The Guided Decision
June 28, 2009
Imagine having in your grasp the one thing that your heart desired more than anything. Of being assured that whatever that one thing was it was yours. What would you wish for? Understand it’s not the genie thing, no three wishes but one. What would your wish be, and remember this is it, no mulligans or take backs, no chance to say “darn, I should have wished for . . .”
That was the situation where Solomon found himself in the scripture that was read earlier. If we go back to 1 Chronicles 29:26-28 So David son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. He reigned over Israel for forty years, seven of them in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. He died at a ripe old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth, and honour. Then his son Solomon ruled in his place.
You remember David right, he was the author of most of the Psalms, and he was the shepherd kid who killed the giant Goliath in battle. It was David who became king, established Israel as a major force in their world, and established Jerusalem as the political and spiritual capital of Israel. David was considered to be the greatest king that Israel would ever have. And in the New Testament the coming Messiah is often referenced as the “Son of David” for example Matthew 12:23 The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?”
Well David was dead; the bible says he died at a ripe old age having enjoyed a long life. That’s right if you take the time to check and do the math he was . . . seventy, which coincidently is when I plan to retire from Cornerstone. So you have me for another 147 dog years. So David has died and left the throne not to his eldest son but instead to Solomon the son he had with Bathsheba.
And as Solomon ascends the throne he is asked by God in 2 Chronicles 1:7 That night God appeared to Solomon and said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
Let’s go back to where we started. Imagine having in your grasp the one thing that your heart desired more than anything. Of being assured that whatever that one thing was it was yours. What would you wish for?
According to the story Solomon didn’t hesitate 2 Chronicles 1:9-10 O Lord God, please continue to keep your promise to David my father, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth! Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly, for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?”
Not sure if God asked “Is that your final answer?” but apparently it was the correct one because we read the response of the Almighty in 2 Chronicles 1:12 I will certainly give you the wisdom and knowledge you requested. But I will also give you wealth, riches, and fame such as no other king has had before you or will ever have in the future!” Cool, not only did he get what he wanted he got what I’m sure he could only imagine.
King Solomon is known for his temple and for his mine, but more than anything Solomon was known for his wisdom. He is the author of the book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and was renowned throughout his world for his wisdom. There is a story told in 1 Kings 10:1 When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, which brought honour to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. And then we discover the result of her testing 1 Kings 10:3-5 Solomon had answers for all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba realized how very wise Solomon was, and when she saw the palace he had built, she was overwhelmed.
Over the next several weeks we are looking at Andy Andrews book “the Traveler’s Gift”, in this novel which he has subtitled “The 7 Decisions that Determine Personal Success”. The main character David Ponder visits 7 historic figure who each offer him one principle to base his life on. Last week we looked at the principle given to Ponder by Harry Truman and that was the responsible decision. We need to come to the point in our lives that we are willing to accept responsibility for the choices that have brought us to the place we are in our lives. So we have to decide that we will not blame our parents, our friends or our circumstances for our life. As long as we blame others we are saying they have control over who we are and what we do, once we accept that responsibility we realize that we hold control of our future. But that was last week.
The second person David Ponder is introduced to is King Solomon who challenges him to seek wisdom, this is “The Guided Decision.” In the book of Proverbs we are told by Solomon Proverbs 4:7 Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.
The question though is “How, how do we get wisdom?” Often times we are directed to the book of James where we read: James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. And so for many Christians that is their sole attempt at gaining wisdom in their lives, “Why I asked God and he gave me wisdom.” But then they go and do dumb things, go figure.
If wisdom was simply a matter of asking and receiving than why do we still make the wrong choices in our personal lives and our spiritual lives? And I have a theory, and I bet you can’t wait to hear it.
In Matthew Jesus tells us Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? But just because God feeds the birds it doesn’t mean they don’t have to work for the food. God provides it but they still have to find it, every morning he doesn’t just dump a truck load of worms in their nest and say “There you go, food for another day.”
In the same way I believe God gives us the wisdom we need, but he doesn’t just stick a funnel in our ears and pour it in. Instead he offers us the opportunities to become wise. One of my favourite movies from the past couple of years has been Evan Almighty and in it the question is asked, “When someone prays for patience does God give them patience or the opportunity to be patient? When someone prays for courage does God give them courage or the opportunity to be courageous?” And so I would add to that, when you pray for wisdom does God give you wisdom or provide you with the opportunities to become wise? And that is the problem, because people want wisdom like they want most other things in life, without paying a price.
So, the next question has to be: Where do we find wisdom?
We Receive Wisdom From Books This should be a no brainer but it really isn’t. We gain wisdom from reading. And not just reading anything, I firmly believe that we will gain the most wisdom from reading books. For thousands of years wisdom has been passed down in books of one kind or another and it is no different today. And I know there are folks who say “I read newspapers and magazines.” That’s not the same, they are great for news and entertainment but that’s not where you find wisdom. Can you remember the last time you were reading a periodical and had a eureka moment?
And don’t even get me going on the “I read what I need online.” That is like approaching a total stranger and asking for their advice, you have no idea what they know or don’t know, what their background is or for that matter who they are.
I am constantly amazed by people look for medical advice on the internet. It was Mark Twain who said “Beware of health books. You might die of a misprint.”
We encourage children and teenagers to read all through their school years and if they don’t like reading or don’t enjoy reading we want them to have remedial help. When does that change? And why do people brag about not reading? I hear people say “I haven’t read a book since I finished university.” That is nothing to brag about.
If you just don’t like reading or you struggle with it, consider audio books. They are available from the library or you can purchase them and listen to them in your car or while you walk or work in the garden. I love to read but there are some authors that I get the audio books and listen to them because it’s just easier for me.
And the books you read don’t have to relate to your profession. Sometimes we get into a rut where we only read those things that we have to, stretch yourself. When I picked up the Traveler’s Gift it wasn’t because I was looking for a sermon series it seemed to have the potential for a good read.
It was Francis Bacon said “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.”
Seek wisdom in what you read.
We Receive Wisdom From Others. How many parents do we have here today? How many of you are concerned about who your kids hang out with? Sure you are. We all know the importance of the right peer group for our kids, I saw a neat T-shirt the other day it said and I quote “resist peer pressure all the cool kids are doing it.”
We understand that our kids will be influenced by those they hang out with, that if their friends are into drugs or having sex or using foul language that our kids are at risk for acting the same way.
It was no coincident when my daughter graduated from High School with honours that the five kids she hung out with graduated with honours as well.
We kind of understand the principle of “It’s hard to soar with eagles when you hang out with turkeys” when it comes to kids. So do we think there is a magic age that we are no longer susceptible to the influence of others?
Choose your companions carefully because they will have an influence over you. How they speak, what they believe and what their attitudes are. If you spend your time with negative people you will become negative, spend it with lazy people and you will become lazy.
If a negative person doesn’t bother you it’s because you have accepted their negative views as “normal”.
Be careful who is having an impact on who you are. If you want to have a successful marriage than find couples who seem to be doing it right and look to them for wisdom. Are you looking to succeed in your profession? Then hang out with those who have succeeded. Want to be a better Christian, find someone who is doing it. And be willing to be accountable to those people.
Andy Andrews wrote that he often asks people “What is a true friend to you?” And he goes on to say that more than 80% of the time people say “A true friend is someone who accepts me the way that I am.” And I notice some of you nodding. Here is Andrew’s response “My friend, that is dangerous garbage to believe. A true friend is someone who accepts you the way that you are! The kid who works at the drive thru at the local fast-food restaurant accepts you as you are — because he doesn’t care about you. A true friend holds you to a higher standard — he or she expects you to do what you said you were going to do, when you said you were going to do it. A true friend makes you better by his or her presence.”
When you are making a decision ask others what they think, Solomon tells us in Proverbs 13:10 Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise.
I Don’t know about you but the reason I don’t ask for advice sometimes is because I don’t want it, my mind is made up and I’m afraid of what I might hear. Other times it’s a matter of pride, we don’t think we need any advice; we act as if we know all there is to know and no one else has anything to offer. In the book of Acts when the early church struggled with theological issues the issue wasn’t simply resolved by Peter or Paul declaring that they were the final authority, an example is given in the book of Acts when the issue came up over whether Gentile converts needed to be circumcised. Acts 15:6-7 So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them. . ,” they called a meeting and discussed it, combining their wisdom to come up with the right answer.
It was Ben Johnson (not that Ben Johnson) who said “Very few men are wise by their own counsel, or learned by their own teaching. For he that was only taught by himself had a fool for his master.”
There are times I come up with a good idea; I mean a really great idea, a stellar idea. The idea of all ideas and then I run it by the rest of the staff or the leadership team and they say “what about . . .” oh yeah. And so when you are seeking wisdom, take the time to borrow wisdom from others.
And last but not certainly not least We Receive Wisdom From God Let’s go back to a scripture we had looked at earlier James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. The secret here is this should be at the top of the list not at the bottom. For too many people they go to this promise when they are down to clutching at straws. Instead of starting with this it’s where they go when they have already done something stupid. And their prayer is “Oh God get me out of the mess I’ve gotten myself in.” Hopefully if you paid attention last week you are at least acknowledging that it was your choice that got you into the mess in the first place.
So how do we find God’s wisdom? First in prayer. Take the time to lay it out for God, what is it that you want to do or need to do, and listen to him. Do you feel peace about your decision or do you find your self trying to convince God and win him over to your side? That’s not the purpose of prayer.
And the second way is by reading his word. He has already given us the answers that we need in a lot of cases and they are found in his word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
And we find scriptures like Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. Time and time again we go back to this, God spells out what he expects us to do and what he expects us not to do. And the way to read it isn’t pouring through it like an advice column when you get in trouble. It is reading it and knowing what it says. How does that happen? David gives us a hint in Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
You shouldn’t have to pray about whether you should be honest or not, whether you should steal or not, whether you ought to cheat on your spouse or your income tax. Because that has already been covered in the book. Through the years I have had the occasion to confront people over obviously sinful behaviour and they will assure me: I will pray about it. No you don’t have to pray about it, God has already given you the answer just read the book.
And then to go back to the second point ask Godly people, “What do you think I should do?”
I don’t know all of the decisions that need to be made by this group but I would challenge you to seek wisdom. Decide to read a book, ask others about the decision you are about to make and start reading the word of God.