Making Wise Decisions
What many have in their heart and mind is a plan: a plan that they can go all the way from earth to heaven without any trials - without a sad day, without a trial day, without a hard day. But it's not like that. When we leave this earth to go to heaven that will be the greatest joy we've ever known.
In the meanwhile, as we wait for that great day, we will find many temptations along the way - and James is saying that we should count them all joy. Should we really count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations ? Are we counting it all joy?
Having a trial shouldn't mean failure and disappointment. A trial is meant to cause you to become more patient. Is that patient spirit, that patient way, working in your life? Can you wait for something to happen? Can you wait a little longer for Jesus to come and take you home ?
Why do we need patience? We've got to go through some things: sometimes we have to go through the waters! sometimes through the floods! sometimes through trying times!
The devil is going to come along to try and tempt us. But God is there to try us - not tempt us. God won't tempt us with evil - but He will try our faith.
It's good to have your faith tried. You'd never know if you have faith unless it is tried. Those trying experiences of your faith work patience in you.
Can we just skip the patience? Listen! Life would be very difficult without patience. And life is very difficult to many because they lack patience. They can't wait. They can't endure.
So, is patience important ? Patience is going to do a work in you. If you'll let patience have her perfect work in you, she will make you perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Isn't that worth going through some trials?
Thus, if I'm going to be tried, I'm going to count that all joy that I've got to go through that. Why? because I know it will work for my good. Whenever I'm going through a trying time, then, I should lift up my countenance. What do I have to look down for? I know how big my feet are without looking down. I don't have to look down to know what size shoes I wear. I'm going to look up and count it all joy - knowing that the trying of my faith is working patience; and if patience is having her perfect way in me it will make me to be perfect and entire, not wanting anything.
Is it worth it, then? Should we lift up our countenance? Should we count all things joy? The whole course fails here if we don't count the trying of our faith all joy. The whole course fails. It's a crashing course when we don't count the things we go through as all joy.
Isn't this part of the experience? Isn't it part of the being prepared? Isn't it part of being made prepared in our own hearts? Let's know our place. Why should we let things get us down?
Wisdom and Faith
I guess we can take verse 5, then, and bring it into the equation to see how it plays a big part
In the midst of counting it all joy; in the midst of the trying of your faith; in the midst of the developing of patience - in the midst of all of this - can you see that there is maybe one thing you really need that you don't always have readily available? What is that thing?
That one thing often lacking is wisdom.
So, in the midst of our trying times we need wisdom. And if we would only ask God for wisdom, He will give it to us liberally. We won't get rebuked for asking. He knows we need it, and assures us that He will give it to us - if we but ask.
When we lack wisdom we will always be hurt somewhere. There will always be a lot of things that will seem out of place to us, things that are hard to deal with. And the reason is simply that we lack wisdom from God.
Our mind is nothing compared to the mind of God. His wisdom and ability far exceeds man's. When we come to the end of ourselves, where we don't know what to do, there is one thing we can do: we can ask God for wisdom.
Operate with the mind of God, with His wisdom - that which He would hand down to you to help you with. But you need to ask.
From divers temptations . . . to patience . . . to patience having her perfect work. In the midst of it all we need wisdom . . . and we need faith, unwavering faith.
God gives us an illustration to help us see the importance of this:
verse 6 & 7
Some folks might be shut out from receiving because they're not asking in faith. It's not enough to ask - we must ask in faith, with nothing wavering.
Are you double minded ? "Well, I have a mind to serve the Lord - but, at the same time, there are those things of the world I love to do." Isn't that being double minded?
Single up your mind. Which way are you going? Are you going left? or right? Are you going all the way with God? or are you going to walk on the fence ?
There was a time when all you wanted was the world and its ways. Now ought to be the time when all you want is God and the things of God. You've got to come to the place where you mind is single. Where your mind and heart are set on things from above, not on the things of this old world. Your mind has to get settled. You can't handle two different lifestyles at the same time. You can't live for God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength - and, at the same time, live for the world.
Colossians 3:1,2 & 5a
When we mortify and make dead our members by the power of God then we won't be drawn away by temptations any longer. We won't be interested in those things that once tempted us.
We saw in James where a man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Can you think of anyone who would entice you? anyone who would work like Satan to ever ask you to come with them and run together into temptations? Be watchful that you're not enticed to jump the track.
That's pretty clear. If we have the lust of this world (which is the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life - I John 5:14,15) - if this controls in our heart we'll always find ourselves in trouble. When those lusts conceive, they bring forth sin - and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.
Do you know how to deal with your temptations? You've got to learn to deal with them.
Now, there's several areas of temptation where major problems rise. One area where Christians find themselves tempted is the area where decisions have to be made. It was there before they got saved, but they dealt with it differently back then.
All along through life there are decisions to be made. And we should realize that there's a way to make decisions - and there's a way where you won't find yourself caught up in something you find you later don't want.
The Scriptures would teach us many things about making decisions:
A decision in a Christian's life without the Hand and help of God can become fatal. In all our ways acknowledge Him. In the midst of our decision making we want to look to Jesus, acknowledging Him in that particular decision and letting Him direct our path.
I came up with a simple formula long ago: good decisions by God's people are decisions made on the basis of good information. If you don't have good information, how can you make a good decision? This passage of Scripture gives us good information - in all our ways acknowledge the Lord, and He shall direct our paths. That's something we can base our faith on.
Also we could take that verse we read in James 1 -
In making decisions, don't we need God's wisdom? Wouldn't that be best - to have God's wisdom in making our decisions?
In lots of ways God's wisdom is far different from our wisdom. He is encouraging us to invite His wisdom into our life that it might help us to make good decisions. There are certain things about making decisions that are very important. Bad decisions are often made hastily - on the basis of bad or inadequate information.
Life is filled with decisions. A lot of these decisions are spiritual in nature, in the sense that they are something to do with our life. In making decisions that affect our life we need God's help because our life is a spiritual life. Our life is not a natural life. Thus, in all our decisions we must know the will of God concerning that decision.
Knowing God's will and the affect a decision will have on my spiritual life will always help in making good decisions. It's not a matter of how this decision will bless us to our gain. We must look at the life we are living in Jesus - and not want to make one decision, then, that affects that in a derogatory way.
I want my soul, then, to be guided in the wisdom of God, in the light of the Scriptures, led of the Spirit. Don't we need the Spirit's guidance in making decisions? He's the One who can put it together for us in a manner wherein we can see clearly.
Then there is the other realm of spiritual help in making decisions: the realm of prayer. What kind of a decision could you make without first praying about it?
If it's a matter of going to the grocery store and trying to decide which brand of ketchup you want to buy, that's not affecting your spiritual walk. But there are those serious decisions we have to make along this life as Christians: and we have a lot of resources to help us in making those decisions. We have the Word, the Spirit, prayer, and the wisdom of God.
But, you know, there's a lot of misinformation: the things you don't know. You can be totally blind to some element that you're not aware of. Is this a good thing? or is it bad? You may not know. A bad decision could be as a simple thing as that which you might fail to do.
Wisdom & Love
I'm going to add something else into what we're saying. Some of these other things are pretty important. But first we want to talk about wisdom, and about the love we need to go with that wisdom.
Is this wisdom ? Based upon what?
There's a person who's absolutely destitute! He's down and out! He needs the daily necessities of life (those things we must have in order to live, such as food and clothing).
Think now of what James is saying - that someone would see such a need, and merely say be warmed and be filled (not giving him anything to be warmed with or anything to be filed with)! This reflects a lack of love - and a lack of wisdom. This is the wisdom of the world: to turn away from such great need, disregarding what is right before us.
Somebody made a decision there: to love in word but not in deed.
This is talking about the wisdom of this world. You can't make decisions with this type of wisdom. What gain would there be if your wisdom was made in accordance with things that were earthly, sensual, and devilish? If you're praying for wisdom, this isn't what you want. You find envy and strife accompanying that type of wisdom.
One of the works in our lives is that of making decisions. What about you? You have many decisions to make where if you don't have the wisdom you need in making them you could find yourself in trouble.
How many decisions are determined because of envy and strife. What about making the decision to stop speaking to someone. Sometimes that someone is mother or father. People make foolish decisions like that. There are brothers and sisters who have decided never to speak to each other again - not even to give the time of day!
This gives a picture of living with carnal, devilish, fleshy wisdom. That will never work. Thank God as the people of God we've been given something better. Take advantage of the wisdom of God which He has so freely offered.
We need God's wisdom in making decisions. It's not just assuming we're making a right decision because we asked God to help us make it. We want to be sure we are using the wisdom He gives.
This gives us a look at spiritual wisdom, the wisdom of God. Oh, how we need this wisdom from above. I Corinthians 13 gives us a look at what charity is; and here we are given a look at what the wisdom of God is.
This is the wisdom that James told us to ask for - the wisdom that is from above. This wisdom is first pure. There's no contaminates in it, no ulterior motives. It's God's pure wisdom given to help us with the decisions we have to make.
Then this wisdom is peaceable. Making decisions with God's wisdom doesn't turn into a big issue of contention. His wisdom is gentle.
Pure, peaceable, and gentle - that gets you off to a good start. It certainly sounds like something from God.
Easy to be intreated: not hard to take; not hard to get into; not hard to let work.
So, in acting with this wisdom this is what it would tend to turn to - a decision made that is pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated.
This wisdom is full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
If you wrote up the family will, would you leave out one of your children? which one would you give the most to? and which one would you give the least to? You die, and that's it. Your decision is sealed. The day they bury you, they get the paper out - and, suddenly, your children realize they didn't all get the same portion! Would that be wisdom? or would that be partiality? It might seem to be a wise decision to someone who is full of envy and strife - but that certainly wouldn't be the wisdom of God.
God's people ought to be filled with His love, not with envy or spitefulness. And if we act in God's wisdom, the decisions we make will be made in love.
It's easy to be partial if you're not careful. Which one of your kids do you love the most? Do you love one more than the others? - that could get a family ruckus going!
God's wisdom is given to us in a manner so that when we apply it to everyday life, to everyday decisions - we're going to find our decisions are enduring and fruitful.
Look at the universe and you'll see the wisdom and knowledge of God. He is the possessor of all wisdom and of all knowledge.
Prayer In Making Decisions
Let's think soberly, now, about our decisions. Let's try to bear up to some decisions that we have to make. One of the thoughts we ought to think about in making decisions is that when we use the wisdom of God in making decisions we won't be in a rush. We won't make jiffy decisions - where there's no time to pray about it, no time to seek out God's wisdom.
You have a piece of real estate and make the highest offer - usually you'll know right away the results of that decision. But at other times you may not know for days or weeks or months or even years what kind of a decision you really made.
Some decisions we make are very important to life (our life, the life of our family, of our children, and even more far-reaching than that). We should always be careful, then, that those decisions are framed in the will of God. Some decisions might seem on the surface to be a wise decision, a right decision - but if that decision leads you out of the will of God, would it be worth making such a decision? That should be the first thing you check out. If you make a decision that gets you out of the will of God, that gets you off the track - you could be years trying to get back where you once were.
How many times people make just such a foolish decision. They have a position that the Lord gave them in His will for their life - and then they give that up for some reason or another. They lay that down to grab hold of something else. Soon they realize they lost their place and got out of the will of God in that unwise decision. Bear in mind, then, that we should consider first the will of God in making our decisions.
Many ask me what they should do, wanting me to make their decision for them. But, then, if they went down the road a bit and realized that my decision for them didn't fulfill some lust they had in their intent, some gain they were after - they would then determine it was because I made a bad decision for them.
Who should make your decisions? People hire lawyers to make decisions for them, don't they. But in everyday life, who should make your decisions? As a pastor it's not my job to make people's decisions for them. But it is my job to help them when they're wrestling and struggling with a decision and asking my advice.
I know one thing: God said to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. There are a lot of decisions you have to work out, a lot of decisions you have to make by yourself - with the help and grace of God.
Many times I see someone making a decision that's foolish. There's no thought behind that decision. They don't seem to see down the road. They only see what's right before them, what's right now. They can see if it will put money in their hand right now - but they might not see what it will cost them later on.
You have to have wisdom from above, guidance from the Holy Spirit in order to know what's down the road a way. Each of us in making decisions need God to help us. The will of God has got to have first place. Our decisions should keep us in the will of God, not lead us away from it.
If we'll pray (someone said they prayed 15 minutes about it - and then they make a decision with that 15 minutes of prayer, a decision that would govern the rest of their life). Listen, pray - until you've prayed through, until God has had an opportunity to guide you. He said in all your ways to acknowledge Him, and He should direct your path. You've got to do your part, and pray.
How do you acknowledge God? To acknowledge God in all your ways is to go before Him and take the matter that's so important to you - and in the midst of it all take time to allow this thing to be prayed through. Really, carefully talking it over with the Lord. You just can't make serious decisions without first taking time. Hasty decisions generally fall apart.
We've got to get on our face before God and acknowledge Him, seeking Him to direct our path. "Lord, I don't want to make a wrong decision here. God, I don't want to make a decision that's contrary to Your will. I don't want to make a decision that's contrary to Your Word. I want to stay in Your will. I want to do what You've called me to do."
We need to acknowledge the Lord carefully and prayerfully in making those decisions.
Also, in acknowledging the Lord, is there anything in the Word that helps you by looking at a decision God has already made for somebody else - or where someone suffered the consequences of making a decision that took them out of the will of God. There are a lot of tailor-made answers in God's Word. It is just filled with His wisdom.
So, making the right decisions is important to us. We all need to learn for ourselves that there are times when we have to make some tough decisions. In our natural mind we just don't know what to do. We've got to find out from above. And if we take the time to acknowledge the Lord, what did He say He would do? He said He would direct our paths.
So if we carefully prayed through, God will help us in the decision process. He will help us make the right decision, help us do the right thing. He'll bring us through with an answer that will keep us in His will and where we will have His blessing in the process of it. But we have to come to that place where we're willing to take seriously every decision we find ourselves confronted with.
I've made a lot of decisions along the way. I've made a lot of decisions for myself; a lot of decisions for the church. And I can look back and reflect on those decisions. I think of many decisions I made acknowledging the Lord - and He directed me as to what to do. I can look back and see how His hand and His wisdom was upon me to make specific decisions - because He gave the answer when I acknowledged Him.
The wisdom of God might seem sometimes like foolishness unto men - but, bless God, we've got to know God; we've got to acknowledge God; and we've got to acknowledge God in seriousness. I believe God has given to us every thing that we need to make good decisions. I believe He has given us every thing we need - we just have to apply ourselves and not be hasty. Those decisions should be well thought through and well prayed through.
We have to take time. We have to be serious about making decisions. And with most decisions we'll have time to seek the Lord before we do anything, time to acknowledge Him that He might direct our path
There are those decisions that must be made at the spur of the moment. If somebody suddenly fell on the floor unconscious - what would you do! You'd have to make a quick decision.
But usually your decisions give enough time to seek the Lord first that you might have His wisdom and know His will. When we make decisions in this manner we will find those decisions are very effective.
Remember, now, good decisions are made on the basis of good information.