This is part three of a brief impromptu series on Changes and Transition. You can read “Part 1 – When God’s Grace Lifts” here. “Part 2 – The Transition Zone” is here. I think you’ll find some helpful thoughts and ideas in this series.
Choices Have Consequences: Our Lives Are Shaped By Our Choices.
Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. (Genesis 13:11 NLT)
Genesis 13:11 tells us that when the time came for Abraham and Lot to separate, “Lot chose for himself…” Lot made a decision based on superficial observation, selfish interests, and wrong values that ultimately led to his downfall and the loss of everything he had.
Our lives consist of segments involving time, location, activities, and associations, segments that are both linked together and separated by the choices we have made. Because choices have consequences, the way we handle choices has a lot to do with how life treats us and what we experience and accomplish in life. (Moses – Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua – Joshua 24:15; Elijah – 1 Kings 18:21)
• There are a variety of things to be considered in making choices. There are a variety of ways in which people handle choices. But choices are a fact of life and must be dealt with. The Bible has some very practical wisdom for us in the area of making right and wise choices.
• Some periods of our lives are “decision-intensive.” These times may be heavily loaded with decisions, both large and small. These decision-intensive times can be very stressful and trying and it may seem the most difficult time to make good decisions because of the pressure we feel. In these times we must be especially careful to apply wise decision making procedures.
• Don’t try to avoid decisions and choices. Avoiding decisions is making decisions by default. But don’t go to the opposite extreme and make decisions impulsively or thoughtlessly. Sometimes the stress and anxiety of choices is relieved by just making the decision, even though it hasn’t solved the problems. Having made the decision, we can then focus on steps of action.
Facts About Choices:
• Some choices set events in motion that determine the present and future direction of our lives. Just as faith releases power in the heavenly realm that causes things to happen in the earthly realm, choices set in motion chains of events that cannot be undone.
• Some choices are mutually exclusive. Most often, one choice leads us through a door into a particular segment or chapter of our lives and excludes other possibilities. By making one choice, we exclude the possibility of another choice. By taking one course of action we exclude the other course of action.
• Some choices lead to entanglements. These entanglements could be debt, unhealthy relationships, business or ministry commitments, a whole range of things. This can have serious negative consequences for us if we have been careless or impulsive in our decisions.
• Some choices lead to loss and destruction: Loss of reputation, Loss of opportunity, Loss of freedom, Breakup of relationships.
• Some choices are more important than others. Take time, seek God’s will, get godly and wise counsel concerning the important decisions in your life. Which shirt shall I wear today? Where shall we go for lunch? Who will I marry? Should I leave this church or give it another try? Some people spend more time over the choices on a menu than over determining the will of God.
We Must Have A Proper Basis For Making Right Choices.
Here are several things we must be aware of in preparing to make good decisions – decisions we can live with:
• Emotions can run high. Emotional reactions can vary from enthusiastic over-reaction to hesitation, fear and panic. Work with facts, not just feelings. Make sure that you have clear factual information on which to base your decision.
• Avoid making decisions under pressure. This is the time when tragic mistakes are most apt to be made. These are often reactive decisions. Is a decision really required, or am I looking for a quick way out of a difficult situation?
• Write up a balance sheet which includes the pro (+) and con (-) factors. Be honest with yourself if you want a good decision. You may want to make a Yes / No List of reasons for and against the decision. You may also make a Yes / No List of possible consequences of the decision.
• Research and investigate all aspects of the choice or opportunity that you are considering. Consider the options and the potential consequences.
To Consistently Make Good Choices – Decisions You Can Live With – Consider The Following Things:
Is it a Right thing? Does it measure up according to my Code of Ethics? This is a right and wrong issue. We must develop a Code of Ethics by which we govern our choices and actions. Some things we will do and some things we won’t do. Right and Wrong. Absolutes. Good and Evil. Yes and No. Based on Scripture and its practical application to life. (Joseph – Genesis 39:9)
• Does it violate or break any of God’s laws?
• Does it break or violate any vows or commitments I have knowingly entered into?
• Does it violate the trust anyone has placed in me?
• Does it compromise my conscience or my convictions?
Is it a Good thing? This is about the effect and consequences on others and on myself. This can include being sensitive to others’ feelings and wishes. This involves thinking of someone other than yourself.
• Is it good for me, my family, and my other responsibilities?
• Will anyone be hurt by it?
• Will it enhance or damage my testimony of God’s Grace?
• Will it help me better influence others for God?
• Does it lead to entanglements that hinder my freedom to serve my God?
Is it a True Value thing? Does it measure up according to my Value System? We must develop a value system based on God’s value system. Eternal values over temporal values. People over projects. Purposes over possessions. Integrity over peer pressure. It matters what people think, what you think, and what God thinks. You must decide how much it matters.
• Is this going to produce gold, silver and precious stones or wood, hay and straw? (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:10-13)
• Will this decision lead me to invest in God’s kingdom or in the world system.
• Am I looking at the long term or the short term?
Is it the best thing? This is about priorities. Good, better, and best. Sometimes good can be enemy of best in our lives. (Luke 10:41-42)
• Does it match with what I know to be really important in my life?
• Does it lead to growth and challenge?
• Is there something else I know would be better or more important?
Is it a God thing? Is it consistent with God’s revealed will and purpose for my life? In order to have a basis for right choices, we must have an unconditional pre-commitment to the Will of God as it is revealed to us. David said, “I delight to do Your Will O God”, and Jesus said “Not My will, but Your will..” Am I willing to put God’s will first in my choices and decisions? (Psalm 40:8; Matthew 26:39, 42)
• Is it consistent with how God has led me so far? Does it fit the pattern? When trying to discern God’s leading, be careful to distinguish between Spiritual and Mystical.
• Is it consistent with what I know to be God’s will so far in my life?
• Does this strengthen or weaken, build or destroy the important things in my life?
• Does this make me a better, more effective servant of God?
Is it a Me thing? Is it right for me and for who I know I am as a person and as a child of God?
• Is it consistent with my heart’s desire? Do I even know my heart’s desire? Or do I continually say, “Well, on the other hand..” If we are double-minded we will not be able to consistently make right decisions.
• Is it consistent with my personality? We can change if we desire something enough. It is a tragedy to see people who are living below their calling or potential simply because they aren’t willing to put forth the effort to change or overcome a weakness.
• Is it consistent with my strengths and weakness? Risk versus security; know if you can stand the pressure of risk-taking.
• Is it consistent with my skills and abilities? Skill can be learned and abilities can be acquired. If the decision is important enough to me I will be willing to put forth the required effort to equip myself for the task.
• Do I have peace and joy about it? “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts…”
Some Practically Spiritual Advice For Decision Making:
Count The Cost. Are you willing to pay the price? Be realistic. Every decision has its consequence and every choice has its cost. Sometimes the right choice, the godly choice is sacrificial. (Matthew 13:44; Luke 14:28)
Seek Wise Counsel And Advice. Scriptures on importance of wise counsel: Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 15:22; Proverbs 19:20; 1 Kings 12:8
• Get your counsel from someone who has more than theory, someone who has it working in their life. Don’t get financial counsel from people who are up to their necks in debt and don’t get marriage counsel from people who are twice-divorced and on their third marriage!
• Get your counsel from someone who will tell you the truth and won’t just tell you what you want to hear. Each of us needs good friends to tell us what we want to hear, but we also need true friends to tell us what we need to hear.
• Get God’s counsel. Pray and seek the Lord’s will. Allow time and space for God to communicate with you. Cultivate the skill of hearing and recognizing God’s voice. Predetermine to unconditionally obey the Lord.
Be Prepared To Hold Steady Under Pressure. Don’t be surprised by pressure and difficulties. Even right choices can lead us into times of trial and challenge. Be steadfast – unmovable. Finish what you start – don’t be a quitter. Don’t be a “spiritual butterfly”, flitting from one decision to another when things get tough. (Ephesians 6:13; Hebrews 10:35-39; 1 Peter 4:12)
Remember That God Is A Redeemer – A Restorer. He is “The God of the Second Chance.” See my blog post “The God of Things as The Are” here. No matter what the past, there is a new beginning for the present and hope for the future. Don’t waste your life and miss today’s opportunities because of the “what if’s..” and “If only’s..” that previous wrong decisions throw at you. In case we make wrong decisions and bad choices, we accept the responsibility, we deal with the consequences, and we get on with life! Right choices made in faith can sometimes break the chain of consequence. Don’t underestimate God’s grace and mercy. Put your confidence in the redemptive work of Christ at Calvary. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:5)
This post is loaded with points to ponder and scriptures to explore and seek God’s inspiration and direction. It’s a lot to take in and a lot to process. Don’t get bogged down in the details as you read it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your thoughts to the things that will help the most!
As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.