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James Merritt - On the Other Hand

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    James Merritt - On the Other Hand
TOPICS: OTHERWISE Series, Decisions

You know, one of the things that you learn pretty early in life, even as a child, is it's really easy to underestimate the power of words. It's really easy to take for granted just how powerful the words are that come out of your mouth, and especially the words that you pray, the words that you say to God. As a matter of fact, there was a famous prayer that a man some of you may have heard of, probably haven't, but his name was Reinhold Niebuhr. He was a great theologian of the 20th century, he was a pastor, and he used to compose, sit down and write out the prayer that he would pray at the end of every service to his congregation.

So he sat down at the beginning of a new year, and he was trying to think about the prayer that he wanted to pray, and this prayer came to his mind. It wasn't particularly profound, at least it wasn't him. And matter of fact, he thought to himself, this is one of the most simple prayers I think I've ever written out in my life. He never dreamed that it would be reprinted in multiple places for decades and decades and decades. He never dreamed it would be the subject of a front page article in the New York Times. He never dreamed that it would be the subject of a book, a best-selling book, just written this year that was based on this prayer. He never dreamed that it would be a prayer that would be prayed by tens of millions of soldiers and mourners, and anyone who's ever gone through an Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step Program knows this prayer very, very well.

All of us probably in this room have seen it sometime on a plaque, on a piece of wood or on a carving. It's called The Serenity Prayer, and it reads like this. "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". We've all read that prayer, all probably prayed it at one time or another, and when Dr. Niebuhr wrote that prayer, he really underestimated the power of what that prayer really said. He really underestimated the impact that that prayer had. And yet, while I do believe it really is a great prayer, I'm just arrogant enough to think it needs a second verse. And so I would add this to that prayer. "God, give me the will to decide to change the things that I can, the courage to make those changes, and the wisdom to make that, make the right changes, to make the right changes".

Now, let me tell you why I wanna talk about this at the beginning of a brand new year. See, really and truly, there are only two parts of life that every new year brings. We know that they're gonna bring them. One thing that we know this unit new year's gonna bring, it's gonna bring things that we can't change. It's gonna bring things we don't anticipate. It's gonna bring things that we never dreamed would happened to us. And then, it's gonna bring things that we can change.

So on the one hand there, you know, life comes with a no risk, does not come with a no risk money back guarantee. I mean, I wish I could get up here this morning and guarantee every one of you here and every one of you at Mill Creek, you know, because you come to our church, and because you let me be your pastor, and because you really think so much of me and I think so much of you, I wish I could stand up here and guarantee you that, you know, you won't get cancer this year, you won't lose your job this year, you won't be involved in an accident this year, and you will be alive at the end of this year. I can't guarantee any of those things to anybody including me. There simply aren't any guarantees like that. There are just some things we know are gonna happen to us this year. You can't change them, I can't change them. You can't change it with money, you can't change it with willpower, you can't change it with influence.

There are just some things that are going to happen to us this year. There's not a thing you and I can do about it. They absolutely are unchangeable, they're inevitable, and they are going to happen. That is not the challenge we face every year. The challenge that we face every single year is, how do I confront the things in life that I can change and make the right decision about those changes? Because if you think about it, life really comes down to making decisions. I mean, that's what really life is all about. You are who you are right now because of the decisions that you made in the past. You have what you have today because of decisions that you made in the past. You, where are you, you are where you are in life right now because of decisions that you made in the past.

Now, here's the good news. As we face a new year and we've gotta make all kinds of decisions about the things that we can change, as we face all these challenges that are going to come to us, and we can decide what we're going to do about 'em, the good news is, you don't have to make these decisions on your own. You're not all by yourself, you're not out there on an island. In fact, matter of fact, this is where we get into trouble, because if you look back on the, on kind of the big mistakes you've made in your life, I guarantee you it is because you made decisions on your own. You really didn't think through those decisions.

Let me just give you some examples. How many of you have spent money you wish you'd never spent? You ever done that? Have you ever been like me? I used to be a sucker for these TV ads. I remember years ago they had this thing that you would grab with both hands. It was a stomach cruncher. How many of you remember that? Anybody remember that? You know, you'd pull that up thing and man, you'd get six pack abdominals. I bought it. Didn't even tell Teresa, I just bought it, it was like 19.99. So this thing comes in the mail. It looked kind of like a cross between a bow and arrow and a shotgun, and Theresa said, "What is that"? I said, "Man," I said, "this thing is gonna give me, you know, six pack abs. I'm tellin' you, it's gonna work in about two weeks, you know". I pulled on that thing for a week. I pull so hard I broke the thing right in half. Never did get to six, I didn't get one pack abs much less six pack abs, right?

Well, we've all spent money we wish we had never spent. Here's another one. You ever bought a car you wish you'd never bought? You know, we call them what? Lemons, right? So we've all bought cars we wish we'd never bought. Here's another one. You ever made an investment you wish you'd never made? I've done that. I've made a couple of really, thank God I didn't do it with a lot of money, but I made some really foolish, couple times investments, just invested money I should not have invested. How about this one? How many of you ever entered into a relationship you wish you'd avoided? You're sittin' there going, yeah, I'm in one right now. Okay, I get that, all right. Don't tell the person you're sitting next to you.

All right, how many of you accepted a job you wish you'd never taken? I mean, you know, I've had these stories so many times, you take a job and you're not in that job two days, you know I have made a mistake. I'm not a fit for this job. Here's the last one. How many of you put your name on a contract you wish you'd never signed? See, I promise you all of us could answer yes to one or more of those scenarios. In other words, everybody in this room can look back and we can all be honest and say, yeah, I have made some very poor decisions in my life. We're beginning a series that we're calling "Otherwise," and in this series, what I wanna do is simply share with you some very uncommon wisdom for those of you out there who've tried everything, you've tried to do it your way, you've tried to make it your way, and those things just haven't worked out. Because again, there are only two types of decisions you can make. From a human perspective, we would call them good decisions and bad decisions. But from God's perspective, he would call them either foolish decisions or wise decisions.

Now, if you're a parent or even a grandparent, you know that there's one thing we want our children to learn how to do. There's one thing we want our grandchildren learn how to do. We want them to learn how to make wise decisions. I've got my grandson, Harper, now on a little scripture memory program, and I'm teaching him scripture. Every time he learns a scripture, I give him $5. He's so eager to learn the Bible. And so every time he learns a scripture verse, I give him $5, and he's on his fourth scripture verse. And I'm picking these verse out for a reason. There, I've got a method by madness, and I'm trying to give him verses that will teach him how to relate to God, how to relate to other people, and how to make very wise decisions.

I want my kids to make wise decisions. You want your kids and your grandkids to make wise decisions. Well listen, God is the same way. God wants his children to make wise decisions. God wants his children to make good decisions. God wants us to live otherwise. So this is what I want you to take out the door as we begin this new year. The wisest decision is to seek God's wisdom for every decision. The wisest decision you'll ever make in any situation is to seek God's wisdom for every decision.

Now, nobody understands the importance of making wise decisions better than a king, because a king has responsibility for so many people. And one of the greatest kings who ever lived clearly understood that principle, and he made a decision that in turn made him the great king that he became. As a matter of fact, I really believe with all of heart he was maybe one of the two greatest kings who ever lived, and God did something for him that he will do for us, and if we will follow that king's example, we will know how to live otherwise, and we can make decisions fit for a king.

So if you brought a copy of God's Word today or a smartphone or an iPad, whatever it is you might use, I want you to go to the beginning of the Bible, go to Genesis, okay, and I want you to start turning toward the New Testament, and you'll turn about eight or nine books over, and you'll come to a book called 2 Chronicles. Not 2 Corinthians, but 2 Chronicles. I want you to turn to the 2 Chronicles chapter one, and I wanna read an amazing story for you because, in the what we're about to read this morning, God did something for a young man by the name of Solomon he had never done before for anybody else, and he has never ever done for anyone since. And what he does for this king is, he doesn't just give him the opportunity of a lifetime, he gives them an opportunity for all eternity.

Now, I want you to listen to a verse and just kind of realize just what an amazing thing this was that happened. We're in 2 Chronicles 1:7. "In that night, God appeared to Solomon and God said to him," now just think about this "'Ask what I shall give to you.'" Now, can you imagine last night, if God had come to you and God had said to you, "Ask anything, it's yours, ask whatever you want, I will give it to you". Every time I read that story and I read that verse, it reminds me one of my favorite stories growing up about Aladdin and the magic lamp. You remember the story about Aladdin and the magic lamp. Aladdin, you know, finds this magic lamp, you know, when he rubs the lamp and the genie comes out, and the genie has this power to grant any wish that he has.

Have you ever fantasized about finding a lamp like that? You know, I think sometimes when we go down to the beach for vacation, I take a walk on the beach or I run on the beach every morning, sometimes I'll want, I just think about, wouldn't it be great if you just kicked up a lamp out of the dirt, just rubbed that lamp and a genie would come out, and he could just give you any wish that, you know, you could wish for? And the old saying really is true. You better be careful what you wish for, 'cause you just might get it. There was a story about three men, they were, they got marooned on a desert island. They were in a boat and they were out in the ocean and the motor quit and they got washed far from shore. They finally got marooned on this desert island and had no way of rescue. And so they were walking around the island and one of them kicked up this lamp. So he rubbed it.

Well, this genie pops out, and the genie looked and he said, "I'm gonna give each one of you one wish". Well, the first man said, "Man, I wish I was just back in my office in Boston". Poof, he was gone, back there. He looks at the second man, he said, "What do you want"? He said, "Man, I wish I was back home in my living room with my family watching sports," and boom, he was back in his living room with his family, watching sports. He looked at the last man and he said, "what do you want"? The man thought about it, he said, "Man, I'm so lonely here by myself. I wish my buddies were back with me".

Now, you gotta be what you wish for because you may get what you want. But see, here's the problem. The problem with wishing is we know that genies don't exist and we know that magic lamps don't exist. Here's the good news. God does exist, and God is more powerful than any genie, and believe it or not, any wish you bring to God that is in the will of God, god will grant you that wish. Let me say that again. Any wish that you bring to God that is in the will of God, God will grant you that wish, and it will become a reality. And in this instance, with this young king, what he wished became a reality. Now here's what's incredible to me. God goes to Solomon and he asks the most amazing question that an infinite God could ever ask a finite human being. Here's what he says, listen to it again. He says, "Ask what I shall give to you".

Now think about what happened. Solomon had just been given carte blanche by the creator of the universe. For the only time in recorded history, God said to a human being, "Name it and claim it. It's yours, whatever you want. I'm not putting any conditions on it whatsoever. There's no fine print in the contract. Whatever comes out of your mouth next is exactly what I am going to give to you". Now, this is what also just kind of blows me away about this story. Scholars tell us that when this happened to Solomon, he was about 20 years old.

Now, think about what you would have asked for if you'd been 20 years old. I mean, I remember what I was like when I was 20 years old. An egotistical person would have asked for fame. A materialistic person would have asked for wealth. An ambitious person would have asked for power. And I'll bet you if every one of us in this room were gut-level honest and God came to you without any warning, didn't give you time to think about it and you didn't know this story, if God had come to you last night and God had said to you, "You ask me for anything and I will give it to you," I'll bet you every request in this room would have fallen under one of those three categories. I want more power, I want more money or wealth, and I want more fame.

Well, here's this 20-year-old kid that just started shaving, and I want you to listen to how he responds. "Give me now wisdom". I just can't get over that. "Give me now wisdom". And God gave Solomon something more valuable than wealth, more satisfying than fame, more exhilarating than power. He gave Solomon the wisdom that he asked for. Now let me just stop right there. You're sittin' there and you're sayin', well, I'm not even sure if some of the old stories in the Old Testament really happened. This story kind of sounds farfetched. But let's just say that I believe what the Bible says happened really happened. Let me just say, I'll just kind of humor you for a moment. Okay, I believe Solomon really had this dream, and I really believe God gave this to Solomon, and God said this to Solomon.

What has that got to do with me? Simply this. What God did for Solomon, God will do for you. What God offered Solomon, God offers to you. What God gave to Solomon, God will give to you. As a matter of fact, as we read exactly how Solomon responded, we're going to glean some incredible principles that can help us make the rest of our life the best of our life. I don't know about you, but every year I begin a new year, I have really one overarching goal, just one. Now, I've got a lot of goals under that, but I've got one goal. I want this year to be the best year I've ever lived, because this may be the last year I'll ever live.

So every year I start off on January the 1st, and I'll always say, Lord, show me how I can make this year the best year I have ever lived. And the way you do that is by living otherwise and making wise decisions. So you say, okay, I'm all in, 'cause I'll be honest, the way I've been doing it is not workin' out too well for me. How can I live otherwise? How can I get this wisdom that we're talking about today? There are three simple things you got to do, same thing Solomon did, you ready? Number one, you gotta admit you need it. That's step one. You've got to admit that you need it.

Now, I'm still pretty impressed that this 20-year-old man, I mean, you think about it, when I was 20 I was like most 20-years-old. I really thought I knew it all. I really did. You know, I graduated from college when I was 20, and nobody in my family ever had a college degree, and so I kinda thought, you know, I've gotta be, I've got a degree from college, I know of knew at all. I really thought I did. And here's this 20-year-old guy and he's wise enough to know he's not wise enough. He's wise enough to know, I don't know it all. I'm wise enough to realize I'm not wise enough to do what I need to do and to be what I need to be.

Now remember, if you go back and read this story, Solomon had just been inaugurated. He hadn't even moved his office furniture in yet. He hadn't even selected his cabinet. He's just getting started. But he already realizes as a king, something's missing from my resume. I don't have the wisdom to do what I need to do, and if I don't get it, I'm gonna be a spectacular failure. I'll never be able to follow in my dad's footsteps if I don't get this wisdom. So he says this in verse 10. "Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people". 'Cause here's the question he was asking. "Who can govern this people of yours, which is so great"?

Now remember, Solomon was not a dummy. He was highly educated, he was highly literate. Many of you may know, he went on to become a prolific writer. Growing up, he watched his dad, David, who probably was the greatest king who ever lived, so he had all the experience of watching his dad, David, and watched how he had done such a tremendous job governing. Furthermore, he was not only his dad's choice to be the king, he was the people's choice to be the king, he was already very popular, he had a 100% approval rating. But yet, with all that going for Solomon, he was still humble enough to realize two things. Number one, I don't have what it takes to make the kind of wise decisions I'm gonna have to make if I'm going to be the king these people need to be. Number two, God's got it. I don't have it, but God's got it.

As a matter of fact, later on as an older man, Solomon wrote a book many of you are familiar with, it's called Proverbs, and it's a letter that he wrote to his son on how to live a life of wisdom, how to live otherwise. And he advises his son to do what he did, and that is to admit that he needed wisdom. And he reminds his son of this. He said, "Son, it's the Lord that gives wisdom. From his mouth comes knowledge and understanding". So I just wanna say this. The first first step to living otherwise is to have the wisdom that you need to make wise decisions, is to understand, I need wisdom. On my own, by myself, I don't have the wisdom that it takes to make the best decision and the wise decisions in all the things I'm going to face this year.

Benjamin Franklin put it this way. He said, "The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is the knowledge of your own ignorance". It's true. Once you admit you need wisdom, you have to also admit that only God is the source of wisdom. Think about this. Why did Solomon ask God for wisdom? 'Cause Solomon knew something. You don't get wisdom in a college. You don't get wisdom in university. You don't get wisdom just by reading a book. You don't get get wisdom just by living life. Solomon understood, only God has real wisdom. As a matter of fact, let me tell you this. God's wisdom is so far above human wisdom, it makes human wisdom look like foolishness. The Apostle Paul says something interesting about God's wisdom when he said this. Listen to this. "The foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom". Now, think about that. "The foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom".

Now let me put it to you this way. Let's just say that God was capable of a stupid thought. Now, we know God's not capable of a stupid thought, but just kind of play with me for a minute. Let's just assume that God is capable of a stupid thought. If God were capable of a stupid thought, that stupid thought would still be wiser than the wisest thought any of us could come up with. You say, what are you saying? I'm saying that's how wise God is and how stupid we are. You say that offends me. That just makes you more stupid. Because if you're wise, you'll realize the wisdom of that statement. See, here's our problem. So often the reason why we make bad decisions is because we are so arrogant and we're too arrogant to admit that we need to ask for advice both from God and from others who are wiser than we are.

And let me tell you, just admitting that you need wisdom, just admitting that you need godly advice, will save you from a lot of heartache, it really will. There was a golfer, some of you may know this guy, probably you don't, but there was a golfer that played back in the 1950s, a great golfer. His name was Tommy Bolt, and Tommy Bolt was a great golfer. His only problem was he had a volcanic temper, just a hair-trigger temper. Well, one of the advantages of being a professional golfer is you have a caddie, and the caddie doesn't just carry your clubs. A caddie is there to give you advice and to help you make the best decision about the wisest, or the wisest decision about the best shot that you can make, and that's why I love this story.

Tommy Bolt was playing in this tournament, and as I told you he had a big, just had a terrible temper. Well, the first day of this tournament, he just played terrible, he just played lousy, and he was so mad. He blamed his caddie. He said that he thought it was his caddie's fault that he played so bad. And so the next day for the second round, he said to his caddie, he was still mad, he said, "I played so bad because it was your fault. You didn't give me good advice, you didn't tell me about the right club to hit. It was all your fault". It really wasn't, but he was just trying to take it out on his caddie. So he said to his caddie, he said, "I don't want you to say one word to me today, not one. Don't say a word, don't give me any advice. I don't wanna know anything that you're thinking. You just give me the club I ask for". And he said, "Okay".

Well, he goes to the first tee and he his first tee shot, and it comes to rest right behind a tree. Well, he looked at his caddie and he said, "Do you think I ought to hit a five iron"? And about the time he said, thought that, said that, he said, "Wait a minute. I don't want to hear from you. You don't know what you're talking about. Don't say a word to me". He just took a five iron right out of the bag and he hits this incredible shot. Don't know how he did it, but he has this incredible shot, hooks it around the tree, it rolls up the fairway, and it lands on the green. He turns to his caddie and he said, "Okay, I feel better now. You can say something". He said, "Wasn't that a great shot? What'd you think about that shot"? And the caddie just looked at him and said, "Tommy, that wasn't your ball".

See, so often we think we've pulled off something great, and it doesn't work out for us. And the reason why it doesn't work out for us is because we didn't stop and say, Lord, what should I do in this situation? Give me the wisdom to make the right decision. And let me just be honest with you. God does not waste his time giving wisdom to people who already think they know it all. So if you're one of those people, if you think I really don't need God's help, here's the good news or the bad news for you. Don't worry, God will not give it to you. The only person that God gives wisdom to is the person who will admit, I don't know enough. See, here's our problem. We've got just enough knowledge to make stupid decisions, but we don't have the wisdom it takes to make wise decisions.

So what do we do? We just keep making the same foolish decisions over and over and over. And it's a wise person who admits, I'm not wise enough to think otherwise. Number one, you've got to admit that you need it. Number two, you gotta ask for it. You just gotta ask for it. I mean, Solomon's request was to the point, pretty bold. Look what he says in verse 10. He says, "Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people". Now, let me just show you something here. This is kind of cool. There's a reason why he asked for wisdom first and knowledge second. He didn't say, "Give me knowledge and wisdom". He was very specific. He said, "Give me wisdom and knowledge".

Now you say, well, why is that so important? Why is that such a big deal? You can have a lot of knowledge, but have very little wisdom. But if you've got a lot of wisdom, you will have a lot of knowledge. And there's a tremendous difference between wisdom and knowledge. And if you don't believe that, just look at the country we're living in right now. Just look at the world that we're living in right now. We're living in a world that is drowning in knowledge, but it's starving for wisdom. The information that you can read online in a newspaper, listen to this, the information you can read online in one daily newspaper is more information than a person living in the 17th century would have had in their lifetime. We'll read more and learn more in a day from a newspaper than a person in the 17th century would learn in a lifetime. We know more right now than we've ever known. And yet, some of the most knowledgeable people in Washington D.C. tell us we have to pass thousands of pages of legislation before we can find out what's in it.

Now, there's a Greek word for that, stupid, just stupid. Drowning in knowledge, starving for wisdom. And if we've ever learned anything, we ought to learn knowledge is no substitute for wisdom. In fact, somebody put it this way. "Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many people know a great deal and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool, but to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom". And understand that the reason that Solomon asked for wisdom first and then knowledge is wisdom is simply the ability to take the knowledge that we gain and use that knowledge to make wise decisions that would be best for us and best for the people that are impacted by that decision or those decisions. That's why employees need a wise boss. That's why churches need a wise pastor. That's why children need wise parents. That's why people need wise leaders.

And one of the marks of wisdom is being wise enough to realize that knowledge alone is not enough to make wise decisions. Wisdom is knowing there's a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Let me give you an example. Knowledge is knowing that tomatoes are fruits. Did you know that? Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. Big difference. Yeah, tomato's a fruit. Don't put it in a fruit salad. One is knowledge, one is wisdom. Now here's the point. You can do exactly what Solomon did. Anytime you want wisdom, you can ask for it. You don't have to be a king to need wisdom, you don't have to be a king to get wisdom. The same deal that God made with Solomon, he will make with you. As a matter of fact, about 800 years after Solomon's dream came true, the brother of Jesus wrote these words, and he probably had Solomon in mind when he wrote them. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him".

My friend, Andy Stanley, wrote a great book. You ought to get if you've not read it, it's called "The Best Question Ever". Andy said the best question ever is this. "What is the wise thing to do"? Now, God's made a promise. God said, "Look, every time you find yourself in a situation you're not sure what to do, you're not sure which door to go through, you're not sure which path to take, you're not sure which decision to make, he says, if you will ask me for wisdom, I will give it to you. If you will ask that question, 'What is the wise thing to do here Lord,' I will answer it". So step one, you gotta admit you need it. Step two, you gotta ask for it. But this last step is the big one. You gotta apply it.

Now see, this is where so many of us get in trouble. You remember those bad decisions I told you about earlier, you know, buying cars you shouldn't have bought, spending money you shouldn't have spent, entering relationships you should have never gotten into, signing a contract you never should have signed? Looking back on those decisions, let me ask you this. How many times did you know the wise thing to do, you just didn't do it? The problem was not that you didn't ask for it. That wasn't the point, you did. The problem was not that you didn't admit you needed it, you did. But then when God spoke to you or somebody gave you wise advice, you just didn't apply it.

See, you can admit you need wisdom, but wisdom won't do you any good and you'll still make foolish decisions if you don't apply the wisdom that you have. That's why I want you to understand something. Wisdom is not some abstract knowledge that you keep in your head. Wisdom is practical action that you take with your hands, because Solomon went on to write this about wisdom. He said to his son, "Turn your ear to wisdom," now watch this, "and applying your heart to understanding". Wisdom is more than intellectual knowledge. It is practical, hands-on living. That word for apply in the Hebrew literally means to extend, it means to hold out. In other words, Solomon said, "Son, wisdom is something you apply to every area of your life. You apply it to the way you handle your money, you apply it to the way you handle your spouse, you apply to the way you handle your job, you apply to the way you handle your children, you apply it to the way you handle temptation, you apply to the way you handle relationships".

Wisdom is very practical. It is the way you live hands-on. Solomon did not ask God to make him smart enough to make a living. He said, "God made me wise enough to make a life". How many people do you, how many people live in your neighborhood, I've got 'em in mine, well, they're smart enough to make a living, but they're not wise enough to make a life. By the way, the Hebrew word for wisdom, Chokhmah, the Hebrew word, the Hebrew word literally means skill, and it's often used in the Bible to describe people who are skilled in working with their hands. See, God gives you wisdom not so much so that you can show other people how much you know. That's not why God gives you wisdom. God gives you wisdom so that you can live in a way that other people see how to live. God wants to give you wisdom so that you will live otherwise.

Now, that brings me to the definition of wisdom. Wisdom is seeing life through the eyes of God and living life in the will of God. Let me repeat that. Wisdom is seeing life through the eyes of God and living life in the will of God. Now, we're gonna answer the $64,000 question. So where do you find that wisdom, and how do you discern this will? All right, here's the good news, you ready? God's will and God's wisdom is found in God's Word. God's wisdom and God's will is found in God's Word.

So let me just say this right off the bat. If you want to make this year your best year, if you wanna maximize your wise decisions and minimize your foolish decisions, every day you get into God's Word, every day. It is amazing to me, it blows me away. I begin every day of my life reading God's Word. That's just a habit I acquired when I was a kid, and it has nothing to do with me being a pastor. I did it long before God called me into the ministry. And every day of my life, I begin reading God's Word. It is amazing to me, amazing to me how often I'll read God's Word and there's a verse or there's a passage in there, and it will be something that I needed to apply to my life that day. It is amazing how many times you'll get into God's Word and you'll realize you read something that very day that you could apply to your life.

See, here's the point I want you to understand. This is what I want to ask you to do. This is your homework for the rest of the year. Beginning today, before you make any big decision, and most decisions are big, before you make any big decision, I want you to write down this question, and I want you to ask this question. Here's the question. What does God's Word say about the wisdom of this decision, and what would God's will have me do? What does God's word say about the wisdom of this decision, and what would God's will have me do? Now, that question will not do you any good if you're not in God's Word, 'cause you won't know what God's Word says.

So make it a point, okay, this is where God's wisdom is, this is where God's will is to be found. This is the one resource that will help me make wise decisions, so every day I'm gonna get into this book and I'm gonna search this book, and I'm going to always ask this question. What does God's Word say about the wisdom of this decision, and what would God's will have me to do? There's an old saying that goes like this. "There's a choice you make in everything you do, and you must always keep in mind the choice you make makes you". That's so true. "There's a choice you make in everything you do, and you must always keep in mind the choice you make makes you".

Who you are today, what you will be tomorrow, the influence and legacy that you leave behind after you're gone will come down to the decisions you make in life every single day. And every time you make a decision, it will always be in one of two categories. Wise or foolish, good or bad. Now, here's what we're gonna do. Gonna do you a big favor. Over the next several weeks, we're gonna cover some of the primary major areas of life that require decisions that will impact your health and your happiness on a daily basis. For example, here's one, how you manage your time. That's gonna affect the quality of life that you live every day, not just this year, every day, how you manage your time.

Here's another one, how you handle your money. Gonna have a big affect on your happiness, big affect on your marriage, big affect on your ability to obey God in the area of giving. How you handle your money, how you deal with temptation this year could determine whether or not you lose your marriage or keep it, lose your job, or keep it, lose your health or keep it, even lose your life or keep it. So what we're gonna do over the next several weeks is we're gonna say, okay, so how do you live otherwise in the area of managing your time? How do you live otherwise in the area of managing your money? How do you live otherwise in the area of managing temptation? Because remember, every time you make a decision, God makes it plain, it will be a wise decision or a foolish decision.

So let me kind of wrap up and just remind you of something. One thing we all know, and if you don't know it, you have to learn it the hard way. There are consequences to every decision that we make in life, right, every decision. There's no such thing as a decision that does not have a consequence. Every decision that you make has a consequence. Now here's the difference. The difference is consequences have a back-end price, wisdom has a front-end price. Let me explain. Wisdom teaches you the lesson before you make the mistake, got it? wisdom teaches the lesson before you make the mistake. Consequences demand you make the mistake first, then it teaches you the lesson.

So here's a good illustration. Wisdom puts a fence at the top of the cliff. Consequences puts you in the hospital after you go over the cliff, got it? So you can either exercise wisdom on the front-end this year, or you can suffer the consequences on the back-end this year. The key to making this year your best year is to exercise and apply wisdom at the front-end. So here's the question I'm just gonna ask every one of you in this room. Assuming we're all gonna be alive and we're gonna live all year long, the question is, so, how are you going to live your 2015? How are you going to live this coming year? How are you gonna live the rest of your life? Because let's face it, you know what every day is, right? It's one decision after another.

That's what life is, every day, one decision after another. And every time you make a decision, it'll either be a wise decision, or it will be a foolish decision. You'll either suffer the consequences of a foolish decision, or you'll enjoy the fruits and the blessing of a wise decision. That's why I wanna close with this. It puts the gospel in a whole new light. What I've talked about today puts the cross of Jesus in a whole new light. Let me tell you what I mean. If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, if Jesus Christ was born of a virgin and lived a perfect life, if Jesus Christ died on a cross, if Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, if Jesus Christ is alive right now, then the wisest decision you will ever make in this life is to give your life to Jesus Christ. And when you do, he lives in you to help you make wise decisions so that you can live otherwise.
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