Charles Stanley - The Key to Making Wise Decisions
Life is made up of decisions. You and I have been making decisions since we were born. The first one may have been crying when we wet our diaper. I don't know. But you made a decision, and you've been making them all of your life. And the most important decision you will ever make is the decision to accept the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, who went to the cross, shed His blood at Calvary, paid our sin-debt in full and offered salvation to all mankind. Most important decision is to accept Him personally as your Savior and Lord. Confessing and repenting of your sins and surrendering your life to Him, number one decision.
So, when you have to make a decision, how do you go about it? Do you say, "Well, have to make this decision, that decision, the other decision". In other words, do you just make decisions on second thought, or do you have a plan? Most people have no plan for making a decision. You ought to have a plan. So, I want to give you one. And I want you to turn, if you will, to Psalm twenty-five, and I just want us to read a couple of verses here. There are lots of verses in the Bible about prayer and answered prayer and discovering the Lord's will and so forth. And here's what He says in verse twelve of Psalm twenty-five, "Who is the man who fears," or the woman, "Who is the man," or woman, "who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should go. His soul will abide in prosperity".
Now, one of the parts of that I want us to understand is, if you'll notice how he says it, he says, "Who is the man," or woman, "who fears the Lord"? So, what does it mean to fear the Lord? An attitude that acknowledges one's absolute dependence on God for everything. If I fear the Lord, I'm going to depend upon Him for everything. And so, where do you turn to make decisions? Who do you talk to? Who do you ask? Let me ask you this: who do you trust in your family or among your friends, or people you work with, to really give you wise advice when it comes to making decisions? And let me say this to you: talking to other people's fine. You need to talk to the One who always makes wise decisions, and that is Almighty God. And He is willing to give you direction. He is willing every single time to answer that request. He may not answer it the way you expect. He may not answer it the way you want Him to do it as far as the timing is concerned. But He will answer.
And what I want you to understand is there's a way. And you need a plan, that whatever you're asking Him about, you certainly want God to hear and answer your request. Now, I preached on finding the will of God about lots of things, lots of times. But I've never given you a plan. So, here's the first step of the plan. Clear your heart of any known sin. Clear your heart of any known sin. Because sin introduces confusion in our minds and hearts, hinders our capacity to hear and receive from God. Because, you see, sin and the wisdom and knowledge of God don't fit together. And so, if I'm going to make wise decisions, I've got to get rid of any sin.
And so how do I do that? That's the first point. How do I get rid of sin in my life? Number one, I ask the Lord to show, watch this carefully, ask the Lord to show me, "Lord, is there anything in my life that would keep me from hearing the truth? I don't want to be prejudiced, I want to hear the truth, anything in my life that would keep me from hearing the truth". And exactly what the Holy Spirit will do is He's going to point to you whatever there is in your life. It may be a relationship. It may be a habit. It may be the way you think. But whatever's not of God, He's going to point it out to you: you need to deal with this.
So, how do you deal with sin? You deal with sin by confessing it. Confessing sin means that I agree with God that this is sin in my life. So first there's agreement, followed by repentance. On the basis, "God, that You say this doesn't fit my life, I repent of this sin," which means I turn away from it. I walk away from it, and I want to do absolutely whatever God says. If you want to clear out all the static and all the hum-drum stuff that goes on in the mind in making decisions, you begin with that. You begin with cleaning your heart of any known sin. And that's where a lot of people stop. They say, "Well, you know what? Don't give me that because there are some things in life I want to do". Well, some things in life will make you a fool. There'll be decisions that one of these days, you'll look back and say, "How in the world could I possibly have been thinking that"? I'll tell you why. Because sin clouds your mind, and sin confuses the mind, and sin betrays the mind.
And so, the first step in coming to know what is the wise way to make that decision is clearing the heart of any known sin. Secondly is bring your desires, watch this, bring your desires to a position of neutrality, which means this. This is what I really want above everything else, and they say this and they say that. What I need to do, if I want to know what God wants, I've got to be willing to say, "Lord, I want what You want. I don't know what that is right now. I don't know Your will right now, but I really want what You want". Now, telling Him that the first time probably won't work, because deep down inside, you've been thinking about what you want, what you need, what you desire, who you want to marry, what you want to drive, where you want to live, in other words, all these things.
So, the first time you say, "Lord, I want what You want," you may not mean that, but listen carefully. When you begin to say, "God, I want what You want. I want to know what You know is best for my life. I want to be wise, God, in these decisions. I need Your help. I'm willing to listen to You. And if I'm heading in the wrong direction, please show me, dear God. Don't let me make a mistake in this issue". Will He listen to you? Yes, He will. You have to be willing to come to say, "God, what is Your will? What..." in other words, listen to this. You're asking the one Person who knows everything about you, knows what is best for you, knows what will work for you, knows what will make you happy, He also knows what will make you miserable.
You think you can't live without her or without him, you won't even begin to realize what you're getting yourself into. What's the will of God? What are you trying to say to me, Lord? So, Lord, I want what You want. Whatever it takes, that's what I want you to show me. When you bring your mind and heart toward neutrality, "Lord, I really don't know what to do, but I want to know". Then God's going to begin to work in your life. And the third thing I want to say is you have to exercise patience. This is where people get in trouble. For example, there are some things I've prayed for for a long time before God ever answered my prayer. But watch this. Why do you keep praying when God hasn't answered for a while?
There's not a verse in the Scripture says, "Ask and it shall be given to you immediately. Seek and ye shall find it now". In other words, nowhere in the Bible does it say that. And so, you know what God is doing? He's getting us ready for the answer. And so, watch. God's pauses are very important in His plan for our life. He doesn't tell me now, so this is why you can't up and make decisions about important things in your life or things that don't seem to be very important when you are not sure exactly what God has said to you. So, you've got to exercise patience and you've got to be willing to wait.
Now, I want you to write down something, and I want you to understand what we mean when we say, "waiting upon God". You should write this down. It's not simply to mark time, "Well, I'm just going to wait upon the Lord". Rather, it's to live in a confident expectation, anticipation of His actions on our behalf, that God has heard you and He's going to answer that. It is to refuse to run ahead of Him, trying to solve our problems for ourselves. It says, "Be still and know that I am God". Now, being still is very difficult sometimes, especially if it's something that you really want. "My soul, wait in silence for God". "Be strong and let your heart take courage. Wait on the Lord".
Some people don't like to wait for anything. But if you're going to make wise decisions in your life, sometimes you have to wait a pretty good while. Sometimes you don't have to wait very long. Watch this. God knows where the emergencies are in your life. He knows where the answer must come now. He knows when you're not ready for the answer. He knows when you think you are, but He knows when you're not. And He knows if He gave you an answer now, you wouldn't accept it because you're not ready for it. Think about this, just think about this. An all-wise, omniscient God who knows you perfectly, knows what's best, has heard your request, He knows exactly the things that need to change before He can answer your prayer. He knows the kind of attitudes you have and He knows that there may be some aspects of that attitude that need to change before God can... it's not that He doesn't want you to have it. He just knows you're not ready for it right now.
So, it is required of us to be patient. Gotta have it now. We live in the age that has to have it now, and it's an age of disaster. "I gotta have it now. I don't have to ask God, whom I cannot see, when I can see her, I know him. So, I know what I want and why should I ask God? I don't know why would God listen to me"? With that attitude, He won't. Very important that we're patient and willing to wait upon God. And number four: be alert to pressure. Be careful about pressure. You're going to get pressure from your friends. You're going to get pressure from your enemies. You're just going to get pressure from yourself. Maybe you've had things your way all your life. You've not had to ask anybody anything. You've just done it your way. Well, it's time for you to learn a lesson. Here is the, listen, here's one of the most difficult things we have to deal with is pressure.
Now watch, this pressure, there are two types of pressure. There's external pressure, and there's another kind of pressure, we'll come to that. External pressure is pressure from your friends. You have to be very careful who you are listening to. And especially people who are your bosom friends. It may be you've been friends to somebody that you've been a friend a long time. You say, "Well, I can trust him no matter what. I can trust her". There's one step above that. I can trust God. Because my dearest friends may make a mistake. My dearest friends, watch this, may, because they love me, may want to make me pleased and happy. I don't want to be pleased and happy. I want to know what's the will of God?
So we have to be careful about those pressures. Then there's internal pressure. You get it from the outside, you get it from the inside. And I think about things that I've been through in life and our own fears, our own fears of loss and so forth, and I'll give you an example of probably a moment in my life that I hope God never repeats. But when I came to Atlanta, there came a time when we were going to vote on a Wednesday whether to make me the pastor or not. So, this is what happened, that I'll never forget, and asking the Lord to give direction and clarity. And having to trust Him in your own sense of the problem on the inside, and so, usually by Thursday I'll have my outline.
Now, I don't want to get a sermon too complete. I want to have to work on it a little bit Saturday 'cause I want it to be hot on Sunday morning. I don't want something that's been cooling off between Thursday and Sunday. So, anyway, Thursday came along, no sermon. Hmm, not even half a one. Friday, no sermon. Saturday, no sermon. And I knew that we were going to vote on the following Wednesday. Saturday night, I'm saying, "God, tomorrow is Sunday. And I don't even have a single verse of Scripture. Sunday morning, I wake up and the devil did his best to try to get me to reach back and find an old sermon or something that I could pull out. Mm-mm.
Sunday morning, I'm sitting in the chair and the choir begins to sing, so help me God, no sermon, no text, no Scripture, nothing. He just absolutely shut me down. And I'm sitting there thinking, "God, I think this is about the last part of that choir song. And I don't have anything to say, God, nothing". So they sang. I thought, "Okay, God". Picked up my Bible, walked up, opened it up, I opened up, and it fell on Proverbs three, five and six. I read it. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He'll direct your path". And I thought, "Lord, get started". This is the truth. I started preaching, and just like a machine gun, for thirty-five minutes about something I never even thought about. But it taught me this awesome lesson. God can shut you down when He wants to. And then when He decides to open you up, it's like a cannon going off.
The thing that I had to deal with was that inner fear. "God, what is Your will about all of this? And it's Wednesday, then it's Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday, and Sunday morning". You know what? God wasn't in heaven saying, "Oh, what's Charlie going to do on this Sunday morning"? God was sitting back and probably saying, "Now I'm going to show you what I can do". And that is, He answered my prayer in the most awesome way. And the pressure was my pressure.
That's number four. Number five, persist in prayer. P-E-R-S-I-S-T, persist in prayer. And that is keep praying no matter whether you understand it or not. First Thessalonians five seventeen, he says we are to continue in prayer. That is, continuously praying, you don't stop. In other words, because you don't have an answer, you don't stop praying. Pray without ceasing is what Paul said. Pray without ceasing. In other words, He didn't promise to give us answers or give us direction. He didn't promise us to give us that in any particular time. And I think God takes great delight in doing what? In watching us respond to Him, and watching how we move from doubt and fear and unrest and all the rest, to begin to trust Him and to begin to be confident. And to begin to ask Him and know absolutely in our hearts He will show us exactly what He wants to say to us.
Watch this. When He does not answer the way you expect, what is He doing? He's teaching us to trust Him when we don't have any evidence that He's heard anything. Can you trust Him like that? He's teaching us to trust Him. He knows He's going to answer it. And if you'll think about it, we started out by saying this is God's Book. He says, "Ask and it shall be given you," not at ten-thirty. He doesn't say that. "Seek and ye shall find," He doesn't say today. "Knock and it shall be opened," instantly. He doesn't say that. So, His delays are on purpose. And when I think about His purpose, it's certainly to teach me to pray, teach me to listen, teach me to trust Him, just have to trust Him. And so that's why Paul said, "Pray without ceasing". And watch this. And I'm not to move ahead until I get direction.
People say, "Well, I prayed about that for two solid weeks like it was eternity". Prayer is the greatest gift God has ever given us apart from salvation. And then there's number six. Once He's done that, I rest in God's promise. He promises, "Here's what I'm going to do". And if you'll think about it, the Bible is the most valuable resource we have in making decisions because it's full of wisdom. And what it is, it's the mind of God in print. Think about this. You want to know what God thinks about anything, get in the Word of God. And here's what the Word does. The Word filters my thinking when it's not exactly right, filters my desires. The Word of God is a filter. And our minds are continually bombarded by what the world thinks and how they think. But when you and I get in the Word of God and we begin to read His Word, what happens? He sifts and while He's sifting, He's also building our faith. God said. God promised. And if God said and God promised, I can go with it.
And remember this. He gives us promise after promise after promise. He will hear and answer our prayer if I'll just trust Him, be patient, wait upon Him. And then the seventh, wait for His peace. Wait for His peace. And that very word in Greek, in the Greek means "to bind together". The peace of God, He and I are together about this decision. And therefore, I can trust Him. And I love Colossians three-fifteen. Listen to what he says in that passage, and you might want to turn to it, Colossians three-fifteen, and listen to what the Apostle Paul says in the third chapter, fifteenth verse. Listen to what he says. He says, "Let the peace of Christ," listen to this, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body, and be thankful". "Let the peace of God rule in your heart". That is, when I have His peace, I know that I have the answer. That's God's grace. God is willing to give us the grace of absolute assurance.
And so, when I think about all the things that would keep us from knowing the will of God, I think about we have a plan. And I wish somebody had given me that when I was a kid, the plan. Now you have the plan, whoever you are, wherever you are, what we've talked about here, you've heard, you've seen. What works here works everywhere in the world where Jesus Christ is preached and people understand who He is. If you have never trusted Him as your Savior, this is the time to do it. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins. Tell Him you're repenting of your sins. Confess and repent of your sins, surrender your life to Him. God, I give up. Here's my life, God, I want to find out what You will do with me. Listen to this carefully. You listening, say amen? It has nothing to do with your nationality, your language, your color, your inheritance, it has nothing to do with anything.
Are you willing to believe Him? And until you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, this won't work. The most important decision you'll ever make is to trust the Lord Jesus Christ because that decision determines your whole entire eternity: decision number one. Decision number two: follow Him every day. If you've never trusted Him as your Savior, we're going to have a prayer in just a moment, you can be saved seated right where you are. There's nothing says you've got to do anything but that, but you need to tell somebody. You get saved, and your eternal destiny changes, you're going to want to tell somebody about it.
So, let's pray. Father, we thank You for Your love for us. Now, I pray for the person seated here today who has never trusted You as their Savior. Maybe they were afraid to. Maybe they didn't understand what confession, repentance means, to turn away from sin and to surrender their life to You. And recognize that the shedding of Your blood at Calvary paid their sin-debt in full, and that's why You said, "Come unto Me, all you that labor and heavy laden, and I'll give you rest". "Believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved". So, I pray that those who need to be saved will pray that prayer right now, and trust You to keep Your Word. And then, Lord, that this message will become a part of every person's life, in Jesus's name, amen.