At Gateway Church in South Austin, we started a new series called Decision Fatigue.
We are constantly bombarded with decisions at every turn. Some are trivial like your choice of beverage, but many can be life-altering. How can you know if you’re making the right decisions? It can become overwhelming. In this series, Decision Fatigue, we will look at how God’s will and your will are intended to work together so you can live with confidence that you’re making the best decisions for your life.
I shared on God’s Will Our Will.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Do you ever wonder about the future? Ever worry about the future? Ever feel overwhelmed with all the decisions needing to be made? From the trivial to the life-altering, we are bombarded every day!
And to add on top of that: how do we know what is God’s best for us? He’s invisible and seemingly silent! How can we communicate with God to know His design for our lives when we have a hard time communicating with the people in our own home?!
We all want to have it our way! So if we struggle to get on the same page with the people closest to us – our spouse, our best friends, our parents, our roommates, how can we possibly get on the same page as God who seems so distant sometimes – maybe even most of the time?!
Let me ask you, and I want you to be honest with yourself:
Do you want to know God’s way or are you just wanting Him to bless your way?
Do you trust God and the future He has for you?
Seasons of Life When We Need Wisdom
In this series, we will look at how God’s will and your will are intended to work together to make the best decisions, and how you can live with confidence that you’re making the best decisions for your life.
Maybe you are in a place right now where you need wisdom.
- Maybe you are a teenager or in college trying to determine your future. You are trying to figure out which college to go to and the career God may be calling you towards and the person you should marry all while still trying to survive your classes!
- Maybe you are a Millenial in the midst of a quarter life crisis.
- Maybe you just got married and it hasn’t been like the end of a romantic comedy. I mean, it’s a comedy, but it’s no longer romantic.
- Maybe you have kids, and you are just overwhelmed and just trying to survive.
- Maybe you are adjusting to the Empty Nest and considering what to do now that your kids don’t need you as much as they did not too long ago.
- Maybe you are single and overwhelmed with so many options and so little wisdom to decide.
- Maybe you are here and you struggle with this idea of God or even think: “If there is a God, why would He care about my life?”
- Or maybe you believe in God, but you wonder: “Why is God’s will so mysterious? Why doesn’t God just tell me what to do?”
The Scriptures paint a picture of a God who created you on purpose and for a purpose!
- Acts 17 tells us that He created us at the exact time in history and put us in the exact part of the planet that gives us the best opportunity to find Him.
- Psalm 139 tells us that God created us in our mother’s wombs and knows all the days set before us.
- Jeremiah 29 tells us that God knows the plans He has for His people, plans to prosper and not to harm.
There are things against us in this pursuit of living out God’s calling in our life. There are temptations, trials, and something called decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue “refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making. It is now understood as one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making.”
You see, some tell us that “our willpower is finite, like a muscle that gets tired when we use it too much.”
In 2012 a research team from Columbia University discovered something alarming. Judges became less lenient and some would say worse decision makers as the day went on. They got better again right after lunch but then things got worse quickly.
From an article on the study: “The research went on to show that at the start of the day the likelihood of the judging giving out a favorable ruling was somewhere around 65%. But as the morning dragged on, the judge became fatigued and drained from making decision after decision. As more time went on, the odds of receiving a favorable ruling decreased steadily until it was whittled down to zero.”
So the moral of the story, go to court in the morning or right after lunch!
Or maybe don’t do anything that requires going to court!
Or to apply this personally, our mental state affects our decision making significantly.
Not only judges do this, we all do this!
So how can we find God’s plan and experience the life He has for us?
God doesn’t want us to live in decision fatigue, and the way to live confidently that your decisions are increasingly good ones is what this series will provide–a way to first see that God has given us an idea of what His will is in a lot of areas, but not in every single decision. Instead, God has promised to walk with us by His Spirit, and guide us into the right decisions if we are willing and in areas it is not crystal clear. But we also have free will, and we can choose and decide things against God’s will or without God’s will being factored in. He’s made us with the ability to make decisions–and sometimes the answer is clear “This is God’s will or it’s not” but sometimes it’s “You decide”.
Next week, we will look at wise counsel and walking by faith.
To experience the life God has for us means to walk in the way of wisdom.
Did you know there are entire books of the Bible devoted to wisdom? Plus the entire Scriptures are filled with case studies of people to learn from. We can learn from their mistakes and from the times when they got it right.
In fact, I want to encourage you to try something for the next month.
Read Proverbs – one chapter every day
- Just ask God to speak to you.
- Read the chapter and then reflect on ways you can apply what you read.
- If you read one chapter a day you will finish in one month.
I will help you get started. Let’s read the first 7 verses of Proverbs 1.
1 These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. 2 Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. 3 Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. 4 These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. 5 Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance 6 by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles. 7 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. – Proverbs 1:1-7 (NLT)
Or in other versions of Proverbs 1 – “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”
What does that mean? Why would we fear a loving God?
A really helpful resource for you as you spend time reading the Scriptures is the Bible Project. Let’s watch just a snippet of their video on Proverbs as they describe what the Bible means by “the fear of the Lord.”[Fear of the Lord is from 1:38 to 2:04]
If you met the Creator of the Universe, fear seems like a totally acceptable response!
Fearing God should not keep us away from Him, but it means drawing near to Him and trusting Him.
That’s why He revealed Himself as a man so that we might be able to relate to Him.
Even still, some of us have an unhealthy fear of God. We have an inaccurate view of God that if we don’t do certain things or if we do certain things, God will zap us or block us or out to get us. In reality, He gives us freedom and responsibility which means there are consequences for our actions. Often times when we think God is being cruel in the Bible, He’s actually showing His love by warning us.
You see, if you grew up in a religious context like I did here in Texas, it’s hard not to get this confused. Religion is our attempt to do good things to appease the angry God.
What the Scriptures show us is that a loving God came to rescue us. We do not need to do good things to make Him like us. He already likes us and He loves us, and it is out of gratitude that we do good things. It is out of gratitude we walk in God’s way of wisdom rather than try to do things on our own. It is these good things that we do out of gratitude which are God’s will for our lives.
To help us make good decisions, let’s go back to the very first bad decision ever made.
God created the cosmos and on the 6th day He creates humanity.
Genesis 2:7-9, 15-17
“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Then God created Eve as Adam’s “ezer.” (pronounced “ay-zer”) Some translations use the phrase “helper” or “helpmate” but more often this word is translated in other passages as “rescuer.” Adam was alone and God gave Him a partner, a rescuer, a vital source of strength to do life together with him.
An article on the subject says: “ezer is only used in the Old Testament in the context of vitally important and powerful acts of rescue and support. The noun ezer is used twenty-one times in the Old Testament. Twice it is used in the context of the first woman. Three times it is used of people helping (or failing to help) in life-threatening situations. Sixteen times it is used in reference to God as a helper. Without exception, these biblical texts are talking about a vital, powerful kind of help. Yet when ezer is applied to the first woman, its meaning is usually diminished to fit with traditional and cultural views of women’s roles.”
We will come back to this a bit later.
In paradise, notice how there was no distance between people or between people and God.
“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” – Genesis 2:25
Unfortunately something diabolical happened, and an evil creature tempted Eve and eventually Adam and Eve ate from the one tree they were not supposed to eat from. They had access to all the other trees!
Or as Kanye West wondered in his song from “Everything We Need” from his new album Jesus is King.
At the 1:14 mark, he sings:
What if Eve made apple juice?
You gon’ do what Adam do?
Or say, “Baby, let’s put this back on the tree” ’cause
We have everything we need…
We think of Adam and Eve as idiots for ruining everything! I mean we could have lived naked in paradise but they had to eat from the one tree they were not allowed to eat! They had complete freedom to eat whatever they wanted and there were a lot of other trees! But no, they ate from the one tree they were not allowed to touch!
But you see we are just like them!
- We have everything we need, but we still want more!
- We have everything we need, but we want what someone else has!
- We have everything we need, but we want what we should not want.
And it happens at a young age! As free will creatures, in a room full of toys, we want the one thing our parents don’t want us to have!
Like this baby (who I discovered has been to Gateway in South Austin with his family!):
To make better decisions, we should start by enjoying what we already have more.
We need to develop contentment.
We make bad decisions when we see something that is not ours, and we take it.
At the root of most bad decisions is our selfishness.
Like we see in Genesis, we see what is forbidden, and we take it. Rather than fearing God or trusting God, we take what is not intended for us.
So Adam and Eve lost their innocence and realized their nakedness. They hid from God because they were ashamed and afraid of Him. They feared God after they made the wrong decision.
Ironically, if they feared God before eating from the tree then there would have been no need for fearing God after eating from the tree.
Remember: “The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge.”
To make good decisions, we need to start with respecting God having a reverential fear of God.
When we start there, we make better decisions.
Consequences of Rebellion
The story in Genesis continues when God spoke with Adam and Eve and they both blamed someone else for their choice.
Notice the consequences of that day in the Garden:
To the creature who tempted Eve:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” – Genesis 3:15
This passage points out the spiritual battle which continues to rage on. This is also a prophecy about the Messiah who defeat Satan through His death on the cross. The Messiah will crush Satan even as Satan may think he has won by killing the Messiah, but the Messiah would rise from the dead. He defeated sin and death!
Another allusion towards the sacrifice of God on our behalf is the fact that God sacrificed an animal to clothe their nakedness. This was the first death that came because of the sin of humanity.
More now on the curse of humanity (the consequences of our rebellion):
“To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” – Genesis 3:16
Some of you moms are saying: forget not getting to live naked in paradise, the worst part of the fall was pain in childbirth!
But notice, as a result of our rebellion, there is between men and women. There is now distance between humanity and God. Keep this curse in mind as we will come back to it.
“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:17-19
Our rebellion brought death into paradise and brokenness to creation.
Our world is cursed. Humanity is cursed. We are cursed. Childbirth is painful. Work is a constant struggle. Men and women try to control and dominate each other. Everything has been affected by that decisions to go our way instead of God’s wauy.
Reversing the Curse
The story of the Bible tells us what God did to restore us back to Eden.
And that’s why what Jesus did is so important! God came to rescue us! He lived a perfect life, taught with authority, brought healing to people, and ultimately allowed Evil to do its full force on Him – killing Him on a pole. On a cross He was crucified for us – for all humanity. But He rose from the dead! He was alive after having been killed! Love could not be contained in the tomb!
But listen to what Jesus did for us.
13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. – Galatians 3:13-14
Jesus reversed the curse!
We are no longer under the curse because Jesus took the curse on Himself!
- We do not have to fall victim to spiritual warfare.
- We do not have to have a battle in our homes between women and men.
- We do not have to hate our work.
- We can walk with God without shame!
- We can even have epidurals!
- We can experience a glimpse of Eden (heaven on earth)!
So what does that mean?
First and foremost, to discover God’s will for your life begins with surrendering all of your life to Jesus! When we say “yes” to following Jesus, He forgives us, makes us new (from death to life), and gives us His Spirit to guide us!
Listen to this amazing promise!
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” – the things God has prepared for those who love him—
10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God… no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words….
“Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ. – 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 NIV
This is remarkable! We have the mind of Christ – the wisdom of God!
The Story of the Scriptures: Heaven and Earth
Maybe you’ve heard this before, but the story of the Bible is one long story. The Scriptures begin and end and all in between is a story about heaven and earth (not heaven and hell as became the filter people would read the Bible since the Middle Ages).
The first two chapters of the Bible are very similar to the last two chapters. Humanity and God together in Eden in the first two chapters and the new humanity with God in the new heaven and new earth in the last two chapters.
We see this progression in the Scriptures where
Heaven Meets Earth
- In Eden (Genesis 1-2)
- In the tabernacle (Exodus-Ruth)
- In the Temple (1 Kings – Malachi)
- In Jesus (The Gospels)
- In the Body of Christ (Acts – present day) (We are not only representing Jesus to the world. We are to bring heaven to earth wherever we go!)
- The New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21-22) At the end of all things when God makes all things right.
Remember, as followers of Jesus, He told us to pray: “Father, Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!”
So what does that mean for decision making?
We should be making decisions that reverse the curse!
We live lives very different than the ways of this broken world! We live holy lives with God’s help!
We work towards unity and peace in our homes!
Our homes should be places where men, women, and children know they are loved and valued and have a way to contribute!
Our place of work brings us and others joy.
We should be making decisions that bring more of a glimpse of heaven to earth!
We do the opposite of what the world tells us:
- It’s not just what is best for me.
- It’s not just what feels best.
- It’s not just what’s easiest or most convenient.
When making a decision ask:
“Is this showing the others the love of God?
Is this demonstrating loving others? Does this decision help advance the message of Jesus around me?”
- “Am I putting others above myself?”
- “Am I forgiving others?”
- “Am I asking for forgiveness?”
- “Am I living at peace with all people as far as it depends on me?”
Soul Revolution helps us walk in step with the Spirit of God and understand His voice in the midst of that still small voice or promptings we might have.
For me, I’ve realized I can tell God’s voice from my own or from a dark place when the thought I have is selfless, requires courage, and is consistent with the Scriptures.
Let me say that again: those thoughts in our minds that are from God are the thoughts that are selfless, requires courage, and is consistent with the Scriptures. Here’s the challenge with that. Most of us do not know the Scriptures very well at all. We are missing God’s voice in our life, but the beauty is we can change that!
The authors point out that God’s guidance according to the way of wisdom can be summarized in four simple statements:
Where God commands, we must obey.
Do you know what God wants for us?
His Word to us is clear through the Scriptures also known as the Word of God! God makes clear His moral will for us. There are so many things that are so clearly described.
If the Bible is new to you, start with Proverbs this month. Then move to the Gospel – the stories of Jesus from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Spend time in the New Testament. Become familiar with the stories. Understand the context. Interpret the Scripture with the Scriptures. This will help you avoid some of the pitfalls of reading this ancient and beautiful book and taking things out of context.
For example, the Bible is not pro slavery. It just so happened that 80% of the Roman world and probably moreso of the early church were slaves so the authors were writing to let them know how to live in that environment even as they advocated for freedom like in the book of Philemon.
The Bible is not misogynistic. Women were oppressed and seen like property in those days. The Bible and the early followers of Jesus liberated women! In Christ, there is no difference between Jews and Gentles, slave and free, men and women! There is no distinction between men and women when it comes to receiving spiritual gifts!
The Bible is not prudish about sex. There is even a passage that advocates married couples to be intimate often and regularly to protect against the enemy’s attacks. If that’s an issue in your marriage, seek to get help. Don’t wait for your spouse to change, but make the changes you can to bring healing in your relationship.
The Bible is not just a giant rule book or giant “Don’t Do List.” Instead the Old Testament reveals the covenant relationship between God and His people. As the Zondervan NIV study Bible puts it: “The law was the way of life for the redeemed, not a way of salvation for the lost.” The Old Testament reveals the character and holiness of God and how far we fallen from Him, how much we need God to rescue us. The New Testament shows God rescuing us, and His name is Jesus. Knowing the context helps us make sense of the message intended for the original audience which helps us apply the message to our lives.
There are great resources like the Bible Project, that I highly recommend to help you understand the context.
Consider also what Erwin McManus has said: “The Bible is a portal into God’s presence.”
Spend time reading the Scriptures, meditating on the Scriptures, applying the Scriptures, praying through the Scriptures. Let the Word of God saturate your heart and mind. For some of us, this will be the most important step for knowing how to walk in the way of wisdom for most of us.
Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose.
The authors point out that early church leader Augustine said:
“Love God and do whatever you please.” – Augustine
“Augustine can be misunderstood, so we must be careful with his statement. ‘Do as you please’ must not be separated from ‘love God.’ And ‘love God’ must be biblically defined…. the person who truly loves God will keep all of His commandments…. Obedience to the command to “love God” will always be expressed by keeping all of the moral will of God…. you are free to do ‘whatever you please’ without displeasing God. Within the moral will of God, there is an area of freedom. You cannot go wrong if you are obeying all of the moral will of God, and the one who loves God will obey His moral will.”
In my freedom, I don’t go against the moral will of God nor do I cause others to stumble.
In my freedom, I choose to serve others.
The Reformer Martin Luther once said: “A Christian man is the most free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian man is a most dutiful servant of all.”
To make good decisions:
- Seek to become a person of integrity.
- Make the right decision no matter how small it is and even when no one is looking – knowing that God is with us.
This also means when you have more than one good choice, you don’t have to be paralyzed with fear or uncertainty thinking only one of the good choices is right. With God’s help, you can make whichever good option you choose work.
You see there is so much freedom when we are in a close walk with God.
For some of us, that is our first next step, choosing to trust God, to love God, to surrender your life to the God who created you on purpose and for a purpose.
And for all of us, walking in the delight and freedom of God.
Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose.
So walk in the way of wisdom! We are not supposed to be in this alone!
We will talk more about this next week.
When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.
There is still mystery, but God is not hiding from us. He wants us to do His will more than we do. He is speaking, but often we are not listening!
When you are walking with God, we have lots of great options and opportunities. Like Adam and Eve, we can eat of any tree, but we are to avoid taking what is not ours. Fearing God, trusting God, obeying God, delighting in God, make that your decision today and allow all other decisions to flow from that relationship.
God will guide you.
Consider these promises from Proverbs 3:5-13 (NIV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine…
13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,