At Gateway Church in South Austin, we concluded 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:
We’re wrapping up our series today on Decision Fatigue—how to make wise decisions.
We’ve said all along You make your decisions then your decisions make you—so it’s crucial to make wise decisions.
But there’s another aspect of decision making I want to focus on today. Life is meant to be a Divine Adventure with God. God created you and me to Do Life in Relationship with God—but how?
I’ve never seen God, I’ve never heard an audible voice, and yet for the last 30 years, I’ve chronicled my journey of Stepping out in faith with big and little decisions, and I’ve learned that’s where you get to see God’s guidance and you get know God personally.
So today, I want to walk back through the Principles of wise decision making we’ve been going over—but from the perspective of a faith adventure—of living a Divine Adventure with God, day by day, decision by decision.
I’m going to share some of my journaled stories of how this works—and challenge you to step out in faith and just see if God doesn’t meet you there.
The Necessity of Faith
Scripture tells us “And it is impossible to please God without faith…” Hebrews 11:6
And for those of you who are here just exploring faith in God, trying to figure out what it’s all about, this is very important to understand.
• God is not primarily looking to see if you can clean up your act and be good enough.
• His first priority is not for you to be religious or try harder.
• His first desire is that you have faith in Him.
• Without faith, you cannot know God, no matter how hard you try to be good.
• But on the other hand–Faith is all it takes to please God.
…Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Hebrews 11:6
It’s actually not hard to please God. It pleases God when we put our faith in Him.
The reason faith is so important to God is because of what we said last week.
• Love is God’s main goal for us.
• To Love God and love people, but the only way we can love God is by trusting Him (that’s faith—to trust—or have faith in what God says) and to seek God.
• That’s loving God.
• And because Relationship is what God wants, we get to know God by trusting more and more.
• And that’s where wise decisions come into play.
As I’ve tried to live the principles I’m teaching today, I’ve been blown away how consistently I’ve seen evidence of this unseen God, leading and guiding me, in ways that are so personal, so kind and loving, and I’ve experienced more excitement, more life, more adventure, more of that “in-the-zone” kind of work because you’re doing what God created you to do—it’s who you were made to be, and surrounding and infusing all of it with more love—more love for God, more love for all cultures and people, and more deep friendships than I could have ever imagined.
The First Decision of Faith
It’s one thing to believe there’s a God, to believe Jesus revealed God in a form we could understand, but it’s a whole other thing to Decide “Okay God, I need your forgiveness for playing God and doing things my way, and I want what Jesus did on the cross to count for me—forgive me and come be God of my life.”
Have you done that?
In other words, have you stepped down as God and CEO of your life and asked God to come take His rightful place at the Center of Your Universe?
That’s the First Decision of Faith—it’s all God needs to forgive you for all wrongs, but also to come Do Life With You as a loving Parent and Friend.
Without that decision—God won’t barge into our lives and force us to Love Him or Obey Him.
That’s what’s wrong with the world, He lets us play God.
But in hopes that we will feel the emptiness and pain of life our way, and Decide to love and follow God.
That’s the decision some of you can make today.
It’s amazing—you’ll see the same thing if you do this—God personally knows you and cares about you like no one else (no one knows you better or loves and cares for you more). But you won’t see that or live this Divine Adventure unless you grow in making more and more Faith Decisions.
Principle 1: Where God Commands, Love Obeys.
When I was first getting to know God back in my late teens and into college, I’m making a ton of mistakes.
You see, I had developed some bad habits based on the bad decisions I had been making.
So I had to decide—will I love God by obeying God? I decided to stop, and then I realized, I couldn’t stop—I had a struggle I couldn’t overcome with my own power. But again, as I asked God to lead and guide my thoughts—to help me obey his commands where I felt powerless, I found God giving me new thoughts and the power to overcome—until I had new habits. And God honored that decision.
Now, that’s my story—it’s not everybody’s story. I tell you: seeing God bring victory over an area of struggle gave me a great deal of confidence – especially in an area where it is just assumed because you are a guy and that’s just your identity. I found my identity more in Christ and as a child of the King than just a typical guy in a selfish world.
Now God’s leadership and guidance in your life may be totally different, but the first decision is “Where God Commands, will you love God by obeying?” I’ve never been sorry for deciding to love God that way.
Principle 2: Where there is no command. God gives freedom (and responsibility) to choose.
When we have decisions to make where God’s word is silent, like who should I date, what job should I take, lots of unclear decisions, God gives us freedom to choose. Like imagine with Adam and Eve, God says “From any tree you may eat, only from the one tree…don’t eat. What if every meal, they came to God asking, “What about the pears, can we eat the pears.” Yea, of course. How about mashing the potatoes, can we mash them and eat them. You can do whatever you want to a potato…as long as you don’t spell it with an “e.” Sometimes I believe God says “What do you want to decide?” He doesn’t want dumb animals but loving children who grow up into spiritually mature loving family. But He honors when we pray about all these decisions and seek His guidance.
As I mentioned last week, 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, my second question is “Am I delighting in the Lord?” “Is pleasing God my goal?”
• 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 a Lamborgini” I think it means “He puts his desires in your heart.
• He gives you those desires—so you can trust what’s in your heart to do.”
But our hearts can also Deceive us. Remember from last week:
“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
“Follow your heart” is horrible advice if you haven’t tested your heart to see if it’s humble and willing to follow God. I do this process of Testing my Heart as I pray through big decsions that are unclear—God really honors that. And it’s where Principle 3 comes in:
Principle 3: Where there is no command, God gives us wise counsel in community.
Our hearts can lead us astray with what we want.
I do this process of Testing my Heart as I pray through big decisions that are unclear. Looking at the Scriptures, praying, journaling, looking for signs, considering the circumstances, and talking to wise counsel.
We talked a bit about this last week. Walking with God is too hard to do on your own. You need some spiritual running partners. You can find 1 or 2 or 3 others to really get to know and know you. Easiest to find someone with whom you connect as you serve others on the Connect Team, Next Gen Team, Production Team, or a network serving the city, or from your life group.
Having your own board of directors with people who are walking with Jesus too makes a tremendous difference.
But that leads to the last step, and how mysteriously God leads and guides.
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.
You move forward in Faith, trusting God to redirect if you’re getting it wrong. In just about every decision, there is some element of faith. Few people know 100% they are making the right decision. And so, when it comes down to it, you move forward trusting what God says.
This verse gives us a great understanding of how God works.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
You Trust that God’s Spirit will guide your thoughts and intents as you pray and seek him.
You Trust that through wise counsel you’ve seen potential blind spots.
You trust that since you desire to follow God’s will in your decisions, that your desires are trustworthy, and then you Go For IT!
And that pleases God because you’ve decided wisely with Faith in God. So you Move Forward—because as the saying goes, “God can’t steer a parked car.”
As you move forward, you see your decision confirmed, or you see God re-direct you. Even when it gets confusing, God’s working it for good.
A great Biblical example of this that I’ve clung to is when Paul, the guy who started many of the first churches and wrote many of the letters of the New Testament, was deciding where to go next to start new churches.
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 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 16:6-10
Paul and his buddies decided to go north to Asia because they thought that’s what God wanted them to do, but it says “God’s Spirit kept them from going there.”
So they decide to go to Bithinia, another area, but it says the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to enter Bithinia.
So they go to Troas, a city by the ocean. And that night, Paul has a dream of a man yelling across the sea for them to come to Philippi – so they decide God wants them to go there, and they began the Philippian church.
So the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God all helped Paul make it to the right place.
Ironically, the first person to come to faith was not a man like in the dream, but a woman and entrepreneur named Lydia. Perhaps God knew the bachelor Paul would have dismissed a dream about a woman, so He gave him a dream about a man.
Let me interject: God does speak in miraculous ways – through signs and dreams, but you need to weigh these kinds of things with wise counsel and with the Scriptures. Also, He does not always lead in these ways, so don’t just wait for the miraculous to move forward.
So here’s the point. At some point, you just have to decide and move forward and trust that God’s big enough, and he loves you enough to redirect you if you’ve had the best of intentions, but somehow missed it.
And I’ll tell you, this is probably my final prayer for all major decisions I’ve made.
“Well God, You know my heart. You know I trust that following You is what will be best for me, and I think this is the decision that would honor you. This is what’s in my heart to do. But if we’re missing it, I trust that you love me enough to redirect me or make something better out of my decision.”
And at this point, these major scary decisions get fun, because it’s in this stepping out in faith where you see God really work.
I write down my prayers. I journal them because I can see the answered prayer, guidance through these decisions, for the last 30 years—it’s truly an adventure with God.
And that leads me to mention something else about this decision making process.
• First, if you go through these steps, you move forward in faith, and it doesn’t lead to instant bliss, success or happiness—don’t quickly conclude you made a wrong decision or that you missed God’s will.
• One thing I can guarantee that will give you peace in your decisions, EVERY decision made in faith—with the intent to follow and please God—God will honor. And He promises to work everything—good circumstances and bad—for the good of those who love him and are seeking His purpose.
Sometimes the right decision leads to hardship.
Jesus stood at the crossroads of the hardest decision of his earthly existence.
• Does he do what he knows is the right decision—to speak the truth about his identity before the religious leaders, knowing it will lead to his crucifixion?
• Or does he take the easy way out?
Some decisions don’t lead to instant gratification, or greater success, or comfort, but they are right!
• And God will honor them in the end.
• So just because you take the steps and move forward in faith doesn’t assure you that all your expectations will be met.
• It insures that you are within God’s plan and purpose for your life—and in the end, it will pay off.
And secondly, sometimes one decision leads us through a door that we thought God wanted us to walk through so we could get to the room on the other side.
• Then we get to the room on the other side, and it’s a huge letdown.
• But sometimes it wasn’t the room God wanted us to get to, it was the second door inside the room.
• In other words, some decisions of faith lead us to other decisions of faith – and it’s only after continuing to trust and move forward in this process that we see what how God was guiding our decisions.
That’s what I have seen over and over again.
And God will work this way to guide you too.
• He doesn’t expect you to be perfect or in full-time ministry before he’s willing to guide you.
• He wants to help all who want to grow up spiritually to make wise decisions.
• Because he loves you, and he has a purpose for you.
• And he’s given us a free will so we can make decisions.
• We make our decisions and then our decisions make us.
• So let’s be wise—follow these steps, and see if decision-making doesn’t become less of a terrible burden and more of an exciting journey.