Decisions, Decisions!

Decisions tracks

“Should I make my lunch tonight or in the morning?”
“Which shoes should I wear with this outfit?”
“I’m hungry, but I can’t decide what to eat!”
 

These are just a few recent examples of the kinds of important decisions (certain unnamed) 13-year-olds face.  Sometimes, especially when s/he’s tired, s/he’ll waffle back and forth between his/her options.  This will continue until one or both of his/her exasperated parents cries, “Just make a decision already!”

And while my junior high days are long past (thank you Jesus), I must admit I still have my own issues when it comes to decision making.  In addition to the daily trivial matters, decisions now come in Adult sizes.  Things like Careers and Kids and Major Purchases.  NBD. 

So I’ve compiled a list of five questions to ask when facing a significant decision.  Perhaps they’ll be helpful to you too.  They’re a kind of “checks and balances,” if you will, to keep you from making an unbalanced decision.  (You can think of them as fingers on a hand.  Or points on a star.  Or whatever helps you remember them.) 

1—What does GOD’S WORD have to say about it?

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105, NLT)

It helps to know God’s Word.  Is this decision specifically addressed in Scripture?  If not, are there some general principles that might apply to it?

2—What impressions am I sensing in PRAYER?

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. (James 1:5a, NLT)

Have you prayed about it?  Are you sensing any promptings from the Holy Spirit?  As sheep spend time with the Shepherd they come to know Him and recognize His voice (John 10:3-4).  Keep in mind that God will never contradict what He has already revealed in His Word.

 3—What are the DESIRES of my heart? 

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. (Psalm 37:4, NLT)

The world says, “Follow your heart.”  God says, “Follow Me and let ME give you the desires of your heart.”  When your heart is fully surrendered to Him, He will mold it to reflect His heart.  I like the way 1 Peter 4:2 (NLT) puts it:  “You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.”

4—What WISE COUNSEL have I received?

So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers. (Proverbs 24:6, NLT)

The key word here is “wise!”  Look for someone who has walked with God and has a track record with Him.  A person who has gone through a similar situation successfully or has learned from their mistakes can also give wise counsel.  Other good choices are spiritual leaders, people who know us well, and professional counselors.

5—What are the CIRCUMSTANCES (Open and Closed Doors)?

When I came to the city of Troas to preach the Good News of Christ, the Lord opened a door of opportunity for me. (2 Corinthians 2:12, NLT)

I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. (Romans 1:13, NLT)

In 2 Corinthians 2 we see an example of an open door, and in Romans 1, a closed door.  While we don’t base our decisions solely on circumstances, God will use them to guide us and/or redirect us.

Let’s face it, whether you’re 13 or 30 (or a certain unnamed age like myself), decision making can be difficult.  The good news is that our God walks with us through all of life’s crossroads.  He can be fully trusted to direct our hearts, answer our prayers, and open and shut the right doors to lead us safely to His will.

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The Very First Verse

TrustInTheLord

I was a sophomore in college.  Without a major.  Lacking direction.

Desperate for guidance, I opened my Bible and stumbled upon Proverbs 3:5-6.  As a relatively new believer, this was the first verse I ever really believed and took to heart.  I even put it to music on my guitar.  Although the tune and chords have faded from my memory, His words remain:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.*

In times of uncertainty we seek comfort in the familiar.  So today I returned to Proverbs 3 to enjoy the company of this old friend.  Bible commentators guided me, verse by verse, as I meditated upon its meaning.  I’ll let their words–and His words–speak for themselves.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart…

The Hebrew word for “trust,” batakh, means “to cling to…to confide in, to set one’s hope and confidence upon.” (Pulpit Commentary)

“We must trust in the Lord with all our hearts, believing he is able and wise to do what is best.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

And do not lean on your own understanding…

“Those who know themselves, find their own understandings a broken reed, which, if they lean upon, will fail.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

“The admonition does not mean that we are not to use our own understanding…i.e. form plans with discretion, and employ legitimate means in the pursuit of our ends; but that, when we use it, we are to depend upon God and his directing and overruling providence.” (Pulpit Commentary)

In all your ways acknowledge Him…

“The Hebrew verb yada signifies “to know, recognize.”  To acknowledge God is, therefore, to recognize, in all our dealings and undertakings, God’s overruling providence…” (Pulpit Commentary)

“Begin, continue, and end every work, purpose, and device, with God.  Earnestly pray for his direction at the commencement; look for his continual support in the progress; and so begin and continue that all may terminate in his glory…” (Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible)

And He will make your paths straight…

“The pronoun v’hu is emphatic, “he himself”  God here binds himself by a covenant.” (Pulpit Commentary)  (Wow.)

The New King James Version puts it like this:  “And He shall direct your paths.”  The word “direct” literally means to “make plain.” (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary)

I love the simplicity of the New Living Translation:  “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

Such rich insights!  Like time spent with a treasured friend, I left my study of Proverbs 3:5-6 feeling refreshed, encouraged, and inspired.

I can still picture that young college girl, guitar in hand, as she clung to this promise, and to the Lord, for the very first time.  He was faithful to guide her then.  He can be trusted to guide us now.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.  In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, The Amplified Version)

*The New American Standard Version

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What’s Next?

I like to talk to God out loud when I’m alone in the car.  I’m sure it looks strange.  I try not to care what the other drivers around me think.

Last Friday I had a lunch date in Colorado with a good friend.  I always look forward to our annual “Christmas Catch-up.”  I also looked forward to my “date” with the Lord on the way there and back.  As I merged onto the southbound lane of I-25, I began sharing my heart with Him in prayer.

I was feeling burdened by an important decision affecting our family, wondering what was next.  I asked God to guide us and show us His will.  As I prayed, the Holy Spirit brought to mind several truths.  While I still don’t know the outcome of this particular situation, here is what I DO know…

1)  HE knows.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

We may not know the future, but we know the One who does.  Even though the path before us is unclear, He knows exactly what waits around the bend.  This brings welcome peace in the midst of uncertainty.

2)  I can “Do the next thing.”

Years ago I was privileged to attend a conference where author and former missionary Elisabeth Elliot spoke.  She shared how overwhelmed she felt upon returning to the mission field following her husband’s death. This phrase helped guide her:

When you don’t know what to do next, simply do the next thing.”

Continuing down the highway, I recalled her words.  I could see my “next thing” clearly, a conversation that needed to take place.  I would try and make that happen.

Then the Lord reminded me of this verse:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10, NAS)

I’ve always pictured Ephesians 2:10 something like this:

footprintssnow

God has gone before us.  The good works He has lovingly prepared and uniquely equipped each of us to do stretch out before us, like footprints in the snow.  Our job is simply to place our foot in the imprint of His, one step at a time.  Sometimes blowing snow obscures the trail.   But if we sit tight our view will eventually clear.

Are you faced with a difficult decision or a challenging situation?  Rest in the fact that God has prepared the way and knows the outcome.  Can you see your next step?  Then take it.  Just do the next thing.  Step by step, you’ll get to where you need to be.

It’s a new year, full of possibilities and unknowns.  Our future is known and planned by our heavenly Father.  He will faithfully guide us, each step of the way.

(For an in-depth study of Jeremiah 29:11, check this out:  http://shelleylloydsmith.com/?p=1209 )

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