Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Decisions, Pt 2

Ok, Ok, I know I'm late for my usual posting time but I couldn't decide what to write. Seriously, it seems that whenever you teach on any area of spiritual growth, you will bring testing upon yourself. I will tell you that before I could write about some practical ways of making good decisions, I had to examine myself to see if I had anything of real value to share. I hope that I do, but that will be for the reader to decide.

Over the years as a Head Football Coach, Athletic Director and high school administrator, I learned that there were some decisions that must be made immediately and some that did not. It was important to learn how to prioritize. Now this could sometimes offend other people who were certain that a particular decision must be made at once. I often got home late at night and had five to ten phone messages that were "urgent", with such major issues as, "My son's name was misspelled in the game program" or "the coach made Susie run an extra lap after practice and it wasn't fair." Now, these folks always expected an immediate call back, no matter how late it was (which was usually between ten to eleven pm). Let's see. Do I spend the next hour or so responding to these types of problems or try to get some sleep so that I can function the next day? Well, fortunately my answering machine died, (probably from overuse) so I just didn't get another one! I thought that was an excellent decision, you might disagree.

The question still remains though, how do I even decide what to prioritize and then, when a decision has to be made, how do I make good ones. The obvious answer for all Christians is found in Phil 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God ( NKJV). This verse begins with an important concept that we often forget. Our first priority in decision making is to not be anxious. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, to not be anxious (meaning don't worry), shows trust in God. When we know that God loves us and has our eternal good in mind, what do we really have to worry about? I'm not saying that we act like there is never anything to be concerned over, but that we trust in God's provision for all of our needs and obey our Savior when he tells us not to worry.

The second reason is that anxiousness often leads to bad decisions. If we are so worried about what might happen if we don't do something immediately, we become hasty in our decision and often don't give God time to work out the solution. I know by experience how hasty decisions can get us into trouble! I could give you numerous personal examples here, but I would really rather not. It's too painful. Ok, I will give you one, but only one. When my son was ready to turn 16, I wanted to have a car that I thought was safe and reliable that he could use when he needed to. Usually, I would take time to really pray and shop around, but I wanted him to practice driving the car he would take his driver's test in. Well, to make a long story short, I immediately went out a got a "really good deal" on a used (I won't mention the brand) car. Does the term money pit mean anything to you? It lasted less than two years before I had to part ways with it. Dumb decision!

Instead of being anxious, we want to follow the second part of this verse which is pray, pray, pray. Look at what verse 7 tells us will happen when we do that. (Phil 4:7) "and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (NKJV) Now, we often think this verse means that we should always have this perfect peace in every decision that we make or we shouldn't make it. At the risk of being called a heretic by some, I don't think that is exactly what this verse means. It is true that often times God will help us with a decision by really giving us a peace about that specific decision. But just having peace about it does not make it the right decision. You want an example? How about this one? I have heard of several examples of supposedly Christian couples who have been living together without being married. Then they say, "We have prayed about it and we have a real peace". That's nice, but it doesn't change the fact that you are living in rebellion to the Lord on that issue.

Really, what these two verses in conjunction are telling us is, that a life lived in prayer instead of worry will be a peaceful life and that God desires us to live that way. He loves it when we come to Him for our needs instead of worrying. Do you realize that you can never ask for God's help too often? Even Jesus prayed constantly to His Father in heaven. Should we do any less? 1st Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "pray without ceasing". That means constantly!

I know, your next question is "what about when you have to make an immediate decision and there is no time to pray more than, "Lord help me". Well, number one "Lord help me" is a great prayer. Simple and to the point. But, my answer to your question lies in what you do with your time when you don't have to make an immediate decision. Do you spend time before your day gets going in prayer? If you do, and you are asking the Lord to lead you by His Holy Spirit in all that you do for that day, then trust He will be guiding you in those "must make immediately decisions". Pray for wisdom each day and James says in Ch 1, verse 5 that God will give it to you generously.

The other preparation you need to have in order to make good, quick decisions is to have a "working" knowledge of His word. The more you know God's word, the more built in guidelines you have at your disposal. Now, I don't just mean having memorized verses. You must have understanding of what they teach. This is why it says in 2 Tim 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.( NKJV) Rightly dividing the word of truth means knowing how to apply it correctly. This is a tremendous safeguard in preventing bad decisions, especially when they need to be made in a hurry. A great rule of thumb is, don't make any decision that you know goes against the will of God as contained in His Word. I can't think of anytime in my life that following this rule didn't lead to good results. God's word is living and active… it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Heb 4:12). The Holy Spirit teaches us how to use it properly and that is the basis for good and Godly decision making.

Next post, "The Big Ones." How do we go about making those "life changing" types of decisions?

Until then may God bless you as you seek His direction for your life, Coach


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Have you ever really stopped and thought about how many decisions you must make every day of your life? For that matter, think about how many you make every hour of every day. Some of us can hardly count the ones we have to make each minute. Do you ever get overwhelmed to the point that you would rather just have someone else make them for you? Oh, you mean I'm the only one that does? OK then, maybe I'll just decide to pick another topic to write aboutJ.

Seriously, having to make constant decisions can be very wearing, can't it? Maybe you thought I was exaggerating when I said each minute, but as a teacher and coach, you literally do make decisions on a minute by minute basis. In each class, your students will force you to decide some things. It may be that they are disobeying a class or school rule and you have to decide if it is going to be worth the time and distraction to enforce it. They may ask an inappropriate question and you must decide how you will answer. Maybe you're giving a test and you think a student is cheating. You must decide how to approach that student in order to get to the truth without possibly accusing them falsely. Are you getting my drift here? As a high school teacher, you are faced with multiple decisions for each of your five class periods.

When I was coaching, the amount of decisions could be quadrupled, especially as a Head coach. It is hard for anyone who has not had that experience, to imagine how many decisions a Head football coach makes each day. Just like in the classroom, you know that sometimes what even seems like a small, nondescript decision can affect one of your players in a big way. Let me give you one example. One year I had a wonderful young man, an extremely hard worker, who injured himself in a drill. He said his neck hurt a little bit, but that he was fine and wanted to get back in the action. He looked and acted perfectly fine and it would have been easy to do just that. Instead, we called his mom and asked her to come down and take him in to be examined by a doctor, which she did. By the time he got there, he was acting strangely and felt ill. He was immediately taken into emergency and the situation quickly turned worse. The doctor said that he had pinched an artery in his neck, which cut off blood flow to his brain. He informed the player's mom that had he not gotten treatment in the next twenty minutes or so, he would not have survived. Fortunately, he was treated in time and everything turned out well. Unfortunately, he didn't play again for us, but that, I'm sure, was a good decision.

I can guarantee you that an event like that, made our coaching staff realize how important our decisions could be. During each practice, literally hundreds of decisions are made which will affect the outcome of an upcoming game, but also will have an effect on individual player's lives. In my coaching career, I never wanted to take either of those two elements lightly. I remember another time when I wished I had made a different decision than the one I made. We were running what we call "team offense", which means that we run a certain number of our plays against our defense, live. We had run what was scripted to be our last play, but we did not execute properly, so I gave the famous coaching command, "RUN IT AGAIN." At the end of that play, my quarterback, the best player on the team, went down with a knee injury. It was his last play of the season. I cannot describe to you how badly I felt for that young man. There is nothing worse in sports, than having a player who has worked hard and sacrificed so much in order to perform at their highest level, lose the opportunity to play because of injury. Even after twenty five years, I wish I would have ended practice that day rather than saying those words.

I guess that the point is to realize that we make many decisions every day and those decisions have consequences attached to them. That is why it's easy to become overwhelmed by the weight of decision making. How do we deal with that issue? Is there a way to guarantee that we make good decisions? Can we eliminate the bad ones? Well, those are good questions, so now I will have to decide whether or not to try and answer them. I will tell you up front that I have certainly made my share of bad decisions. We all do, but I think that there are some things that we can do which will help us make the best decisions possible most of the time.

The first and most important thing you must do is make the biggest decision of your life. If you haven't already done so, you need to turn your life over to God. He created you to have fellowship with Him. This happens when you trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. When you do that, the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in you. One of His main purposes is to give you guidance in the entire decision making process. John 16:13 says, "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth." Col 2:3 tells us that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In order for us to make wise decisions, we must ourselves be "in Christ". Think about it. If God is omniscient (knows all there is to know, beginning to end), wouldn't it make sense to rely on him for guidance in our decision making?

Without this important first step, there is really nothing I could tell you that would help you to make good decisions. Why? Because God is concerned not only with temporal issues, but eternal ones. We tend to make our decisions based on what seems good for us here and now, but God wants what is best for our eternal soul. So without His involvement, we are bound to make wrong decisions. It really shouldn't be that hard to choose what God wants, rather than what we might think we want, when we realize how much He loves us. Consider this verse. Jer 29:11 " For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

During this next week, look at the book of Genesis in the Old Testament and read about three men, Abraham, Joseph and Moses. Write down what strikes you about how they made their decisions.

In the next post, I hope to share some practical ways to make good, Godly decisions. Until then, may God bless you as you seek to follow Him.