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April 10, 2022
It’s Time To Decide – Part 2
Series: Off Color
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Time:
Psalm 25
Scripture: 
Topics: 

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The Off Color series provides valuable insight to help us master our emotions and not allow emotions to master us. Pastor Philip calls believers to engage their emotions properly and to enjoy God’s goodness in all circumstances of life.

More From This Series

Transcript

Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Psalm 25 for the time that remains. I want to come back and finish a sermon I started last week. If you’re visiting with us, we’re in a series called Off Color—or you could call it A Little Off Color—and we are looking at unwelcome emotions. We’ve kind of color-coded them: white with fear, blue with depression, red with anger, and black with guilt. And last week we started to look at gray with indecision.

So, I want to help you think through the issue of decision-making. Sometimes you can find yourself at a spot in life where it’s hard to make a decision. You’re not sure what path to take, and that’s a very unsettling and restless kind of state of spirit. We want to help you to that end.

Rather than read the whole psalm, I just want you to see that this psalm was written by King David during a time of conflict—when he was facing threats and treachery—and he was asking God for some clear guidance. You pick that up, don’t you, in the language of verses 4 and 5: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day.”

If you scroll over to verse 8: “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He teaches sinners in the way. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.”

Look at verse 14: “The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.”

Let’s get back to “It’s Time to Decide.” To me, some of the best commercials on TV are the GEICO ones. I don’t know if you agree, but I think they’re brilliant. My favorite has a bunch of young people being chased through a forest, and then they come to this kind of creepy looking house. One of the group suggests they hide in the attic. Another one suggests they hide in the basement. One of the girls is confused by this because not far away is a running car, so she says, “Why don’t we just take the running car and get out of here?” Someone in the party says, “That’s crazy.” And they point to a shed full of dangling chainsaws, and they all scurry in behind the chainsaws. Then the camera changes to this kind of ghoulish, threatening looking figure behind them with a mask on his head and a chainsaw in his hand, shaking his head like, “How dumb are these people?”

And then there’s this line in the advert: When you’re in a horror movie, you make poor decisions. That’s a great line. We’ve all seen that, right? Why do they go and open the door? Why don’t they run instead of stay? You get it. When you’re in a horror movie, you make poor decisions. That is what you do. If you want to save 15% on car insurance, you switch to GEICO. It’s what you do.

And I love that. Horror movie or not, we’re all capable of making poor decisions, bad choices. And, you know what, in some cases, the choices are so momentous that when we make a poor choice, we can turn our life into a horror story. That’s why we understand the importance of making good decisions, because we know instinctively that we make our decisions and then our decisions turn around and make us. Decisions have a power attached to them.

Listen to C. S. Lewis: “. . . every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God . . . or else into one that is in a state of war . . . with God . . .”

See what he’s saying? When you and I make a choice, we’re becoming something different. And, frankly, what we are, where we are, how we feel to a large degree this morning is the result of the choices you and I have made, of our reactions, of our actions. We are the sum of our choices. Now, I know if I was to listen to your life story, you might say, “You know what? Some choices were made by others that have really affected me negatively.” And I don’t discount that. But you know what? How you choose to react, how you choose to process that pain, is on you.

So, ultimately, we are still the sum of our choices. Who we are, where we are, what we’re doing, as I’ve said, is the accumulated result of good or bad, wise or foolish, carnal or spiritual choices. I’ll say it, but you’re not surprised in me saying it. The quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our choices. And that’s what makes decision-making the pressing present priority that it is.

I want to come back to Psalm 25 and address that issue. We’re in our series Off Color. We’ve kind of color-coded some unwelcome emotions that we’re trying to deal with: white with fear, blue with depression, red with anger, black with guilt, and now gray with indecision. And Psalm 25 offers us some abiding principles in relation to guidance.

As you study God’s word, in times past God has communicated His will. God has spoken through angels and prophets and visions, clouds, pillars of fire, writing on the wall, miracles, speaking donkeys, thunder, lightning, dreams, casting lots. But that’s not usual. That wasn’t even usual for that time. And so I’m looking for abiding principles. And you know what? I think we can find them in Psalm 25.

The context of our text is conflict in the life of King David. He is under threat. He may be dealing with treachery in his own administration.

He tells us in verse 3, “Indeed, let no one who waits on You be ashamed; let those be ashamed who deal treacherously without cause.” Verse 19: “Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with a cruel hatred.” He’s lonely and afflicted. Verse 16: “Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted.” He’s stressed and distressed. Verses 17–19: “The troubles of my heart have enlarged; bring me out of my distresses! Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins. Consider my enemies.”

In the middle of this, he asks God for three things. One thing really interests us. He asks for God’s grace (vs. 6, 7, 16). Then he asks for God’s guardianship (vs. 2, 20, 22). And then he asks for God’s guidance. And that’s what perks our interest. David’s got to make some tough decisions in the middle of tough times, which makes it tougher. And so he prays, “Lord, show me, Lord, teach me, Lord, lead me.” He says in verse 9, “Guide me.” So, here he asked God for guidance, and certainly and surely there’s something for you and me to learn.

If you were with us a week ago, we covered three abiding principles. Now, the reason we’re not going to go verse by verse, line upon line—we’re kind of hop, skipping, and jumping across the text—is because this psalm is an acrostic in and of itself. It’s arranged after the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, aleph to tav. And so it’s not so much linear thinking. It’s not so much line upon line as it is the grouping of ideas, and that allows us to be a little bit more loose with the text in the sense of just picking these principles that are being taught.

Number one: the principle of prayer. Look at verse 1: “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed.” Right from the get go, we have him praying. We have him asking for God to intervene in his behalf. And you know what? Prayer is a great tool and a great avenue by which we can understand the mind of God. In fact, Jesus taught us, didn’t He, in the Lord’s prayer to pray God’s will to be done and God’s kingdom to come. We’re being reminded that prayer is not about us getting our will done in heaven. It’s about God getting His will done on earth through us as we submit and make ourselves available. Adrian Rogers used to say, “The prayer that gets to heaven is the prayer that starts in heaven.” So you see the role of prayer, the principle of prayer.

Secondly, the principle of posture. If you’re going to pray, pray in a spirit of submission. Don’t ask God for leadership. Don’t ask God for His will without an intent to do it. All right? “Show me Your ways” (vs. 4). Teach me, lead me. If you go over to verses 9 and 10: “The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way.” And so the posture, the disposition of your heart is important. That would be Romans 12:1–2, right? Present your body as a living sacrifice to God. Don’t be conformed to this world. Be renewed in your mind that you might prove what is that good and acceptable will of God. You’ve got to present yourself to God like Jesus Christ Himself did. “Lord, not my will but Your will be done.”

The principle of purification or purging. It’s interesting that you see it in verses 6 and 7 and later on. You’ll see it also where David asks for his sins to be forgiven. “Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies. . . . Do not remember the sins of my youth.” If you scroll down to verse 18: “Look on my affliction . . . and forgive all my sins.” David wanted to be at a place where there was nothing standing between him and God. There was no known sin that he was cherishing, because if we cherish sin in our heart, what? God will not hear us.

So all of that said, let’s pick up another principle. Principle of prayer, posture, purification, precept. This is where you begin writing again. Precept. This is verses 4 and 5: “Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on you I wait all the day.” If you go to verse 10: “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.”

Here is another principle. The principle of guidance through, reliance upon the instruction of God’s inspired, pure, and all-encompassing Word. When you get to the text “cause me to know; teach me,” it’s in a Hebrew form that has urgency and passion and directness to it. This man deeply desires to learn the ways and paths of God. He wants to conduct his life in a proper manner in harmony with the will of God, as it’s revealed in the word of God, because he understands that primarily you learn the will of God. Conduct is determined by the truth of God’s word. And so he wants to walk in God’s ways. He wants to travel the path of obedience.

God has spoken. Do you realize that? The God of the Bible’s not silent. Psalm 19 tells us He has spoken through the creation, where we get a sense of: creation is this vast and this beautiful and this ordered, what must the creator and the maker of this universe be like? And God has spoken through prophets and apostles and His Son, Jesus Christ, right? Hebrews 1:1–2: “God . . . has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.”

God has spoken. God has revealed His heart and mind. And we believe as Protestant and evangelical believers that the Bible, the 66 books of the Bible, are that library of God’s thoughts—inspired, inerrant, preserved, and protected by the providence and the power of God. God has revealed His mind in all matters of faith and practice. You want to know God’s will? Read all about it. You don’t have to go walking into the forest and empty your mind. No, the opposite. Get on your knees and fill your mind with biblical truth. Study the Scriptures, divide the Word of God properly.

Let me give you an example of what we’re talking about. What about 2 Timothy 3:16? Familiar, but let me read it again. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Literally in the Greek, “God breathed out.” What we have in the words of Paul and Peter and John are the very words of God breathed out through them in the mystery of the process of inspiration, where we have God’s word recorded for us.

God has given us His breathed-out word, and you’ll notice what it does. It’s profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction and righteousness. I love what Warren Wiersbe says about these verses. He says it’s for doctrine—what is right. It’s for reproof—what is not right. It’s for correction—how to get right. And it’s for instruction and righteousness—how to stay right. That’s what God’s Word does. That’s the profit of mastering this book and allowing this book to master you. You’ll know what is right. You’ll know what is wrong. You’ll know how to get right when you’ve done wrong, and this book will help you stay right.

As my mother taught me from my earliest recollection, “Philip, either sin will keep you from this book, or this book will keep you from sin.” That’s the nature of Scripture, and you know what? It addresses the issues of life and godliness sufficiently. Look at verse 17 of 2 Timothy 3: “. . . that the man of God [the woman of God] may be complete”—that’s a Greek word that means “adequate” or “fitted”—“thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The idea behind thoroughly equipped—we have made reference to this before—is the boat or the vessel that has a complete complement of crew and has all the resources in terms of fuel and food for whatever journey they’re undertaking. The ship is now seaworthy. It has been fully equipped for the voyage.

And the Word of God is sufficient and adequate. It fits us for every good work: family, career, friendship, sexuality, church life, government, society. The Word of God will tell you what’s right, what’s wrong. It’ll help you get right when you’ve done wrong. And the Word of God will keep you right. When it comes to God’s will, read all about it. If you don’t read your Bible, you’re in trouble for sure, because there’s a way that seems right unto a man but the ender of is death.

Just listen to these words from Psalm 119. Psalm 119 is the longest psalm in the psalter, and it is completely dedicated to God’s Word—its purity, its nature, its necessity, its sufficiency. Just listen to the language afresh. Psalm 119:9: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” What about verse 24? “Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Isn’t that a beautiful thought? The Word of God is a counselor, and that’s why your counselors need to be biblical counselors—because the Word of God is our counsel on all matters of life and practice.

Look at verse 35: “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.” Look at verse 105. You know this one. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” From what I know in my study, that’s the image of someone walking with a lamp. They’re swinging it, and there’s enough light for them to take the next step. Or—I was interested to learn this week—some in the Middle East tied little lamps at the bottom of their leg, around their ankle, and as they walked, the light was shed onto their path. And the Word of God does that. It helps us take the next step in maturing our relationship with God, our neighbors, our family, our friends, the one we want to love over a lifetime.

Listen, the Bible is there to take the guesswork out of life. God’s will, in many ways, is an open secret. You and I want to live our lives like Jesus lived His. How many times do the gospel writers and the commentators in Jesus’ life say this? That He did that according to the Scriptures. That whatever He did was done in fulfillment of the Scriptures. Jesus’ life was choreographed by God’s Word. In fact, in Psalm 40 and Hebrews 10, what does it say? “In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will.” Jesus Christ lived His life according to the book, the scroll, the scripture. May that be true of you and me.

Now, before going any further, this will help you as you think through the role the Word of God must play in your life. As you make a decision— again we’re talking about the big decisions, the life-changing decisions, the decisions that affect your life’s quality and direction—you’re going to look for a couple of things. You’re going to look for what some writers have called the prohibition, the permission, and the principle.

As you read God’s Word, there are going to be some things that are just clearly prohibited. You’re not meant to do it at any time, anywhere. And then there’s things that God’s Word permits and promotes and commends and commands. And then there are areas that are gray—areas where one can exercise a certain freedom—and that would be principles. That would be the book of Proverbs, okay? The book of Proverbs are not promises, and they’re not precepts. The book of Proverbs are these maxims that have come through godly observation tested by time. They’re benchmarks for behavior that generally work. There’s some qualifications, but you get the point.

In fact, we can take the permission-prohibition idea and just turn it into precept. So there are precepts, and there are principles. Charles Swindoll is very helpful here. Listen, as I quote, he says this, when you come to God’s word, “Precepts are clearly marked statements like ‘Abstain from sexual immorality.’” All right? So, as you’re thinking through, “Can I have sex with my girlfriend before I get married?” No, not ever. It’s prohibited. It’s commanded not to. Abstain from sexual immorality.

And Swindoll says that’s something like the sign you’ll see on the side of the road: speed limit 35. What’s the speed limit? 35. What is excess speed? 36, 37, 38. You get the point. What is speeding? Anything over 35 miles an hour. That’s a precept, okay? You don’t have to do a lot of thinking about that one. You know what’s right, and you know what’s wrong.

But what’s a principle? That’s another sign by the road, says Swindoll, that’s “Drive carefully.” Now, what does that mean? There’s some liberty there. You’ve got some room to maneuver and apply your own thinking and make your own choices. So, on a nice sunny, dry day, you’re on that road that says drive carefully, and that might mean you can drive at 40 or 50. But, on a wet day with a skim of ice and a frost, you should drive about 10 miles an hour. So, driving carefully is determined by the context and the set of circumstances and what’s wise in those circumstances.

And you know what, God’s Word is precepts and principles, and as you work through those sign posts, it will help you navigate life.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about or what role the Word of God might play in, let’s say, dating and courtship. Okay? Now, the Bible’s not going to tell you who to marry. You’re not going to find “her name is Mary” and “his name is John” there, okay? Don’t be going to Matthew and saying, “You know what? My girlfriend’s name’s Mary, or my boyfriend’s name’s Joseph, and so they’re the one.” Now, in one sense, the Bible doesn’t tell you who to marry in terms of name or individual person. But it does tell you who to marry in terms of precept and principle.

Let me give you an example. The Bible won’t tell you “Mary” or “John,” but the Bible will tell you whether Mary or John qualify to be your wife or your husband.

Number one: What about precept? 1 Corinthians 7: Only marry in the Lord. That’s where you start. Should I marry him? Should I marry her? Well, the first question is: Are they a believer? You can only marry a Christian if you’re a Christian. You can’t be unequally yoked with an unbeliever by choice.

Now, if you go to 1 Corinthians 7, sometimes someone comes to faith in Jesus Christ later in life. That’s fine. Their marriage is sanctified, even though their husband or their wife’s an unbeliever. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the choice you make consciously.

If you’re a believer and disciple of Jesus Christ, how can two walk together except they be agreed? Why are you going to pursue a life with someone that’s not on the same page with you as to the most important things in life? So, the Bible’s not going to tell you what person to marry, but the Bible’s going to tell you what kind of person to marry. You’re meant to marry in the Lord.

Number two: You’re meant to marry someone of the opposite sex. Sorry I have to say that in today’s age. We’ve got a Supreme Court judge who doesn’t even know what a woman is. Go figure. But the Bible tells you that marriage is between a man and a woman. For this reason shall a man leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife (Genesis 2:24). So you’ve got to marry a biological man if you’re a woman. You’ve got to marry a biological woman if you’re a man. The Bible commands that. Anything else is a perversion of God’s will and outside the biblical parameters.

Here’s another idea, okay? The Bible’s not going to tell you who to marry, but the Bible’s going to tell you who to marry in terms of the kind of person they ought to be. Whether their name’s “Mary” or “John,” do they love children? You say, “Pastor, what are you talking about?” In Genesis, one of the purposes of marriage is to have children. Go forth and multiply. A childless marriage is unbiblical—unless circumstances or a medical complication doesn’t allow for that.

It is the intent of marriage to produce children. One of the purposes of a Christian marriage is to produce godly seed, according to Malachi 2, to bring up your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. So, when’s the last time when you were dating someone or courting someone that you really looked at how they behave in the presence of children? Do they love children?

Especially if you’re a girl, look at how a guy reacts to children. Is he good with children? Does he love the company of boys and girls? Can he get down there? Because we all know it only takes a moment to become a father. It takes a lifetime to be one. So make sure you frontload the process. If you’re looking at a boy, is he a hard worker? Is he selfless? Is he a good leader? Why would I say that? Because again—just even take 1 Timothy 3 or Ephesians 5—he’s going to be the head of his house. His wife’s going to have to submit to him. So you want to know what kind of a leader he is. He’s going to have to provide. He’s the primary breadwinner. So is he a hard worker? Does he take his work seriously? Is he trying to make himself better so that he can be a bigger blessing to those around him?

If you’re looking at a girl, is she submissive? Has she got a gentle and quiet spirit? Is she focused on the inside as much as the outside? What’s she like in the kitchen? Sorry, ladies. You say, “Ah, you’re old fashioned.” No, I’m biblical. Read Proverbs 31. The Proverb 31 woman takes care of all the things of the home and the needs of the home. Titus 2:5 says she’s a keeper at home. Now I’m not saying that kitchen defines her. She’s more than that. She’s not just a cook and a baby factory. I’m not saying that; don’t quote me as saying that. But I am saying one of her priorities alongside her husband is to submit to his leadership and to order the home, to be a keeper at home, to raise her children while her husband as the primary breadwinner is out doing that. We can read from Proverbs 31 that she might have a business bent herself, and she can indulge in that as long as that’s not detrimental to the home. But I’m getting off topic.

Those are some of the precepts and principles. Now, the Bible won’t give you a verse and say, “It’s John,” but is the John you’re looking at the John I just described? The Bible’s not going to say, “It’s Mary,” but is the Mary you’re looking at and dating the kind of Mary I described? Hopefully you get the point.

I love what Peter Bloomfield says: “The will of God is not up for grabs. It is not something inward, subjective, or intangible. It has nothing to do with our feelings. It is not something private or tailor-made for you or me alone. It is not a voice of revelation that you sense inside yourself. No, it is a hard copy! It is visible and written down. It is there in the arrangement of verbs and nouns, subjects and predicates, phrases and clauses, questions and exclamations, warnings and encouragements, parables and narratives, proverbs and psalms, history and typology, propositions and pronouns.” You want to know God’s will? Read all about it. You’ve got a hard copy. Are you mastering it? Or are you waiting for some bump in the night, some voice inside you? Get to the book, and master it. And let it master you.

I like the word of Spencer Tracy. Now, that might not be a name familiar with our younger audience, you know? He’s the Brad Pitt of a couple of generations ago, okay? Spencer Tracy was an actor in Hollywood, and he gives this advice to young actresses and young actors. And he said this. It’s a great line: “Know your lines and don’t bump into the furniture.” That’s pretty simple, right? Learn the script, become the character in the movie, and don’t bump into the furniture. And you know what? I want to take that, paraphrase it. You want know your role as a Christian man or Christian woman when it comes to deciding God’s purposes for you? Learn the script. It’s right here. Learn your lines, and know where you’re at in the story. Don’t bump into the furniture.

Okay, here’s another principle: perspective. Back to Psalm 25. Yes, we were expounding Psalm 25. We’re working our way through the words of David. Another principle. Psalm 25:9: “The humble He guides in justice.” You might have a version that puts it something like this: The humble He guides in the right way or rightly. Because the Hebrew term there is a word that means “a judgment or a decision that’s right.”

So, here’s a principle. God wants you to be discerning, judicial, insightful. He wants you to be discriminating in your thought process. Through discrimination, through discernment, He wants you to make a good decision. He will guide you to that end. And what we have here is permission to weigh options, to gain perspective for the wise counsel of others, to think and allow other people’s thinking to be added to our thinking so we can make a good, just, right, and wise decision.

See, where the Word of God is not definite, or where the Word of God is dealing with a matter of choice or freedom, we need to deploy and employ sound judgment. See, God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and what? A sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7. What about Romans 12:1–2, where it says you need to yield yourself to God as you pursue His will. You’ve got to fight the world as it tries to squeeze you into its cultural mold—because this is a world at enmity with God; never forget that. The philosophies of a university rarely line up with the precepts of God’s word. And renew your mind that you might prove what is that good and acceptable will of God.

The renewed mind is a mind that’s now opened and illuminated by the Holy Spirit and instructed and governed by theological thought from God’s Word. We need to bring the mind that’s renewed, the mind that’s sound—that would be sound in judgment and sound in doctrine—to our decision-making process.

It’s been well said that when God gave us a brain, He gave us 90% of His will. I think that’s about right. That was very liberating for me, and when I read that many years ago and wrote it down and marinated on it, I thought, “That’s right.” You know? Because too many Christians get all charismatic and superstitious when it comes to God’s will. They’re looking for the stars to line up. They’re waiting for someone to bump into them they haven’t seen for 50 years as a sign that “God wants me to do this.” Well, I’m not discounting that God in His providence can clarify some things. But, basically, haven’t you got a brain? Why don’t you think it through? Why don’t you ask God to give you justice, just thinking, right thinking, discernment, discrimination so that you can make a good decision?

See, when it comes to this idea of perception or perspective, it involves thought, and it involves teachers. Write down these verses, and think about them. In Philippians 2:25–26, here’s what Paul says: “I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus.” Just notice those words. I considered it and believed it was necessary to send Epaphroditus to you.

When it comes to the widows’ needs in Acts 6 and whether the apostle should address them, they say that they don’t think that’s a wise thing to do. The apostles say, in fact, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables” (Acts 6:2). They say that just does not make any sense that we would take our generals off the field of battle. Surely somebody else can serve the tables. It’s just not desirable, not wise. It doesn’t make any sense.

In Titus 3:12, he said, “I have decided to spend the winter there.” I just want you to notice those phrases. “It’s not desirable.” “I considered it necessary.” “I decided.”

Jesus says, right, in Luke 14:28 and 31 that if you’re going to be My disciple, then you need to count the cost. He gives two analogies. He says, “Look, you need to sit down and count the cost.” You need to think about how no one’s going to build a building and no one’s going to lay a foundation until they’ve got planning permission and they’ve got the funds to do it. It’s just not wise. Or, for the general who’s got 10,000 soldiers, is it wise if he goes up against an opponent of 100,000? No, they sit down and work that all out and think that through and plan and bring perspective. That’s what God asks of us.

It involves thought, and then it involves teachers. The beauty of life is that life is not a solo. It’s a duet, and God has placed us into families and placed us into communities. He’s brought within our reach wise people, people who have lived longer, seen more, and people who have made mistakes and want to pass on their advice, free of charge. It cost them a lot to learn it.

In the book of Proverbs again and again and again, we’re told, you know what, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15). What about Proverbs 20:18, similar thought: “Plans are established by counsel [thinking, listening, reflecting, weighing]; by wise counsel wage war.” That takes you to Luke 14 and the words of the Lord Jesus. One other verse would be Proverbs 24:6: “For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety.”

Take advice when you’re deciding God’s will, because it is God’s will that you take advice, that you think clearly, informed by the Word of God, the Spirit of God within, in the community of believers—listening to pastors and teachers and senior seasoned saints, listening to your mother and your father, listening to your friends. That is, your wise friends, okay? If you’re 15 or 16 and making a decision, don’t ask your 12-year-old brother. It’s just not wise, unless he’s the next genius. Not likely.

Here’s my point. Just be careful. Don’t get all spiritual and sensational and supernatural. Don’t be listening for voices. Don’t be watching for signs. Don’t be laying out fleeces. I’m shocked how many people talk about fleeces. You ever read the story of Gideon? Gideon’s fleece was an act of unbelief. He had already been clearly told the will of God, but he didn’t have the faith to believe it and the courage to do it. And so he asked God for a sign. I want the fleece dry in the morning, and I want it wet at night. And God in His kindness sometimes condescends to our unbelief. That’s not a biblical pattern of wisdom.

Don’t be spooked by people who tell you they’ve heard from God what you ought to do. A man actually came to Spurgeon one day and said, “Mr. Spurgeon, God told me that I’m to preach in your pulpit next week.” To which Spurgeon replied, “That’s funny. He didn’t tell me.” And he never let him preach in his pulpit. He didn’t get spooked by some guy who believes he’s got a hotline to God.

We live in the day of Charismania, and you’re going to get a whole bunch of people telling you what the Lord told them to tell you. You know what? The Lord spoke to me in 66 books. I haven’t even mastered all that He’s told me yet before I hear from those who pretend to speak for Him.

In fact, I was interested this week to learn from John Bunyan. When he was in prison in the 1600s, he was eventually met by a Quaker who said to him one day, “After searching for thee in half the jails of England, I am glad to have found thee at last.” And he’d come to give Bunyan a message from God. Bunyan replied, “If the Lord sent thee, you would not have needed to take so much trouble to find me, for He knows that I’ve been in prison for seven years here in Bedford.” You get the point. The guy goes, “Hey, I’ve been up and down England trying to find you, and God sent me.” And Bunyan’s like, “I don’t think so, because God knows I’ve been here for seven years.”

Again, don’t get spooked. I like the line from Groucho Marx. I’m a big fan of the Marx brothers. You have to be a bit whacked out to enjoy the Marx brothers, so that’s maybe… But Groucho Marx said this: “If a black cat crosses your path, it signifies that the animal is going somewhere.” He’s right. He’s right. Stop getting all spooked out and all suspicious. Use your mind. Ask yourself: Is this activity forbidden in the Word of God? Is it forbidden by civil authorities? Does it have a good appearance before a watching world? Is it commended by my conscience? Is it profitable and useful? Does it control me or enslave me? Does it bring glory to God? Those are all questions biblical writers asks themselves.

Let’s get to the last point: patience. Patience is another principle. We’ll be quick with this, but look at verse 3 of Psalm 25: “Let no one who waits on You be ashamed.” Notice the word “wait.” Scroll down to verse 5: “Lead me in Your truth . . . For You are the God of my salvation; on you I wait all the day.” Verse 21: “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You.” Now there is another abiding principle. When you’re not sure what the next step is, wait for God to unfold the next step.

See, David’s here hoping for a turn of events—that those who are threatening him, God would deal with, and he would not be put to shame. David’s hoping for release and relief from his torturous circumstances. He is pleading for certain things in Psalm 25, and he’s waiting in prayer with the right posture for God to answer. And he waits expectantly and patiently.

See, folks, God guides us a step at a time, doesn’t He? His word is a lamp unto our feet. Back to that image of the little lantern on the ankle or the lantern being held. The Word of God will show you the next step and the next step and the next step. And, sometimes, we have to wait for God to clarify the next step. But wait patiently. Wait expectantly. Waiting in the Word of God is not passive. It’s not inactive. David’s not inactive in Psalm 25. He’s praying. He’s searching God’s Word. He’s finding hope in God’s promises. He’s waiting on God’s providence to protect him and release him.

My last word of caution is, as you make a decision—a big decision, an important decision, one of those decisions that accumulates over life and really turns you into who you are—don’t run ahead of God. Psalm 32:9. Don’t be like the horse. Don’t be like the mule. The horse has a tendency to run ahead, doesn’t it? Don’t exceed the spiritual speed limit that providence has posted. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and so are the stops.

Warren Wiersbe says this on a message in Psalm 32:9 about the horse running ahead: “When God is at work, He works with calmness and precision, not with haste, carelessness.” In fact, several men in the Bible became impulsive and ran ahead of God, right? Impulsiveness will get you into trouble. That’s another theme, by the way, in the book of Proverbs, about the danger of haste, of not thinking things through, of not taking counsel, of not imagining where that takes you.

He says this: Moses rushed ahead of God’s will and killed an Egyptian, and it cost him 40 years waiting in the wilderness. Peter rushed ahead of God’s will and cut off the man’s ear in an impulse, and Jesus had to heal it, lest Peter lose his life. Abraham ran ahead of God and married Hagar, and their son was Ishmael and brought trouble to their house. Be not as the horse. Don’t exceed the spiritual limit. Don’t run ahead of God. One of the marks of maturity is patience, a willingness to wait for God’s time. He’s never early. He’s never late.

As we close, I was reading about a man who prided himself in punctuality. He followed a very precise routine. Every morning, his alarm went off at 6:30. He rose briskly, shaved, showered, ate his breakfast, brushed his teeth, picked up his briefcase, got in his car, drove down to the ferry landing, parked his car, rode the ferry to the downtown business area. He marched to his building, took the elevator to the 17th floor, hung his coat, opened his briefcase, spread his papers, sat down on his chair at 8:00. Not 7:59. Not 8:01.

One morning his alarm doesn’t go off. He’s 15 minutes late. He’s in a panic. So, he jumps out of bed, rushes through his shower, nicks himself shaving, gulps down his breakfast, only halfway brushes his teeth, grabs his briefcase, jumps in the car, speeds down to the ferry landing, jumps out of his car. He notices that the ferry is a few feet from the dock, and he goes to himself, “You know, I think I can make it.” And so, like an Olympic long jumper, he takes a big run, he jumps, and he lands right on the deck of the ferry. Everybody’s amazed. The captain comes down and says, “Are you okay? That was crazy! If you’d waited a minute, we’d have reached the dock. And you could have walked on.”

It’s a good story. And the principle’s abiding. You know what? Sometimes we do some silly stuff, and we put ourselves and our family in great danger, not willing to wait for God’s blessings to come in the dock. God gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him.

Father, we thank You for Your Word—practical, powerful. May we hide it in our heart so we may not sin against You. Lord, we thank You for the freedom to choose, and yet we own that freedom as a responsibility, and we want to heed the warning of Proverbs. There’s a way that seems right to a man, but the end can be death. Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him. And so, Lord, we thank You for these abiding principles from Psalm 25 that will deal with us when we’re gray with indecision. Lord, we pray that we might submit our life and our family and our career and our relationships and our church to You in prayer, that we might have the right posture of heart, that we are simply Your servant.

You’re the hand; we’re the glove. We pray that You’ll have complete control of our lives and our will. We pray that we might purge ourselves of known sin. Because if we cherish sin in our hearts, you won’t hear us. No parent is going to give their child another thing when they’re in the midst of disobedience. You neither. Thank You for Your Word—inspired, inerrant, pure, sufficient. Lord, we thank You for our minds. Better than anything Apple or IBM can create. Powerful tools that need to be soundly used and renewed and schooled in the thoughts of God. Lord, we thank You that You’re at work all around us, creating an environment that You’re someday going to call us to step into. So while we wait, help us to wait patiently. Help us to grow spiritually so that when the time comes to take the next step, we are ready for the moment. For we pray and ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.