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Making Good Decisions – Part 1

November 8, 2012

These are my sermon notes for the first part of a short series on Making Good Decisions given at Kings Fellowship in August this year… (audio link here)… enjoy…


Today we’re going to follow on the theme shared last week.

Who can remember what it was about? essentially three little words…  Hear and Obey.

This morning I’m going to introduce Making Good (and Godly) Decisions…. which is all about hearing Gods voice and obeying what you hear.

When I started to make my notes on making good decisions I found that there was too much to cover in a single morning, so I’ll be developing this theme in more detail when I get to share with you again in September and October.

This morning we’re going to focus on laying a foundation for making good decisions.

Turn with me to Proverbs 2 and we’re going to read from verse 1 to 11.

Proverbs 2

New Living Translation (NLT)

The Benefits of Wisdom

1  My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands.

2  Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.

3  Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.

4  Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.

5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord,
and you will gain knowledge of God.

6 For the Lord grants wisdom!
From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

7 He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.
He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.

8 He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.

9 Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair,
and you will find the right way to go.

10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.

11 Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.

Every day we each make hundreds of small decisions – ordinary choices about ordinary things… Choices fill our days:

Should I work hard today or take it easy?

How do I figure out what’s most important from what’s irrelevant?

Should I spend the afternoon visiting a housebound friend?

Should I sign up to a petition on a local issue?

Do I donate an unexpected windfall to charity, or save the money until I’m financially secure?

Should I spend more time in prayer or get more work done today?

Should I confront my friend about this problem, or should I let it go?

Should I allow myself desert, or should I abstain?

Should I go for a run this evening, or spend time with the people I love?

Should I watch the match on the TV this afternoon, or play with my kids instead?

Should I apologise for my behavior, or stand up for it?

As followers of Christ we feel compelled to make right choices every day… confronted with scores of choices… and little time to consider just how to make these decisions.

And these day by day, moment by moment decisions tell a lot about us, our behaviours as shown in our small choices show what our character is like… Whether we’re acting with integrity, in faith, with hope and love.

We have a sense that we should have a way to weigh each choice so that we can be consistent in our decision making.  A proactive process of making decisions rather than acting in a reactive way to the immediate pressures to make a choice.

That’s just for the small decisions we face … We also have seasons of big choices…

For many people just finished school this time of year is a time of big choices…

What College or University should I go to – what course should I do?

Should I take a year out (to do DNA)?

Should I look for work – and what job, or career should I do?

Should I move away, or stay here at home?

And there are many more big choices we face…

The choice to go out with someone, to marry someone…

The choice to have children or not, or how many…

The choice of which church to attend…

It could be very easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out about what to do…

When faced with all big life changing decisions, we face choices that can dictate the direction of our lives for years to come…. We need to know how to make good choices.

Once we’re faced with a choice  there are three potential paths that we can end up traveling:

Sometimes that in these decisions we chose well, and acted assertively on those decisions.  The outcome has been good.

But we’re also painfully aware of the bad choices we’ve made – the wrong career move, the terribly hurtful sin we chose to persist in.

And we’re also aware of the times we simply ignored the opportunity to choose and let circumstances eventually dictate the outcome of our lives and others.  By simply not deciding we’ve let opportunities slip aware; allowed injustice to prevail in the world, in our families and in our communities; we’ve found ourselves in unhappy and unhealthy relationships, careers and situations – through not making decisions.

When we look on these big decisions we know just how crucial it is to choose well… and yet we don’t know how to choose well.

But before we get to the how there is an important foundation to be understood… and that’s what a good choice looks like, what the basis of good decision should be.

Foundations are important – build on the wrong foundation, and it becomes very difficult to resolve issues… Roberts power plant story.

The foundations of good decision making is to do with what focus our attention on in making a choice… up until now I’ve talked about the choices and the decisions being important – don’t get me wrong they are… But I don’t want us to fixate on them and miss the real fundamental purpose of making decision.

I don’t know if you’ve ever come across the term ‘Anchoring’… and I’m going to play a short video clip to illustrate this… (if you have already seen this please don’t spoil it for the rest of us)…

This is a very short clip of two teams playing basketball, a team in a dark coloured strip and a team in a light coloured strip. Watch the team in the light coloured strip very closely, and count the number of times they pass the ball… and I’ll ask at the end for your count.

I’m I being clear… count the number of times the team in the light strip pass the ball. ok?

Is everybody ready… can we dim the lights please… watch the screen…

How many times did the team in white pass the ball…?

who counted 10? passes …11? …12? …13? …14? …15?

What was odd about this game of basketball?

Did anyone miss the gorilla? Wait….

Half way through the clip a guy in a gorilla suit wanders in from the right – stands in the middle beating his chest and wanders off to the left.  If you did miss him I’ll play the video again and look carefully at what comes in from the right.

My instructions to focus on the team with the light strip, the oddness of the scenario, the goal to count the number of passes… all served to anchor our focus on only part of the story… so we missed the gorilla…

I first saw this clip at a university managers conference – 90% of the folks there were so focused on getting the right number of passes that they completely missed the gorilla… (myself included)

When it comes to making a good decision we need to be aware that we need to see the whole picture and not just fixate only one part of it.

Our susceptibility to getting fixated on a choice, being pulled into it… Can be used to deceive us… To distract us from the underlying truth…

So I don’t want us simply to lock onto a process for good decision making, I want us to understand something more fundamentally important.

And that is purpose for which God has given us freedom of choice.

When I was a kid the church we went to taught the shorter catechism in Sunday school… Does anyone else here relate to that…

there’s only one of the these I can remember now… and it is the first one…

So if I were to ask…

What is the chief end of man?

Who knows what the reply is…

The chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever…

to Glorify God and enjoy him forever…

The highest purpose… the foundation of our choices, the decisions we make are to glorify God… to the glory of God.

Our enemies plan is for us to miss this – to manipulate our choices so that we are fixated on making choices with ourselves at the centre of the decisions. To make things seem tougher than they really are…

 

And with ourselves centre stage we miss the whole picture… we make bad decisions… why?

Because our ‘wanters’ are broken… Brenda Gatlin one of the senior pastors at Duluth Vineyard in the US introduced me to this term going through Danny Meyers ‘Gospel of Wholeness’ training back in Ireland… I live the term as it accruately identifies and describes the issue…

we want the wrong things… we want power… we want the latest gadget… we want our success… we want acknowledgement… we want control…

and we get sucked in… and stuck… bound up. Because our wanters are broken.

All the while Gods desire is to guide us deeper into relationship with him…

into his Glory… into his life… into his freedom… into wholeness…

I believe in a God who loves you and wants the best for you.

I believe in a God who offers you abundant blessings – but leaves it up to you to choose to say yes to those blessings.

I believe that God has an infinite storehouse of grace-filled opportunities for you.

I believe that God has planned fullness of life for you, a plan for your good not failure…

Jeremiah 29:10-12

10 This is what the Lord says: …  “I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 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. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen.

Psalm 139 – You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Do you believe these things… do you really understand just how much God loves you… the plans he has for you… the abundance he offers to you… the fullness of life… for you… in Him.

These are the fundamentally important core truths of Good Decision making – a God who knows and loves us without reservation.

This loving God, our heavenly father holds a plan for us.

And as we align ourselves to his truth, as we are true to his direction in our choices and decisions…. then our decisions will not disappoint us.

I was reflecting recently about what ‘true’ means – and in building or engineering when something is true it is properly aligned… it has integrity…

and in archery a ‘true’ arrow is one that hits the target… it hits the bullseye… while one that misses the target is known as sin.

The difference between a true arrow and a sin arrow is alignment…

The difference between a good decision and a bad one is also one of alignment…

God has a plan for us – and it’s a good one.  It bring us closer and deeper into relationship with Him and in that place everything else settles into alignment.

Our fundamental choice is this – does this decision bring me closer into alignment with Gods plan for my life… is it true… or does it miss the mark.

so my working definition for a good decision is this…

A good decision is one that draws us closer to God, aligned and true to his plan for us.

Our reference point for making decisions, large and small comes down to – does this decision glorify God…. does it draw me closer to him.

Have I made this clear… The foundation of making good decision is does this choice draw me closer to God.  If we base our decisions on any other foundation we are in peril.

In closing let’s re-read proverbs 2 again… this is our Father speaking to us, speaking to you, speaking to me, calling us all to a higher purpose, calling us closer to him… calling us to make good decisions… to make good choices…

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