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Jack Graham - Choosing His Way Over My Way

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    Jack Graham - Choosing His Way Over My Way
TOPICS: Jack Graham: Choices, Choices

Proverbs is a very personal and practical book, as is all the Bible; real, relevant, relational. And life is a series of decisions that ultimately determine our destiny. The choices we make are the sum total of the life we live. It's been said that the sum total of the choices that you make is your character is the sum total of the choices that you make. And certainly the Word of God speaks to all issues of every issue of life! And Eugene Peterson who has given us THE MESSAGE, paraphrase of the Bible, it's a wonderful devotional tool, has written an introduction to the book of Proverbs that I think is appropriate and it explains somewhat how relevant, how real the Bible is when it comes not only to heavenly wisdom, but heavenly wisdom that applies to our temporal lives. God not only saves us and prepares us to go to heaven, but along the way He gives us wisdom to teach us His ways and His will as long as we live.

So wisdom, and Proverbs is one of the wisdom books of the Bible, it's all about God's wisdom, according to Peterson means that "wisdom has to do with becoming skillful in honoring our parents and raising our children, handling our money and conducting our sexual lives, going to work and exercising leadership, using words well and treating friends kindly, eating and drinking healthily, cultivating emotions within ourselves and attitudes towards others that make for peace. Threaded through all these items is the insistence that the way we think of and respond to God is the most practical thing we do. In matters of everyday practicality, absolutely nothing, takes precedence over God"! To love God, to honor God, to please God is what life is about. And that we would make a series of choices that bring skill to living and success to life.

How would you define success? I would define success as knowing and doing and loving and obeying the will of God for our lives. Success, skillful living is the progressive realization of God's purpose and God's plan for each one of us. And the choices that we make form us into fulfilling God's plan, God's purpose in life. Now how are we going to learn to make these wise choices? Do we learn wisdom from our parents? Perhaps, if you have godly, Bible-believing parents you can learn a great deal of wisdom. And parents have the responsibility of teaching their children. Look in Deuteronomy 4, listen to Deuteronomy 4:9, "Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart form your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and to your children's children".

We have the distinct privilege of passing the faith along and the truth of God's Word along to our children. So parents can do that. So often we learn what we learn from our peers. That can be a good thing, that can be a bad thing. Teenagers, you may have discovered your teenagers are listening to their friends right now more than they're listening to you, mom and dad, most likely. Ah so many learn their wisdom from the culture and from the ideas and the opinions of this world. The Bible calls that the wisdom of this world. There is a wisdom that comes from above and there is a wisdom that comes from below. The wisdom that is below is the wisdom of this world. The wisdom on a horizontal plane. It never looks up; it only looks this way and that way, from right to left. And the wisdom of this world without God is foolishness according to the Bible!

So in Proverbs we have a wise father, Solomon, who is passing truth along to his son, even as David, the great king of Israel passed truth along to young Solomon. But there was something else that gave Solomon his wisdom. In a dream Solomon, age 20, taking over the reigns of leadership of Israel, to guide and to govern the great nation. He feels totally incomplete and inadequate at that time, but God speaks to him in a dream and he makes the most amazing offer. God says, "Ask Me anything. Whatever you want is yours". What if God asked you that question or gave you that offer? "What do you want? Ask Me anything"!

And young Solomon said, "I'm a young man; I don't know when to come in or when to come out. I don't know when to get out of the rain. I'm not prepared for the task that is ahead of me. And I have this huge responsibility. Therefore, O God, just as you gave wisdom to my father, David, give wisdom to me. Give me understanding and discernment that I can do what You want me to do in leading your nation". And God was pleased at what He heard from Solomon. He said, "Because you did not ask for wealth or because you didn't ask for longlife or because you did not ask for pleasure, I will give you all of these things but most of all I will give you My wisdom. As a result no one will arise like you after you".

And it was true. God by divine revelation, gave this man so much revelation that the known world came. He was the most interesting man on earth. The wisest man on earth! And they came from everywhere to ask him the questions of discernment and understanding, the difference between right and wrong and good and evil, what was wise and what was unwise. And He gave him wisdom which you could define as uncommon sense, sanctified sense. Others have described wisdom as the practical use and application of knowledge, or the skillful use of knowledge. I like to define wisdom as the ability to see things from God's perspective, God's point of view. The wisdom is choosing God's way over my own way, and applying His truth and principles to life. To learn these life-enhancing skills that build my character and forge my future. Ask God to put wisdom in your heart and teach this to your children.

One of the men that I admire in American history is General Douglas MacArthur. I gave to my own sons the prayer that Douglas MacArthur wrote and prayed for his sons. Listen to it: "Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee, and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fall. Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goals will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn how to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past. And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself so seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, and the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. Then I, his father, will dare to whisper 'I have not lived in vain.'"

The purpose of every parent who knows the Lord Jesus Christ is to make disciples of his own, her own children. And we do this by teaching them God's truth and the principles for living skillfully and successfully, according to God's way and God's will. So in Proverbs chapter 3 we discover how to do this at the outset. One, by never forgetting God's wisdom. That's what the first four verses tell us. Look at them. "My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you". You see, it's not only years to your life but life to your years. God will develop a depth of our lives as well as the length of our lives, which is all in His hands. "Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man".

Remember, never forget, God's wisdom. This is echoed in the New Testament and throughout Scripture, but the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:15-16: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is". He goes on to say the will of the Lord is that you be filled with the Holy Spirit. So first and foremost, choose to pursue God's wisdom in your life! We don't get wisdom just by hoping so or wishing it to be so, but rather pursuing it; by keeping His commandments, obeying God, writing it on the tablets of our hearts. And this is why Bible study is so important, and marking your Scriptures, and memorizing God's Word, and putting it in your heart. Because with the revelation of God comes the inspiration of God and the illumination of God's Spirit, and therefore, the transformation of our lives! Choose to know and do God's will and to pursue His plan for your life!

God promises us wisdom if we want to know wisdom! As a matter of fact, He says, "If any of you lack wisdom, ask (book of James, chapter 1:5) Ask and God will not reproach you", God will not accuse you for lifting your hand and saying, "I don't understand". But God will give you the wisdom that you need to make the right choice! And now is the time to do it! Because Paul said, "These days are urgent and redeem the time, making the best use of your time because the days are evil". We wonder what's next in the culture? What other kinds of changes will we face and choices will we be forced to make as we stand for Christ? The days are evil! It's getting tougher and tougher! I can tell you as a pastor I've never seen it more harder for people than it is right now! More hurt, more pain, more brokenness than ever before! Dear God, how we need Your wisdom! For ourselves, for our families, for our children and our grandchildren. We only have a limited number of days and hours and minutes and seconds in these times!

I gotta tell you right now I'm wondering who pushed the fast forward button on life. You know what I'm saying? It's just going just like that! And it will be gone. Christ may come today or this may be our last day on earth. Proverbs 3:13 says: The result of wise decisions, the result of God's wisdom, seeing things through His perspective, His point of view "Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding". God's wisdom is available to all; He wants you to have it. You can choose to walk in His way, to keep His commandments. The Scripture says above all get wisdom. The same scripture, Proverbs 9:10 says: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight".

You may be brilliant, you may be insightful, you may be educated, you may be talented, trained. But if you don't know God, if you do not live in the fear of the Lord, then the Bible says you are a fool. You're living as a fool, that is, if you're living without God, without the fear of the Lord. There was a time to say a man was a God-fearing man; a woman, a God-fearing woman was a compliment, but you rarely hear that today! And yet the Bible tells us that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom! I personally think that's a great part with what's wrong with our culture! There's no fear of God! The fear of God is to be awestruck in His presence! Overwhelmed by His holiness! It is to reverence His very life! It is the fear of the Lord that causes us not to run from Him but to run to Him, and there to find forgiveness and grace and power and mercy to live life as He intended it!

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". The difference between making good decisions, bad decisions is often the fear of the Lord (the beginning of wisdom.) Making essential or non essential choices is based upon whether we live life by remembering God's wisdom. And that's what God has called everyone of us to do in these days, to remember His wisdom. But not only that, to trust God's will. Now Proverbs 3:5-6, life verses to me, promises that we have talked about over the years here at Prestonwood, but so appropriate here to remind us in choosing God's way over our way, that we must trust God in His purpose, His plan, His will for our lives. To know God is to fear God, to fear God is to love God, to love God is to trust God and to trust God is to obey God! That's living in His wisdom. And if you trust someone because you love someone, you will do what they ask.

And there's a lot of talk, of course, among Christians about the will of God, how to find the will of God; and in the purest sense I've discovered over the years in life experience that I don't so much find the will of God as the will of God finds me. If you walk wisely in the will of God and His purposes, and obey God's commandment step by step, God will open doors that no one can shut; He will say, "This is the way, walk within it". His word will teach you; His Spirit will whisper His still small voice, divine directions. Romans 8:14, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God these are the children of God". But as we go God will lead us. And here's the deal regarding God's will: let me just simplify. If you want to find God's will, do God's will! Do God's will right now!

So often we think of the will of God as out there in the future somewhere out there! But what I need to do, what you need to do is do the will of God right now! Today! And if I do the will of God today, my todays will turn into tomorrows and my tomorrows will turn into new days, and before you know it, you're walking wisely in the will of God, dead-center, or should I say life-centered in the will of God! And you don't need to be afraid or skittish regarding God's will. God, as someone said, will choose for you what you would choose for yourself if you had sense enough to choose it! Romans 12:2 says, "The will of God is good and perfect and acceptable". Too many people have the idea that if I choose to do the will of God, He'll make me miserable for the rest of my life. "Yeah, He'll send me to Timbuktu (and there really is a place, Timbuktu) He'll send me on the other side of the world and I'll be miserable"! Not at all! God will bless you as you follow Him wherever you go.

David Livingstone, the great missionary, said, "I would rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God than sitting on the throne of England out of the will of God"! And God will prepare us. Now it doesn't mean that there won't be pain in the providences of God and in the plan of God. While we would like to do His will, it's not always easy to do His will. Sometimes His will doesn't even make sense on the human level. It didn't make sense for Abraham, called of God to go out without a map into a destination unknown, by faith to believe God! That did not make sense, and yet God brought a nation from Abraham. It didn't make sense when God said to Moses take the children of Israel across the Red Sea! Water standing before them, Pharaoh behind them, mountains on either side! God said go forward!

Moses wasn't standing around saying, you know, if God would ever open that thing we would go through. No, he stepped forward and by faith, even though it didn't make sense, and God parted the waters and they walked through on dry ground! It didn't make sense when God called a young shepherd boy David with a few stones to go out and fight the giant of Gath, Goliath! That made no sense! But a great victory was won! Why? Because God's ways are not our ways! His ways are higher than our ways! He does things that are beyond our comprehension or understanding!

Ephesians 3:20, "Exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think". It didn't make sense for Gideon to reduce his army of 30,000 down to 300, to go against the Midianites but it was God's way, it was God's will! And when he obeyed God, God gave him a great victory! It didn't make sense when the angel of the Lord said to Mary, "You will bear the Messiah into the world. You will conceive by the Holy Spirit and bring the Savior into the world". That made no sense. But she said, "Be it unto me according to Your will". And the world was changed, God's way. It didn't make sense when Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee and saw Peter and James and John, and said, "Leave your nets; come and follow Me and I'll make you fishers of men".

Didn't make sense to leave their vocation, their nets, their livelihood, their families, and just follow this stranger! And yet they were compelled by the call of God! And these men changed the world, even though it didn't make sense. On and on we could go. Sometimes life doesn't make sense and it's painful, but providences of life lead us on by the hand of God. Deb and I have three great children, all adults now. The oldest is Jason; our daughter Kelly is in the middle, and our youngest, our last born is Josh who's 27. There's ten years between the first one and the last one. And there's a reason there's some space between all of our children and one of the reasons on a human side is that we were having difficulty.

Deb had three miscarriages along the way. We know what it's like to prepare for a child, to be so excited and you know, buying the furniture; and to be told there's no heartbeat. We know what that's like. We know what it's like to to think about getting in the car and driving to the hospital! We've had that experience, of course. But to also be told there's no more life in the baby and the miscarriage happens. Happened three times. two times first, and then unexpectantly we were expecting a third child! I mean it was a big surprise. No plan, no idea. We thought well, because she's having difficulty with the pregnancies and, you know, we've got two wonderful children. We've got, you know, the parsonage with the fence. We've got a dog, we've got a ministry. We've got everything.

And so we thought, "Okay, we're done. That's good". Out of the blue we're looking for a new baby. Didn't know boy or girl, we did it the old fashioned way in those days. You just waited to see. So you had to buy blue blankets and pink blankets and all the rest! We were just getting ready to leave Oklahoma and to go to Florida where I would become pastor of First Baptist, West Palm Beach, and Deb miscarried again. It was very hurtful. It was so confusing in the midst of all this happiness. Have you ever noticed in life so often the great moments, the mountaintops, there comes with it shadows and valleys. And this was certainly a shadow on this great experience. We were moving, but this baby was gone. We loaded up our family in the conversion van and the dogs and we moved to south Florida.

But the loss of that child and the providence of that, and that pain and that loss! It didn't make sense! That made no sense! Made no sense in terms of timing. I mean, we searched our hearts and we didn't feel it was a discipline from the Lord, it just, I don't know why our baby stopped living in the womb of the mother. But not dead because I believe every born and preborn is with the Lord. I expect to meet our children that we've never met in heaven one day. And you know it didn't make sense, and yet God stirred something in our hearts, and He did something in us to call us to pray for another child.

And the other day I looked at my big strapping 27-year-old redhead Josh who was the product of that prayer and I said, "Thank You, Lord, that even through pain and the process of all of that, and the hurt of that, You were working Your will and Your plan and Your purposes all along to change our... I know the sovereignty of God! I understand that God is sovereign over life and birth, but I'm just saying on the human side, in the human sense God used that circumstance to teach us and to lead us".

Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart"! Not part of you, but all of you! Don't lean unto your own understanding! It doesn't say don't have understanding; it says don't lean on your understanding! And when you've figured it all out, you can't figure it out, trust in God who already has it figured out! And just because life doesn't make sense, doesn't mean it doesn't make sense! Trust in the Lord with all your heart and He will open the way! He will clear the path! He will give you guidance!
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