The call came late one night from a friend and without explanation he asked to meet me at my office. I knew by the tone of his voice something was terribly wrong.
As we walked down the hallway he was quiet and very serious. Finally we went into the office and I said, “Are you alright? What’s going on?”
He replied, “I need you to pray with me”.
And we did. He asked me to pray first. I had no idea for what to pray about so I simply prayed for my friend and his needs in a general sense. He was lying on the floor with his head cupped in his hands softly weeping.
When I finished he began to pray and cried out to God, “Oh, Lord, help me never to do that again. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me”. That’s all that he could express verbally because of his brokenness. I prayed again and then we left.
For years I never knew what had happened. One night he called and asked me if I remembered that night. He shared that hours before he contacted me that he had compromised morally and made a foolish decision. Tragically his marriage ended in divorce, and the ripple effect of painful consequences affected his wife, his children and also his friends.
I don’t relate this to cast stones at my friend. I know that if something wrong can be done that I can do it because of the deceptiveness of my corrupt nature. It will be a struggle until Christ returns and all those that belong to Him are changed into His glory.
My purpose for beginning this post with this story is to pose a question: how did my friend, a man that loved God and his family, make this life-altering decision? What caused him to do something he never ever thought he would do? One reason is that he failed to ask the most important question in making wise choices.
There are five questions I use to help me make good decisions. Imagine a pyramid sectioned into five levels and at the apex is wisdom. Each level represents a question to be answered. By processing your decisions and problems in asking these five questions they will help you to avoid foolish decisions and hurtful consequences.
At the base of the pyramid, the foundation, is the entry point where we begin. It is represented by the initial question: what does the Bible say about my problem?
This question is the most important of the five. Knowing what the Bible says about a matter and applying it to your situation will dramatically change your life for the better.
God’s Word is the place to go to discover His mind on a subject. One of the benefits of the Bible is to give us wisdom – “…the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). If you’re simple in an area the Bible will give you wisdom concerning it. I have learned that when I approach God’s Word with my need it opens up to me and I begin to notice things that directly apply to your situation.
The most important way to find wisdom on a subject with which you are wrestling is to discover what the Bible says about it. This clears up the clutter of your choices faster than any other thing you can do.
Before you read God’s Word, write down your struggle and then read with a view to see how it speaks to that issue. Defining your problem is half of the battle. It’s impossible to find a solution when you don’t know what the problem is.
As I read with my question in mind I am focusing on three categories of Scriptures. In sequential order they are:
- Commands of God. You will discover clear directives concerning your need. God is not obligated to help us when we are in rebellion to His Word. Don’t wait until you understand the command, just obey it and the wisdom will follow.
- Principles that apply. There are transferable, timeless, universal principles that apply to multiple situations. Proverbs is an storehouse of principles that will make one wise. Practicing God’s principles work.
- People with a similar problem you’re facing. God will show you lessons from Bible characters that are in the same type of struggles. As you read their biographies you will learn things to avoid, causes and consequences of behaviors.
These are in order of priority – commands, principles and people that have similar problems. For example, you can look for principles and people with similar issues, but it you aren’t obeying God’s commands it will be futile. He delights to guide those that honor Him by their desire to please Him in obeying Him.
Here a few illustrations showing the difference in the way we typically respond based on human thinking and the way God instructs us to respond.
- Someone has hurt you deeply and everything within you wants to destroy them and see them hurt as bad as they hurt you. That is the natural response, but not the supernatural response. Here is God’s command to us in that situation – “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:20-21)
- You have financial challenges and your natural mind says to not be faithful in your giving to God. God’s way is to bless those that are faithful to Him in the giving of their finances – “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)
- You have a desire to be successful and the world’s way is to be aggressive in putting yourself first, even if you have to step on others and cheat to get there. God’s way is different – “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)
Here’s the takeaway – let God make the choice and the result is wisdom, even if you can’t comprehend it right now. Make sure your choices are based on the Designer of your life, Almighty God. He knows how life will best work for His children that follow His ways.
Our job isn’t to understand how God is going to work things out, but to honor Him in obedience anyway. Someone said, “Obey God and leave the consequences to Him”.
When I was a freshman in college I was struggling with surrendering my life to God to become a pastor. I was an introvert and an average public speaker at best and I was fearful.
In one of my classes a requirement (I attended a Christian college) was to read the Old Testament completely through as part of our final grade. One night in my dorm room I was reading the book of Exodus in a section where Moses was telling God He couldn’t lead the people because he wasn’t a good speaker. The words seemed to leap from the page as that was my struggle at that very moment. (Note that as I was reading I learned something from a person that was facing a similar problem as myself).
What I read changed my life forever. Read it for yourself.
“And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.” (Exodus 4:10-12)
Moses tried to use his lack of eloquence as an excuse, but God gave Him a simple response – “Moses, I made you the way you are, even with your personality of introversion and limitations. Don’t worry about that, obey me and I will be with you and help you as you speak”.
At that moment I knew what I was supposed to do. I discovered the will of God by reading and obeying His Word. What was a very difficult choice for me up until that time became very clear. Just by reading and applying the Bible. And it has been a great joy and privilege to follow God’s plan.What decision are you facing that is a struggle? Let me encourage you to read the Bible and look for commands from God, principles, and how people handled a similar situation. God will clear things up and you will experience wisdom.
Perhaps you are thinking, “Rick, what if the Bible doesn’t speak specifically to the issue?” The next four posts will provide questions to help you have God’s wisdom.