A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church for Sunday, November 7, 2021:
This message will give emphasis to the importance of appropriate decision-making and avoiding procrastination in facing key issues for your life. This was inspired by recognizing today’s way of life and the necessity to overcome anxiety, depression and hopelessness. Even if none of these things affects you (and you need to be sure about this), it is prudent for anyone who wants to be ready to live in times like this to be deliberate and purposeful in their efforts to represent Jesus Christ.
So, what about today’s way of life? Perhaps you remember all of the social media posts and memes on New Year’s Eve 2019 and New Year’s Day 2020 about 2020 being “the year of clear vision”? Well, knowing what we know now, we indeed have a very clear vision of the dramatic change of life and how it has impacted us. My wife and I were returning from vacation on March 11, 2020, and it was less than a week later that we found ourselves working from home. The fear of the previously little known COVID-19 virus shut down everything. It was inconceivable that we would experience such a dramatic and unprecedented change, but it impacted virtually every aspect of our public life, and it has impacted millions all over the world.
What was supposed to be a temporary change has remained in place now for more than a year, but at a tremendous personal cost for many of us. The greatest impact has been on our emotional health and, especially, our spiritual health. We all were faced with very important decisions to help us deal with these matters, and there are additional significant decisions looming.
If you’re looking for a return to normal, I humbly suggest that you focus on how God wants you to remain relevant and purposeful in today’s fast-paced world and into the future.
Life happens fast. Now let’s keep up the pace.
Keep up the pace of life in the strength of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Make your significant life decisions with prayerful consideration.
What are significant life decisions? Let’s define the word “significant” for clarity:
Significant refers to having or likely to have a major effect; important.1
Our significant life decisions are hardly trivial ones. They mean a great deal to us and can have a tremendous impact that can change the course of our life, and can even impact the lives of others around us.
Significant life decisions may not be what you think. The obvious decisions involve major purchases such as a house or a car, but please consider that decision-making over matters such as a career change, marriage and areas of service for Jesus Christ don’t involve spending a dime—yet they remain significant.
For those of you in your second career as a senior citizen, you may have a number of significant decisions in front of you, including where you want to retire, whether or not to downsize, move closer to family and on and on. I’ve learned that as I get older, my days seem to get even busier! A lot of planning and preparation often takes place as we get older, but we are reminded that without God’s grace and mercy, we would not even be where we are right now. As long as we have breath, we are to move along with His guidance as we praise Him with our lips. He is worthy of our praise!
I’m prayerful that you take this moment to sit back, relax and expand your thinking as you ponder God’s direction for you in many different areas of your life.
Significant decision-making requires substantial prayer.
It is how you are to keep up with life’s hectic pace.
Even when life is moving fast, you can put on the brakes wherever you are, slow down, find a quiet place, take a deep breath and pray for godly wisdom in all of your decision making.
If you are not doing this, I strongly recommend that you make this time for yourself. There’s a big difference between praying on the fly2 and praying in a place of quiet and solitude.
A quick note here: Praying daily in a quiet place without distractions can only help you build in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Your meditation of His Word and the Holy Spirit will see to it. The more that you challenge Jesus in this area, the more growth you will see. He will never deny or disregard your efforts to seek after Him.
The Bible has answers that address our significant decision-making, our anxious moments and our moments when we face uncertainty in the present and the future. Let’s take a brief survey of what God says about all of this:
Philippians 4:6-7 CSB
6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Proverbs 3:5-6 CSB
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways know him,
and he will make your paths straight.
These are the verses we have heard time and again, and they give us a glimpse of how God can guide us in our important decisions, but now we need to go further as we look at what we can do to get through these difficult times and elevate our efforts to triumph in our faith in Jesus Christ.
Our previous message of makinga PACT with Jesus Christ (Pray, Ask, Consult and Trust) started with the act of prayer. Notice how the other items mentioned here require prayer as you seek godly wisdom in what you wish to do.
To keep up the pace in life, your prayer time is valuable time.
Without getting into another subject about prayer that would require another sermon altogether, you will see how your ongoing development of your prayer life beyond what I refer to as the elementary (simplistic) level will be very important in your personal growth and development as you learn more about Jesus Christ.
Ask God to open your heart and mind to grow in your ways of prayerful expression, and allow the Spirit to put a new perspective into you:
Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
This verse makes clear what other versions refer to when speaking about the Lord changing your heart from one of stone into a heart of flesh. (Believers can get caught up with the word “flesh” and its negative connotation.) What God is referring to here is a heart of tenderness, sensitivity and responsiveness to His wisdom and instruction.
So, we have determined that prayer must be a dominant force in significant decision-making. We are to pray early and often (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As we remain prayerful, we are reflect on God’s goodness throughout our deliberation efforts. It provides confidence that you and Jesus, within the relationship, are partners in faith to make the best decisions for you, your family and others.
Psalm 69:16 ESV
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Psalm 145:5 NLT
I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor
and your wonderful miracles.
Psalm 145:9 NKJV
The Lord is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.
You keep up the pace in the world by keeping up with Jesus and reflecting in His presence.
Before making that significant decision final, you should be doing the following:
1. Pray for godly wisdom.
James 1:5 ESV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
James 3:17 ESV
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
Our greatest struggle in decision-making is putting aside your own will—your own desires, and yielding to the wisdom from above that is impartial and sincere. We receive nothing but truth from God, who already has the foreknowledge of the impact of our decision-making. We can reason with Him, but at the end of the day, He guides you into truth and helps us to be successful in our decisions of significance.
2. Pray for godly discernment.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 ESV
But test everything; hold fast what is good.
1 John 4:1 ESV
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Colossians 2:8 ESV
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Romans 12:2 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
On the ocean near the shoreline, the only way to see your way through the fog is to not only use your lights, but also be guided by the light at the top of the lighthouse. It is that primary source of light that provides perspective and guidance for the ship operator. This is how we are to receive discernment in our decision-making. Don’t just trust your own way of seeing things. Trust in Jesus and anchor yourself in discernment as He shows you what is good—and also that which is not beneficial.
3. Pray with specificity.
This is a matter of faith, growth and confidence in how Jesus responds to your prayer with wonderful and amazing specifics. If you are a person who is skeptical as to how God answers prayer, you really should get a journal and start writing down your prayer requests. This will move you to a place where you can see how God answers prayer, and much more than just general prayers. He answers your specific prayers and guides your significant decision-making with the best available wisdom and knowledge.
Jeremiah 33:3 ESV
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Mark 11:24 ESV
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
1 John 5:14 ESV
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
As you can see, the most important thing that you can do is take the time, in a deliberate manner, to pray:
- Pray for wisdom
- Pray for discernment
- Pray with specificity
As believers, we sometimes get too caught up in the general prayer category. If you’ve been around as long as I have, you will find that God wants us to challenge Him with those prayers that get right to the heart of the matter. He welcomes your participation as you communicate with Him while learning more about His goodness.
This is an area of practice that will only help you as you stretch your faith. Stay positive and stay focused on Jesus Christ. Stay in the Word and stay in prayer. He will give you exactly what you need, especially in your significant decision-making.
My prayer for you is that you keep up life’s pace with the best companion you can ever have…Jesus Christ.
Copyright © 2021 Melvin Gaines
1 significant. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved November 1 2021 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/significant
2 on the fly. (n.d.) McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. (2002). Retrieved November 2 2021 from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/on+the+fly