Sermon delivered July 12, 2003 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Lightning Bolts or Light?

Isaiah 30:18

Next week, I want to tell you, we're going to be beginning a brand new series on the acts of the apostles. We're going to call it, "Catch the Wind." This is a dynamic series on how the church got started. You know, there were just twelve disciples. Most of them were fishermen. Jesus went back home to heaven. And, how did this all happen? How could twelve people do that? We should call it "The Acts of the Holy Spirit" instead of the Acts of the Apostles. If you would like to prepare for that, it begins next Sabbath ad I think you will really enjoy this series. So, I hope you can be here for all of it.

One day someone came to my office for advice. We were talking about an issue and a problem that they were having. This man said, "You know, I just don't know what to do." We talked some more, we had prayer and finally he said, "I just wish a bolt of lightning would come out of heaven and just strike and I would know what to do." After he left I got to thinking about that. I thought, "Should we really operate by lightning bolts?" It might be shocking to see which way we would be led. Or should we operate by the light that God has given us? I think light is more important than lightning.

Maybe you face a hard decision that you have to make in your life. Maybe you're facing "Who should I date? Should I date this one, or that one?" "Or, what career should I follow? Should I do this or do that?" Maybe you wish a bolt out of the blue would show you what path to follow. Well, that's really a good desire, but the trouble is that God doesn't often operate by lightning bolts or send such spectacular signals. His voice is often small but God does provide light to illuminate our path. He does provide direction.

Allow me share twelve keys, twelve steps, twelve important guidelines on how to make a proper decision that reflects God's will. You may even want to take some notes if you do. I have often thought that our church schools and how thrilling it is to be affiliated with the greater Collegedale School system here. If all our church schools ever did is to teach us to read and teach us how to make a proper decision, I think the tuition would be worth it. If we knew how to make decisions, that covers basically all of the successful ingredients in life.

Point 1 of the twelve: Decide You are Actually Going to Decide!

Now some people just are willy nilly all through their life and never really end up making a decision. Decide that you are going to decide. Nature gives us corn but we have to grind it. God gives us a will, but we have to make the right choices. Don't let things ride along in indecision.

I'll never forget our Indiana Academy Class trip. We were going to be attending the Washington DC area. Have you ever been to Washington DC? It's great. And that was our class trip. The roads around Washington DC I think were laid out by a drunk snake with a firecracker burning on its tail. They're terrible. Ollie Green was our bus driver, and was a good driver. He was driving our old bus. We came to a "Y" in the road and you either had to go this way or that way. There was a concrete bump right there in front of us, so we had to decide. There was a sign you know. And so our class sponsor was up in the front with the map and was studying the map. But Ollie said, "Which way? Do I go right or left?" "Well, actually... well no... maybe you should go... really you should..." About that time we hit the sign, we jumped up over this concrete curb. And we were sort of jostled up in that bus. I'll never forget it. I was there. We came to a stop in no man's land. And that's where indecision will get you.

You need to decide that you are going to decide. One moment of indecision could be costly. They say that a divided mind is a weak mind, so make up your mind!

Ellen G. White says: "It is even more excusable to make a wrong decision sometimes than to be continually in a wavering position." - (u)Testimonies, Vol 3, p. 497. Do you understand what she is saying?

You've heard the story of the lady with one foot on the ship and one foot on the dock. "Are you going to stay of go?" And the ship started leaving and she couldn't make up her mind so she fell in the water. You've got to decide. You can't get anywhere while you are straddling the fence.

Point 2. Determine a Deadline.

Set a deadline for your decision. Don't take forever. If it is a snap decision and I have as much as a minute, I'll ask my wife. Because I think ladies have better snap judgment. I don't understand why. But don't procrastinate forever. Set a limit. I went out to visit a man in an old ramshackle shack in Lenore, North Carolina. One of my member, he was kind of embarrassed. He said, "You know, pastor, I apologize for the way this place looks. And he had money, so that was not the problem. He said, "Someday I'm going to get around to it and fix this place up." I don't know what a round tuit looks like, maybe like a wooden nickel. He never fixed it up. That someday never happened.

Jesus said in Matthew 26:18 ...My appointed time is near... Jesus did have a deadline, an appointed time. I think He had an objective. And He set a deadline for that objective. The difference between a goal and a plan is a deadline. Set a reasonable deadline. Occasionally events make up our mind for us, but normally, you need to set a deadline.

Occasionally we have to make a snap decision. William and Mary Tanner were walking across a railroad track some years ago. Mary's foot slipped and became wedged between the rail and the wooden crosswalk. Frantically she tried to get loose. A fast express train came around the curve. Her husband frantically tried his best to free her. The whistle was blowing. The train could not stop.

"Leave me, Bill!" she cried. "Go, run!" His valiant efforts were useless. Quickly he arose and held her in his arms to protect her as much as possible. While bystanders shuddered in horror, the locomotive thundered over them. Someone later said they heard the husband say: "I'll stay with you Mary!"

Sometimes you have to make a decision fast. Normally you can set a deadline when you have time to make a decision. Set that deadline.

Point 3. If you have time, Ask God What You Should do.

Never make a decision without God. Ask the Lord what you should do. We often ask for God to approve our will instead of asking Him what His will is. We say, "Lord, can You approve this?" Before you ever make any major decision, (and aren't they all major?) take time to pray. Ask to know His will. Jesus needed to make a decision. Come over here to Luke 22 in your Bibles. Jesus had a horrible Cup in his Hand. He came to this world to drink that cup of poison. Should He go through with His plan? Should He drink it? Or should He not drink it? Look at Luke 22:41-43. This is the experience or the record of it. He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, When you have a major decision to make, get on your knees and pray. "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." That's beautiful isn't it. That's the divine example how you should make a decision. An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. So that He could drink the cup.

The next time you face a sticky quagmire, ask God for His direction. He will send His Holy Spirit to guide you, and I believe you will receive an answer if you ask.

You remember that famous journey of the U.S.S. Nautilus under the Arctic icecap. Remember the first time a submarine went under the north pole? The Submarine had no stars to navigate by. It had no radio communication to find longitude or latitude. And you can't use a compass when you're so near the north pole,, it's so erratic, very complicated. So how did that submarine go hundreds of miles under the thick Ice cap and come out at the right point? How did they do that? Well, they claim they did it through Internal Guidance. How can you know which way to go. You can do it through the internal guidance of the Holy Spirit. If you ask, you will receive God's Holy Spirit. The Christian must ask God for the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Point 4. You Need to LISTEN to God.

So often we ask God for an answer and then we hang up the phone. We don't listen. We make all of our requests. We pray, "Please do this and do that and thank You for doing this and bless me and guide me and direct me. Amen" We hang up the phone and we go right about our business. We go to bed, we go to sleep, or whatever. Listen to the Lord. Look at Psalm 32:8. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. What an awesome promise! There are five promises here in this one verse. Listen to the Lord because He is going to be giving you that wisdom and that advice. That's an awesome promise. Let's implement that promise. Use your ears, use your heart to listen to the Lord.

Now, how do you listen to God? You say, "Pastor, how do I do that?" Well, you study relevant Bible passages. Well, how do you find those? You find those through your concordance. You meditate on the advice that seems to fit your situation and question. You study good Christian books. You write down your findings. It would be nice if when we are in a quandary and need clear direction that we had a Urim and Thummim like the priests had in Old Testament times. One would light up, "No." or the other would start blinking "Yes, yes! You need to do this." Well, we do have the Urim and Thummim. If you will just change two letters we actually have that. As modern people, to get the will of God you just take His Holy Word and do your Using and Thumbing. That's what you do. And you keep listening. You tune in to the Word of God and you keep listening. You don't just listen once and then walk away.

Keep listening. Eventually you will hear that still small voice instructing you in what you should do. Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your easy will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." You're going to hear a voice if you are still listening.

Abraham knew God's voice and staked His life on it. In certain parts of the world there are shepherds who do not brand or mark their sheep in any way. Several shepherds will bring their herds to a common large pen for the night. Maybe five or six shepherds will have all their sheep in one pen for safety at night. In the morning these unmarked sheep have to be separated. All they do is: This shepherd stand over there and calls and his sheep come because they recognize his voice. Each shepherd simply calls and all their sheep come running to the correct shepherd. The sheep are listening.

So listen to God, and follow His voice. Avoid listening to wicked people. You don't want to be guided by those wicked people. You know, people go to the psychics. There was a palm- reader that used to be down here in Ooltewah. Don't go to those people. Those people don't know anything. Those fortune tellers don't know anything. If they knew anything why does their stock in the stock market go down just like everybody else's. They ought to all of them be millionaires if they know something you don't know. They don't know anything. Don't go to those people. Avoid listening to the wicked people. You listen to God.

Point 5. Try to Avoid Signs.

Now, you may say, "Pastor I disagree with you here." Try to avoid signs. Come over to Matthew 12. Back in Judges 6:17, Gideon threw out the fleece. Should you throw out the fleece? Well, try to avoid that. Why would I say that? Look at Matthew 12:39. "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!" Some folk close their eyes and open the Bible and point to the page and read the text their finger lands on. That's not the way to do it. Others flip a coin to determine what they should do. Some drop a paper with yes written on one side and no on the other. Don't do that. Avoid those signs. Be slow in asking for a sign. Especially if the answer is clearly spelled out in the Bible. God desires to move us beyond the point where we need special signs to experience his leadership.

Point 6. Councel with Trusted Christians.

Get some counsel. Proverbs 12:15 says, The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. A wise man will do that. Smart people get advice. Fools don't need advice. Of course good advise is no better than poor advice unless you heed it. Listen to the advice. Take the advice if it's good advice. Weigh it in your mind. People that are one brick short of a load (fools) are headstrong and avoid consulting. Why do we hate to ask for advice?

One time we were going along on the road and there was a sign on the back of a camper trailer which said, "If I'm not headed west, stop me and tell me which way is west." This driver was asking for counsel to assure his arrival at the correct destination. We men don't often want to stop. But we only drive for two or three hours before we stop and ask for directions. "It is better to ask the way ten times than to take the wrong road once." - Jewish proverb.

King Rehoboam needed some advice in II Chronicles 10:6. Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. This was when all the twelve tribes were together. There was one kingdom and Rehoboam consulted with the elders. They gave him good seasoned counsel, wise advice. But in verse 8, But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted with the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He followed their immature advice and as a result the kingdom of Israel split apart dividing the twelve tribes into the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Israel. And that set them up for the rest of the whole time. All because he followed bad advice. So, follow good counsel.

Point 7. What would Jesus do?

Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." If you just simply follow Jesus you're going to get to heaven. "If you follow the river, you will find the sea." - French Proverb. If you follow Jesus you will arrive at the great sea of glass in heaven. If you follow Jesus, you'll be doing just right.

Ask: Would Jesus go here? Would Jesus do this? If Jesus were alive today would he buy a Lamborghini? Would Jesus be proud if I do this or do that? What would Jesus Do?

Point 8. Be willing to stand alone.

When you submit to pressure from peers, you move down to their level. But when you speak up for what you believe, you invite them up to your level. If you move with the crowd, you'll get no further than the crowd. Their destination will become your destination. When forty million people believe in a dumb idea, it's still a dumb idea.

It doesn't matter what the crowd is doing, but what matters is this thing right? Are we willing to stand for what is right? If you simply swim with the tide you're not going to get anywhere except where the tide is going. So, stand up, decide to do it, and be willing to stand alone. Romans 12:2 NLT is good advice for young people, but it is also good advice for all of us. Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

When you want what God wants you are safe. Be willing to Stand for the Right even if you stand alone.

Point 9. Gather as many Facts as you can.

1 Thessalonians 5:21. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

When I'm trying to decide, I get a piece of paper and I draw a line right down the middle of it. I put on one side all the reasons why I should do this. And I put on the other side all the reasons why I should not do this. Then you need to weight the strength of the reasons and decide what you can do. And this really does help you.

However, one fact will neutralize all the others. If you have forty seven reason why you should do it, and one reason why you should not do it and that one reason is a Bible reason it negates all the others. Do you understand how that works? If you think, "Maybe I should go and marry Joe Blow. Maybe I should do that. He's fun. He's handsome. He's rich." And you can list all the reasons why you should do that. But then you read in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 6:14, Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. Hey, that settles it right there. So, you need to weigh those things on your pro and con chart. Get all the facts, and when you want what God wants then you are safe.

Point 10. WAIT. Be patient. Don't rush in. Fools do that.

Isaiah 30:18, our Scripture today says, ... Blessed are all who wait for him! So, be patient. Have the patience of the saints. Just wait for the Lord. Take your time. Take plenty of time. Avoid making snap decisions. Especially take plenty of time when you're doing that. Thinking does take time so don't rush it. Good and proper things are worth the wait. Wait for God to whisper His will to you. Give God time to work out all the details so your way will be smooth. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Give it time. Always take plenty of time when you make a snap decision. Thinking takes time. Wait.

Point 11. Be Willing to do Whatever God wants you to do.

Well, I'll do this, but actually here's what I want to do. No. You be willing to do whatever God wants you to do.

Job 13:15. Though He slay me, yet will I hope in him. I will surely defend my ways to His face. That's good advice. And that's where Job was at. You know, there's two sides to every question. And it's true that there's two sides to a sheet of fly paper. It makes a big difference to the fly which side of the fly paper the fly lands on. And it will make a big difference to you what you do in life. So, take your time and be willing to do what is right. One side is life and the other is death. Our tomorrows are determined by the choices that we make today.

Just pray this prayer:

   Be thou a bright flame before me, 
   Be thou a guiding star above me,          
   Be thou a smooth path below me, 
   Be a kindly Shepherd behind me. - Alexander Carmichael

Point 12. Make your Decision!

Go ahead and decide. Now some people never actually decide. They'll do all the research and never make the decision. Yes! You do need to decide.

Sometimes making a decision is painful and leaves you afflicted by uncertainty. But once the die is cast, you must quickly murder the other options. Get rid of them. Don't even consider them. Choose what you're going to do and do it and don't look back. Let the chips be where they are. Few decisions are ever one hundred percent perfect. But, make your decision and if God led you into it God will lead you through it.

Decide for Jesus today. Are you saved today? Is Jesus your Savior? Have you made your decision for Jesus Christ? Are you willing to commit your life to Him? Maybe you need to join the church and be a Sabbath Keeping Christian? Maybe you need to be baptize. Maybe you need to make a special decision regarding a life partner, or which school you should attend. What is the next step in my life? Now that I'm retired and I'm stopping this job, what should I really do? Do you need some guidance? Are you willing to connect with Jesus Christ? Are you willing to follow Him?

Hymn of Praise: #221, Rejoice, the Lord is King
Scripture: Isaiah 30:18
Hymn of Response: #492, Like Jesus


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