PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
(Illustration) William was sixteen when he left home to make his fortune. He stuffed everything he owned into a backpack and marched toward a riverboat. His story was simple: His father was too poor to care for him and the only trade he knew was soap and candle-making. It so happened that a Christian captained the riverboat and when he heard William’s story he counseled him: “William, someone will soon be the leading soap maker in New York. It can be you as well as anyone else. Be a good man, give your heart to Christ, pay the Lord all that belongs to Him, make an honest soap . . . and I’m sure you’ll be a prosperous.” William heeded the advice and when he arrived in New York he joined a Church and started working for a soap manufacturer. In a short time, William bought half of the company. Later, he bought the entire corporation. He paid his tithes and his enterprise prospered to where he dedicated twenty percent to Christ. His prosperity continued, so he gave half his income to God. After becoming wealthy he surrendered his entire salary to the Lord. That’s the story of William Colgate, the soap and toothpaste manufacturer. He is also recognized as being first to put toothpaste in a tube! It’s evident that William’s right choices shaped his destiny. He followed the precepts of scripture and the wise counsel of a riverboat captain. And William Colgate’s testimony coincides with many Bible characters that also made “the right choice.”
Decisions Shape Destiny
Abraham obeyed God and chose to depart his homeland of Mesopotamia. Although his earthly life included trials, history distinguishes Abraham as being the “Father of the Judeo-Christian Faith.”
The choice of Moses involved disassociating himself from Pharaoh’s household. Superficially, this choice perplexes us. Moses’ repudiated all that Pharaoh had to offer. And historians note that Pharaoh had no other son besides his adopted grandson, Moses. That meant, at Pharaoh’s death, Moses would have inherited the throne of Egypt. But Moses’ choice eternally etched his name in human history. He parted the Red Sea, secured the Ten Commandments, and fed over a million Israelites manna for 40 years in the desert.
When Joshua prepared to attack Jericho, only Rahab and her family sought refuge from the impending doom. They were the only survivors when the walls of Jericho fell.
The widow of Zarepath chose to feed Elijah her last meal and for the next 1,277 days her meal barrel never expired.
Namaan the leper followed the Prophet’s advice to dip seven times in the Jordan River and was healed.
These people discovered that “making the right choice” positively shaped their destiny. But Scripture also provides many examples of those making wrong decisions:
Adam and Eve decided to eat forbidden fruit.
Moses disobediently struck the rock rather than speak to it and couldn’t enter Canaan.
David disobediently numbered Israel in a manner that violated the Law.
Ananias and Sapphira conspired to lie against the Holy Spirit about their financial dealings and their hypocrisy brought them an early death.
The welfare of our future rests upon “choices.” Solomon punctuated the urgency when he said, “Purchase the truth and do not sell it; obtain wisdom, discipline and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23).
(Transition) The question many wish Solomon had answered is this: What is the appropriate process for making right choices? Well, since Solomon is not here you will have to settle for my explanation. Let’s point out several practical steps for making correct determinations.
I. Assume Responsibility For Your Decisions
(Illustration) The Evangelist Billy Sunday told the story of a woman and her child freezing to death. She was riding a train during a blizzard when a male passenger noticed her agitation. Being familiar with the tracks, the man assured her that he could tell her when to exit the train. The man counted the stops until he figured the woman’s place of departure. When the doors opened, the woman with her baby, walked into the tempest. But at the next stop, the train driver called the name of the station intended for the woman. The man advising the woman rushed to the driver and insisted that was the previous station. But there had been engine trouble and an additional stop was required to repair it. Later, the woman and child were found frozen to death. Although the man’s advice was well-intention, the woman’s decision to follow it brought death.
These two stories illustrate the necessity of making the right choice. Choices determine our destiny. And while others often advise us, the fact remains: Ultimately, you and I are responsible for our choices. Others may unknowingly misguide us, but ultimately we are responsible for our decisions. Thus, when others counsel you correctly, thank them! When they misdirect you, forgive them!
I’m aware of extenuating circumstances when another person is more to blame for your circumstances than you. But on most occasions, we must accept the responsibility for our victories and defeats. When it’s time to decide which school to attend, which occupation to pursue, which person to marry, which clothes to wear, the decision rests with us! There’s a problem if you’re 45 years-old and Mamma is still making your decisions! God created every person with “free-will” and He wants them exercising it.
- Job 22:28 says: “What you decide on will be done, and light will shine on your ways.”
Joshua 24:15 says: “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Proverbs 2:1-5 says: “if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, (2) turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, (3) and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, (4) and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, (5) then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”
Do you hear what God is saying? You are responsible for making choices. That’s why we should pray with Solomon: “give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1KI 3:9).
(Transition) Secondly, it’s imperative to make decisions in the “fear of God”; not in the fear of man.
II. Make Decisions in the “Fear of God”
David’s Decision (Read, Psalm 11:1-7)
It’s not indisputable, but historical evidence suggests David wrote this Psalm when Saul was trying to assassinate David with his spear. Thus, David says in verse three: “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Here’s the scenario: Samuel had anointed David as King, but Saul still occupied the throne. After Saul realized his days were numbered, he starting hurling spears at David.
Can you imagine that? Here was a king throwing spears in his palace. What a way to handle stress. Anyway, David had a decision to make. He could stay in the palace and risk being pinned against the wall or he could flee. If it had been me, I would have strapped on my Nike’s and run!
(Illustration) I remember the first time God spoke to me. I was about nine years-old and shooting basketball at a school playground when I noticed two older boys walking toward me. With perfect clarity God said: “Those boys are coming to assault you.” Since the schoolyard was fenced, I was trapped! But in an instant, the Lord provided me with a word of deliverance. I should keep shooting basketball until the last possible moment, and when the boys reached the fence-corner I should rush to the opposite end of the field for my escape. What bravery! And it worked. I outran those guys and scaled the fence just before being massacred.
The fact is, the Lord will apprise you when it’s time run or when it’s time to relax. And as Saul pursued David with the intent to murder him, David’s friends advised him to seek asylum in the mountains. But he ignored their advice and chose to trust God:
• He had “walked through the valley of the shadow of death.”
• He had pulled lion’s teeth and broken the bear’s back.
• He had lopped off the head of a nine-foot giant—why should a spear frighten him?
• Although David would later flee from Saul, this wasn’t the time! God told David to relax.
Let me assure you of one fact: “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” and God upholds the cause of the righteous when they reverence His will. “The fear of God” should govern every decision you make:
Proverbs 29:25 says: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”
That’s why Ecclesiastes 12:13 says: “here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (14) For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
It’s why Deuteronomy 10:12 says: “what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God.”
(Transition) Daniel is another example of someone making choices based on Godly fear.
Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of an enormous tree that was visible from the ends of the earth. Its branches were magnificent and fruitful. Suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar witnessed the tree being stripped of its branches, fruit, and beauty. It was chopped down to a stump. And then the Lord showed Nebuchadnezzar the stump being bound with iron and bronze chains. Nebuchadnezzar consulted Babylon’s prophets but God had depleted their wisdom. That’s when the king called for Daniel.
Now, would you want to interpret a foreboding dream like that to the greatest Monarch on earth? Daniel realized the interpretation of the dream could result in imprisonment or even a death sentence. Thus, Daniel had a choice to make: He could play it safe and interpret the king’s dream with pleasantries, or he could risk his life and tell the truth. But Daniel is renowned for making right choices! Notice his tactful interpretation:
“My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! (20) The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, (21) with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air— (22) you, O king, are that tree . . . (25) You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Daniel 4:19-25).
Daniel and the Lion’s Den
Later, King Darius governed Babylon. And Daniel so distinguished himself in his political career that Darius considered making Daniel his Prime Minister. You can imagine the jealousy this created among Daniel’s peers. They sought to kill him by feeding him to the lions! Thus, they devised a 30-day ordinance that forbade praying to any god other than the king. Despite the edict, Daniel entered his home and lifted his voice to the Lord. Perhaps Daniel prayed Psalm 86. “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long. (4) Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. (5) You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. (6) Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. (7) In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me. (8) Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.”
Thank God, the angel of the Lord appeared in the lion’s den to lock the jaws of death for His Prophet. Daniel emerged unharmed after a night with the cats (Daniel 6:1-28). But surviving a brush with death wasn’t actually the issue. Daniel would have received the “martyr’s crown” had the lions devoured him that night. Making the “right choice” was the issue! Daniel chose to ignore the fear of man and embrace the “fear of God”!
(Transition) Assume responsibility for your decisions, make them in the fear of God, and third, When making decisions, seek the highest wisdom.
III. When Making Decisions, Seek the Highest Wisdom
I can say from personal experience that some of my choices have been awful. And everybody makes decisions less than angelic. Has anyone here implemented impeccable decisions 100% of the time? Is there not one choice you would rescind? Again, Solomon said in Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Notice that! “Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Solomon said money should be spent on securing wisdom and understanding! And if necessary, deplete your wealth for it!
Through the centuries, world leaders have placed much emphasis on acquiring knowledge. In the Bible, kings surrounded themselves with counselors and wise men. Joseph instructed Pharaoh. Daniel instructed three kings of Babylon. The Prophets spoke to Israel’s kings. And today, national leaders form a Presidential Cabinet or a team of advisors. While world rulers don’t always exercise the best wisdom, they assemble a team of experts to advise them. So how does the typical Christian secure the “highest wisdom” for living? I want to suggest three basic ways we can do this:
1. Study the Scriptures and fellowship with the Spirit. As you practice this, God will provide understanding and direction.
2. Develop relationships with spiritual people. God has gifted certain Christians with wisdom and discernment. Seek them out. They are God’s voice for helping you make the “right choice.”
3. Wisdom comes by attending Church. Psalm 73:16 says, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me (17) till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.”
Asaph wrote this Psalm when he saw the wicked prospering and the righteous suffering. He wondered, “Is it worth it to serve the Lord”? But God provided a great revelation to Asaph when he entered God’s House. The Lord showed him the fate of rebellious men. When Asaph entered God’s House he discovered it to be a hallowed place of Truth. Truth lives in God’s House! That’s why Paul called the Church the “pillar and ground of the truth.” God speaks in a unique and penetrating way when people assemble around His Word in worship.
(Transition) When you’re making major decisions, pursue the highest wisdom.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a striking example of a fateful decision. Contrary to all sensibility, this young man demanded his inheritance and then squandered it with prostitutes and riotous living. In a matter of months, he wrecked his life, reputation, and was reduced to feeding swine. Fortunately, he remembered the goodness of his loving father so he rushed home to plea for another chance. And before the son could finish his confession the father interrupted him with mercy and pardon. The prodigal son, once filled with foolishness, had made the “right choice.”
Hear me teenager: Godly parents are your best friends. Listen to them. Nobody loves you like Dad and Mom. They are more interested in seeing you succeed in life than anyone else. Godly parents are the Lord’s counseling gifts to children. Learn to trust their guidance as they warn you of life’s temptations and traps. They can help you make the “right choice.”