To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘Decisions’ Category

Don’t Rush Those Decisions

It is a good thing in life to always take time in making decisions. I am not talking here about the trivia of life such as whether to choose this or that from a menu. I am talking about decisions which have a life changing element to them.

One of the phenomena of the last year have been the number of significant announcements from our governments about the restrictions being implemented appertaining to the coronavirus outbreak. The danger is that we respond to the relevant announcements by immediately scrawling through the details of the text to see what it means for my life and then immediately make decisions based there on.

For some people it is absolutely necessary that they do act in that way because they have to make an immediate response. In that context I am in admiration of how many school leaders responded to the announcements of January 4th to make sure they had measures in place so that their schools could operate on January 5th.

However, for most people, decisions do not have to be made instantaneously. In such situations it is best to take time for things to settle to see what is the understanding of the regulations and then make relevant decisions about how you will act.

In saying all this we are very much dealing with a principle which should flavour our lives in whatever capacity we operate. The principle is that we should always take time to fully assess the information and options before making decisions. Very few things of a life changing character require an immediate decision. It is always good to follow the dictum of Judges 19:30b consider it, take counsel, and speak.

And here are a couple of proverbs to confirm the wisdom of this approach.

Desire without knowledge is not good,
    and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
(Prov. 19:2)

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
    but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
(Prov. 21:5)

And in considering every situation and in making every decision don’t forget to pray. If I make a decision before I have prayed to my Father, I am displaying foolishness.

Decision Making And The Peace Of God.

In Christian circles one of the phrase which is so often used to establish that God is guiding in a certain direction is; “I had peace about it.” What happens is that people are faced with decisions about their future route in life, whether that be in their personal situation or their Christian service. As they consider the matter and move towards a certain course of action they declare that a certain course is the right one. The reason they state for reaching this conclusion is that “I have peace about it”. What we have to ask though, is whether or not this is a right way to speak about reaching decisions?

In Philippians 4:4-7 we read

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

From this scripture we do learn that there is such a thing as “the peace of God” that we can experience. This “peace of God” is not directly connected with decision making though. Rather, it is the outcome of a God-governed life which is seen in rejoicing, reasonableness and prayerfulness. This reminds us that the Lord is more interested in us being the right people rather than making right decisions.

It is out of a God pursuing life that wholesome decisions emerge. But what is a God-pursing life. It is a life set on living according to the Word of God and prayer. It is a life of obedience to God’s commands and desiring to be conformed to His will.  It is God’s will that you should be sanctified (1 Thess. 4:3a) is what Paul says and it is that which we should set our hearts upon.

As we live this God-centred life it will be second nature to order our lives according to the Lord’s ways. And as we approach decisions in life we will be considering these prayerfully on the light of scripture.

If we look at our Lord in his ministry it does not seem he ever considers an outcome of peace as being a determinant of His actions. In John 4:34 we read My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work (John 4:34). What sustained and motivated our Lord was that fellowship with his Father through an actively obedient life.

It would be my conclusion that right decisions emerge from a peaceful life. Rather than right decisions giving rise to a peaceful life.

Jonah was a man who seemed to have peace in his heart about a decision. After all he was fast asleep at the bottom of a ship in a storm whilst mayhem was going on around him. However, he was in complete disobedience (see Jonah 1). Having peace in our heart does not guarantee that we are making the right decision.

As a further observation saying that “I have prayed about it and have peace about it” smacks of super spiritual gunk. I have written about that here. Effectively, by using such a phrase we intimidate people into an inability to gainsay what we have said.

At this point you may ask what about Colossians 3:15 where we read: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace? The focus in this statement is that in all our decisions we are looking for peace with our fellow brothers and sisters. We are not fractious or agitators. It is to do with peace in the body of believers not inward peace in our hearts.

To conclude here is a great prayer about decision making It includes the following:

Free us from the paralysis of analysis—wanting make the right decision, more than we want to be righteous people; wanting to be known as wise people, more than we want to know you. Free us from the idolatry of assuming there’s only one “perfect” choice in any given situation. Free us from making decisions primary for our comfort and other’s approval, or fear their disapproval. Free us to know that good choices don’t always lead to the easiest outcomes, especially at first. Free us from second and twenty-second guessing our decisions.

 

 

Sweet-Reasonableness

Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. This is Paul’s call to the Philippian Christians in Philippians 4:5.

Paul is providing this injunction in the context of the disputings in the church at Philippi. It seems from the early verses of Philippians 4 that good gospel workers were prejudicing the progress of their good work by their fraught relations with one another. Relationships prosper when there is a proper give-and-take over issues which are not essentials to the maintaining, proclaiming and furtherance of the gospel of Christ. When there is a reasonableness between Christians then love is manifest and sweet fellowship developing.

Hence we have Paul’s call for this sweet-reasonableness. This word (epieikes in the Greek) can also have the meaning of gentleness. In the reality of life it means that I am willing to give way on issues; I am not always seeking to defend and protect myself. I will willingly make myself vulnerable so that others can have their way.

Underlying this attitude is the discernment of what really matters in life. To give up essential truths about the Christians gospel, such as the eternal Sonship and deity of Christ is not being sweetly reasonable.

For us to be truly sweetly-reasonable in the maelstrom of the issues of life is contingent upon us being relentlessly aware of the final statement in Philippians 4:5; that is “The Lord is at hand.” Why should I be continually fussing about what might happen if I don’t do this or that, or if i don’t have this or that. What if someone acts in such a way so that I am left in a perilous financial position? In such situation we have no need to fret because The Lord is at hand. He is right there looking after you, so don’t get hung-up about winning every petty little battle. The Lord is there and He will look after you and He is THE LORD. He has all things under his control.

And finally, as I have written about here don’t forget that very few things are the end of the world. So keep being sweetly reasonable.

Adam And Eve And The Goodness of God

Adam was told by the Lord that “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 3:16b-17). When he was given this instruction the primary question Adam had to resolve is: Is God good?”

If God is good then the withholding of something was bound to be for Adam’s good. The withholding of the fruit though, was not the only issue. The fruit by it’s name, being called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had a certain significance. The clear implication of not taking the fruit, is that certain knowledge was being withheld from Adam and his, soon to be, wife.

If Adam concluded that God was not good then this restriction was mean and the accompanying threat was just scaremongering. However, if God is good then the restriction is a grace from the Lord for Adam’s benefit. And the warning is a kindness which reinforces the need to keep the commandment which was for Adams’s blessing.

So how could Adam know that God was good? Simply he just had to look around himself and see the beautiful, fulsome and convivial environment he was in. All of it provided by and gifted to him by God.

But after the command God even went further to prove His goodness. He gave Adam a wife, Eve. She would have been the most beautiful woman in history and they would have had the best sex in history and they were encouraged to do such (see Gen. 2:24 and 1:28).

We conclude then that God’s goodness as etched all over Genesis 1 and 2. Alas, mankind did not live long in this blessed appreciation.

Satan sought to bring Adam and Eve down by inferring that God was not good, but rather a killjoy. His lie was  God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Eve, with the by-standing Adam complicit, fell for it and the rest is history; very sad and bad history. And we feel like shouting at Adam in particular, why did you allow that to happen; you must be crazy to allow any suspicion that God is not good.

This question about the verity of the goodness of God is continually with us as we seek to understand the Bible and life. When we don’t know and don’t understand how do we handle the issues of life? If we have doubts about the goodness of God then we are inevitably in an uncertain predicament about how to move forward in our lack of understanding.

However, if God is good then faith bridges the gap in everything. This is so because, I reason that He is withholding full knowledge from me for my good. At the heart of that conclusion is the reckoning that it is better to trust God than to know everything. As the Word from Habakkuk 2:4b says the righteous shall live by his faith.

So how can we know that God is good? Through the evidence of God’s creation and sustaining of this universe most definitely we can conclude God is good. And as we enjoy food on our tables can we ever doubt that God is good when we have a God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17b). Food comes to us not only as suitable to benefit our bodies, but also for our enjoyment. God is good.

Moreover, when we look back we can follow the example of Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12 and raise our Ebenezer stone. In that verse we read: Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”

The apogee of our being convinced of the goodness of God is the cross of our Lord Jesus. Of that event we read God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Calvary says “God is good” in the most profound way. In Christ, God deals with our most pressing need; our sins. Truly God is good.

The evidence then is overwhelming: there is a God and He is good. The saving value of the benefits of the cross trumpets this above all the other melodies of His goodness.

Calvary says: God is good, So faith says: I believe, even when I don’t understand. When suffering comes, when people mess us around, when we feel disobedience would be more convenient. In all the trying circumstances of life we recall that God is good and we trust and obey.

 

Supporting Decision Makers

God has determined that His purposes are outworked through authority structures. He is the authority above all authorities. All works well when He is acknowledged to be such and submitted to as the One who always makes the right call on any matter because, after all, He is God. Questioning His decisions is always a futile and worthless endeavour.

But what of lesser authorities who are not blessed with infallibility? How should we respond to them? Decision making is a part of leadership and exercising authority. Parents, especially fathers, husbands, employers, governments and church elders are all examples of those God has ordained to take leadership roles.

If we are godly then our inbuilt disposition is to support those who are in positions of God-ordained authority. Whenever this is not so it is an indication of rebellion.

Those in authority positions are called upon to demonstrate their calling through making decisions. All of us have responsibility to support them in this, particularly when their decisions making is undertaken in a realm that affects us.

There will inevitably be times when these decision-makers make decisions which are neither godly, good or helpful. We may consider such to be the case and be right and justified in our conclusion. The problem comes when we make a big show of demonstrating that the decision-maker is wrong.

We should remember that decision-makers are to be supported in their decision-making. This does not mean that we applaud bad decisions, but it does mean that we are careful not to make a song-and-dance about the failures of those in authority in making decisions.

A deflated decision-maker is likely to shun making further decisions and that is bad for all. We need to encourage those in authority to make decisions. The adage that “a bad decision is better than no decision” has some credibility. We should encourage parents, employers and church leaders in making decisions.

Furthermore, we have to remember that in making their decisions they generally have access to far more information than we have. We may see flaws in a decision, which would soon be swept away if we knew the full facts.

So I say to wives, children, employees, church members be careful how you react to the decisions of those over you in the Lord. Your causing a hullabaloo about a decision may ultimately cause a lot of harm because you undermine the confidence of those in authority.

Finally though, if decision-makers are making decisions to exploit others and aggrandise themselves. then they need to be called out for their nefarious activity and called to account.

100% Right

When can I say I am 100% right about a decision I have made? I can say this when I am operating according to the declared Word of the Lord. So when I decide not to lie then I can know that I am 100% right in this decision.

However, when I make a decision to eat muesli rather than cornflakes for breakfast, can I say I was 100% right to take that decision. I don’t think so. But I can say that I was 100% right not to eat twenty bowls full of muesli because that would be greed and the Word of God says not to.

But what of the decisions of life which are of significant magnitude, but of which we do not have specific guidance on? These would be who to marry, which job to take, where to live, which church to attend. And the list can be extended.

In these instances there are biblical principles that bear upon the decisions. So in finding a wife I can say that i am 100% right in marrying another Christian. So to this extent I was 100% right to marry May Lin.

But can I say I was 100% right to marry May Lin? I would say no! Given the guidance of scripture and the spiritual exercises of prayer, wisdom, seeking counsel we were brought into marriage. But I can never say that it was a decision that was 100% right. Fundamentally, I say this because “Philip Venables should marry May Lin Long” was not in my Bible. Neither did I hear a message from God directly saying that I should.

Notwithstanding the above I am very glad that twenty three years ago last Saturday, August 17th, May Lin Long agreed to marry me! I count it a kindness of my Father to have been granted such a good wife.

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