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God has given us the freedom to make our own decisions in life, and we need to discern what God’s will is for each decision. We must renew our minds with His Word and take into account that He will have the final say. All of this starts by understanding that we are accountable to Him for all we choose, and we need to seek God's guidance in everything we do. He will ultimately work out every detail despite our choices. Ultimately it is His plan that will prevail.
More From This Series
Philip De Courcy (00:00):
Some people come to church to be comfortable, and to be comforted. There are many churches there facilitating that, taking out anything in the service that offends, or makes people feel uneasy. I trust you haven’t come to be comfortable, but you’ve come to be changed, by looking into the face of the living God, and hearing His unerring Word. And I would encourage you, then, to take your Bible, and turn to Proverbs chapter three, and verse five and six.
I come back this morning to finish the message we started last Sunday morning, in our series on Proverbs. The message is entitled A Step in the Right Direction. We’re looking at the whole issue of decision making. The Book of Proverbs is a book that’s singularly intended to help us cultivate a skill for living. There are principles, and patterns of behavior in this book that will help us live an orderly, and God honoring life, and one that has satisfying to ourselves. And there can be no more important an issue in the matter of life than the choices you make, because we make our choices, and our choices turn around and make us, and therefore we need to hear God’s Word on the issue of decision making this morning.
I’m going to be reading from the New Living Translation of God’s Word. I chose it this morning for emphasis, and clarity in regards to some of the points I want to make. Proverbs three, verse five and six, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not depend upon your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and he will direct your paths.” Trust that God will bless His Word to those hearts that are open and obedient.
A couple were out celebrating their 50th anniversary with some friends, and the friend’s intrigued at the thought that this couple had clocked up so many miles in terms of marriage that they asked them the question, “You know what? 50 years marriage, that’s that’s quite a feat in today’s culture. We’re wondering if you have any tips for success in marriage? What’s the secret to your longevity, and your life together?”
Well, the wife piped up very quickly. She said, “I think I can tell you the success of our many years together. On our wedding day we decided that when it came to all the major decisions, my husband would make them. And when it came to all the minor decisions, I would make them, that’s the secret of our success. In fact, in 50 years of marriage, we haven’t had to make any major decisions.” Well you get the story, don’t you? Get the point? It would be nice, wouldn’t it? If you could go through life without making any major decisions, or like in the case of our hen picked husband, if somebody would make them for you.
That would be easier, but it wouldn’t be real. Choices and decisions are inescapable, unavoidable. The road of life will bring us to many intersections that will offer us many different choices, and paths to take, and you and I need to have our decision making process mapped out ahead of time, so that when we come to those crossroads, that we’re not befuddled, or find ourselves in a muddle, but we know, “This is the way that God would have us go.”
After all, as we said last week by way of introduction, the glory, and the terror of the human experience for those made in the image of God, is that God has made us in such a way that we are rational beings who can think our way through to a decision, and we are morally accountable before God for those decisions. That’s the uniqueness of the human experience. We have been made in the image of God, and as God reveals his mind to us on the matters concerning life, you and I need to take our minds, and make reasoned decisions, and we make those decisions knowing that we will be held morally accountable to our Creator for our choices. That’s a glory, and it’s a terror all at the same time.
We saw last week that choice is a pervasive, and a potent factor in our life. To a large extent, who we are, what we are, and where we are has been determined by those choices we have made right up until this moment. I mean, choices set us on a path in life. We make one choice, it invites another choice, it encourages another choice. And before you know it, we have a pattern of behavior, and that is either good, or it’s bad based on those decisions, and those choices.
We are the sum of our decisions, and therefore the hardest thing to learn in life is which bridges to cross, and which bridges to burn. And the book of Proverbs is here to help us, because this is a book that sets before us two paths. There’s the path to wisdom, and there’s the path to folly. And this book encourages us to take certain paths in life which are good, and godly, and ultimately helpful.
And so, I want to come back into the text of Proverbs this morning with you, and pick up where we left off. I believe in this service last Sunday morning, we only covered one of four points, and I want to pick up. In fact, I want to revisit the first point, because there’s something I’ve kind of been thinking about, and mulling over this past week that I want to share with you.
We saw last week that good decision making involves, or requires consecration. It is the right kind of person who will ultimately do the right kind of thing. It is good people who ultimately make good decisions, and therefore that involves character, and commitment. You and I have to develop godly character. You and I have to open our lives to God, and commit ourselves to doing His will, if you and I are ever to make good decisions. God will not lead those who are not open to obeying what He’s about to say, and where He’s about to point.
We saw that we’ve got to guard our heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the issues of life. We saw that we needed to commit our way to the Lord, that our thoughts might be established. We saw that we need to make good decisions in the small matters of life, and that will set a path when it comes to the big matters of life. Our feet will never be pointed in the right direction if our heart is straying from God.
We’ve got to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. We’ve got to renew our mind after the Word of God, and only then will we come to know what is that good and acceptable will of God for our life. Now, that’s the issue of consecration. God will only lead those who are willing to follow Him. But there is a further thought there, in terms of this development of Godly character, and this commitment to doing God’s will.
It brings me to think, with you just for a moment, on a thought I’ve garnered from Proverbs chapter four, and verse 26. Turn to Proverb four, and verse 26. You’ll probably read it something like this. “Ponder the path of your feet, that you’re way, or your thoughts may be established.” I like the way the New Living Translation puts it. “Mark out a straight path for your feet, then stick to the path, and stay safe.”
This is a verse that encourages us, when it comes to decision making, that all our decisions are predicated upon a decision, and that is a predisposition to obedience. I’m picking up the same thought, but I just want to apply it in a different way. Before you and I make any decision, we have got to decide for God’s will. We have got to know what God wants us to do through heeding His Word, and once we know it, we’ll mark out a straight path, the path we know God wants us to take, and we’ll stick to it, and that will be the safe path.
Or, as the King James, or the other transmission put it, let’s ponder the path of our feet. Let’s think ahead, where our feet are taking us, where our decisions are taking us, and let’s have a predisposition to ensure that what we do, and where we go is all a matter of obedience to God. I mean, that’s what you see from the surrounding verses, back up in to verse 25, and then we’ll go forward again. “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you, mark out a straight path for your feet, then stick to the path, and stay safe. Don’t get sidetracked. Keep your feet from following evil.”
This verse is encouraging us to make a commitment of the heart, to do right ahead of time. And this is an important part of decision making. What this verse is saying that we ought to have a prior commitment to doing only what is right. And I want to tell you this, if you commit yourself to this, if you make a decision under the choice here, to map out a path of obedience for your life ahead of time, that once you know the will of God as it’s revealed in His Word, you are going to find you don’t have as many choices to make. If you make this choice, you won’t have as many choices to make.
Christians ought to take measured steps, actions that they have thought out with prior commitment to knowing what God would have them to do. Let me try to give you an analogy of what I’m talking about here. Imagine it’s Friday, night and June and I have decided to leave the girls in, or they have scattered to their friends. We have decided to go out to dinner, and we get ready, and we head out the door, but we haven’t decided where we’re going. We haven’t decided whether we want Italian, or Mexican, or Chinese, or whatever. And we head out, and for the next 10 or 15 minutes, we haven’t made our mind up. And so, we go through all these junctions, and intersections, and they become a whole matter of discussion, and confusion.
“Well, where are we going?” We don’t know where we’re going. “Should we go left? Should we go right? Should we go straight on? Well, why don’t you just go straight on, we’ll make our mind up on down the road.” And for 15, 20 minutes we’re driving around, and we have a made our mind up, until eventually, you know what? Just by chance we happen to be driving by Max and Erma’s or something, and we pull in.
Now, hold that analogy in your head, and then imagine we’re about to go out our front door. We’ve decided we’re going to go to Mancy’s Italian on Monroe. We get in the car with a predisposition to know where we’re going, how we’re going to get there. And in that case, we just go out Brynn, we make a left, on we go down to Monroe’s. Easy. We’ve already made our mind up as to what we’re going to do. We’re going to eat Italian at Mancy’s, and we’ll be there in 10 minutes.
When you have a prior commitment to a direction, every intersection in doesn’t need to become a crisis. Seems to me that’s a good analogy for life. That’s what Proverbs is saying. Ponder the path of your feet. Mark out the path of your feet, stick to your path, that’s the safe path. And yet we get ourselves into a muddle in life, because we haven’t made our mind up to obey God, we’re ignorant of His Word, or should we not be ignorant of it, worst of all, we decide just to disobey it, and we get ourselves into relationships, and business alliances, and pursuits of pleasure and entertainment, that if we really stepped back, and we had a prior commitment to obedience, we wouldn’t find ourselves as confused, or muddled as we find ourselves.
I deal with young people, and sometimes I deal with not so young people, who come in and say, “Pastor, I don’t know what to do. I like this guy, and we have spent some time together, and he’s a nice guy, but I got to be honest, he’s not a Christian, pastor, and I don’t know what to do.” And they’re all confused, and in a bind, and their emotions are torn in all sorts of directions, and this intersection has become a crisis, when it shouldn’t be a crisis.
They should have driven straight through it, not to stop, and meet that boy, or that girl, knowing that a prior commitment to obedience means you don’t date unsaved people. How can two walk together except they be agreed? If marriage is the greatest union in life, then you would want to have a union in Jesus Christ, with those who are in union with Jesus Christ. That’s what the Word of God teaches.
So, young people will save themselves a lot of heartache when they’re about 15, or 16, and they make a covenant with God, or write something in the fly leaf of their Bible. “I am not going to date an unsaved person. I am going to mark out a straight path for my feet. I’m going to stick to it, and that’s the safe way to go.” And it’s the same for adults. This is a great way to live. Have a predisposition to obey what you know is true in God’s Word.
And if you make that choice, and you follow that path, I’ll guarantee you, you’ll cut out a lot of choices you’ll have to make in life, because God’s already made them for you. And we get ourselves into a bind when we start to take those choices to ourselves. Christians get themselves into all kinds of trouble because they haven’t made up their mind to be obedient. Obedience closes the mind to sin. We need to think ahead.
Our young women need to think ahead and say, “You know what? God commands me to be a keeper at home, to love my husband, and raise my children. Therefore, I need to make a commitment that when my kids are small, I’m not going to be in the workplace. I’m going to be at home, where God tells me to be.” And you know what? If you make that commitment early enough, then when you’re at college, or you’re making career choices, you’ll be very careful, and you’ll not find yourself in a bind, because you’ve got into a house way over your head, there’s a mortgage that takes two paychecks, and therefore, although your heart knows you need to be home with the kids, why would you want anybody else bringing up your child?
That has always confused me. Why would you hand your kid over to somebody else eight hours a day, and you get them for two to three hours before you put them to bed? But there’s young couples that are in a bind. They know that’s not the best path to take, but there wasn’t a prior commitment to obedience, and they got themselves in the pursuit of mere material wellbeing, to a point where now it’s harder to obey, and the intersection has become a crisis, and we could go on multiplying those things.
Do you want to know what path your feet ought to take? Well look at God’s Word. Once you’ve got his mind on marriage, courtship, business, pleasure, entertainment, whatever, then set your feet on that path, and that’s a safe path to take. But it’s going to take prior commitment. Let me give you an illustration of this. It’s a great one.
I’m leading a men’s Bible study here on a Tuesday morning, and we’re working through a book, and the reading for this week led me to come across this story regarding Robert McQuilkin, who was former president of Columbia Bible College, and in 1990 he wrote a letter of resignation from the presidency of that college. Not because anybody wanted him to resign, he didn’t want to resign, the board didn’t want him to resign, but you see, his wife Muriel had contracted Alzheimer’s disease, and over a number of years, it had ravaged her to a point where she could hardly remember who she was, where she was, and what she was doing at any given time.
And Robert McQuilkin understood that this woman needed 24 hour care, and he was in a bind. Should he stay on, and be president of Columbia Bible College? Should he seek her care through the care of others? Should he resign, and spend his time taking care of his wife? He decided to resign. Let me read you a line from his letter. This is an important insight. He said, “The decision to resign was in a sense made at 42 years ago, when I promised to Muriel that I would love her in sickness on and health, until death parted us.”
There’s our point. He had made a commitment 42 years ago. He made a covenant before God, he would not leave this woman. He would love her, thick and thin, sickness and health, loss and gain, until death, not divorce, separated them, or circumstances. And he says, really, “While I made a choice, it was a choice I had made 42 years ago.”
I’ll tell you this. When you commit to keep covenant with God, and His Word, and His Will, your choices will be much easier, when you have a predisposition to obedience. Let’s move on. And this not only requires cons creation, it requires consultation. We’re going to have to move real fast. Here’s the point here, this is our second thought about decision making. Not only it requires consecration, but consultation. Good decisions usually come from good advice. Good decisions usually come from good advice. Advice from godly people, more seasoned people than ourselves. While it is seldom sought, it is highly recommended by the Bible.
Let me take you through a few verses to underscore this. Proverbs 12, verse 15. “Fools think they need no advice, but the wises listen to others.” Proverbs 15, verse 22, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice, many counselors bring success. Proverbs 19, verse 20, “Get all the advice, and instruction you can, and be wise the rest of your life.” And this is a lost art in our culture. Our culture is bloating the ego of our young people, again, causing them to forget that knowledge is not truth, and information is not wisdom. And while we may be the best educated generation that has ever lived, we are moral midgets compared to former generations.
Take the great generation of the second world war, a selfless, sacrificing generation. Are we better educated than them? Is our society more technically advanced? Absolutely. Were they better people? By all measurement, probably. Because our young people get the idea, and we bloat their ego in so many ways that they’re the smartest generation that ever lived, and therefore they conclude they don’t need anybody’s help. And the Book of Proverbs said, “That’s foolishness.” The book of Proverbs tells us to seek out the counsel and instruction of others, and usually those who are older, and wiser than us, those who have lived longer.
You see, in Biblical times, the wise and elderly men and women in the community of Israel were the mentors, and almanacs for that society. And you and I need the advice and the insight of others, for two reasons. One, they provide us objectivity, and they provide us wisdom. Council from others provides us a check, and a balance. Sometimes we can either get so excited about a situation that we run ahead of ourselves, or we can become so fearful about a situation, we kind of get paralyzed, and we get lost in an emotional fog, and advice from a good advisor helps us to get objectivity.
“Come on now, you’re going too fast. You forgot this. You should have thought about this. That would not be a wise path to take.” Or, “Come on now, move forward. That’s a good decision you’re about to make, you don’t need to be frightened. Let me show you why all your reasoning is sound, and your decision making sounds good to me.” Others provide us objectivity. In Proverbs 18, and verse one, the New Living Translation puts it, “A recluse is a self-indulgent, snarling at every signed principle of conduct.” The recluse there is someone that isolates himself.
The person that isolates himself, and considers himself an island onto himself, is a foolish person. No man is an island. We are all made the better, or the worse for our interaction with others. That’s the way God has made us. We are social beings, and to be a recluse, to be an isolationist, is not a good path to take in life, because you will lose objectivity. There’s a second reason, not only objectivity, but wisdom. There are others who are wiser than us.
Remember that the wise man in the book of Proverbs is someone who has lived long enough to observe certain things about the way God works, and the way the world works under God, and therefore they have written down here these time tested, weather beaten principles, and observations about life. And you know what? If you can get into the company of that kind of person, and I’ve had a number of them along my life, they are worth their weight in gold.
Proverbs 15, verse 14 says, “A wise person is hungry for truth, while a fool feeds on trash.” You see, wisdom forged on the anvil of experience, purified in the crucible of pain, that’s wisdom that you and I need to seek. Wisdom comes, remember, as I’ve just said, from those who have observed life at length, and understood it by experience, and have come to understand something of how it works, in concert with how God works.
In the best of circumstances, wisdom comes with age. Now, I’d like to be able to say that about all older people, but that’s not true. There are some people who have had two years of experience 10 times, they haven’t had 20 years of experience. But for the most part, you’ll find that the silver haired, or the gray haired person has seen things, and done things, and has understood things that are a great help to you. You can even learn from their bad decisions, as well as their good decisions. And therefore, it’s important that you and I take council.
Proverbs 20 verse 18 says this, “Plans succeed through good council. Don’t go to war without the advice of others.” And we know on the eve of any engagement, our commanders will gather in some kind of bunker, or headquarters, and they will huddle, be in a huddle, and they will be getting information from our military spies, and military strategists, and before they go to war, they’re going to have the best, up to date, available information that they have.
We all know the whole controversy it’s going to over the WMDs in Iraq. Was our information what it could have been? Information’s vital. Having the best intelligence in front of you determines the outcome. So, the book of Proverbs is telling us, “Hey, just as in general, or a president would seek the best counsel available to him at that moment, so you and I, when we come to some kind of crossroads, or some kind of fork in the road, where we’ve got to make a decision about a direction that needs to be taken, we have got to listen to what others are saying.” Not to be a recluse, an individualist, or an isolationist.
We’ve got to seek mature counsel, multiple counsel, and moral counsel. That’s a sermon in itself, but let me just hint that what I’m talking about there, in Proverbs 20 verse five, it says, “Though good advice lies deep within a person’s heart, the wise will draw it out.” If you’re going to seek counsel, seek it from someone who’s got a maturity about them, who’s lived long enough to understand life, and who understands the depth of your own experience, who actually can read your eyes, or takes something from your body language, who looks past your words, and really gets down into your heart, and draws out what you’re trying to say.
Sometimes we become so confused in life, we’re not even sure how to explain to others what we’re thinking, and a really wise, mature person’s able to do that. And so, therefore, typically, don’t go to your peers for advice. Go to your parents, or someone who, in your sphere of influence, is much more mature than you are, and has a track record of maturity themselves. Look at their family. You go and take advice from someone with a broken marriage about your marriage, you go and take advice from someone about your children, whose kids are prodigals, other than maybe to get good advice from their bad decisions.
But typically you look for someone that’s mature, who’s got a track record of obedience, who has done well, what you want to do well. So look for mature counsel, look for multiple counsel. In Proverbs 11, verse 14, here’s what we read, Proverbs 11 verse 14, “Without wise leadership, a nation falls. With many counselors, there is safety.” You don’t want to base a big decision upon the advice of one person. If it’s that big, if it is that impactful, you want to get a couple of perspectives. Now, not too many, too many counselors will leave you in a state of confusion. Your head will be spinning. You’ll be in what we call the paralysis of analysis. You’ll not be sure what to do with all this information, and they could leave you in a state of indecision. But you need to take a council from a number of sources, multiple counsel.
There are different people that God will use in our life, at different times, and seasons, not all the same. Mature counsel, multiple council. Finally, moral counsel. Back in Proverbs one verse seven, we read that the beginning of wisdom is to be fined in the fearing of God. When you seek counsel from someone, you should seek it from someone that knows God, and knows how to handle His Word.
Remember, we are rational beings, who are morally accountable for the decisions we make, because we have been made in the image of God, and God will make a judgment on all our judgments. And therefore, when you and I are about to make a judgment, I want to get counseled from someone who loves God with all their heart, with all their strength, and loves their near as themselves, who can handle God’s Word.
If want council from someone, I want to know that somewhere in this conversation they’re going to say, “Look, get your Bible. I want to take you to a passage, and I want to help you see what God would have you do in this situation.” Because blessed is the man who doesn’t walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Psalm one, verse one. Be very careful about taking advice from secular psychiatrists, and psychologists, whose worldview, and whose window on the world is godless. God’s nowhere to be found in their counsel, and yet you’re going to take that godless counsel, you’re going to make a decision for which God will hold you accountable on that final day of judgment, come on. Seek yourself out a godly pastor, a wise ABF leader, a biblical counselor, and seek for them to point out the ways of God’s Word, and the path your feet should walk.
One final thought on this. It’s very simple, but it does per mentioning, you need to heed the council you’re given. Don’t become just a receptacle for all this good advice. Become a channel through which you apply it. Proverbs 19, verse 20 warns us against this. “Get all the advice and instruction you can, and be wise the rest of your life.” The implication of that is, get all the instruction you can, and then go out and live it, and be wise the rest of your life. James, right? James chapter one, “Don’t be hearers only, but doers also.”
What’s the point of going to the mirror, seeing that you’ve got a big hair sticking up of your head, or one sticking out of your ear, which is even worse, and you know, “Hey, I better fix that before I go downstairs, and out the front door.” And then foolishly, you get distracted, you go downstairs, and you go out what the her sticking up, or out, and you make a fool, and a clown of yourself, and the brunt of your work mate’s jokes. And James is saying, “Look, you look in the mirror, fix what you see. When you read God’s word, do what it says.”
I like the story of the golf pro who took a businessman out on the local golf course, and he wanted to improve his swing. He didn’t like his approach shot, he didn’t like his stance, and the balance of his body, and so he began to inform, and correct this man about his stance, and his swing, but the man would have none of it. He wasn’t listening. He was a successful CEO. What he had done elsewhere, he had done well, and he assumed that, you know what, if this was his stance, and this was his swing, then on past experience, he’s been a pretty good judge of things. And so, before long, the golf pro began to agree with him, left him the way he was. As soon as the hour was up, the businessman paid him the money and headed off.
Now, a man was standing nearby, and watched the whole thing, and was rather disturbed by what he saw, and he said to the golf pro, he said, “I can’t believe what I just witnessed, and what just happened. In the middle of that session, you began to tell him what he wanted to hear.” The golf pro responded quote, “You know, you’re right, but I’ve been that long in this business to know that that’s what some people want. That man wasn’t paying me for counsel. He was paying me for an echo.”
And sometimes we go to people and that’s what we want. We don’t want counsel, we want an echo. That’s the danger of going to your peers. That’s the danger of not opening your heart to godly counsel, to the advice, and the rebuke of those who know better, and have shown that they’re obedient themselves.
Let’s take a third thought here. Not only do we have what we call consecration, and then consultation, we have thirdly what I call caution. In fact, let me back up. There was one sentence I wanted to share with you. The wise person, listen to this. The wise person is not the person who knows all the right answers. The wise person is the person who asks the right questions to those who have the right answers. It’s good to know that, isn’t it, in life? You don’t need to know all the right answers, but there are those who will help you find them. The trick is finding them.
But let’s look at the third requirement. Caution. Here’s what you need to write down as a thought. Wise decisions are not made in a hurry. Wise decisions are not made in a hurry. Good decisions are not usually impulsive. They are usually reached after due care, and due concern. There is prudence in patience, says the book of Proverbs. Don’t we have our own proverb about that? Haste makes waste. There’s a danger of being impulsive, and reactionary, when the best courses in life are usually those courses you have reflected upon, meditated about before you’ve taken a certain course of action.
Let me show you in the book of Proverbs, why you and I need to listen and learn. We need to listen and learn. Look at some of these challenges regarding presumption, and being driven by our feelings. Proverbs 14. Proverbs 14, and verse 14 and 15. “Only simpletons believe everything they are told. The prudent carefully consider their steps. The wise are cautious, and avoid danger. Fools plunge ahead with great confidence. The wise are cautious.” Verse 16, “And avoid danger, but fools run ahead.”
See the fool says, “Oh let’s do it.” The wise man says, “Hold on a minute. Have we thought about this?” The wise says, “We don’t need to think about this. Let’s do it. It feels good.” And the wise man says, “Hold on a minute. I don’t think we’ve thought this through. We need to be cautious about what we’re about to do.” Instinct can be fallible. Proverbs 18 verse 13, “What a shame, what folly to give advice before listening to the facts.” And that’s another verse, actually, on taking advice from someone.
If you’re looking the advice of someone, before they can advise you, they need to hear your story. If you’re two sentences into your story and they have wrapped up their counsel, don’t go on the basis of that. It’s a fool that gives an answer before he knows all the facts. And it’s the same about us. We shouldn’t act impulsively. We should gather all the facts we can, and think, and reflect, and meditate, lest we make a rash decision.
Proverbs 18:17 says this, “Any story sounds true until someone sets the record straight.” Have you ever heard one side of a story, and acted on the basis of that, only did I end up with egg on your face, and embarrassment before your friends, because you didn’t hear the other side of the story You acted hastily. You made a decision with only one side of the story. Someone comes along, sets their record straight, and what a fool you look. And I could go on repeating these, I’ll give you one more.
Proverbs 20, verse 25. “It’s a dangerous thing to make a rash promise to God before counting the cost.” Don’t commit yourself to a course of action until you have actually counted the cost, and realized what it’s going to entail to obey God on that, to follow through in obedience. Folks, the point we’re making here is simple. One of the wisest decisions we can make in life before crossing any intersection is to stop, look, and listen.
When I was growing up, as a boy in Northern Ireland, when we went to elementary school, they taught us the green cross code. They want us to get to high school. And so they said, “Here’s what you need to do boys and girls. When you come to a curb, and you’re crossing a busy road, even if you’re at lights, stop, look, and listen, and then cross the road once you see nothing’s coming, and you don’t hear the roaring engine of an approaching vehicle.”
It’s a great piece of advice for life, and the paths that we take. Stop, look, and listen. More mistakes are probably made by speed, than by sloth, by impatience than by dilatoriness. Waiting allows us to have our presumptions challenged, for someone to set the record straight, to give us a piece of information we didn’t have, to challenge us about the course we’re about to take. Plus, waiting upon God allows him to change a red light to a green light, or a green light to a red light. We call that the open door, the closed door.
God’s in charge of circumstances, and as we lay our hearts open to him, take the best possible advice, we’re about to make a decision, let’s step back one more time, ask God to confirm it. He may confirm it by slamming the door closed in your face. Or He may confirm it by opening a door. But we’ve got to be careful we don’t become impulsive.
I was about five when I was playing with some of my friends. We were playing cops and robbers. This was the days before Nintendo, when you had to amuse yourself. We were out playing in the bottom of our street, myself, a couple of friends, and young David Chambers. We were all excited, chasing each other. We became unaware of the danger that awaited us on the busy road near our home, until one friend darted across the road, and young David, in the chase, and in the emotion of it all, darted across the road, only to be slammed by a passing car.
I remember vividly just turning, hearing the thud, watching his body get rolled over under the car, and trailed down the road a little, until that car screeched to a halt. The horror of that situation still disturbs me to this day. I remember running scared straight up the street, about five doors up to my mom, rapping the door and shouting, “Mom, David Chambers, he’s dead, mom.” My mom was totally flabbergasted, kind of ushered me into the house. “What in the world are you talking about Philip?”
I said, “Mom, David’s been run over.” After calming me down, my mom stood on the doorstep, had a look at what was going on. We were on an elevation. Mrs. Chambers ran down the street, once she had been informed, and we’ll never forget her blood curdling cry, she realized her boy had been crushed to death in that car accident.
Just kids playing, as kids do. We lost our head. Forgot where we were for a moment. Did something by impulse. We didn’t stop, we didn’t look, we didn’t listen. And only by God’s grace some of us lived. David just happened to run across without thinking, and a car happened to be there. Could have been me, it could have been others. What a great lesson. Sometimes we dart across certain roads in life without thinking, and we end up the victims of physical, or emotional, or spiritual fender benders at best, and fatalities at worst.
Here’s the last thought. It requires consideration. Good decision making requires consecration, consultation, caution, consideration. Now, while this last thought has urged you to just step back and take a another look at things, seek a second opinion, go back over your decision making process, caution shouldn’t lead to indecision. The Bible wants us to exercise our human responsibility to apply our heart, to bring our minds to bear upon a given situation. And while the God fearing rest their future in the hands of an eternal, and all knowing God, they do not twiddle their thumbs.
In fact, the Book of Proverbs encourages us to plan. The book of Proverbs encourages us to investigate, and in the light of the information we get, to make a well-informed decision. We should gather facts, we should investigate. I want to warn you as a Christian, don’t go on hunches. Don’t be taking the Lord’s name and vain by saying, “I think the Lord wants me to do this. I feel the Lord wants me to do this.” And then you go and do some cockamamie thing, that brings shame to you, and disgraces the name of God, and you have dishonored Him because you brought His name into something He had nothing to do with.
Christians should not go on hunches. It is with a renewed mind that we determine the good, and the acceptable will of God. We’ve got to bring our mind to bear. We’ve got to be informed by the word of God. We’ve got to seek the council of mature, and seasoned people, and we’ve got to gather all the facts we can, and in the light of those gathered, and harvested facts, make a good decision. We don’t move on goosebumps. That’s tragic, and dangerous.
Listen to the book of Proverbs on this whole issue of investigation. Proverbs 13, verse 16. “Wise people think before they act. Fools don’t, and even brag about it.” Proverbs 14 verse eight, “The wise look ahead to see what is coming, but the fools deceive themselves.” The wise look ahead, they think ahead. They investigate, they anticipate, they analyze, they compare. They measure. One last verse here, Proverbs 14:18, “The simpleton is clothed with folly, but the wise person is crowned with knowledge.”
In fact, there is one verse I want to add to that. Proverbs 19, verse two, “Zeal without knowledge is not good.” That’s a great verse. “Zeal without knowledge is not good.” A person who moves too quickly may go the wrong way. I don’t know about you, but I like passionate people. I like people who’ve got a bit of electricity, you touch them and, “I got to do that, or I got to try that. Or man, if they can do it, I can do it.” Get you excited about life. But, zeal without knowledge is not good.
We need people who have got heart and head. We want to be passionate, but we want to be thoughtful. Being passionate, and being thoughtless, the Word of God condemns. Use your head, and bring your heart along for the journey. The Word of God encourages that. We need to probe, we need to get as much information as we can, and then when we have ferreted out that information, harvested those facts, we’ve got the plan.
As you make decisions, the Word of God encourages you to investigate, collect your information, and then order that information, and make a wise decision in the light of that. Make plans in the light of what you have garnered. The Bible’s not against plans. Listen to Proverbs six, verse six through eight. We’re told here to go to the ant. Learn lessons from the ant. One of the things about ants is this, verse seven. “Even though they have no prince, governor, or ruler to make them work, they labor.” Now there’s a proverb in itself. Do you need someone to stand over you? Does the foreman need to be walking the factory floor before you work? Does mom and dad have to come in, kick you in the pants, to make you clean your room, or take out the garbage?
Go look at the ant, there’s no prince, there’s no king, there’s no foreman. But they work. They know what their responsibility is. And here’s what else it says about the ant, “They work and they labor hard all summer, for what reason? Because they’re gathering food for the winter.” They’re thinking ahead, they’re planning. They’re not going to be caught on the hop. Again now, Proverbs 10 verse five. “A wise youth works hard all summer. A youth who sleeps away the hour of opportunity brings shame.”
It’s wise for young people, and it’s wise for parents to make their young people wise in this, that in between school, go and get a job, delivering papers, whatever the case might be. In between high school and college, get a job. Use your summer wisely. Think about the bills that are coming, the payments that are due. Work builds character. Work helps a young person not be dependent, teaches them self-respect, and responsibility, and helps them to think ahead. There comes a day when mom and dad’s not going to make all the decisions, and mom and dad’s not going to pay all the bills. Therefore, they need to plan, and think, and act accordingly.
One other verse on this, it’s the wise woman of Proverbs 31, verse 19. What did we read about her? “She’s energetic and strong, A hard worker. She watches for bargains. Her lights burn late into the night. Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twine the fiber. She extends a helping hand to the poor, and opens her arms to the needy. She has no fear of winter for her household, because all of them have warm clothes. She quilts her own bedspread. She dresses like royalty, in gowns of fine cloth.”
It’s a great thought. Again, like the ant, the wise woman, the godly mother, the great homemaker is someone that understands, “You know what? Winter’s coming. I got to knit some jumpers. I got to knit some sweaters. I’ve got to put together some clothes.” You don’t get to the winter and say, “Lord, we have need of jerseys, we need some sweat shirts.” And God goes, “Well, you had all summer to knit them, or to go and look for a bargain and buy them.”
So the Word of God encourages us to plan. I hope you never misunderstand the book of James. James isn’t condemning the businessman for their foresight, and forethought when they say, “We’re going to go here, and we’re going to stop, and we’re going to do business there for about a year, and we believe if we do this, and do that, here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to have a good profit margin.”
They’re not being condemned for wanting to be fat cats, commercially, and in business. What James condemns them, “Hold on a minute. Have you prayed about it? Did anybody commit these plans to the Lord? Did you submit them to Him? Because it’s only if the Lord wills you’re going to do this or do that.” It’s not that their planning was wrong, but they planned without prayer, and without submission to God. And Proverbs tells us that you and I ought to plan, we ought to take a course in life that has been thought out, prayed about, and submitted to God.
It wasn’t raining when Noah began to build the ark, but he knew that he would be in over his head if he waited for the first spit of rein. Here’s the statement I want you to think about. It’s a great statement. You and I need, in the light of the book of Proverbs, not to let the future become a time when we wish we had done what we’re not doing now. Think about that statement there. That’s the price of the sermon right there. Not to allow the future to become a time when we wish we had done what we’re not doing now.
What does God want you to do now? What do you need to do now, to be where you believe God is directing you? You need to investigate, and you need to plan, because a dream without a plan is only a wish. I like the story of the young man who went to the pastor about going to seminary. He wanted to train him to be a pastor, and a preacher. And yet the pastor, in talking to him, found out that the young man hadn’t finished high school, much less college. And so, he encouraged the young man to do both. Finish high school, go to college, and then think about seminary. But the young fellow, impetuous, and impatient, said, “But pastor, I believe God will fill my mouth.” To which the pastor replied, “So do I. But you need to fill your head, before he fills your mouth.” Need to plan.
But here’s a thought to conclude with. What we’ve said so far is this, when you and I find ourselves at a crossroads, or a fork in the road, let’s make sure our hearts are kept with all diligence. That they are open to what God wants us to do, that they’re informed by the Word of God, and that you and I are predisposed to obedience, because God will only lead those who are willing to follow.
And there we stand. “Oh God, lead me in the right path. Direct my paths, as I acknowledge you in all my ways.” And God will direct us through His Word, and through His Spirit, and then he might bring someone in who’s a good advisor, or a counselor, and they will also take His Word, and directed by His Spirit, give us good counsel. And there we stand, and God’s will is becoming clearer, and clearer. The open heart, the obedient heart has made that possible. The council of others, we step back, we take another look at it, just to make sure we’re not being impulsive, we’re not being driven by a goose bump theology. And it’s all still there. It’s all looking good. This is a good path to take. This is a good decision to make.
And then we have investigated all our options, and in the light of what’s possible, we have made a plan, and we make our decision. But there’s one last thought folks. It’s this. Even when we make that decision, God still might overrule it. Let me take you to a couple of verses here, and we’ll be done shortly. Proverbs 16, verse one. Proverbs 16 verse one. “We can gather our thoughts, but the Lord gives the right answer.” Proverb 16, verse one, then Proverbs 16 verse nine. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” And then finally here, Proverbs 19 verse 21. “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose prevails.”
Folks, this is encouraging. It may not seem that way at the start, but it is, and I’ll tell you why it’s encouraging to know that even when you have made good plans, and you’ve made a good decision, and you’re headed down a certain path, it is ultimately God’s plans that will prevail. God might cut you off at the pass. God might close the door, when you thought sure it was to be an open door.
You see, God is so in control that even when we act with the best of motives, and the fullest of understandings, our decisions still fall short of His perfect plan. I mean, even if your conscience is clear, and your heart is right, we are not omniscient, are we? There’s only one person’s omniscient, that’s God. He knows everything. He’s the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending. And even though I make what perceived to me and others as a good, informed, Biblical, godly decision, that seems to have no harm in it, or unrighteousness in it, God could still stop that from coming to full term. Why? Because He’s got a better plan, or He sees something we don’t see.
And it’s good to know that. It’s good to know that my fruitfulness in life does not rest on my decisions, even the best of them. That takes the worry out of living. Now, it doesn’t take the obedience out of living, and it doesn’t make us passive. We’ve got to do all these things we’re saying. But even when I make a decision, God can make His own decision about my decision. And even though I make good plans, ultimately it is His plan that will prevail.
And the nice side to that is, should you be here this morning, discouraged about, “Hey pastor, you keep talking about good decisions. Meet me for lunch, and I’ll tell you about some of the bad decisions I’ve made.” That’s another nice thing about that. Even when you make a bad decision, God’s purposes still prevail, and He can work all things together for good. Marriages that got off to a bad start, marriages that were based on bad choices, can still be put right. Amen?
Young man, if you’re here this morning, you’ve made foolish choices, you need to repent of those like the prodigal. But the Father stands waiting. He’s got a new life for you, and a new path for you to take. The final outcome of things does not depend on our wisdom, or on the wisdom of others. It depends upon the one of whom Isaiah said, “His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, His ways higher than ours.”
Let me finish with the story, which is actually my appeal and challenge to you. But American cities are becoming very congested. If you’ve ever driven the 405 freeway in LA, which I’ve done many times, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Or if you’ve had to go to Chicago, and drive the ring roads of that major city, you’ll realize sometimes it takes you a half an hour to go a couple of miles. And so, the government’s been thinking about this, and they’ve come up with a solution. And the solution is automated highways.
It’s like something you have seen in a sci-fi movie. You’ll get into a car someday, and you’ll punch in your direction, in some kind of GPS system, and you’ll just set back and that car will follow the path for you, because embedded in the asphalt will be sensors, along the side rails will be sensors that will feed information to a mother computer, which will direct the traffic, splitting cars off this way, and that way, ensuring that they exactly stay at 75 miles an hour, with maybe a margin of six feet between them. But you have no worry. The car in front of you is not going to brake, because the computer is controlling everything.
Sounds like a great idea. Well, the problem is, listening to one of these managers, the only thing wrong with this idea is we can’t get people to comfortably trust the system. It’s not a technology issue, it’s a people issue. See, people don’t like to lose control. I think I’d have a problem with that. I don’t mind knowing that that plane’s flying on automatic pilot, as long as there’s two warm bodies in the left seat, and the right seat, that should that thing disengage, they know what to do.
But me sitting there with no ability to control the thing, there’s no steering wheel for me to lay hold of, I have a problem. You know what? We’re like that in life. Some of us don’t want to give God the steering wheel. We like to hold all the options in our own hand. But I’d encourage you this morning, in the light of what we have said, to trust Him with all your heart, to lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and do what He’s asked you to do as a responsible human being. But know this, in the end, He will direct your steps, and you can make your plans, but ultimately, His plan will prevail. And ultimately, His plan is best. My brother wrote in the fly leaf of a book he gave me many years ago, “Plan to be His plan. That’s the best plan.”