I remember a television game show when I was young where, when a contestant won, they were asked to choose one of three prizes that were behind closed curtains. Generally there would be one of very little monetary value behind one, and then another of greater value, and lastly, one of very great value: like an all expense paid trip, plus a set of expensive luggage, plus…..a pocket full of cash to spend on the trip. Seems that more often than not, the contestant would choose the lesser-valued items - and then, of course, everyone would GASP when the other curtains were opened and the other wonderful prizes were revealed!
The contestants can’t be blamed, of course, for their poor choices because there was NO WAY TO KNOW what was behind each curtain! If the curtains had been wide open from the start of the game show, I suspect most contestants would have chosen more wisely. This morning we’ll look at three important premises about our choices, and hopefully, we’ll gain some insight into charting a better course for ourselves from here on. Here’s the first premise:
Premise 1 - Choices are now – outcomes are later.
Well, Duh, you might say. Seems so obvious! The student who doesn’t study on Sunday night for a scheduled test on Monday morning isn’t surprised when he fails miserably. The ice fisherman who drives his Trail Blazer out onto the lake the morning after the first freeze isn’t surprised when his SUV becomes a submarine. These cause and effect situations aren’t a great surprise to any of us. and generally we survive these without destroying our lives. But a lot of these outcomes aren’t just later; they’re often much later!In the real world of living successfully, it’s these choice-patterns with the distant outcomes that tend to really matter in our lives.
- the long spell between the first cigarette at 15 years old and the emphysema at 45 or lung cancer at 60
- the connection between frequent, casual sex as a teenager and cervical cancer at 30.
- the workaholic dad, always working extra hours at 30, then realizing at 50 that he doesn’t know his grown children.
- the young-married couple who decides to put $100 into the bank every payday, and ends up with a significant saving’s account at retirement.
Patterns have a cumulative effect, whether for good or bad. And although each of these scenarios make sense in retrospect, they often elude us while they’re happening. But it need not be so!
Premise 2 – Choosing (and following) the right path begins with submission to God. …..not information!
We seldom fail for lack of information. John 13:17, reads, "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them!" In Andy Stanley’s book (Principles of the Path) he tells a sad story of a couple, Ed and Linda, who had been married for two decades, but now are on the verge of bankruptcy and divorce.
“As they sat tearfully in my office they told of how they met with a financial advisor ten years prior. Together, they devised a plan to reduce debt and even create savings. They said it seemed like a highly doable strategy to turn things around and they left the financial planner’s office with a lot of optimism. So why were they sitting in my office drowning in red ink, I asked. Upon arriving home with the road map to financial freedom in their hands, Ed put the binder full of information in a drawer and never looked at it again. It wasn’t that Linda disagreed with the plan. On the contrary, they thought both it was highly doable. They just never doable’d it!”
If you were in some of the conversations in my church office over these thirty-plus years I’ve been on staff, or if you were to spend time with pastor Anthony or Pastor Scott, we could each tell you of numerous situations just like this one in Andy’s book. We could give many examples of meeting with folks in the midst of difficult situations or entanglements. Often it seemed to us that the “way out” was fairly straightforward, and we’d give step-by-step plans for moving out of the bad place and into a better place in life only to find out later that the advice went totally unheeded. Our problem is seldom due to lack of sufficient information. What we lack is the willingness to DO what the information clearly points to.
What does SUBMISSION to God look like? Submission is voluntarily placing oneself under the control of another. Biblically speaking, that would be voluntarily placing yourself under the control of God. Wow! Interesting how something what sounds so simple could be so difficult! Interesting: The word, SUBMIT, is a Greek word which was originally a military term meaning “to arrange troop divisions under the command of a leader.” In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, of cooperating, of sharing a burden.” In other words, when the word submit is used in the Bible, it refers not only to a yielding and obedient attitude of the heart, but also, and equally importantly, to an attitude of co-operation and support. Our failure to trust or submit to our Heavenly Father will lead to unintended destinations, complete with unintended consequences. Our human wisdom and the resulting choices we make, simply don’t stack up against the perfection of God’s wisdom and choices for us.
Proverbs 3:5 says is so well: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; RE: “lean not” – the term translated lean literally means to prop something up against something else; to be supported by it. Picture propping our life up “against God.” In simple terms it means trusting God’s Word rather than our logic. Proverbs 3:6 says, "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Not “most of” your ways….ALL of your ways - dating, sex, marriage, parenting, entertainment, jobs, finances, etc. - All means all. Acknowledge now means a token tip of the hat, but then it meant to recognize who He is (speaking) and to respond accordingly. In other words, do what he says.
Premise 3 – Independence is our problem.
And it is the opposite of submission. Independence leads us to trust (or, lean on) our own wisdom. In simplest language…it’s pride, also known as The Reason I Sometimes do Stupid Stuff!” If ever there was a man who could have trusted his own ability is was Solomon (the wisest man who ever lived). We read the following in 1 Kings 3:7-13:
" O LORD my God, now you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am among your own chosen people, a nation so great they are too numerous to count! 9 Give me an understanding mind so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great nation of yours?” 10 The Lord was pleased with Solomon’s reply and was glad that he had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people and have not asked for a long life or riches for yourself or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding mind such as no one else has ever had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and honor! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!"
Solomon starts well, but…
"Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. 2 The LORD had clearly instructed his people not to intermarry with those nations, because the women they married would lead them to worship their gods. Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. 3 He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. And sure enough, they led his heart away from the LORD. 4 In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship their gods instead of trusting only in the LORD his God, as his father, David, had done. 5 Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites." (1 Kings 11:1-5)
God didn’t tell Solomon that He’ll straighten out the paths that Solomon chooses. God said, "I’ll choose your paths!" But Solomon thought he “knew better” than God…and he goes terribly wrong, harming himself and their entire nation. Pride, perhaps more than anything else, has the potential to override God’s wisdom. Here was the wisest man in the world, brought down by arrogance. Declaring dependency on a foreign King rather than God. (We do this!) Solomon went astray, not because he lacked wisdom, but because he was not submitted to God.