Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The A, B, C's Of Decision Making

Have you ever sung the hymn "What A Friend We Have In Jesus"? Have you ever listened to the words you have sung? Have you ever been convicted by them?

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

It's crazy, you know, just how accurate these words are. We do throw away the peace Jesus has so freely given to us because we mishandle our challenges in life. How do you handle tough decisions? You probably turn the options over in your head again and again and again. If they are big enough decisions you probably lose sleep over it while turning the options over again and again and again. Perhaps you have people that you trust who you talk it over with. If you have several friends they probably give you different advice so you end up measuring what they say over again and again and again. Whether it is a decision, trouble or hardships, if we don't know how to handle it properly we can end up doing a lot of damage to ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

It is an easy thing to say "take it to the Lord in prayer" but if we have not cultivated the habit of prayer we can find the task daunting. How do you pray? For how long? In what position? What do you say? How do you word it? Many of us usually simply say a quick prayer and then rush off to find our own solutions. But prayer is equally more complicated and simpler than that.

Prayer isn't as much about the petition we have to bring as it is about the relationship. This is the point most of us miss. We rush into the presence of Yahweh and right back out again but what Father wants is our time and attention. He wants us to hang out with him, just to enjoy his presence, to love and worship him. We spend 5 minutes, if we are generous maybe 15 minutes, in prayer. After all, there is only so much one can say in a one sided conversation. But it isn't one sided and it isn't all about talking.

Sometimes the greatest solution to your problems is to worship or to sit in Father's presence in silence or to meditate on Scripture. I didn't say read but meditate. Take one of Jesus' promises and turn it over in your thoughts again and again and again. Certainly tell Father your problems, your need for a solution, but don't make it your only purpose. Don't focus on your problem but instead give your full attention to him. This can sometime take time, perhaps days. Jesus set us the example.

Jesus had the daunting task of choosing the members of his inner circle from a group of 120 disciples. These 12 he would call his apostles. This was not a simple task or one to be taken lightly. These would be the ones he would trust with the greater truths, the ones into whom he would seed the Church. So what did Jesus do to make his decision? He prayed all night:

Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles. (Luke 6:12-13)

Are you greater than Jesus? I know I am not, yet there have been so many times in my 20 years of pastoral ministry that I have trusted the advice of advisers instead of resting in prayer. I have made a number of wrong decisions as a result of my lack of prayer. Over the years I have learned that sometimes it can take a month of fervent praying, of focusing on the relationship, before the solution is made clear. Much of the time is spent wrestling with my thoughts and opinions to submit them to Father's will. If you have already cultivated this prayer life it is an easier task because you have gained discipline but it may not be any less time consuming.

We should be ashamed of ourselves. We testify to the goodness of Jesus. We worship him with all of our heart. We gladly surrender all we have to him. We really do trust him,. but we allow ourselves to follow the patterns of this world instead of having our minds renewed in him. We have allowed ourselves to become too busy with diversions to spend an hour, 2 or 3 in prayer every day. We just don't get how utterly dependent we are on Jesus because if we understood we wouldn't be struggling with this stuff on our own.

Pray. Focus on Jesus. Hang out with Father. Let him be your comfort, your counselor, your guide. Take time with him and you will be amazed how clear the solutions become:

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.


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