At Gateway Church in South Austin, we continued our series called Decision Fatigue.
We are constantly bombarded with decisions at every turn. Some are trivial like your choice of beverage, but many can be life-altering. How can you know if you’re making the right decisions? It can become overwhelming. In this series, Decision Fatigue, we will look at how God’s will and your will are intended to work together so you can live with confidence that you’re making the best decisions for your life.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Message Notes from John Burke:
Life is a series of decisions.
It’s been said that you make your decisions, but then your decisions make you.
And that’s true in many regards.
- A life well lived is often a life of well-made decisions.
- A tragic life is often littered with ill-thought out decisions and choices.
There are SO many decisions, we actually can get decision fatigue—where you make poorer decisions due to decision-overload.
So we’re talking about how to make better, wiser decisions.
Fortunately, not all decisions are of equal value.
- You remember that show “Who wants to be a millionaire?” Some decisions were $1000 decisions, some $50,000 or Million-dollar decisions.
- Some decisions are sub $1000 decisions, like deciding what to wear, whether to go out on a date.
- Some are $million dollar decisions-they effect where you live, what you do, and who you’ll become, like
Decisions, decisions, decisions – that’s life, isn’t it?
Do you realize how important good decision-making is? Truly our decisions largely shape who we become.
So how do you know if you are making the right decisions?
- Especially when some seem so weighty?
- Is there a right and wrong?
- How do you know?
- Does God care about our decisions, and if so, is one choice the right choice and the other the wrong one in God’s mind?
That’s what we’re dealing with in this series that we started last week.
As we get into “How to make wise decisions” a bit more today, I need to clear up a big misconception about God’s purpose for your life and the decisions you make.
As I’ve said before, and as I think scripture amply confirms, God has a unique purpose for creating you. He created you with a plan and purpose in mind.
But what does that mean?
Does that mean he put together a set of blueprints showing the right college for you, the right major to study, career path, person to marry, place to live, projects to accomplish…all spelled out to the letter.?
Which means every decision you make either steers us on or off God’s path?
But Do you really think that which college you choose, for instance, could forever get you off course of God’s plan?
There’s one right college…that leads to a life of blessing in God’s will—the wrong choice leads to a life of aimless desert wandering, forever straying from God’s purpose?
No… I don’t think there’s one right and one wrong choice in every decision.
As I study Scripture, I think a more helpful way to think of God’s plan and purpose is like that of a Loving parent.
As a father and mother, Deborah and I have a plan and purpose for our son and daughter. We want to guide them to become all we know they are capable of becoming. When they were young, we had some clear moral/ethical rights and wrongs—so we guided their decisions, hoping they would mature to make good moral decisions without us so they wouldn’t destroy their lives. We have things in mind I’d like to see them do, like get an education and find their calling.
I’m more concerned with who they become and our relationship. If they are super successful but don’t love us —that’s no good.
Jesus showed us that God loves us and guides in his purpose and plan like a Good Parent if we let him, and loving relationship with God and others is His main purpose and plan, yet that still leaves a lot of room for deciding between multiple good options sometimes.
Last week, we looked at 4 ways to know if your decisions are wise ones, assuming you want to trust God’s wisdom and make wise decisions in line with God’s will.
- We talked about how our decisions, when not aligned with God’s will and ways, is what’s gone wrong with humanity.
- God is good and wants good things for us, but He also gives us free will to choose—to make our decisions.
- The reason God does that is because Love is what we were created for first.
- To Love God first and that decision governs all other decisions.
- The way we love God is with our free will, with our decisions.
So the first question to ask in wise decision making is
1). “What is God’s Will?”
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path…Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. Psalm 119:105, 133.
The first thing I do is to consider God’s revealed will in the Bible.
Now, even as I say that, I’m sure some of you are fighting an irrestistible urge to yawn! You’re saying, come on Eric, it’s a 2000 year old + book, can’t you give me something a little more current than that?
- But it’s the Wisdom of the Ages, and the best first step in making wise decisions.
- The 39 books of the Jewish Old Testament were written over a 1500 year period by prophets claiming “Hear the Word of the Lord” – claiming God was revealing his will and character.
- And we’ve done many messages showing how these prophets accurately foretold, in actual verifiable history, God’s self-revelation as Messiah—Jesus’ coming—recorded in the 27 books of the New Testament.
Jesus set in motion a global love revolution, and he said this about the Bible:
I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets [Genesis through Malachi]. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:17-19.
Jesus verified that the Scriptures reveal God’s will, God’s ways, and it’s to our benefit to know it and follow it’s wisdom—not just our own wisdom.
It’s like the manufacturers guidelines for how to operate your new car.
- Do you have to obey the guidelines—no—it says change the oil regularly, but you don’t have to, but you also won’t have an engine for long.
- It says use unleaded gasoline, but you can put excessive Nitrous in your engine and go really fast, but it may cause spontaneous explosion of your car.
The Bible is God’s Word—not just an operating manual for Life, but a Love Letter from God. The way we love God, is with our decisions.
That’s why Jesus said, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” John 15:9-12
It’s to our benefit to first ask “What is God’s Will? What does God’s Word say about this decision?”
It’s the path to overflowing Joy and Life, because it is the way we Love God and Love People.
Every time you make a decision, it’s an opportunity to love God.
Out of gratitude for all God has done for us, we have the ability to give God our love—freely chosen—by using our free will to trust and follow His will first in all our decisions.
When we make wise decisions according to God’s will, we are reversing the curse. We are bringing a glimpse of God’s Kingdom from heaven to earth.
Is that your first question?
What is Your Will God?
Have you read the Bible so You know God and his will?
Start with the New Testament book of John, what Jesus taught, and read the OT Proverbs—God’s wisdom.
That’s the first step to wise decisions…
Principle 1: Where God Commands, Love Obeys
Much like we did in the triggered series, we are going to keep looking at these same four principles of decision making to bring out a little more from these principles each week.
Remember God has not spelled out every detail of how to make every decision-there’s lots of freedom and a broad path we can travel within His will, but he has revealed His Will very clearly about a lot of things.
Scripture tells us with painstaking clarity how God wants us to live, love, grow, serve others, care for ourselves, handle our money, pray, deal with our families and relationships—show moral/ethical integrity in the marketplace.
So much is there to guide us into wise decisions that lead to a full-productive life.
But not so specific on exactly what to do all the time.
Kind of like out-of-bounds fences on ski slopes (the orange fences). You ski out of bounds and you’re in danger, you stay within the bounds and there’s lots of mountain to safely ski on.
So if your desire is to make wise decisions that honor God and his purpose for your life, then they won’t contradict what he has already clearly said.
Which means a lot of decisions should be no-brainers.
“Should I lie or cheat to make more money?”
- God has clearly revealed his will– Don’t lie, don’t cheat—it’s in 10 commandments.
- Real clear.
- You don’t need to agonize about that decision.
- Decide ahead of time, “I’m going to love God by trusting what He says and be honest, full of integrity.”
- When you do, you’ll find it’s to your benefit in the long haul, even financially.
I had a woman recently tell me her husband is leaving her for another woman telling her: “I prayed and God is leading me to marry this other woman because this is real love—and God is all about love.”
That’s not love, that’s something else.
Now God’s love in scripture is not the typical human version. God’s love is a faithful, self-sacrificing, unselfish love. Plus the 10 commandments say Don’t Commit Adultery.
In Jesus day, people would get the hots for someone else, divorce first then hook up, and claim it was righteous because they filled out the paperwork.
Jesus said, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her.” Mark 10:11.
God’s Word helps us see what real love really looks like.
God wants to teach us how to grow in love, and find a love that’s deeper than we ever imagined because it comes from God—but we first have to want God’s Will, especially when our will is different.
He doesn’t force his will, which is why Jesus taught us to pray “Your will be done (in me) on earth, as in Heaven.”
That’s why we need to make decisions that reverse the curse.
We don’t base our decisions based on what’s best for me or what’s most convenient or easiest but on what’s best for bringing the most good to others and our world.
So if a decision is clearly against what God has revealed as his will, love obeys God—that’s the first wise decision-making principle.
But sometimes, we need more specific application of these general principles when decisions are not so black and white.
Principle 2. Where there is no command, God gives freedom (and responsibility) to choose.
What if in that freedom, people of faith have a different opinion on what they think is best?
The Bible even gives us direction on that!
Passages like Romans 12-14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10 address this very thing in the early church. Some felt it was evil to eat food sacrificed to idols.
Others felt it was ok because they knew these idols did not exist.
In the end, the Scriptures tell us not to judge others, not to gossip about others, and not to flaunt our freedom in front of others.
Instead, we should be willing to give up our freedom for the sake of others.
When it comes to things not clarified in God’s moral will, we should be more concerned with the people who are making a decision different than us than we are concerned with the decision they are making.
Check out this passage:
The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. 9 Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” Psalm 32:8-9.
I’ll be honest, lots of times I’m like, “God, just tell me what to do.”
- And he doesn’t.
- Then I have to remember—Don’t be a Dumb – Aa… animal.
- God doesn’t want dumb animals he has to tell “go left, go right, stop, go.”
- He wants loving children who grow up into loving, mature family—making wiser and wiser decisions in line with His way of love.
- Which means sometimes, when it’s not a decision that would go against God’s revealed will, God’s saying “What do you want to do?”
But where there’s no clear direction for God’s will, God gives us freedom and promises guidance from His Spirit.
Pay Attention to God’s Spirit
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6.
Jesus promised this:
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. John 16:13
We are not alone in any of our decisions.
God desires to guide us, and in fact, His Spirit is available to all who believe or trust in God.
Now, this may freak some of you out—sound a bit too mystical—but I’m not talking about sky-writing or audible voice type guidance.
That’s not God’s normal mode of operating.
I’ve never heard an audible voice, yet I’ve seen God’s guidance clearly.
Instead, God’s Spirit gives us promptings or thoughts in our minds.
Part of the adventure of living life with God is learning to listen and discern when He’s prompting us at some Crossroad of life.
Let me mention several things about how this works:
To pay attention to God’s Spirit, we may need to turn off some old guiding systems.
When you step on board a plane, they make you turn off your all electronics that can interfere with the plane’s guidance system.
In the same way, some of our old ways of making decisions can interfere with Paying Attention to God’s Promptings.
For instance, maybe your past guiding system for making decisions was, “What’s the easiest path?”
You’d just autopilot toward the path of least resistance.
Or maybe for you it was “What’s most predictable, or safest.”
Or “What makes the most money—no matter the relational cost.”
You may need to turn off those autopilot systems in order to Pay Attention to God’s Spirit.
So “How does this work practically?” It takes humility, trust.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
There must be a humble willingness to slow down and want to be guided by God’s Spirit.
God never yells to be heard over our pride.
He waits for us to humbly want to hear.
And then there’s a Trust factor as Proverbs says. We must believe that God is big enough, and willing enough to guide our thoughts.
And that’s the key—He guides our thoughts as we pray and seek God’s guidance.
I’ve always leaned into this verse in unclear decisions:
Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. Psalm 37:4-6 NASB
First question I ask is “What’s God Will in this decision?”
If there’s nothing specific that relates, my second question is “Am I delighting in the Lord?”
Which means— “Is pleasing God my goal?”
Am I trusting God is wonderful, loving, wants my best, and I want to follow His Spirit?
If I search my heart and really have been seeking God and trusting him in this decision, then I ask “What does your heart want?”
Because it says “He will give you the desires of your heart” which doesn’t mean, “He will give you whatever you want” I think it means “He puts his desires in your heart—He gives you those desires—so you can trust them.”
We’ll talk more about that final faith step of every decision next week.
I think God’s guidance is more like GPS—if I had chosen not to go, maybe it wasn’t the best or fastest route, but God’s Spirit can replot a new course to guide me on a different route to my destination.
But there’s also a HUGE danger in following the desires of your heart— God said this to the Jewish prophet Jeremiah,
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind.” Jeremiah 17:9-10
You say, “But everyone tells me to follow my heart.” Maybe that’s the problem-were all following our hearts, yet we haven’t tested our hearts to see if they’re humble and willing to follow God. That’s why we all need Wise Counsel. That’s the next question:
What“ does wise counsel say?” It’s the spiritual caddie Principle:
Principle 3: Where there is no command, God gives us wise counsel in community.
The Proverbs we’re encouraging you to read 1 per day this month says,
The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22.
All of us have blind spots, “No fool ever thinks he’s wrong on the front end of a decision.”
On the front end, it’s the business opportunity of a lifetime…the investment goldmine of the century… the perfect relationship and nothing can possibly go wrong. But it does…because foolish decisions are made from Blindspots.
She followed her heart, but her heart deceived her—again and again and again!
What she needed, what we all need, is a personal Board of Directors. Especially when it comes to big decisions.
I have a few Spiritual Running Partners and my wife that I run all my big decisions past. They know me, they love me, I trust their spiritual wisdom, and they’re not afraid to point out my blind-spots.
Since we all have blindspots, we all need wise counsel.
You may Find different people for different decisions. You don’t go to a dentist for stomach pains, and you don’t go to an eye doctor to advise on your toothache. Some people will be better to consult for relational advice, others for financial or business decisions, others for spiritual decisions.
But if you want to be wise in your decisions, get 2 or 3 people you spiritually trust to give you wise counsel.[That’s why we point towards Starting Gate—serve others with others, make friends, Lifegroups to grow in wisdom together—find spiritually wise people]
And then avoid 2 extremes:
- Avoid the extreme of only hearing what you want to hear. Listen, pray about their advice—let God search your heart.
- But don’t go to the other extreme either: Don’t depend on others to make all your decisions for you. Take advice, pray and then step out in faith
Principle 4. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.
In every decision, there’s a risk and a step of faith, how does that work?—come back next week and I’ll share principles I’ve seen work powerfully and how I’ve seen God truly honor and guide decisions.