WISE LIVING FROM PROVERBS
Decision Making: Make Plans/Hold them Lightly
OPENER: Decisions, big and small, we all have to make them. Some decisions will clearly find their answers in scripture, but what about the decisions that are not clearly in scripture—For example: should you buy this car or that one, or maybe punt until next year? Should you take a job in a different state that pays more or stay where you’re at? Should we buy a new home or remodel our current one? These types of decisions are not so clearly answered.
So, how do you personally make decisions?
(Note: I’m not looking for the right or wrong answer at this point; I’m looking for the gut-level decision-making process you use. Be honest! 😉 )
Question: How can we keep decision making and discerning the will of God from becoming… “Oh, God, tell me something good about my future and what decisions I can make to ensure that good future”?
Note: There are specific guidelines and principles in scripture for deciding and proceeding with decisions like these—principles of wisdom and faith and love. These include prayer, community, wisdom in the use resources, and many other things.
Key Point to Remember concerning decision making: “God speaks through his Word, his Spirit and his People…to give us direction for our lives…what to think, believe, do and become. Wisdom is pursuing his goal for our lives, as outlined in his Word. In short, His will is that we become like Christ. We are to become mature and active people…living decisively, not fearfully or passively. We don’t need to know the future; God already has that fully in hand. We need to prepare and plan for the future by acting with wisdom, faith, and courage today.”
OBJECTIVE: Our objective today is to understand that our primary goal in decision-making is to maximize God’s glory in our life…all other goals are subordinate to that one.
Scripture PASSAGE used in Sermon:
Proverbs 16:1 To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue.
Proverbs 16:2 All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.
Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.
Proverbs 16:4 Proverbs 4 says, “The Lord works out everything for his own ends— even the wicked for a day of disaster.”
Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
James 4:13-15 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
Matt. 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Discussion 1 Make plans / Hold them loosely.
Q1: Read Proverb 16:1 and James 4. What do these verses tell us about our role in making plans? What do these passages tell us about God?
Q2: How do these verses sets the stage for life balance in decision making?
(Note: remember that these verses speak to the need for a healthy balance between proactively making plans and fully surrendering those plans to God. Keeping the tension: God is sovereign (his purposes will stand), I am responsible (I must make wise, courageous choices) to seek this balance, positions us to make better life decisions.
Q3: Do you struggle with proactively planning and prepare for the future and, at the same time, fully trusting God with outcomes? Why or why not?
Discussion 2: Check your Motives
Q1: Proverbs 16:2 says, “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” What does this verse communicate about man, and what does it tell us about God? Can you give an example of how this proverb has played out in your own life?
Q2: Why do you think we can so easily convince ourselves that our motives are pure/good?
Discussion 3: Commit to the Lord
Q1: Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” How is this verse not like a genie in a bottle?
(Note: the qualifier is “Commit whatever you do to the Lord,” which is much more than a prayer for God to bless our plans. Verse 2 is a heart check on verse 3. We are easily fooled into thinking we really want what God wants. The test is when our plans do not work out like we had hoped or planned. “God, I don’t understand…I committed my plans to you, and now they have not worked according to my plan…why?”)
Note: Verses 1-3 together are summarized like this…
“Make plans that align with the will of God, if they fail to come to fruition, clearly they didn’t align with his will so…trust God with outcomes now…then be faithful to continue to make plans that align with his will.”
Discussion 4: The Sovereignty of God
Q1: Proverbs 4 says, “The Lord works out everything for his own ends— even the wicked for a day of disaster.” Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”
How do we hold these two tensions (God’s Plans and our plans) in place?
(Note: Terry said his own conviction is “God is completely sovereign, and humans are completely responsible to choose. I don’t understand how that works, but I am convinced that it does. It is not a contradiction…it is a mystery.”)
Discussion 5: Worry—a pitfall to wise decision making
Terry said we can plan with confidence as we grow into a more mature knowledge of God’s will and ways (its why we read, apply the Bible) and move into life with faith, knowing that our plans may fail, His [God’s] will not. But…in place of faith as the engine for living out our plans…We sometimes install “worry.”
Q1: Why do we worry? Why is it a problem?
(Because we know intuitively that we can’t control the future…so we use worry as sort of substitute for control.)
Q2: What did Jesus say about worry?
So, what do we do with all of this when it comes to making decisions? We maximize the glory of God in our lives!
We do this by:
- Make sure our plans revolve around God as the priority for our lives…seek first His Kingdom and righteousness.
Know that we make plans—the Lord determines outcomes.
These twin truths are complementary, not oppositional in our lives.
- Our priority in decision making must be to pay attention to the big “Why” of our lives? Why do you exist?
What is your purpose?
- Our life decisions/planning flow from our life purpose…get the “Why” down, and the “what” is more likely to become clear.