Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Decisions, pt 3: The Big Ones

Have you ever had to make a really big decision, I mean the kind that can literally be life changing, and you just don't know which choice to make or which direction to take? I'm sure that most of you have been there. I know I certainly have. What even makes it worse is that we often think that as a Christian, that shouldn't happen. After all, if I am walking with Christ and seeking His will, shouldn't I always know which way He is leading me? I have some Christian friends that tell me that unless they hear clearly and specifically from the Lord, they never move on any big decisions. I don't know if I am just too impatient or spiritually less mature, but that is not how it has always worked in my life. I admit that I would like it better that way.

I think that it always helps to look at people in the Bible to see if it always worked that way for them as well. We see many times in the Old Testament when God spoke clearly to men about doing something that would change their life. Here are a few examples:

1 Noah was told by God to build an Ark which would save him from the destruction of the earth (Gen 6)

2 God told Abram to leave his country and go to a land that He would show him (Gen 12:1)

3. God spoke to Moses and sent him to deliver Israel from the bondage of Egypt (Ex3:10)

At first glance, these examples would seem to indicate that God speaks clearly when it comes to the life changing decisions. A closer examination though, might give us a different perspective. In each of these situations you might notice that none of these men were seeking God about decision in their life. God was making a decision that would change their lives forever but it wasn't as though they were asking for that. So, are there examples of people who were praying and got absolute, clear direction from God?

The answer is yes. One beautiful example is found in Genesis. Abraham wanted Isaac to take a wife from his own people, not from the Canaanites that he was living among. He sent his chief steward to accomplish that task. The steward, in approaching the town, prayed for God's guidance in finding the right woman. He asked for specific requirements to be met, so that he would not make a mistake. You can read the story in Genesis 24 and see that God answered his prayer in no uncertain terms. He knew with absolute certainty that he was accomplishing God's will.

Well, those are some great Old Testament examples of how God spoke directly to people, giving them exact directions for their life, but what can we learn in the lives of people in the New Testament? Who could we look to for an example of how to make those big decisions of life? My first response would be to look at the life of Paul. Now he had real guidance is making a decision that would change his life. Basically, Jesus knocked him off his donkey to get his attention. Then He told him exactly what to do next. You can read about it in Acts, chapter 9. Once again, as in the life of the Old Testament examples we saw, Paul was not praying about any big decision. God just forced him to make one. In fact, I can't find an instance recorded in the Bible that says that any of the apostles were seeking to make a big change in their life when Jesus happened to show up and call them. What bigger, radically life changing decision could they have made than to answer the call of Jesus?

Right now you are probably saying, "I thought you promised some help in making big decisions and now I'm more confused than ever." That's OK, so am I. Just kidding. What I really want us to see is that I don't think there is any simple formula when it comes to making those big decisions. I believe that God works differently at different times in our lives. Sometimes He makes His leading unmistakable, but at other times we might just have to take a step of faith. I know that this has been true in my life. I can only share with you the ways that I approach those big decisions and hope that it might give you some help in making yours.

First let's clear up what kind of decisions we are talking about here. I'm talking about things like career changes, whether or not to marry someone, moving to another state, buying or selling a home. How about care decisions for your elderly parents or even your own major health decisions, such as whether or not to have surgery or try a different treatment? Those are really important and often very difficult decisions. How do we go about making the best decision? How do we discern God's leading when it doesn't seem to be obvious, even though we may have spent countless hours in prayer?

I believe we need to consider several things. First, we must look at what the scriptures say about the subject. That may seem like a no brainer, but we often make bad decisions because we fail to apply scriptural principles. One example would be a Christian praying about marrying a non believer. No need to pray about that one, the scripture is clear. The answer is NO! (2 Co 6:14) You will not pray your way into changing God's mind on an issue. Follow the biblical principles. This requires diligence in searching out which scriptures may apply to the decision we are considering but it will be well worth the effort.

Next, we should look at our circumstances and see if there is evidence that God is working. Often times God will arrange a pattern of circumstances that should be getting our attention, demonstrating that He is leading us. Sometimes God even drops something right in our lap and we fail to recognize it as His leading. However, this should never be the only consideration. Circumstances don't always lead us in the right direction. They should be viewed as a piece of the puzzle.

Along those same lines, a good way to discover God's plan is to ask Him to open doors that He wants you to go through and close the ones that might lead you in the wrong direction. A good example of this is found in Acts 16. Paul wanted to take Timothy on a mission trip to begin training him. In verse 6 it says that they traveled throughout Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit kept them from going to Asia. Though we are not told how the Spirit did this, we know it was a closed door. The same thing occurred when they tried to enter Bithynia. They decided to go to Troas. Read what happens next. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:9-10 NIV) Closed doors, open doors!

Personally, when I am faced with making a life changing decision, I tend to emphasize the closed door in my prayers. I ask God to close any door that would allow me to make a choice that He would not want me to make and I trust that He will. Remember, God wants what is best for you and if you are sincerely seeking His will He is not going to lead you in the wrong direction. Jesus said in Matt 7:9-11 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?"

One last thing you should do when making those big decisions. Seek Godly counsel. Don't go to someone who you know will just give you the answer you may want to hear. Go to a mature believer, who will help you to seek God's will. Often times their counsel will confirm what you already know God wants you to do. Prov 11:14 says "Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety." NKJV

The key to the whole process is, seek God's will in these decisions, rather than your own. When you ask for His will to be done rather than yours, you can rest assured that He will guide you. Use biblical principles, circumstances, open and closed doors and Godly counsel. Trust Him! Just as He did Paul, the Holy Spirit will guide you. When you know the Holy Spirit is guiding and directing, you can experience His peace.

Game Plan: Read the stories listed above and see what God shows you about the decision making process. See if you can find any other examples that would also apply

God bless you as you seek His will, Coach

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