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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What to Do When You Must Make an Important Decision

Proverbs 12:15 (ESV) 15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

2 Timothy 3:7 (ESV) 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

I have a friend who hasn't read a book since he graduated from seminary over twenty years ago. He is listening to no one. He is making his decisions without borrowing any of the experiences of others. He believes his way must be the best way since he doesn't know any other way.

I have a friend who is a voracious reader. He reads a book every day. Unfortunately, I believe he lacks discernment. Everyone can't be right. Each book should give new knowledge. Some will contradict others. Knowing so many methods of doing something will not make you wiser. It will confuse you. You will end up running from one method to another. You will confuse others when they don't know which way you are going.

Both of these are extreme. One is wise in his own eyes. The other lacks discernment. The Bible supports neither. Wisdom is the ability to know when to continue to listen. Wisdom must listen but it does not listen without coming to the knowledge of the truth.

The past couple of years I got bids on two projects that I needed done around my house. I got three to four bids on each one. There were hundreds of companies. On the first project, I used the Internet to determine which ones I called. I called four but one did not bother to deliver a bid. I chose the company based on its size, the interview with the representatives and just my own "gut" feeling. I was disappointed in the results.

I used Angie's list on the second one to determine which ones to ask. I wanted to use one with an A rating. I read the reviews. I called four (one did not bother to call me back), set up times for the estimates, spoke to each representative, read the contracts and decided. I was very happy with the work.

Can you see the difference? One involved doing what I thought was right without listening to others. The second involved listening to others. Of course, it is possible to get good results without listening to others but the odds certainly favor listening.

If I had gotten a bid from every company without discernment I would still be getting bids and I would be very confused with which is the best company. I wanted a company who would do the job right with a reasonable price. I would have known neither with too many bids.

Can the same be said for faith? Is it possible that by listening to too many people that you will become confused? Is it possible that by refusing to listen that you will make a terrible faith decision? Of course. There is a time to listen and a time to decide.

Let's say a young lady and young man are dating. Each one needs to discern if he/she should continue to date. Each one needs to decide if he/she should get married or if marriage is in the future. There is a time to listen to godly people who will help in that decision. Emotions can make people blind. True wisdom will listen to godly people early in the relationship before things get so that the ears no longer hear what they don't want to hear. Yet, that does not mean that everyone needs to be asked. Look long enough and you will find someone who disagrees with every other person.

Listening should be a part of each of our decisions. The person who refuses to listen finds himself in places that he doesn't want to be. He finds himself in circumstances which could have been prevented. He finds himself in crises which will take tremendous efforts to recover from. It takes a thimble of water to put out the spark that would have burned down the forest. It takes a little listening to avert the problem that will take many years for recovery.

But who and how many you listen to is just as important. Here, it takes discernment. From where does the wisdom originate in those you seek advice? Do these people display godliness in their own lives? Do they speak of their own experiences?

I have had men come to me for advice on what to do when their wives have asked for a divorce. Of course, I ask them why. Many times the men are honest and give me significant reasons their wives are seeking to leave them. I then ask my next most important question: "Who is your wife listening to?" The road to recovery will be much harder if the wives are listening to other divorced women. Most of them have justified leaving their husbands and will transfer their "wisdom" to anyone who will listen. They also will make the divorced life look much better than it actually is.

Unfortunately, I hardly ever get to talk to the wife. She has probably already made her decision before she has asked her husband for a divorce. She's looking for justification, not reason.

Be very careful before making significant decisions. The Bible is a very practical book. It speaks of terrible decisions made by those who did not listen and to those who listened to the wrong people. Ask the Lord to lead you to those whose advice you really need..

God will always lead you if you will just listen.


JLTan said...

"A person who has decided that he can choose what is right or wrong is deemed to be a wicked person in the eyes of God."

Prentis McGoldrick said...

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was placed in the garden with man. He was warned never to eat from this tree. But man decided that he could eat without realizing the consequences. It was tremendously evil. Since that time, people have always realized that they could do evil but should choose holiness. The fallen nature has causes us to learn and listen to the language of the world. The language of God tells is often contrary to everything we hear from the world. Thus, we have a Savior who because of our unholiness has come to cleanse us. Yes, we have no choice but to choose holiness but our sinful nature craves the sins of this world. Thus, we have no choice but we demand a choice. It is evil without a question and so we have a Savior who cleanses us from unrighteousness when we confess our sins.

Anonymous said...

JLTan quoted this: "A person who has decided that he can choose what is right or wrong is deemed to be a wicked person in the eyes of God."

He did not elaborate; and so, I take it that he believes in that quote, originated by whoever.  JL Tan himself could be author, or another, but it really does not matter.  What matters is that there is no context to the quote, and so, I will comment on it, taking it as expressing a truth.  I feel I have to comment on it, because it implicated God.

Now, let us be very clear that having to make choices is not in itself wicked or evil. Volition was given to Man at Creation; it is not evil or wicked. Man was created with free-will to make choices or decisions.  We know this to be true, for early in time, in the Garden of Eden, the first Man, Adam, was given the freedom to make decisions or choices. If there were no choices, there would not be obedience to talk about, would there? No, no choice means one is forced.  Without choice, it is also impossible to talk about love, for love, like obedience, necessitates the presence of choices. Love is a choice, and a commitment.  To love someone for a spouse, since Ps Prentis, in his entry, uses dating, love relationship & marriage to bring his points across about making important decisions, first of all, is a choice - you choose Ms A or Ms B or Mr A or Mr B; and then you commit to stay with your choice or decision - commitment.  

To obey God and to love God are both (actually, obey and love are together as one, as far as obeying and loving God are concerned) by choice or you make a decision if you will obey or will love God.  If, because one can choose and does choose, between right or wrong, like choose to obey or not to obey, or to love or not to love, is wicked, then that would make God wicked, for God was the one who gave the volition to Man; and we find that, in that Garden of Eden, and subsequently, throughout the history of men - God presented choices to Man.  

There was the tree of life, and there was the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and other tress, too - God gave choices. And He did say the consequence of choosing to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Now, to choose is not wicked in the eyes of God; you are expected to choose, by God; it is choosing the wrong, that is wicked in the eyes of God. And it is a wrong to define for ourselves what is right and what is wrong; right or wrong is defined and decided by God. When we choose to define for ourselves what is right and what is wrong, we are holding out to God that we know better than God, and that is wicked, for that is saying we are God, He is NOT!  


Anonymous said...

Cont. Fr abov

The righteousness that Scripture exhorts us to live out is not our own righteousness, it is God's righteousness.  If JLTan meant this - that when a person decided that he can choose to DEFINE what is right and what is wrong, or what comes under right and what comes under wrong, he is deemed to be wicked in the eyes of God, I can agree with that. Pro 12:15, also said, such is a fool.

In that Fall of Man in the Garden, by listening to the serpent, Adam and Eve was guilty of redefining what it meant, as to the consequence of eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  It was foolish of Adam and Eve not to stick with God's words; it does not matter, the other sets of words came from the serpent or a snail or a tortoise; the point is that Adam and Eve accepted it.  I will return to Pro 12:15 in a moment.

The settling in your mind that you have to choose between right and wrong, on the other hand, is not wicked in the eyes of God. Life is about making choices; not making a choice is still a choice made.  That is why the issue of wisdom comes in.  That is why Solomon rightly asked for wisdom, and God was pleased that he asked for that.

Knowledge and even understanding  are not yet wisdom, for wisdom is seen in application of knowledge and understanding. For Pro 12:15, additionally, I want to point out that it does not matter where contrary views came from, be it from some other religious faiths, from the world in general (some gurus or some books, etc) or from our forefathers, if we accept them, in place of what the Word of God said, it is we are foolish.  Everything not according to God's eyes is of our own eyes, regardless of how or where it came, if you subscribe to it.  

The only way to read Pro 12:15 without it being regarded as oxymoron between the first half and second half of the verse is to understand that the "advice" in the second half of the verse, that we are to listen to, is referring to godly counsel.

Bad advice is also advice.  What is in "our own eyes" come from advices, used loosely.  Our value system and yardstick for life are formed from all the "advices" given by our parents, teachers, friends, associates, media, including the Internet, etc. For example, if you mingle a lot with some divorcees group (not church-based) you can get influenced by them through conversations and spending time together; and a time may come when you, too, think of divorcing your spouse, and then you think, "I am going to subscribe to Pro 12:15 and go ask for advice", and you turn to the divorcees group for advice.  I have first-hand knowledge that it does happen like that, in real life.  Do you think you have been wise according to Pro 12:15?  Just because a person is a divorcee, his or her advice is right or good? No, just because somebody cooks, it does not mean he or she is a good cook; or someone drives, it does not necessary mean that he or she is a good driver, and should necessarily be qualified to teach novices. Well, Ps Prentis gave similar illustration of, not any renovation contractor is a good contractor for a job.


Anonymous said...

Cont. Fr above

What is godly counsel? 
Firstly, the Holy Spirit is the best counsel; He is the Counselor, the Father God provided for us, believers.  "But brother Anthony, mine is not a decision about, should I or shouldn't I go to this overseas church camp, or switch career and go to Bible school or something like that; I am just thinking about renovating my house". So what, the Holy Spirit cannot help you in that? Are you sure there is not going to be element that can have spiritual impact?  Are you sure the project will definitely run its course smoothly? 

Secondly, there is the Word of God. "But there is no section on renovation of a building in the Bible." There is no renovation of your house in the Bible, but there is rebuilding of the city walls, and rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.  There is talk of what is abomination to God.  There is such teachings as honesty and integrity. Here is where application comes in, and where wisdom can been seen.  If you don't want to be a fool, the ways of the kingdom of God has to be, in all sphere of your life. For example, if a Christian brother, when you noted lack of subscribing to the ways of God in his business, and you suggest some prescriptions, and he said something like, "But this is business-le", you got be alert.  It may be, he is only a "church-Christian", meaning, only in church, he carries himself as a Christian, outside, he does not.

Of course, godly counsel does not necessarily come directly from the Holy Spirit or the Word.  Let's say, you have not been diligent, both in cultivating your sensitivity to the Spirit, and in studying the Word, what do you do? Go to a godly person or persons for counsel. Please, you have to learn to, at least, be able to know what can point to godliness, so that you don't go to the wrong people for advice.  If the decision is very important, seek a second opinion, if you are not so sure of the person as to his godliness. At the most, a third opinion; please don't go shopping until you get to hear what you want to hear! That is you are getting people to agree to your foolishness, for you have decided to go by your own eyes. 

The "your own eyes" there in Pro 12:15 refers to your own yardstick, different from that, of God, or of the Word. For a major, major decision, it is always better to talk to a godly counsel, regardless your faith maturity!  Why? Yes, as we grow in the faith, our yardstick of measurement, or for decision-makings, gets closer to the Word, but how close is it to the whole counsel of the Word as the yardstick for living, is something we can be fooled, for our heart, the Bible said, is deceitful; a check is still in order.

For 2 Tim 3:7 typed person, I too have come across. In fact, one over the Internet, a UK chap of mid-age. A depression-prone fellow; was a traditional institutional church Christian, turned overly-grace cyber Christian, turned "psychologist expert", knowing many manners of human patterns and models, and finally, adopted his own blend of fusion of knowledge as "his own eyes", but never arriving at the knowledge of truth.  I wish he not write anymore on the Internet, since he persists to write his blogs under the banner of Christianity; what is being dished out is mumbo jumbo.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions