What is the most powerful thing that you can do? The greatest thing that you can do? I would submit to you that it is the power to choose. Your power of choice is perhaps the greatest thing that you can exercise. The people in Cuba don't have that. The people in many countries of the world don't have that. This building doesn't have that power. This pulpit doesn't have that power.
You were given the power of choice. How you use that power of choice determines your destiny. Doesn't it? Your destiny is absolutely determined by your correct or incorrect use of the power of choice. When you sit down at the table..."Should I have dessert?" Now, that may not have any thing to do with you eternal destiny, but it has a lot to do with your health. "Should I have seconds? Should I drink this? Should I watch that?" You know, one of the greatest things you can do is to make proper decisions.
How do you make a proper decision? Are we taught that in the academy? Is there a course in church school on how to make good decisions? There ought to be. Our teachers ought to have a course in every school on how to make proper decisions. There isn't anything like that. That's the greatest thing that you could teach your children is how to make good decisions, including making the ultimate decision, which is deciding on Jesus Christ. If they know how to make proper decisions they will be just fine in life because they're going to make the right decisions. And so, we need to teach them how to do that.
Now, I'm in the process of writing down the history of my family and my life. I have not had time to do much on it for the last year, but so far it contains about 200 pages. It's called, "Forks In The Road" because ultimately that is where life happens. When you get to the fork in the road you must either choose this or that. You can either go to the left or the right. The choice that you make has profound implications on your future. In fact, all of life is composed of the decisions that we make. And so, this sermon is probably one of the most vital sermons that I could preach to you: how to make a proper decision.
On the top of a hill in a Midwestern city stands a courthouse so situated that raindrops falling on one side of the roof travel by way of the Great Lakes into the Atlantic ocean, while drops landing on the opposite side of the roof find their way through the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to the Gulf. Just a whiff of wind one way or the other may determine whether a single raindrop will end up either in the Gulf or in the Atlantic, thousands of miles apart. It's the same with you. The decisions that you make, especially early in life, and especially later in life, at the critical points of life, at the turning points of life. Those decisions impact your destiny. You must make wise decisions. One single decision is enough to determine a person's destiny, either to heaven of to hell. We decide our destiny. The choice is yours.
Here in Isaiah 30:21 it says, Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way; walk in it." We need that voice. We need that direction. And that direction comes from heaven.
Now, there's another voice that sometimes we listen to that says, "Yeah, this is the way. Walk in that way. That's the direction you really want to go in." Then there's another voice you may listen to, "Go in this way. This is the direction." So we're torn. The decision is ours. Totally ours. What happens to you in life, you can react to it, you can decide to go one way or the other way.
Has anything bad ever happened to you? Think of the worst thing that happened to you recently. How you react to that happening in your life probably is going to determine a lot of the future of your life from then, on. Maybe you didn't get the job you wanted. Maybe something bad happened to your health. Maybe you were in some bad accident. Maybe you lost something. Whatever it is,
There were two paraplegics were in the news not long ago. One was Kenneth Wright, a high school football star and later, an avid wrestler, boxer, hunter, and skin diver. He, in a wrestling match sustained a broken neck which left him paralysed from the chest down. He thought, "I just can't do that. I just can't handle this." The doctors tried to help. They did all that they could do. They hoped that one day he might be able to walk partially with braces and crutches, but he would never be normal again. But, apparently, this former athlete could not reconcile himself to his physical disability. He prevailed upon two of his best friends to take him in his wheelchair to a wooded area, where they left him alone with a loaded twelve-gauge shotgun. When they got in their car to drive away, they heard a loud blast. He had ended his life. Kenneth Wright was 24.
The other paraplegic in the news was Jim McGowan. Thirty years ago, at the age of nineteen, Jim was stabbed and left paralyzed from the middle of his chest down. He is now totally confined to a wheelchair. He will never be normal. But he chose to make the best of his situation. In the news recently, he made a successful parachute jump, landing on his target in the middle of Lake Wallenpaupack in the Poconos.
News people learned a number of things about Jim. He lives alone, cooks his own meals, he washes his clothes, and he cleans his house. He drives himself in his specially equipped automobile. He has written three books, and he did the photography for our country's first book on the history of wheelchair sports. This man has accepted his handicap.
It's the choice that you make in your brain that determines what's going to happen to you. Two handicapped men, two choices: one chose life and the other one didn't. As Robert Frost wrote: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the one less traveled by--and that has made all the difference."
Where are those famous crossroad? They are down the street just a little way from your house. Which way to turn the steering wheel? The left brings you but loss, the right nothing but gain. One of the hardest things in life is to make a choice. Yet the decisions of this life are binding for all of eternity.
When you choose either to yell at your wife or to just sit there and smile to her, and pray. When you choose to be faithful to Jesus or you choose the temptation, that crossroad is in your house, in your job, in your yard. A man should give a lot of thought to a sudden decision. Maybe there shouldn't be two decisions.
There are really only two choices. To choose our own way or to choose to abide in Jesus. If we choose to remain in Jesus then our apparent free choices become God's pre approved plans.
In darkness there is no choice. It is light that enables us to see the differences between things; and it is Christ who gives us light. Without the freedom to make wrong choices, we could not learn to make right choices. That is why God gives us the freedom of choice.
Let's suppose you want to make the right choice but you can't determine which way is right? What then? You have two Job offers. Which one? You are looking at two cars to buy, but you can't decide. You could date one of two girls, but which one? How do you know God s will? God does know the answer. How do you know what God would have you to do? How do you make the right decision?
Let me give you a dozen key factors that will help you to determine the right choice: help you make the decision you want to make. Take two twins for instance. They can turn out so different. Everything depends on the choices they make. Give two teenagers $100.00 dollars. What they use it for helps determine their destiny.
Teach these to your children. Follow them yourself.
Let's suppose you want to make the right choice. How do you do it? I'm going to tell you how. Let's suppose you have two job offers. How do you determine which one is right? And, I'm being very frank here. Let's suppose you want to date two girls? Which one should you date? How do you know God's will? Does God know what's best for you? Yes, He does. How do you get connected with that? We're going to discover twelve key factors here. God does know the answer. And I wish you would teach these to your children. I wish you would share these with other people, that you wold follow them yourself.
1. DECIDE YOU ARE GOING TO DECIDE.
Don't live a life of indecision. To not choose is to choose. On my Senior Class trip we took the academy bus to Washington D.C. Ollie Green was driving the bus from Indiana Academy to Washington, DC. Washington DC roads are very interesting. We came to a fork in the road. One person said we should go this way, and another person said we should go that way. And, here he is. I will tell you that we met with disaster. He could not decide. And so he kind of held to the middle, and the curb was high right there, and there was a big sign pointing to one side and the other. We hit that sign dead on. It was awful. We didn't have seat belts in that bus, and my head hit the rack. What a disaster that was. Blown out tire and this and that.
Decide that you are going to make a decision, and set a deadline. "if I have come to that point and I haven't made a decision yet, I'm going that way." In fact, Ellen G. White says, "Long delays tire the angels. It is even more excusable to make a wrong decision at times than to be continually in a wavering position." - Volume 3, Testimonies to the Church, p. 497. It's better to make a wrong decision sometimes than to just constantly be wavering. Decide that you will decide.
2. DETERMINE A DEADLINE.
Set a limit on the time you will need to decide. When you are between the hammer and the anvil that deadline is very close and you must make a decision. Your finger is about to be pinched in the door, and you know it, you have only a minute time to make the decision to pull your fingers out of the door.
Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of truth and falsehood, for the good or evil side. - James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)
That decision is your to make. There's a time when you must firmly choose the course that you will follow or else the relentless drift of time will maker that decision for you. And you don't want that.
3. ASK GOD FOR GUIDANCE. Pray.
Unless your fingers are about to be pinched in the door, unless you are about to be on that crossroads in Washington DC and you're driving the bus, you need to send up a little prayer. Maybe a big prayer. You need to ask God what you should do.
Let's look in Ezra 8. Ezra had to move a large amount of money to Jerusalem. There were marauding robbers and vandals out there. He needed to know how can he do this and do this best and do it safely. They didn't have any Brink's armored trucks, so what did Ezra do? Ezra 8:21 (NLT) ...We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. Do you do that? You need to pray. The very first step that you should take. You need to pray that God will give you wisdom as to what you should do and how you should do it. Verse 22,23. For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, "Our God protects all those who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him." So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.
So, what did he do? He fasted and prayed. That goes together, doesn't it. Mark Finley said this morning one of his interpreters fasted forty days that he might interpret properly in the series of meetings that Mark Finley was holding. And the Holy Spirit was poured out. When you pray and you accommodate fasting along with it, you're really serious about that, God will direct you in what you should do.
4. LISTEN TO GOD
Psalms 32:8. Here is a promise that God makes. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.
Isn't that a great promise? That's beautiful! God, our Creator, is promising us that He will instruct and teach us what we should do. I need that. I don't know about you, but when you're in the throes of a heavy decision, I want guidance from above. And, here God promises that He will instruct you, that He will teach in what you should do. But, you've got to listen.
Have you ever been sitting in a classroom and the professor has been up there going on and on and on. And your mind is a million miles away. Has that ever happened to you? It's happened to me. And all of a sudden my mind is jerked back and I wonder what the professor is talking about. I missed the point. I wasn't listening.
I think that sometimes God does try to tell us what to do and our ears are focused a million miles away. Listen to God and He will direct you in the way that you are supposed to go.
Now, how do you listen to God? Well, you have your heart open to God. You open the Scriptures, these are the words of God. What do we call the Bible? We call it the "Word of God." So, whenever your are reading the bible, you are listening to God's Word. So, study the Bible. Study the inspired writings. Too often we ask for an answer to our problems and then we hang up the phone. Shame on us.
I think we're like that a little bit in life. We want some information and we dial some number. The mechanical voice comes on and says, "Please push one if you want the menu. Push two if you want this. Push three if you want that, and we get all the way down and we think, "Ah! I give up." And we hang up the phone when we're only ten more numbers of getting the answer! God is not like that. God promises here in Psalm 32:8 that He will tell you the direction that you should go. And I believe God is a promise keeper. God will keep His promise. So, don't hang up the phone.
5. COUNCIL WITH GOOD CHRISTIANS.
You go to a good Christian, somebody you respect, somebody that you really look up to and you ask them for advice. This is Biblical. Proverbs 12:5 says, The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful. The advice of the wicked is no good. Should you ever go to the wicked for advice? I know some people go down to the tavern and ask the bar-tender,"What do you think I should do?" There is no wisdom there. Why should you avoid getting advice from the world? Would you go to the slums to seek wisdom? Would the tavern generate true teaching.
Would you ask a baby for advise? Would you seek instruction from a child? "Please take that pacifier out of your mouth and tell me which job to take." No, n, no! Go to someone who has been there and successfully walked where you must go.
We do not ask children for advice. We go to somebody who has been there, who has successfully walked where we must walk. We ask a seasoned saint for advice. 2 Chronicles 10:6 (KJV) And king Rehoboam took counsel with the old men that had stood before Solomon his father... He found some successful people that he believed in, these people who knew God, who had a connection with God, and he got counsel from them. They were the counselors his father listened to. Now, they must have really been old. He went to them. And what advice did they give him? Good, sound advice. That's the kind of advice we need. You talk to a Christian who has been around for a while., somebody who is connected with Jesus Christ, somebody who knows how to pray. Don't go down here to the palm reader. Don't go down here to the worldly psychiatrists. Go to a Christian for advice. That's what the bible says. They have a lot of true wisdom.
6. Gather all the facts.
Get all the information together. Before you can really make a wise decision you really need to know all the information that you can possibly get. You need to know Who, What, Where, When, Why, How... All those facts. Get as complete a picture as possible of the situation that you are facing. And I like to draw up a pro and con chart. I have done this many times. When we were called to come to the McDonald Road Church we did this for this church. We had a big piece of paper with a line drawn down through the middle of it. You put all the pro's on one side and all the con's on the other side. The positives and the negatives. You can soon begin to see there how it weighs up. This will help you immensely in making a decision. List all the reason why you should say, "yes" on this side and all the reason why you should say, "no" on the other side of the line. And you will soon begin to see a pattern. You will begin to see the weight of evidence is on this side or that side. That helps me a lot.
Now, I know you have a deadline, but, don't rush in and make a hasty decision. That's what we're saying here. Wait for God to give you the advice. This is our Scripture reading. This is a very special part of Scripture as it pertains how to make a decision. You need to wait upon God to lead you. Give it time. "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." That's great advice. In fact, I think we might measure three times, because once you cut, your decision has been made and if it's wrong you're going to have to live with that or get a new piece of material to cut correctly. Take time to check things out before jumping right in. Take time to check the specs.
Isaiah 30:18 ...the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him! You need to wait for God's leading. And God will lead you. He has promised to lead you. We read that in the book of Psalms. He has promised, so you need to wait for His word. Wait for His guidance.
Verse 19. O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! What's He going to do? "How gracious He will be when you cry for help." He's going to help you. He's going to do it. As soon as he hears, he will answer you. When is the answer going to come? "As soon as He hears your cry for help." So, we need to pray and then He will answer. Verse 20. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." You are going to hear that. You're going to know what heaven would have you do.
8. BE WILLING to do God's will.
Now, what good is it if God tells you, "you really shouldn't be going to that theater." Should I go to the theater or not? If God tells you, "No," and you say, "I think I'll go anyway." You need to be willing to do what God wants you to do. Be willing. Luke 22:42. I'm not trying to pick on any one particular thing here, but we need to realize that God will tell us, and we need to be willing to follow His will. Jesus was ever willing to do His Fathers will. "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." That's Jesus. That's Jesus' way. Was the cross a "fork in the road" for Jesus? Yes, it was. Could Jesus have gone this way or that way? Absolutely! He could! How did He make that decision? He became willing to do whatever the will of the Father was. You need to make a proper decision to be willing to do what God's will is. God will show it to you, but unless you follow it what good is it going to do?
9. Trust God.
Now I'm going to mention something that some of you are not going to like. I debated about mentioning it. A lot of Adventist people do this. I personally think it's wrong. You should not ask for a sign. That's my opinion. Now, I know a lot of people who have asked for signs. I know some people who will flip a coin to make a decision. Actually Christians that have been members of my congregation! You would never do that here in the McDonald Road Church. They will flip a coin to make a decision. Others drop a paper with a yes on one side and a no on the other. That's sort of vegetarian coin flipping, you know. They'll drop it. Some Christians will shut their eyes and open the Bible and touch a page with their finger and then open their eyes and read "God's will." I just put my finger in the margin. You're not getting much wisdom out of the margin. That's not the way to do it. Other Christians will say it, "Lord, I'm setting out the fleece here. I need a sign." Occasionally an individual in the Bible did ask for a sign to know what Gods will was. But do not forget what Jesus said about this activity. What does Jesus say about this? Matthew 12:39 He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! That's something, isn't it? Don't ask for a sign. Just trust God. He'll lead you.
10. WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?)
Just ask, "What would Jesus do?" John 14:6. Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life." When you come to that crossroads, which way should you take? Jesus said, "I am the Way." Would Jesus go where you are thinking of going? Would Jesus do what you are considering doing? If He were right here, would He be doing what I am doing? That's a heavy thought. To find out what Jesus might do we must read from Scripture about Jesus.
11. THE TEST OF UNIVERSALITY.
What if everybody in the state of Tennessee chose to do what you are about to do? Would it be good? What if everybody in the church did what I'm about to do? Suppose that your personal decision became a universal custom. Would it be good if everybody did what you're about to do? Would its outcome bring the world happiness? That's a heavy thought.
12. Follow Jesus even if it seems wrong.
Come with me over to John 21 in your Bible. Here is a choice lesson on following Jesus even when it seems very unreasonable to do it.
John 21:2,3 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Here seven of the remaining disciples appear to be reverting to their old Occupation. Jesus had died and they were sliding back into the old ways. Jesus intervened.
John 21:4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (Early morning fog?) John 21:5,6 He called out to them, "Friends (We are still Jesus friends when we backslide from His will and get discouraged), haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."
So what happened? When they finally obeyed Jesus, they were unable to haul in the net in because of the large number of fish.
John 21:7-11. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."
Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, but even with so many the net was not torn. Success is following Jesus. Follow Jesus even if it seems wrong. Revelation 15:3 Just and true are your ways. Jesus' ways are best.
The most important decision you can make is to choose Jesus. Let Jesus be your councilor. Jesus will help you make the proper decision.
Hymn of Praise: #100, Great is Thy Faithfulness Scripture: Isaiah 30:19-21 Hymn of Response: #623, I Will Follow Thee 010602Gettys#251
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last updated 6/9/2001 by Bob Beckett.