Making Wise Decisions

INTRO: Read PROVERBS 8

This proverb is a personification of wisdom … Wisdom speaking to us words of invitation and warning about the way we live our lives … about wise or unwise living … and that easily translates to wise or unwise decision making … because most of life comes down to decisions … to choosing this or that doesn’t it?

This job or that job? Stick it our or quit? This school or that school?  Pizza or a salad?  This house or that apartment?  Roommate or no roommate?  Ask for her phone number or not?  Call him back or don’t?  Get engaged or break-up?  Now or later?  And on and on and on.

Your lives are full of decisions, large and small … and then there is this idea called wisdom, which has everything to do with decision-making; wisdom is the scorecard by which we measure our decisions.  If you say, that something was a bad decision, what you mean is that it was not a wise decision, right?

So, if wisdom is the scorecard for decision-making, and decision-making is such a significant part of our lives, then it seems important to ask the question “what is wisdom?”

Where does that scorecard come from?

What makes a decision wise or unwise?

Is it always black and white? If so, why do we still often find ourselves in bad situations, and if not, how do we navigate the grey?  And maybe the most important question: “Who cares?”  What is actually at stake in our early 20’s decision-making?

We’ll come back to the “does it matter” question at the end, but for now we’re going to go on talking under the assumption that it does.

It seems like there are particularly important decisions to be made in these first few years out of college, doesn’t it?  And in a sense, that is true.  A lot of the decisions that you make in these years really set a course for you for the rest of your life.  Marriage decisions, career decisions, even social decisions and value decisions … it can be a little bit overwhelming when you think about it all.  So, to ease your spirits a bit we’re going to watch a quick clip from family guy:

[family guy clip] – “don’t be crippled by any of this – the world will go on … you were made to live, not to worry about life” [turn corner]

Here we are, learning to be real people for the first time, with all these questions and confusions … and what I’m going to tell you this morning is that because we are all sitting in church, we are actually expected to look at all of these questions through a different lens than the rest of the world looks at them through …

1 Corin. 3:18-2018Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”

Pretty much, what Paul is saying here is that there is another scorecard that is masquerading as wisdom, and he calls it “the wisdom of the world” and says, rather bluntly, that it is foolishness.  That it promises something that it doesn’t deliver …

So what can we do with that?  How can we, who, even though we may be Christians, are born of, and significantly influenced by the world, be expected to distinguish between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God?   [any ideas?]

The lens, or maybe lenses that I believe God has provided us with for examining our decisions are The Bible (Word of God) and the Holy Spirit (transforming power of God in our being).

The Bible:

JAMES 3:13-17 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Heavenly Wisdom is shown by:

  • GOOD LIFE
  • DEEDS DONE IN HUMILITY

Wisdom from Heaven is:

  • PURE
  • PEACE LOVING
  • CONSIDERATE
  • SUBMISSIVE
  • FULL OF MERCY & GOOD FRUIT
  • IMPARTIAL & SINCERE

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can we make use of these principals in our daily decision-making? [And let’s just be honest … do we want to?]
  2. What are some of the barriers that we encounter while trying to make wise decisions?
  3. Does anyone have stories of how reading scripture has affected their decision-making?

The Holy Spirit:

JOHN 14:16-17, 25-26 – 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. …

25“All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

JOHN 16:13-1513 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

Questions:

  1. Based only on those 2 passages what expectations does Jesus/Scripture have for your relationship with the Holy Spirit?
  2. Based only on your own personal experience, what expectations, if any, do you have for your relationship with the Holy Spirit?
  3. If there is a discrepancy, why do you think that is, and what efforts can we make to bridge that gap?

So now that we’ve got a little bit of a framework together for discerning wisdom in our daily decisions, we can get back to the why should we care all that much about any of this?  What is actually at stake in our decision-making?

When I get honest with myself, there is a little bit of irony to the fact that I’m up here teaching people about making wise decisions … about listening to the Holy Spirit and about letting my daily life be informed by the Word of God.

I don’t have a perfect record of wise decision-making in these last two years since I graduated … I’d say that I’ve made some good decisions and some bad ones … The decision to move back to Atlanta was a big one for me, and I think I chose well, but it was a struggle and included a lot of thought and prayer and conversation with peers and mentors … I didn’t get to a conclusion on my own.

And I’ve made some bad decisions … and the truth is that usually when I’ve made bad decisions, I’ve had to ignore the counsel of friends and my gut … because wisdom is best found in community, with God and with the church … and so I actually hear this next passage, Stephen’s words from the book of Acts, as words of conviction.  He says to a group of people who are about to stone him:

ACTS 7:51 – “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!”

The Message translates the verse like this: “And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors”

The charge is not that we don’t hear the Holy Spirit, but that we do hear the Spirit and choose to ignore it …

Does this sound right for anyone other than me?

We intentionally cut people with sarcasm, we cheat on our taxes, we deceive our parents and exploit our employers, we have one more drink and go home with that stranger or co-worker, in our minds, not because we love them, but because of what we can get from them.

When we make decisions without listening to the Holy Spirit, those decisions fail on the scorecard of wisdom … Pure, peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial & sincere …

Maybe you don’t notice anything terrible immediately … there is no time out or slap on the wrist … but there is a story in the Old Testament that shows us what it is like to live in creation apart from the wisdom of the Creator.

And though Adam and Eve didn’t physically die when they ate the fruit in Gen. 3 … the life promised to them was forfeited through their choice to listen to a creature instead of the creator.  And when life is forfeited, what does that leave us with …

It is possible for us to live in death … to exist but miss real life.  And the best way I can sum the stakes up to you is to say that missing life, or living in death, is broken relationship … with God and with the rest of creation.  The wisdom of the world will teach you to climb the ladder … to elevate yourself, to dress for the job you want, to safeguard your reputation in the workplace at all costs … and it will separate you from real life … you will have elevated yourself right out of the authentic community we were created for.

But the Gospel of Jesus says that nothing is irredeemable; and that means that it is never too late and you are never too far-gone to be brought back to life!

Wisdom from Heaven calls us into real life, where people matter more than possessions all the way through and not just on the death-bed.   You hear people use that phrase, no one ever says on their death bed that they wish they’d accumulated more, but instead that they wish they’d spent more time with people …

Wisdom from heaven is what will keep us out of that death bed.  And the God of Grace who knows our needs has provided us with His Word and His Spirit so that we can know how to choose life!

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~ by Will Norman on September 20, 2009.

One Response to “Making Wise Decisions”

  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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