangerous place to be!

I challenge you to draw close to God.  Invite Him into every area of your lives (nothing off limits).  Make the decision to keep Him first place in your lives today.  Ask for His help to make “right” decisions.  The decisions we make really do matter!  Do you trust Him with the details of your life?  I dare you to try a new way of living… “Making decisions with God in mind”.  That is one decision you will never regret!

Living to leave a legacy,