You make decisions every day. Choices can be clear and concise, while other decisions require wrestling and seeking wise counsel. Whether the decisions are miniscule or more than you can handle, seek the Lord first before the choice is made.
As we are reengaging with society after a hiatus of activity, what better opportunity to hear what God has to say! The temptation is to drift back into normalcy without discerning God’s will. What if the Lord wants you to go in a different direction? What if there is a decision that might seem obvious, but the Holy Spirit tells you otherwise? It would be worth it to check in with God first!
In Acts 27, we’ve recently looked at a decision that was made against the Apostle Paul’s better judgement; a choice that got the crew stuck in a ravaging storm. The process of how the decisions were made seem ordinary, but led to dangerous waters without discernment. (See Part I https://nathancherney.com/discerning-through-decisions/) Let’s look at 3 more ways we naturally make decisions and why discernment is needed in each one.
- Comfort – (v.12a)- “Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in…”
When faced with the decision to set sail or to stay, a huge factor was the idea of comfort. They set sail because the harbor was ‘unsuitable’. We typically think of this word to mean ‘uninhabitable’, as unsuitable to live. However, commentaries suggest that waiting would have been unsuitable solely on the fact that the crew would have been bored. There was nothing to do in Fair Haven, but Phoenix – only 40 miles away -was the spot. There would have been plenty of entertainment to pass the time so it was suitable to sail onward.
Now, I have a question for you: do you want to grow in Christ?
Then get ready to be uncomfortable.
As I look throughout Scripture, I see men and women who had to step outside their comfort zone are the ones used by God. As each person ventured into uncharted waters, their faith grew, the miracles came, and their lives were forever changed. They did not have all the answers, but pushed past the fear and walked out in faith.
Our decisions are based on what we like, what we know & what we’re used to. It’s not bad to have a routine, a specific type of coffee, or a preference for limited social engagement. The danger is when our comfort becomes our crutch so we can’t run the race God has called each one of us.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” – Matthew 16:25
We have to find against the ‘self’… constantly. Self gratification is easier than yielding to someone else’s wants. Self preservation is natural, especially when threatened with uncomfortable situations. But Jesus’ words are loud and clear: there’s a denial of self that leads to fullness of purpose.
I think back on the uncomfortable moments of my life and…
- I grew when I was in Texas alone and engaged in a long distance relationship
- I grew when I started a youth ministry with barely any students
- I grew when I first became a husband
Growth takes place in trying times and when comfort is fleeting. When making a decision, think about the potential of growing in Christ.
- Majority vote – (v.12b) – “The majority decided we should sail on”
It looked like the majority of the crew was in agreement to move on. If most people want it, then democracy rules.. right?
Last time I checked, Jesus died because of a majority- thanks to the Pharisees enticing the crowd. (Mark 15:9-11)
It’s important to understand the motives when a majority vote is made. There are people who do not like to ‘rock the boat’ and will go with the consensus. Others choose based on self-interest. And still, people want to be liked and go with the flow.
As I briefly mentioned above about Texas, I had a calling from the Lord to come back. Here’s the problem – it was 2 months before my wedding! At the outset, it seemed crazy and many people would disagree with such a decision. Yet I sought the Lord and knew what He said. Did I have faith that God would deliver on His promise? Yes, but I did not know how. The next thing I know, I am signing a contract for the church I current serve at on my honeymoon!
For you it could be a job proposal, major purchase, a strategic investment, or a career that the majority would say ‘yes.’ It could even be a no-brainer! But, again, what does God say?
If we say yes to God, even if the masses disagree, you are still in the ‘majority.’ How? God’s vote weighs more than the opinion of others. If He is for you, who can be against you? (Romans 8:31). The Lord is on your side!
- Justifiable circumstances – (v.13) – “When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity..”
I can imagine the crew lighting up when that gentle breeze came through. They probably looked at Paul and said, “See, I told you!” Sadly, and quickly, the breeze changed direction and became the force of a hurricane (Acts 27:14).
The easiest way to make a bad decision is when we justify our choice according to happenstance. We take it as an omen and double down. The next thing we know, we’re trapped in a storm praying that the Lord would get us out of there.
I have seen these justifications take place in relationships far too often. A Christian knows they should not date a non Christian but justify their newfound relationship because, “he came to church with me.” Anyone can walk through the door of a church! And many men and women will eagerly do so if they want to pursue a relationship. The true test is – what is the person’s fruit? If justified, the relationship is unequally yoked and ends in unnecessary heartbreak or a stronger commitment together without Christ in the center. Don’t do it!
When it comes to relationships and commitments, let’s not rationalize a decision that puts us in danger of drawing nearer to Christ.
All of these decision-making processes led Paul and the crew to set sail and created the ‘perfect storm’ – quite literally, in the worst way: “The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along”… “We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard”… “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” (Acts 27:15, 18, 20)
I realize that many of us are currently facing ‘storms’, because of previous choices we made. It is easy to read this and think back on poor choices and bad decisions that affected our lives and others. I have made more than I can count! Sometimes, we feel like Paul where the choice was made despite his warning and he has to suffer. And still, we make decisions that have natural and spiritual consequences.
Does this mean that God is finished? When we make a mistake that we are left to face the storm all alone? That when we forget to check in with God before making a decision and there is a disaster, that we cannot be saved?
Thankfully the answer is a resounding, NO!
Peter walked on the water, but began to sink. It was when he became distracted by wind and the waves, that he began to drown; Peter lost sight of Jesus. Thankfully, Jesus was there to graciously pick Peter up. God is always there for us when the storm is raging and we feel like drowning. (Matthew 14:22-33)
All Jesus wants is our eyes to be fixed on Him.
- When our decision making seems easy, or when we have to make tough choices.
- When life is smooth sailing, or we’re hitting rough waters.
- When we feel certain in our choice, we go to the source to make sure.
- When we are unsure, we run to God to gain clarity, insight and wisdom.
Although it was a bad decision, God was gracious. He sent an angel to Paul to encourage the crew with a message that each person would be saved (Acts 27:21-25). While they lost hope, the Lord provided a way out of the storm. The crew had a chance to make a decision yet again – to have faith in the God of all hope (Romans 15:13).
In your decision-making, I encourage you to have the Lord be your first choice. What does He have to say? If you are currently hard-pressed with the storm raging because of past decisions, don’t focus on the storm, but redirect your eyes to Christ. He is the one who walked on the water and He is the one who calmed the seas. Jesus, in His love and grace, will get you to safety.
Have a blessed week!