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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Rick Warren » Rick Warren - A Faith That Makes Tough Choices Easier

Rick Warren - A Faith That Makes Tough Choices Easier

Rick Warren - A Faith That Makes Tough Choices Easier
TOPICS: A Faith That Works When Life Doesn’t, Faith

Hello, everybody, I'm Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life," pastor of Saddleback Church, and teacher on the "Daily Hope" broadcast. And I wanna welcome you to this special series of encouraging messages that I'm sharing with you each week during the global coronavirus pandemic. You know, in normal times, about 30,000 people attend the church I pastor, Saddleback Church, each weekend to worship and hear my messages. But with the shutdown of public gatherings due to the coronavirus, I've been sharing these messages of hope through a number of different channels. And the first two messages in this series have now been heard literally by millions of people around the world because they have been used by radio and television stations in many countries, and others are posting these messages on the social media and on YouTube and many, many other channels.

So let me just say right here at the start that I give you permission to rebroadcast these messages freely anywhere during this coronavirus crisis because we wanna give help and hope and encouragement to as many people as possible. Now, this coronavirus crisis that we're all going through right now is unprecedented. It has turned our lives upside down. And many things that people have taken for granted and depended on are not available now. Events have been canceled and businesses and schools and churches have all been closed for the foreseeable future. We've been told that the best way to shorten this pandemic is actually to stay at home. And as this crisis extends longer and longer and goes all around the world, people are feeling the economic stress and the strain on their finances.

This last week, millions of people were put out of work with no income and no idea about when they might be able to go back to work and make that income. How should you react to circumstances that are beyond your control? I mean, what should you depend on when the things you have depended on are taken away from you? In other words, what do you do when life stops working the way you expected it to work? These are legitimate questions. And they're important questions that everybody's asking these days. And that's why two weeks ago I started this special series of messages that I'm calling "A Faith that Works when Life Doesn't". A Faith that Works when Life Doesn't.

You see, a faith that doesn't work when life doesn't work is worthless. I mean, that kind of faith is of no use to anybody. But I want to help you discover a deeper faith, a faith that lasts, a practical faith that will help you through tough times. A faith that will give you hope and purpose and significance and meaning, and yes, even happiness in the middle of a crisis. That's the kind of faith we all need these days. And I call it a faith that works when life doesn't. Because honestly, and you know this from experience, life doesn't always work out the way you want it to. Now, you can go back and watch the first two messages in this series if you missed them. The first message was called "Walking Without Fear through the Valley of Virus". One of the best-known parts of the Bible is Psalm 23. And in that Psalm, David confidently says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear nothing, I will fear no evil, for you are with me".

So in that first message I shared and talked about seven truths that you need to remember while we're going through this valley of virus, this crisis, this global pandemic. You need to know those seven truths that'll give you confidence and courage and defeat your fears and anxieties. Then last week the second message which I shared is also available online at, and it's called "A Faith that Handles Difficulties". And I in that message explained three purposes of problems in your life and four ways to get the most out of them.

Now this week, I want us to look at a faith that makes tough choices easier. A faith that makes tough choices easier. Because you're gonna have to make some tough choices in the days ahead. But first, let me explain before we get into that what I call the seven typical ways that people react to a crisis. And I hope you'll write these down. There's actually an outline you can do this, but I want you to write these down so you can recognize them in yourself and others. They're actually stages, and you may go through every one of them. My goal is to get you to stage seven. But if you understand these stages, you're gonna find that you're a lot more patient with yourself and with other people.

So, by the way, with every message that I share here online, I post a teaching outline, a fill-in outline that you can go to at So if you're watching this as a video, you might wanna pause it right now and download that outline or at least pull it up on your phone. That way you can follow along and take notes. So here are the seven typical ways that people deal with a crisis. Okay, their reactions to a crisis. And we go through these stages, the first phase is denial. And you've seen this in people. There were people going, "This is not my problem. This coronavirus problem, that's in some other country. It may not even be real". That's phase one, denial.

Phase two is what I call dismissal. And at that point, you move from denial, going it may not even be real, to okay, it's real, but it's no big deal. And this is gonna end fast and it won't last. It'll end fast and won't last, that's the dismissal phase. But then eventually people are getting to the third phase, which is defiance, which is, "You know, I know they're telling us to do these things, but I refuse to let this limit my freedom. I'm not gonna let it cramp or crimp my style. I'm healthy, and I'm not gonna stay at home alone or whatever, I'm gonna not let this limit me". That's defiance. But eventually, as we have seen over time, you get to stage four, which is delayed acceptance. And that's where a lot of people got this week, which was, okay, it is a big deal and it will affect me.

Then you get to stage five, and that is disruption. And almost everybody in the world is now at this phase, which is my life just turned upside down. And in disruption you start saying, I'm gonna have to make some tough choices. The kids are out of school, I'm out of work, I've got financial choices to make, relational choices to make, I've got priority choices to make, and my whole life has been disrupted. Then you get to stage or phase six, which is distress. And that's when it slowly dawns on you, this is gonna last a long time. And this is gonna change everything. This pandemic is not gonna be over in a week. It's not gonna be over in a month. It's gonna last a long time. We've never had this kind of turnover pandemic globally in our lifetime. It's going to change everything. That causes a lot of distress, a lot of stress in people's lives.

My goal in these messages is to get you to stage seven, which is determination. And in determination, you say, you know, with God's grace, we're gonna get through this together. With God's grace, we will make it. We are determined to go through it together. And if you'll check in with me every week, we're gonna do that together. Now, today we're gonna talk about decisions, because life is a series of choices and decisions. Every day you have to analyze, you have to evaluate, you have to draw conclusions. We make our choices, and then our choices make us. How does trusting God make tough choices easier? Well, James chapter one, verses five to eight tells us how and that's what we're gonna look at in just a second. But before I share how trusting God will make the tough choices in your life that you're gonna have to make this week, we'll make 'em easier.

I wanna do two things. First, let me define what I mean by a tough choice. A tough choice isn't necessarily a significant choice. You can have a tough choice deciding what to wear or what to eat. A tough choice means none of the options is obviously more favorable than the other. That's what a tough choice is. You may have to decide between two good things, and they're both equally good, or you may have to decide between two bad things, and they're equally bad. Or you may have to decide between two painful things and they're equally painful. That's when you have to make a tough choice. And that's what I want us to look at God's Word today. Two options that could be equally good or equally bad or equally unfavorable or equally painful.

Now, in those kind of situations where you can't find an obvious advantage to one or the other, since you can't decide, you might just think, well, I'll just flip a coin. Please don't do that because that is advocating your power to choose to a game of chance. You don't wanna do that. Don't do that. Your ability to choose, your freewill, your ability to make decisions is one of God's greatest gifts to you. It's what makes you human. Animals, worms don't get to decide. They just live by instincts. Birds don't get to make moral choices. But you do 'cause you're made in God's image.

So you don't wanna turn that over to just chance, a flip of the coin. You wanna know how to make tough choices. Second thing, before we look at the solutions, I want you to try to think of something specific that you're gonna face this week. Maybe you need to make it right now. A tough choice you gotta make about your finances 'cause you're out of work. Am I gonna pay my rent? You know, am I gonna pay my mortgage? It's coming up in a week and I'm out of work. A choice with your kids, they're at home. You're having a hard time deciding what to do. How will trusting God make that decision easier?

Well, here's what the Bible says. Write these down. Number one, first, when I trust God, he gives me his wisdom. When I trust God, he gives me his wisdom. And that's what I need when I have to make one of those tough choices where there's no clear advantage to one or the other. James chapter one, verse five says this. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should pray. You should pray and ask God because he gives it generously to anyone who asks. He never resents your asking. God loves to help you and he'll give you the wisdom you need, just ask. You know the reason we don't have God's wisdom is we simply don't ask for it. The Bible says you have not because you ask not. You haven't got it because you haven't asked for it.

Why should I want wisdom? Well, if you read through the book of Proverbs, it'll give you about 30 practical benefits of wisdom. But let me just give you one. Proverbs chapter three, verse 18 says this. Those who become wise will be happy. Wisdom is the key to a blessed life. Do you want to be happy? Do you want your life to be blessed? Then the Bible says you're gonna need wisdom. You're gonna need God's wisdom in your life. And God's wisdom is the opposite of the world's wisdom. He says wisdom is the key to happiness, and wisdom is the key to being blessed. Proverbs four, verse seven says this. Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can get in life, wow. It's more important than money, it's more important than fame, it's more important than pleasure, it's more important than success.

In fact wisdom brings all those other things into your life. He says if you're gonna focus on getting one thing, get wisdom. In the days ahead while you're out of work, while you're at home, if you will use these days to get wisdom, when you go back to work eventually, you're gonna be wiser. You'll be blessed, you'll be happier, you'll be smarter. The Bible says that we need wisdom in our lives. You see, because we're human, we're all imperfect. That means the possibility for error in our choices is very high. And how many times have you made the wrong decision? You paid too much for something. You gave up too soon. You waited too long. You said the wrong thing.

You know, so much hurt, so much pain in our lives comes from foolish decisions, bad choices. That's why we need wisdom. Proverbs 20:14 says this. Wisdom is good for the soul. And if you get wisdom, you'll have a bright and secure future. Now right now, the future doesn't look so bright, it doesn't look so secure. But the Bible says if you get wisdom, you're gonna have a bright and you're gonna have a secure future. So the first thing I need to do is trust God because when I trust God, he'll give me his wisdom. How do I get the wisdom I need? Well, the Bible gives us three ways. You might write these down. Three ways we get wisdom in life. First, the first way I get wisdom is to put God first in my life. That's the way I'm gonna get wisdom.

Number one is to just put God first in my life. Make him the top priority in my thoughts, in my life, in my schedule, in my money, in my relationships, I put God first in my life. Psalm 111 verse 10 says this. Reverence for the Lord is the foundation of all true wisdom. The rewards of wisdom, did you know there were rewards of wisdom? They're those other things, power and prestige, a good reputation, success. The rewards of wisdom are given to anyone who listens and obeys God. Now, he says reverence for God gives you wisdom. What's reverence? Reverence means to honor, it means to respect, it means to give priority to, it means you trust God. When you trust God, God says I will give you my wisdom. God doesn't just give wisdom to everybody. He gives it to everybody who asks and who trusts. Proverbs 15:33 says this. Honoring God and being humble leads to wisdom. And wisdom will bring honor to you.

Now notice, when you honor God, it gives you wisdom. And when you're humble, it gives you wisdom. And when you get wisdom, then other people honor you. The more humble you are, the more you're gonna depend on God's wisdom in this coronavirus crisis. So be humble or you'll stumble. Remember the lesson of the whale. When you get to the top and you're ready to blow, that's when they harpoon you. And instead of trying to depend on your own wisdom, you depend on God's wisdom, you're humble and you're dependent, you're gonna make fewer mistakes. So the first step is to put God first in my life. That's gonna give me wisdom.

Number two, the Bible says the second key to wisdom is to practice God's Word in my life. Not just put God first, but practice his Word in my life. Now, this Bible, this book is filled with wisdom. But you don't get wisdom simply by reading the Bible. You get God's wisdom by applying the Bible, by implementing the Bible, by doing what God says to do. In John 13:17, Jesus said this. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you, notice, do them. Listen, if you do them. You're not blessed by simply knowing the Bible. A lot of people know the Bible and aren't blessed by it. You're blessed if you do it. Now, I've said many times and for years, the only parts of the Bible that we actually truly believe are the parts that we practice. The parts that we practice.

You say, well, I believe we should do this. Do you do it, no, then you don't really believe it. We only believe the parts of the Bible that we actually practice. The Bible says I should put God first and I should practice God's Word. Why should I practice what God tells me to do? Second Samuel chapter 22, verse 31 says this. God's way is always perfect. And God's Word is always true. God's way is always perfect and God's Word is always true. If I do it his way and I follow his word, I'm gonna do the right thing at the right time. It'll always be the right thing to do. And when I have a difficult decision to make, I need to remember that God's way is perfect and God's Word is true, so I wanna go to God's Word and I wanna see, does God say anything about this decision? God's way is perfect, God's Word is true.

Here's what the Bible says in the book of James, chapter one, down in verse 25. If you look intently, that's another word for study, if you look intently into God's perfect Word that gives you freedom, the more I read and study God's Word, the more free I'll be. If you look into God's perfect Word that gives you freedom and you continue to do so, in other words you make it a habit, the habit of daily Bible reading, daily Bible study, daily listening to the Word of God, and you continue to do this, not forgetting what you've learned, in other words, you try to remember. You might even write some verses down on cards and remember them, not forgetting what you've learned. And then you put it into practice in your life. God promises this, you will be blessed in everything you do. Coronavirus or not. You know, held hostage in your home or not, you will be blessed in everything you do if you study the Word, you remember the Word, you practice the Word, you put it into practice in your life you'll be blessed in everything you do. So how do I get God's wisdom?

See, when I can make a tough decision, I can either make it on my wisdom or I can make it on God's wisdom. When I make it on God's wisdom, first I put God first in my life, and second, I practice God's Word in my life. Now, there's a third source of wisdom to make wise decisions, write this down. I not only put God first, practice his Word, I get some godly people in my life. Get some godly people into my life. Not only do I want to have God's Word in my life, I wanna have people in my life who also know God's Word. The people you hang out with the most right now are either helping you or hurting you. They're either building your fear or they're building your faith. They're either making you more cowardly or more courageous. They're either causing you to worry or causing you to worship. They're either stress generators in your life or they're stress relievers in your life. The quality of your life and the quality of your decisions and the quality of your choices will be determined by who you spend the most time with.

So you need to choose your friends wisely. Proverbs 13, verse 20 says this. If you keep company with wise people, you'll become wise. But if you hang out with foolish people, you'll suffer from making bad choices because they make bad choices. Now, I realize that with so many of us being told to stay at home in our houses, this may seem like a difficult thing to do. How do I get with godly people? But actually the opposite is true. We now have all kinds of free technology like Zoom and Skype and FaceTime and Microsoft Team and a lot of others, countless other connection platforms where you can hang out with godly people, shoot, on the other side of the world and still be at home. How do I know this? I've been doing it all week. In fact, in the last month where I've been at home much of that time, I have interacted with more people than I could've ever met with face to face.

I have been doing Zoom calls with my staff and Zoom calls with members and Zoom calls with my small group and Zoom calls with my kids and Zoom calls with my grandkids and everybody else. I meet with my elders once or twice a day. And that social distancing rule is there. But but you can do this, just learn a simple technology, and don't just sit at home binging on Netflix or old movies, spend some time with godly people. Set up a regular call. Because when you do that, you'll gain wisdom. Trusting God makes tough choices easier. Why, because he gives me wisdom when I ask for it. How does he give wisdom? When I put him first, when I practice his Word, when I spend time with other people who know his Word, godly people. He gives me wisdom when I ask for it. But there's another way God helps you make difficult decisions. When I trust God, he frees me from second-guessing. Write this down, when I trust God, he frees me from second-guessing.

Now, you know what I'm talking about. You've got a tough, difficult, rough choice to make. And you can't decide which way, this way or that way, this way or that way, this way or that way. And finally you make a tough choice, and then the moment you make the choice, you start doubting yourself, you start guessing yourself, second-guessing. You agonize over it, did I do the right thing? Did I do the right thing? Few things will make you more miserable in life than second-guessing yourself. Some of you are pros at it. It can be self-inflicted torture. Some of you are really, really good at torturing yourself with self-doubt and with second-guessing yourself. But God says this is dumb. And this is why he wants you to trust him, because when you trust him, he sets you free from second-guessing yourself.

Proverbs chapter 17, verse 24 says this. Anyone with God's wisdom will know what makes good sense. Okay, you're gonna know. But foolish people can never make up their minds. Why am I trying to make, I can't make up my mind? Because I'm depending on my wisdom. I'm not depending on God's wisdom. I'm not in the Word, I'm not with godly people, he isn't first in my life. But James 1:6 to eight talks about when you ask God for wisdom, you can't be double-minded. James chapter one, verse six to eight says this. When you ask God for wisdom, you must believe and expect God to answer. Because anyone who starts doubting is like a wave in the sea that's blown and tossed around by the ever-changing winds.

Let me stop right there for a minute. We are in a season of ever-changing winds. With this coronavirus, the winds change sometimes by the hour. We're now doing it this way, now we're doing it that way. Now this is the problem, no, this is the problem. And in the days and the months ahead, things are gonna be changing sometimes by the hour. You don't wanna be tossed back and forth like a wave by the ever-changing winds. He says don't be double-minded, he said, because if you do that, you won't get God's wisdom if you're double-minded, where you're always wavering back and forth. That only makes you unstable and insecure in everything you do. When you're double-minded, when you second-guess yourself, when you doubt yourself, it makes you unstable in everything you do.

Now, that word double-minded in Greek in the Bible literally means two-souled. It means two-souled, you're pulled in opposite directions. You have divided loyalties. You're ambivalent, you're vacillating back and forth. You ever feel like that? You're not sure what to do. Well, that kind of indecision, that double-mindedness, that self-doubt, that causes instability. Second-guessing creates unstable emotions, and second-guessing creates unstable relationships. You know, I remember hearing about a psychologist who asked a client, are you indecisive?

And the person said, well, yes and no. Said I used to be, but now I'm not sure. It not only creates instability in your emotions and in your relationships. Double-mindedness creates an unstable spiritual life. It blocks your prayers. Look at that verse again, it says don't expect to receive anything from God if you're doubting and double-minded. It blocks your prayers. Being indecisive keeps us from receiving what God wants to give us. Okay, so let's review. When I have a tough decision to make, trusting God makes tough choices easier. First, because he gives me his wisdom when I ask for it. And second, he frees me from self-doubt and second-guessing when I trust in him.

Number three, here's the third benefit. When I trust God, he acts on my behalf. When I trust God, God acts, he moves into action, he moves mountains on my behalf. See, God is not moved by our whining or our complaining or our griping. But God moves into action, he moves mountains, he moves blockades, he moves barriers in our lives when we trust him. Trusting God moves God into action. I mentioned this earlier, some of you've got rent or mortgage due in the next week or two, and you're out of work, you've got a really tough choice to make. Jesus said this in Matthew 9:29. According to your faith, it will be done unto you. According to your faith it will be done. God says you get to choose how much I bless your life. You have big faith, you get big blessing. Little faith, little blessing. No faith, no blessing. According to your faith, you get to choose how much I bless you. Even in the middle of this coronavirus, how much will you trust me for? God says when I trust God, he moves into action.

Let me give you one more. Number four, this is a big encouragement when you have to make a tough decision about your job, about your kids, about where you live, any kind of major decision or minor one that's just tough. When I trust God, this is number four, when I trust God, he uses even my mistakes. He uses even my mistakes, what am I saying? I'm saying when I trust God, even if I make the wrong decision, God'll still bring good out of it. I can't lose. That makes the stress level go down dramatically. When I have a tough decision to make and I don't know, do I choose this or do I choose this, they're equally good, they're equally bad, they're equally painful, I don't know. But when I make the decision in faith, and I make the decision trusting God, God says this in Romans 8:28.

We know that God causes everything, that's even my mistakes. We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those of us who love him and are called to live his purpose for us. If you love God and you really want his purpose for your life, you can't miss God's will. Even if you make a wrong decision, God says that's okay, I'll bring good out of it, I'll fit it into the plan, I'll use it for good. You can relax. That's an amazing thing to remember when you have a tough decision to make. They're both equally bad, they're both equally good, they're both equally painful.

God says if I trust him, he will use even my mistakes. Even if I choose the wrong thing, but I'm doing it in faith, I'm doing it with a good conscience, I'm doing it trying to honor God, God says I will use this for good in your life. That oughta help you relax. Because you can't, God says I'm your safety net even if you happen to choose the wrong thing, or not the second of the two things, I'll still use it for good in your life. That's not a promise for everybody. It's a promise for those who love God and who are trying to live by his purpose. You know, I'd like to pray for you right now. And then I'd like to talk to you about some next steps that you can practice this week. Would you bow your head? I want you to think of a difficult decision you're facing right now. And I want you to give it to God. And then I want you to pray this prayer. Say:

Dear God, I wanna trust you with my life. I wanna trust you with my life by putting you first in my life. I wanna trust you to give me the wisdom I need because I'm asking for it. Help me to get into your word and to learn your word and to practice it and to find out what you say about life. I'm gonna trust you to bring good friends into my life who are godly. Help me to stop hanging out with people who tear down my faith, who build up my fear, and to spend more time this week, even if it's on Skype or Zoom, to start a relationship with somebody who's wise because they know your Word. I'm asking you to help me have your wisdom through your word and through your people and through your circumstances of life. Guide me and direct me, help me to make wise decisions. And then, Lord, I'm asking you to help me to trust you in every little area, knowing that I don't have to second-guess myself, that you will give me with faith the power to stop torturing myself over decisions. Because I know that even if I made a second-best decision, you're gonna bring good out of it. Thank you for that comfort, thank you for that assurance. Thank you that you work all things together for good in my life.

With our heads still bowed, if you've never invited Jesus Christ into your life, God wants to give you more than wisdom, he wants to give you his salvation. He wants to give you a personal relationship. He wants to become your friend. So would you say in your heart:

Dear Jesus Christ, I don't understand it all, but I want a friendship with you. I want a relationship with God. I know I'm not God. I know I've made a lot of mistakes, and I need your forgiveness. But I'm turning my life over to you, the good, the bad, the ugly, every part of it. I want the rest of my life to be the best of my life, and I want to learn to love you and trust you. And I'm opening my life to you, Jesus Christ. I'm saying as best as I can say, as humbly as I can say it, yes to you today. And I ask you to give me your spirit and your forgiveness and your salvation. I humbly ask this in your name, amen.

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