Discerning Through Decisions

I was walking to the concession stand during an Anaheim Angels baseball game (a while back before the name change). A man from the kiosk begins to chat with me; I quickly find out that he can guarantee a $100 gift card of my choice. A few minutes later, he sweetened the deal to a few nights’ stay in Cabo. The final icing on the cake was two free plane tickets to anywhere in the US, including Hawaii. This pitch sounds too good to be true! All I had to do was attend a meeting, and I would receive these prizes. How easy would it be to listen to a presentation for an hour? 

The next thing I know, I am signing my life away, I mean, a contract for my own vacation getaway as a timeshare owner. Here’s the problem – I didn’t realize the financial commitment it took as I was the youngest timeshare owner of that company. As a result, I would have to make a sacrifice to pay monthly fees and quarterly dues for years to come. In hindsight, this was not one of the best decisions I’ve made. 

I use this example not as a warning when it comes to timeshare proposals but to exercise wisdom when it comes to decision-making. As we are getting used to engaging with the real world again – the activities, the back-to-life-as-we-know-it, are we checking in with the Lord? Or does making decisions and having spiritual discernment merely an afterthought, typically after we are already caught in the storm? 

I wonder if I would not have been appeased by the freebies that I could have heeded that meeting so I wouldn’t have to spend $1,000s later in my future. Better yet, would I have gone to that presentation if I prayed beforehand? As we get back to the usual, let’s not make it unusual to seek God first. Even if it’s a job we’ve had for years, a routine that we have established, or are stepping back into habits and getting busy, let’s ask… what does the Lord has to say about the various decisions I make each day? 

In Acts 27:10, we find that Paul gives a warning to the ship’s crew that is about to set sail, “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, but to our own lives also.” The centurion, who is entrusted to take Paul as a prisoner to Rome, has a choice: to listen to the advice of Paul or to others who have a vested interest in setting sail. What is it going to be? Sadly, they decide to set sail, and Paul’s concern becomes a reality as they are hit with a storm and thrown out to sea. 

Imagine if the centurion heeded Paul’s warning… They could have avoided the storm entirely! I want to drop the anchor here and take time to look at the potential dangers when we do not discern God’s will in our decision-making. As we are heading into charted waters and smoother seas with everything opening up, we must fight the battle well, as Paul says, to keep their conscience clear, so we do not shipwreck our faith. (1 Timothy 1:19) 

What are the dangers we can fall into when we make decisions without seeking the Lord first? The temptation to go on autopilot in our choices and perhaps, the Lord would suggest otherwise? Let’s look at common ways decisions are made based on our text. 

1. Impatience (v.9) – “Much time has been lost…” 

The winds had redirected the ship south towards Crete, where they stopped at Fair Havens. In verse 11, the text reveals that the owner of the ship and the pilot wanted to sail on, despite the warning from Paul. Why? Time is money. 

The further the delay, the longer it takes to get paid. Since money was the driving factor, listening to godly advice fell on dear ears, or should I say, went overboard. 

Much damage can take place when one makes a decision in haste. When patience is wearing thin, it can be tempting to give up the wait and settle for less. At this point, a person’s lack becomes more significant than their dependency on the Lord and in His timing to deliver. 

 As a Pastor, I pray for our young adults who are thinking about ‘the one.’ It can be tempting as young adults get older that a prospective spouse seems further from reality. As a result, Christian young adults may compromise because ‘time is running out.’ They date or marry an unequally yoked person (2 Corinthians 6:14), move in with who they are dating (implying sex before marriage), or marry a ‘Christian’ who has little fruit. Decisions in haste can curtail the blessing God wants to ultimately bring in a person’s life. 

It’s essential to remember that the Holy Spirit is doing a good work in you while you wait. He is! There’s a refinement, a pruning, that takes place while waiting on the Lord. Joseph had a prophetic dream of his calling, and the next thing he knows, he is the furthest from it. Joseph was thrown into a pit, sold as a slave to Potiphar, and put in prison. Any outsider would think he was done for! It seemed that Joseph missed his opportunity or God failed him. Yet the Lord was teaching Joseph proper work ethic and training him how to have godly character while in the lowest of places. The waiting was preparation for the position – Joseph would be second to Pharaoh and would save Israel and Egypt from a severe famine that was going to occur. (Genesis 41:53-57; 45:7-8) God always has a plan! 

Lamentations 3:25 says, “the Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Whatever it is that you are waiting for, trust that God has the best for you. While you wait, decide HOW you are going to wait. Is it going to be in distress and worry, leading to compromise? Or will you trust the Lord while you wait? A hurried decision typically shortcuts a tremendous blessing for what you are waiting for and in your spiritual development. 

2. Expertise (v.11) – “Followed the advice of the pilot and the owner of the ship.” 

I briefly mentioned how the centurion heeded the advice of the pilot and the owner of the ship. Naturally, this decision makes sense – the pilot and the owner are the ‘experts.’ They understand the dynamics of the seas and have the position and experience to back it up. Yet the centurion did not know their motives – make lots of denarii. Therefore, he trusted those in their expertise rather than a man who is an expert in the Word. 

Our culture has been claiming expertise on how Christians should live their lives. And within recent years, there is more of a demand to adhere to cultural standards; its denial has created tension for Christ-followers. As a result, Christians are choosing watered-down biblical standards to appease and please the world. 

There is a standard, and that is the Word of God. When facing a decision in life, first go to the source of life – what do the Scriptures have to say? For “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Whether it is how you should raise your children or what to say to a coworker who doesn’t like you, the Bible is the foremost and final expert – anything short of this is an opinion, regardless of who the experts are. 

As mentioned in our study so far, decisions were made in haste and swayed by experts since they had selfish motives. We will continue our study next week by looking at 3 other ways we make decisions that can get us in trouble if not checked first by the Lord. The reality is, we make decisions every day – the minute and monotonous kind to the impending and life-altering type of decisions. Before you do, I encourage you – what does the Lord have to say? Discern from the Lord as He will “guide you in all truth” (John 16:13). 

Have a blessed day! 

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