Toward the end of services today, we are going to honor our graduating high school seniors. They have reached an important milestone and are now about to embark on a new stage in their lives, where they will face many decisions that will define who they become.
It highlights a point of significance for all of us: the choices we make are important. Throughout our lives, we are all constantly making decisions. We must decide where to live. We select our occupation. We choose (or choose not to have) a spouse. All of these have major implications.
We must also decide howto live, and this is even more significant. What values will we accept? How will we pattern our behavior? How will we spend our time, our talents, and our resources?
Every day brings its quota of decisions to make. Just how are we to make them? What guidelines are there? Let us suggest a few principles that will hopefully benefit not only our seniors, but all of us as we travel through life.
- Every decision must take God’s approval into account. This is a broad, fundamental principle that is crucially important as the bedrock of our decision making. As Paul puts it, And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17). That means that whatever we decide ought to be compatible with his teaching and example – we submit everything to him. That implies a need to be well-acquainted with God’s word, so that we know what his will for us is.
- Our decisions must not be hasty. In Luke 15we find the story of the prodigal son. He impetuously asked for his inheritance, went far away, and squandered all of his money in hard living. If he had taken more time to consider things – if he had talked with a wise counselor – if he faced all the facts – he would not have found himself fin the pig pen in a foreign land.
- Our decisions must not be made with the emotions alone, but with our minds. There is the tragic tale of David’s sin with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel. His emotions carried him away. Before it was over, he had committed adultery and killed a man to cover it up. How different would the rest of David’s life have been if he had made his choices with his head instead of his emotions?
- Our decisions must not follow the path of least resistance. In Acts 24, Paul is preaching to the Roman governor Felix. Paul spoke about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, and Felix was terrified. But he said, Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.Felix was clearly in some sense persuaded. But becoming a Christian would have been a difficult thing. So he made the easy choice, and it cost him his soul.
- Our decisions must have the long term in view. Remember the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 17. He asked what he must to do be saved. Jesus told him to keep the commandments – and then, he added, to sell what he had and give it to the poor. The story ends with him leaving in sorrow because of his great possessions. He chose the short-term allure of things, of a little Palestinian real estate, over following Jesus. Would he choose differently given another chance?
- Our decisions must not just follow the crowd. Consider Pilate, who, based on the facts, found Jesus innocent. But he ultimately acquiesced to the will of the mob. Right led one way, external pressure the other. We all know that old bit of practical, motherly wisdom: “If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you”? That’s actually an important principle in making decisions.
- Our decisions must not be made by default, but with intentionality. As the book of Joshua closes, the Israelites were thoughtlessly drifting toward idolatry in their new land. As Joshua’s final recorded act, he challenged them to Choose this day whom you will serve, Yahweh or the false gods of their neighbors (Joshua 24:14-15). Many people do not make their decisions at all, vacillating to the point that their decisions are made for them. Let’s not fall into that same trap.
Each of us must decide our destiny. May these principles help guide us all to make choices that bring us closer to God and his will.