Go with me in your Bible if you would to James chapter one and I’m going to continue a series that I’ve been going through entitled “12 Scriptures That’ll Set on Fire the Course of Your Life.” And these are not Scriptures that I picked routinely, these are Scriptures that have affected my life, that have given me the ability to live differently. Now all of us in here at one time in our life, well, we have pivotal times in our life, and we have to make a decision. And these decisions, even as we’re making them, we know that they’re going to affect us for years down the road. The title of this message is “The Decisions We Make, Make us.” The decisions we make, make us. The title is not unique to me. I must have got it somewhere. There’s a lot of phrases that are like that, but today’s message is “The decisions we make, make us”.
Martin Luther. I can’t go into great detail about who he was. You should know who he was. If you had a good education, you should know who Martin Luther is. He was one of the most important individuals in the 14 and early 1500s. Because of how the Lord used him, Christianity changed. The Reformation happened in all of Western Europe and you and I are sitting here, and we’re still affected by how the Lord used him years ago. Anyway, Martin Luther originally was going to be a lawyer and he had been there studying law and he started to make some good friends. And if you know anything about Martin Luther, he liked beer. So, he and his friends would go to the tavern and they would talk theology and they would hook a few. And an unexpected plague hit the town where the school was and three of his good friends suddenly died. One day they’re alive, two or three days later, they’re dead. And it shook Martin Luther. The brevity of life, how quickly it can all change. A little while later, he was caught in a lightning storm, he was alone on horseback and lightning strikes were hitting all around him. You know, God can get our attention sometimes, but anyway he was scared to death, you know, the lightning was going to hit him, he’s going to fry. And so he said, “Lord, if you get me out of here, I’ll become a priest!” Well, the Lord got him out, of course, and he became a priest. But that decision affected all of Europe. Continues to affect us today.
Elisha, he’s plowing in the field with twelve oxen which means he was a wealthy son, I mean his family was wealthy. If you had twelve oxen, you were wealthy. Elijah comes up to him and to make a long story short, says, “I’m going to call you to be my apprentice and someday take over for me.” He had a decision to make. If he would have said, “No, I got a lot of responsibilities here” and so forth, we would not be talking about him this morning. We wouldn’t even know his name. A very wealthy young man came to Jesus and if you read the story, it’s obvious Jesus had a lot of empathy and really liked the guy. And in that one decision, you know, my personal opinion is he could have been a close disciple of Jesus, but he made a decision to seek after materialism and he missed out.
When I was going into 9th grade, my parents, (and I really appreciate the fact that they had me in Christian school through 8th grade) at 9th, they decided to put me in a public school and that’s when everything went downhill, south, bad. I’ve often wondered, that was a pivotal time, if my parents would have made the decision not to put me in that public school, would my life have been different. Years ago, I made the decision to leave teaching, do what I was doing, coaching, what I really liked to do and go off to Dubuque, Iowa to seminary. And I got to ask, where would I be today if I wouldn’t have made that decision? If I would have made teaching and coaching my life, where would I be today?
Today, we’re going to talk about making good decisions. We all have to make decisions every day, but I really want to concentrate on those times when we know we’ve got to make a good decision. We need God’s help. Those times are going to come and those decisions shape our life. First of all, who are you going to marry? I mean, that’s an important decision. Make an investment, should I take this new job, should I purchase the house, a decision on the kids, on and on. In the verses immediately preceding the verses we’re going to read today, the Apostle James tells us that all of us are going to be confronted with tough times in our life. And when those times come, you and I are going to be faced with decisions and sometimes critical decisions. And James says that those times we’re going to need wisdom. To make a good decision, we need to have wisdom.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Today we’re going to ask three questions and we’re going to answer three questions that will help you in making good decisions. The first question is an obvious one.
1: What is wisdom?
In the culture we live in, the wisest person is a person who, generally, it is assumed that it’s the person who has the most alphabet soup behind their name. The person who’s got the most education. They’re the wisest. And so education has become the solution for everything. There’s a problem, more education. Just pour money into education. I’m not saying education is bad and as the years have ticked by, biblical knowledge that makes people wise has been sucked out of our school system to the point where Christianity or biblical wisdom or the ten commandments is laughed at, ridiculed in school. And how’s that worked out for us? Now if you’ve been here for any length of time, you know I like things simple. The doctor comes in, you know, just tell me… how much time do I got? I don’t want all this stuff, just tell me, am I in trouble or not? That’s the kind of guy I am. And if you’ve been here any length of time you know I like things simple and this is how I would define wisdom:
Wisdom: The ability to practically apply biblical knowledge
See, you can’t have wisdom without being a student of God’s Word. The world is impressed with his knowledge, which almost universally now, keeps God out of the equation. As a matter of fact, if you try to put God into the equation, you’re ridiculed. Keep your religion in your church. But this kind of knowledge that we seem to have in our culture that has put God to the side, has it helped us? Has it helped our leaders make good, wise decisions in our society and government? I would say, no. I look around, I see chaos, anarchy and a bunch of potholes in the road. And I ride motorcycles, you know. It’s going to kill me, big things! Just yesterday I was driving, and I saw some paint marks around some of the potholes and I thought, “Well, good. You finally recognized something’s there.” I digress.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9 that God looks at much of what our society calls wisdom and knowledge and says it’s foolishness. Knowledge is foolish if it doesn’t include God. And it’s bound to lead to unhappiness, pain and loss. When you make a decision without God, that’s what it leads to. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly and you have an abundant life by having the ability to make good decisions in your life. And wisdom doesn’t all of a sudden just come to you because you get saved. Your spirit is enlightened, your conscience becomes softer and more tender to good or bad and the Spirit of God, but just because you become a Christian, you don’t automatically become wise. Wisdom is understanding what the Word of God says and then applying it to the decisions that you have to make in your life. If you read through Deuteronomy 27-30… and I’m sure that reading Deuteronomy is something that we all do on a regular basis but… chapters 27 through 30 are interesting. They’re called the blessing and cursing chapters because basically it says if you do this, you’re blessed, you do that, not so good. You do this, it’s good, you do that, well, not so good. But if you read through those chapters, you soon discern that much of how you and I experience life is going to be determined by our understanding of what God’s will is and making decisions that line up with His will. So, wisdom is the ability to practically apply biblical knowledge, okay? Understanding what God’s will is and taking that understanding and using it to make decisions. The second question is…
2: How do I get Godly wisdom?
You say, “Well, that’s kind of like what you just said” but hold on. It’s kind of like a second part of question 1 but I made it 2. How do I get Godly wisdom to make wise decisions? Well, James says, “You ask for it.” In James 4:2, James says, “You don’t have because you don’t ask.” You ask for wisdom! And most of you know what Jesus said in Matthew 7, we’re going to read it.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
So Jesus says if you want wisdom, the first thing you do is you ask for it, the second thing is you seek after it. And how do you seek after it? The Bible. You become a student of God’s Word. You ask for wisdom and you become a student of God’s Word. You say, “Lord, as I read Your Word, open it to my mind. Let me understand what I wouldn’t otherwise.” Paul says that things of the Spirit are spiritually appraised. As a Christian, you can read a passage and God speaks to you. An unsaved person reads that same passage and doesn’t understand a word of it.
Okay so, you’ve asked the Lord for wisdom, you’re a student of the Word and you have a decision to make but you can’t find any Scripture that helps you make the decision. What do you do? You go find an old person that’s been a Christian for a while, okay? They have gray hair. You can’t tell with the women, but you know. And why do you go to an older person? Because they’ve lived a long time and in all probability, they’ve been where you’re at. They’ve had to make the same decision. They probably know words of Scripture that will help you. The greatest teacher is just living. The greatest teacher is making mistakes! See this face, the gray? I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve earned every gray hair. You go and you ask that person, “This is the decision my wife and I are struggling with, is there something in the Bible to help me?” And then you ask that person who’s been around for a while, “Could you give me any advice? Do you have any opinion on this?”
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
…but wisdom is with those who receive counsel.
There are a lot of Proverbs about there being safety in a multitude of counselors, and so forth. I would never make any major decision in my life without first passing it by 3 or 4 guys that I totally trust. One of them is obviously my brother. And each one of these guys has no trouble telling me, “I think you’re wrong, you’re off here.” Especially Mark. I mean, he’s my brother for heaven’s sake. And Mark knows the Word. He knows it very well, as a matter of fact. I may not want to hear what they have to say but I know if I’m off, I want to hear what they have to say. If you want to make wise decisions you’ve got to be willing to seek counsel. You look at the Word, you seek counsel, okay? You’ve asked for wisdom, you look at the Word, you look in the Word, you become a student of the Word, and then you go get counsel. Because the Apostle John tells us that there’s a lot of spirits in the world and they want to delude you. They want you to make the wrong decision. They want to neutralize you as a Christian. They do not want you to experience the abundant life because when you do, you become a testimony to other people around you. The enemy wants you to make wrong decisions. And so John says there’s a lot of spirits in the world and you’ve got to be certain it’s God who’s speaking to you. You have to make sure that you understand the Scripture correctly.
So many times, I’ve heard people use Scripture or say something like this, “God has told me” and I’m sitting there thinking, “Oh, goodness.” And so, I say in a multitude of different ways, “Well, that’s not God. God is not speaking to you.” And one of two things happen at this point. Unfortunately, usually, they get very upset at me. But sometimes they go, “Really? Why?” And I show them. And they say, “You know what? I guess the Lord isn’t speaking to me.” That’s a wise person. But so often they get mad because they’re convinced they’ve heard from God because God is telling them what they want to hear. God is telling them they can do exactly what they want to do. God is telling them that what they’ve decided to do is wonderful and, you know, I’m raining on their parade. But I want to challenge you guys, challenge all of us including myself, why should we be afraid to test what we think God has said to us? We’re trying to make a decision, we’ve prayed for wisdom, we’ve looked in the Bible, why should we be afraid to test it? Because if God has actually spoken to us, it’s going to pass the test! And if it doesn’t pass the test, do you want to make a dumb decision, an unwise decision? I hope not. If I think I’ve heard from God about something and I run it by those guys that I trust and they tell me, “I don’t think it’s from God”, I’m not moving on it. I’m not moving on it.
I’ve learned this many years ago: by nature, I’m a manipulator. There’s not a lot to like about me. So, you know, we have a board. I didn’t really want a board at this point, I just wanted guys that’ll do what I say. That’ll say, “You’re hearing from God, we know, oh righteous one.” But finally it dawned on me, because here I am trying to figure out how to convince them to do something, whether they really want to do it or not (this is years ago) and then it hit me… wait a minute, this is stupid, I wonder if I’m not hearing from God. Because if a pastor like Mark and I, we have a board, they love us, they love the church, if I come to them and I present something and they say, “Oh Dave, we don’t know” I would be an idiot, a fool, to keep trying to push. Because they’re submitted to me, because they love me, if these guys say, “Hey, wait a minute!” I step back, whoa, baby. I need to rethink this. Thank you for your honesty. So it’s imperative to test what we think God is telling us when it comes to decisions we have to make.
Now there’s a book on prayer, a definitive work (holding up the book he wrote). Have you guys ever seen “What about Bob?” Then you know exactly where he goes, “There’s a definitive work” and he pulls out his own book. Anyway in Chapter 7, I have an 8-fold test. This test is something that I use in my own life.
#1 – Does the word agree with Scripture?
#2 – It should challenge your faith
#3 – Does the word go against worldly wisdom
#4 – Take the word to a mature Christian
#5 – Does the word cause you to take a stand for Christ?
#6 – Is the word wanting you to rush? God rarely wants you to rush.
#7 – Peace
#8 – Fruit
If you are trying to make a decision, if you don’t have this book, go get it, you can get it today for $8 and read about how to test whether you have heard from God or not.
Now also there’s going to be times when you’ve prayed, you sought counsel, you’ve looked at the Word and you’re just not getting any direction. I’ve been there. “Lord give me wisdom” and you look at the Word and there just isn’t anything in there. You go get counseling and there’s nothing really in there. I’ll give you an example. Say you want to take a new job and you’re weighing the pros and cons and you’ve looked at the Word and you’ve talked to older folks that you trust and they all say, “Well, I really don’t know what to do.” In those times, you get on your knees, you say “Lord”, if you’re a couple you get on your knees and you say, “Lord, we have to make a decision, we’ve prayed for wisdom, we’ve looked at Your Word, we’ve got counsel, we’re going to make a decision right now.” And you make the decision! “Lord, we trust. We’ve made this decision and we trust You’ve prepared the way, You have guided our steps, You’re going to establish our way and Your Word says You work all things together for good for those who love God and that’s it, we’re making a decision.” That’s it. Which brings us to the third question. And I’m going to spend some time on this. I’m going to spend awhile on this.
#3: After the decision, how can doubt destroy our peace?
I’m an authority on this and I’ll explain to you why in a minute. James says when you want to make a decision and you ask for wisdom you have to ask in faith without doubting otherwise…
But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
The Apostle James tells us that after making a decision, if we doubt God gave us the wisdom to make that decision, we become a double-minded man or woman. I guarantee you as soon as you go through this process, you make a decision it won’t be very long before you hear a whispering in your ear, “You made the wrong decision. You really blew it. These are all the things that might happen. The thoughts and the temptations will come. You should have gone with your first instinct, blah, blah, blah. You’re so naive to trust God when God hasn’t been faithful, or you’ve never seen God faithful with you in this particular area in your life. Your family’s future, you just put your family’s future on the line.” James tells us when we give in to those temptations, those thoughts, we become an unstable double-minded person. We become confused. We’re tossed by the winds. We become confused, disoriented. We begin to ask the what-if questions. We wake up at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning with all kinds of negative scenarios that could happen because we made this decision. And how can I speak to this with so much certainty? Because for much of my Christian life, I lived it as a double-minded Christian. The Greek word ‘double-minded’ means literally pulled in 2 directions. It’s a miserable place to be and it drives the people closest to you crazy. A year or so after we got married… I got married when I was 35. I bought a house when I was like 31 or 32. My dad helped me with the down payment. Hey guys, that was back when you could buy a house for $120,000 (I bought it for $115,000, a four-bedroom house) and you only needed 10% down, so that was the good old days. So, we’re married, and we need to repaint the outside of the house and of course we need a color for the trim. (Mary is sitting there going, “Oh, I remember this.”) So, we need 2 colors. So, I go to the Home Depot or whatever, I forget where. I went to Frazee’s, are they still around? Okay, I went to Frazee’s. And I got those fans with all those colors. Stacked them up. We went through them all. After an agonizing decision, we come up with two. Okay. Then you know, a day or two later, I come back with the fans, “You know I just don’t know” and we go off on this agonizing thing again. A couple days later, I come back and repeat the thing again. “I don’t know if I really like that color, I just don’t know.” So, I walk through the front door with the fans again. Mary might not even remember this but I do. She’s standing in the kitchen and she sees me with those fans and I can see her face and basically her look was, “You have got to be kidding me!” She said, “Stop! We’re not doing this again. I don’t care what color you paint the outside of the house. Dave, I don’t care if it’s purple. I don’t care if it’s black. I don’t care if it’s green or yellow. I don’t care. Well, maybe not yellow. Don’t care, just make a decision!” I learned something. I can’t speak with authority for agnostic women. I can’t speak with authority for atheistic women. But I know this. Christian women do not like men who are indecisive and cannot make a decision because they don’t make good leaders. Did you hear what I said? Women are looking for a man who when they make a decision, he has strength, “This is our decision, we’re going to go forward.” Young man, Christian ladies are looking for a guy that they can trust, that when a decision has been made, he won’t be going, “I don’t know, did I make the right decision? Oh my gosh! Where’s mommy?” They’re looking for a man who will try to make it happen. A double-minded person… it’s like a person who has a compass in their hand and they’re trying to find true-north and they got a magnet in their pocket. The needle is going all over the place.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
When we’re making decisions and we’ve prayed and we’ve gone through the process, we have to believe that God has given us the wisdom. He’s leading us. God has given us the wisdom to make the decision. One of the greatest lessons I learned in making decisions and something I hope all of you take away from this, no matter how old you are, is when you’ve prayed for wisdom, you’ve sought the Word, you’ve gone after counsel and you make the decision, you never look back. You never look back. You never look back. Doesn’t do any good, nothing. The enemy wants you to look back. Looking back accomplishes nothing. You trust God and you move forward. The Apostle Paul, he never looked back. Philippians 3:14-15 – “I press ahead, I’m looking forward.” The only time Paul ever looked back was to remind himself how faithful and wonderful God was or a lesson that he learned. Otherwise, you look forward. Surrender your decision to God and move forward. And let’s see what Jesus says.
But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
I don’t know a whole lot about plowing, especially with horses and oxen, but I do know if you don’t keep focused on some point out in the future, you’re constantly going like that (looking backwards), your furrows are going to look like this (waving with his hand). And if that’s the way you’re living your Christian life, that’s what your life is going to look like. You’ll be bouncing from here to there and to here. Your life is not going to be a testimony to the peace and love of God and direction in your life. When I make a decision now, I ask for wisdom, I look at the Word, I get counsel and then I make the decision. I mean, I’m not perfect but I try… that’s the end of it, the end of it. I don’t want to think about all the negative scenarios. Once I’ve made a decision, that’s it.
So, here’s what I want you to take away from this. You want to make wise decisions, you ask God for wisdom believing He’s going to give it to you. You ask him, “Lord, if there’s something in your Word, bring it to my mind.” I mean the better you know the Word, the better. Plus, online now, you can buy things that will tell you Scriptures that apply to your specific situation. And if you still can’t find something, go to somebody and ask them, “Is there something in the Word that relates to this?” And once you think you’ve found something and you’re ready to make a decision, make sure you go to someone who’s lived a while, has been a Christian for a while and you can run this decision past them. It’s a safety net. And if they happen to say, “You’ve got this wrong” please be the kind of person that humbly says, “Okay, what do you think?” and listen to what they have to say.