Mar 28, 2017

A Summer of Decisions

The outside world is awakening.  Warm breezes blow through my hair, rustle my face.  The green grass presses against my bare feet, and tender flowers open their sleepy eyes.  Buds begin to appear on the trees as little spots of pink and green.  We fold away jackets, one thought in mind.

Summer is almost here.



Warmth, sunshine, free time.  The list goes on and on.  Running, skipping, catching fireflies in the twilight sun.  For many of us, summer brings a time of rest, a time to wind down and enjoy life.

But for me, summer brings a lot of decisions.  A lot of questions.  Like I expressed in my last post, I want my life to make a difference.  I want to live a fulfilling, God-honoring, history-changing life.  I want to be part of a revolution - or a revival - bigger than myself.  I want us, as a body of believers, to change the world.

Those thoughts have especially been on my mind during these short months before summer break arrives in full array.  When May begins, we will have nearly four months away from textbooks, away from the busyness of school.  Four months.  That represents 1/3 of our year.

This brings up a deeper question for me.  If I have all this spare time how will I make use of it?  I think back over past summers.  Images of swimming, gardening, picking berries, taking fun summer classes, and roaming through the creek come to mind.  Such fun times they were.  Such wonderful memories.  But what about this summer?

I already have a long list of possibilities.  So many opportunities arise, begging for my attention.  But they come with a choice.  Either I could spend my time doing this... or that.  I could take a class... or I could focus more directly on my writing.  I could go to a summer camp... or I could stay home, focus on my relationship with God, and spend time with my family.  The possibilities are endless!  The problem is... I can't do everything.

Ultimately, I have been wanting to seek God's will in these decisions.  I have waited... listened... hoping He would speak clearly to me.  I wish He would make it clear and easy to understand.  I wish He would just say, "Hosanna, spend your summer doing ____."  This decision making is so confusing!  God wants us to spend our time honoring Him, right?  Doesn't He want us to make the best decisions?  Then why is He so quiet sometimes?

I'm sure you can relate.  We all face decisions in life, some big some small.  Life is full of them!  But what are we supposed to do when we face one of those bigger decisions, and God doesn't seem to be speaking "loud enough"?

Recently, I have been stuck in Proverbs 16.  I'm trying to read through the Old Testament, but it's hard when one chapter speaks to you over and over again.  I have had to spend day after day re-reading it.  Several verses stood out to me that related to this area of decision making.  I encourage you to read the chapter in its entirety, but here are some highlights that I took note of.

(these verses are from the Amplified Bible...I don't typically read this version, but I was trying to make sense of the verses from a different perspective.  Feel free to read in whichever version you prefer)  =)
The plans and reflections of the heart belong to man, but the [wise] answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are clean and innocent in his own eyes [and he may see nothing wrong with his actions], but the Lord weighs and examines the motives and intents [of the heart and knows the truth].  Commit your works to the Lord [submit and trust them to Him], and your plans will succeed [if you respond to His will and guidance]. -Proverbs 16:1-3
A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], but the Lord directs his steps and establishes them. -Proverbs 16:9
There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but its end is the way of death. -Proverbs 16:25
The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. -Proverbs 16:33
I have been chewing on these verses for a few days.  Please read over them for yourself and ask God what He wants you to see.  The thoughts below are my interpretation... but I would love to hear if you sensed a different meaning to those passages.  (and the complete chapter)

First, I want to share a thought I had.  Picture a young mother raising her children.  Her love for them is obvious, and she wants them to grow up into responsible, wise adults.  While they are yet toddlers, she has to teach them exactly what to do.  Hold the spoon like this.  Clean up your messes. Don't have an attitude when I say "no".  Stay by my side when we're outside.  Don't run into the street.  She makes their decisions for them.

As the children grow older, the mother grants them more freedom.  She still has to correct them. Finish your math, please.  No, you can't go over there alone.  However, the mother doesn't have to monitor them as closely.  She lets them begin to make their own decisions.  Why?  The parent understands that her children have more wisdom.  They still fall short quite often, but they now can face decisions and carefully weigh their actions.  The mother doesn't need to force them to obey her or to do wise things.  She desires for them to obey because they love her and to live wisely because they know that's the right thing to do.

Recently, I have been wondering if perhaps God treats us in a similar way.  Does He  remain silent at times to see if we can make decisions in a wise, honoring manner?  Does He want to see our inmost heart, to make sure that we are carefully weighing our steps according to His will?  If God seems to be distant or speaking too quietly, is there a possibility that this is a testing to determine how tuned our hearts are to His?

Proverbs says that "a man's mind plans his way" and "the plans and reflections of the heart belong to man."  But it also concludes that, "the Lord directs his steps and establishes them" and "the answer of the tongue is from the Lord."

What I'm wondering is what is our position in this decision making process?  Are we always to sit back and wait quietly for the Lord to speak?  Does God sometimes want us to step up, evaluate our motives, make wise decisions based off the Bible and our knowledge of Him, and finally commit out decisions to the Lord?

I used to think that decision making was 100% up to God.  I would pray about them, of course, but I would wait for God to give me a clear, very obvious answer.  Yet is it also true that sometimes God remains quiet so that we are forced to really examine our lives and decisions?

This idea is new to me, and I'm not completely sure if I'm wrong or right.  I think there's a delicate balance.  We want to wait on God, but we cannot become lazy assuming that our job is to merely sit back and listen.  Sometimes we need to take the first step, examine our motives and intents, but not rush ahead of God's leading.

So what about you?  What decisions are you facing?  Have you sat down and examined them in light of God's Word?  What are your reasons for wanting to do a particular thing?  Is it pride, selfishness, or truly a desire to make God known?

This summer we have an opportunity to make a difference.  As we focus on abiding in Christ, what will out choices be?  Let's focus on examining our opportunities in light of God's Word, making sure our own intents are pure, and submitting them to Him for His final approval.

Are you experiencing a time of decision making?  What do you think our role is in this process?  And why do you think God remains silent at times?  Comment below!

12 comments:

  1. Wow, Hosanna! This is an absolutely beautiful post! It's very encouraging for me right now, since I am also having to make some decisions about certain things, and wondering what God's will was in certain areas. Those verses and your thoughts are very helpful.
    Thank you so much for sharing this! <3

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    1. I'm glad it encouraged you, Emily! I have been in that area too, facing confusing decisions. I know that I don't understand things perfectly, and in making decisions we are dependent on God's wisdom. But I hoped it made you think...are we also supposed to take the initiative to seek out answers sometimes through what we have already learned about Christ and His heart? What do you think our part is in the decision making process, Emily?

      Thanks for commenting. I hope Proverbs 16 touches you like it did me. ♥

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  2. GIRLLLLL. You're on the brink of an exciting adventure!!!! I know, because I have been EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE.
    Two summers ago, I wanted to do big things for God. I had lots of plans that I wanted to carry out. And some of them were HUGE dreams...one of which was a Christian movie that I wanted to film with some kids in our home school group, and we would use a green screen and have scripts...but I sensed God leading me away from this dream. I felt like my spirit was especially receptive to God during this time, and I sensed He wanted me to pray for a Chinese orphan I had read about. This led to me sensing that God wanted me to send Bibles to the orphanage this kiddo lived in. This in turn led to the summer of what I call 'Project Bible.' I saved up money by doing odd chores around the house, and our family had two bake sales (one of which raised $190, but that's a bit of a long story to tell in this already long comment xD). It was one of the best summers of my life, and it was all because I was sensitive to God's leading. And He didn't show me and tell me, "Ariel, you are going to save up money by doing this and this and you are going to donate it here, and then this will happen, and you need to do so and so..." No, He showed me what to do, and we just took it one step at a time.
    So there is my insight...remain receptive to God's Spirit, and take it one step at a time. =)
    I feel like you're on the brink of something great, if you keep following God's leading. I can't wait to see what He does!!!
    Love ya, girl!! <333
    -Ariel

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    1. Wow, I waited far too long to respond. I'm sorry about that. =/

      Ariel, thank you for sharing that encouraging story! That is super cool how God slowly turned your summer into something amazing that you'll never forget! One step at a time. You might never know how much of a difference you made that summer through following God's leading. You just followed His steps and kept your ears open to His voice. I LOVE that!! ♥♥

      This story is awesome, Ariel! I want to do something great for God this summer...but I'm not sure what exactly it might be. Thank you for encouraging me to follow the Spirit by remaining receptive. It's hard sometimes, but so worthwhile - as you know!!

      This might be an unusual question, but how did you spend your last summer? After such an exciting adventure giving your summer to God, what happened the next time school break came around? And what are your hopes and dreams for THIS summer? =)

      Love ya too!!

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  3. I have to say, I read your opening paragraph while sitting here freezing in the autumn/winter weather that has turned up here, and it sounds so lovely. I hope you're enjoying the spring! :D

    Hosanna, I relate to this post and your dilemma so, so, much. There are so many decisions to be made, and I never realized that's what growing up meant. And to think that each decision we have could have eternal impact - one way or the other!

    I really like your analogy about parenting, and the conclusion you came to. You're right; God created us with reasoning powers, and He expects us to use them. Sometimes it's hard to know what to do though, out of many options, and none of them necessarily right or wrong. I feel you on this, and I don't have any answers! I've had to make a few decisions recently, and I still don't know if I've done the right thing.

    Maybe this all comes back to faith - I'm just thinking of Jordy's post about a step of faith. If we analyse the options in light of the Bible, pray about it, make the best decision we can, and then have faith that God will bless, and if it's not His will He'll reveal that to us..

    Anyway, as you can tell, I really appreciated this post, and I hope you gain direction with how to spend your summer this year. xx

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    1. I thought about you while writing this post, Jessica. The spring is so lovely...my favorite time of the year. =) Enjoy the cold breezes for me for I'm sure I'll be missing them once summer arrives. ;) But I’m certain that winter in Australia is lovely as well.

      I agree! "Growing up" seems to almost be a disguise name for "making lots of decisions." When I was younger, decision making felt so easy. Now things can get confusing and hard to discern between. What ideas are from me and what ones are from the Holy Spirit?!

      It's been a while since I wrote this post...and recently my family watched a sermon/movie about decision making and how easy it is (Lol - I still might not agree that it's easy, but it had a great message). The speaker, Todd Friel, explained how the decisions we make aren't that important. What is truly the most important thing in your life is that you are thriving in a relationship with God. If we love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength, that is what counts. Decision making can only matter after we have developed that relationship. And I think once we are truly abiding in Christ, making decisions will be a lot easier. We should still seek His will in every step we take, but what truly matters is that we are serving Him. (at least that was my interpretation of the sermon...he covered other aspects as well)

      I agree - sometimes it just comes back to faith. We need to seek God’s and act upon our convictions. God can use that step of faith even if we accidently did not make the best choice.

      Thank you, dear Jessica. ♥ You are such an encouragement to me, and I love reading your insightful comments. May we all simply follow Christ's leading as we seek to become more like Him and make a difference in the world. ♥

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  4. Decision making has been one of those recurring themes for me in recent years. As I've gone through a new wave of considering biblical decision making, I've considered the example of king David. It seems like he felt very convicted that he should do something about the fact that he was living in a beautiful "house of Cedar" while the ark of God remained in a tent. Anyways, now that I read your reflections based on Proverbs 16, they seem to fit so perfectly together!

    First of all, king David made plans to build a temple for the Name of the Lord. And when he approached Nathan the prophet about the matter, Nathan gave him the green light to go ahead with whatever he had in mind because God was with him. This - along with the first part of Proverbs 16:1 - seems to speak of a freedom that we have to make our own plans, particularly when our motives are pure. This leads on to the second thing that stood out to me...

    Pure motives were the foundation of David's plans. His plans didn't come from nowhere, but from a desire to see God's Name honoured. God himself said David did well to have it on his heart to build the temple (2 Chronicles 6:8). This - along with Proverbs 16:3 - seem to me to say that God affirms/honours those who make plans based on pure motives and godly desires. (See 1 Chronicles 17:3-14 for all the promises God himself gave to David)

    BUT (third thing that stood out to me), God redirected David anyway (2 Chronicles 6:9). Based on this - and Proverbs 16:9 - I believe that if our plans are backed by pure motives and godly desires, then He will either be pleased to fulfill them, or redirect us if - out of a pure heart - we've made plans that still don't match His own, for whatever reason.

    This has been on my mind a lot recently (I've even blogged a bit about it), hence the really long developed comment. I don't mean to sound like I have it all figured out. I hope you know I don't. But I got really excited when you shared those verses from Proverbs and they seemed to affirm what I had been learning from a different portion of the Bible! Do you see how they fit together?

    "Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
    and he will establish your plans."

    Thanks so much for this post and for rekindling my awe at God's design in this matter. <3

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    1. Wow Jordy...those verses really do fit right together, don't they? And I read your blog posts and never put the two together! Thank you for that insightful comment. I love how we can be studying different things in the Bible and still encourage one another. ♥

      True, David had amazing inspiration to do something for God - something that seems like a great mission to complete. Bringing it before Nathan was another wise decision. David seemed to be doing all the right things, but God still redirected Him. How encouraging that is to us when we feel like we are redirected from something that we deemed as important. God certainly does confirm the decisions we make with godly motives if that is His will. But if He guides us differently, we should humbly accept that like David did. (David's acceptance prayer is so beautiful, by the way!)

      It brings me back to the truth that our job is to simply seek His will. We will never understand everything, but we should do our utmost to make wise decisions. Praise God that He forgives us for our mistakes and still loves us when we fall short! It's amazing when you realize that God will lead us on His path when we submit to His will!

      Jordy, that was such a blessing to read. I appreciate you connecting the dots and sharing what you learned. ♥

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  5. I love the way you put it: "our job is to simply seek His will." Simple, and often overlooked (at least by me), but incredibly powerful when God gives me grace to stop and appreciate the truth of it.

    Another point that stands out to me is that it's more about God's ability to communicate than ours to hear. I think about what David was going through as he weighed up his decision. "Should I invest all this time in building a temple for God's Name? Should I invest all these resources? Is it the right thing to do?" I wonder if he had doubts and sleepless nights and times when he just felt so far from God's insight. But when the time was right, God established David's steps. He communicated His Will to David and He communicated it clearly. I think that if we seek His will, as you said, He will guide us because He is more concerned about accomplishing His purposes than we are, after all. And He's not at loss for a way to get the message across.

    Anyway, something that you said caught my attention and made me wonder: was David making a mistake and was he falling short when he initially determined to build a temple for God's Name? What do you think?

    And yes! His acceptance prayer is so beautiful, isn't it?! You made that comment as a side-note, but what a beautiful side-note it is! His words are so rich, and have such a capacity to make me bubble over with thanksgiving as I read them. And how many years ago were they written? 3000 or so? The Word of God is alive and active!

    Thanks for conversing with me about this. It's a joy!

    Oh, and how is *your* decision-making going?

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  6. Wow... I am terribly late in responding! I apologize for keeping you so long here. =(

    Isn't it funny how we spend so much time worrying about when/how God will speak to us and give us wisdom? As you said, "He will guide us because He is more concerned about accomplishing His purposes than we are, after all." Part of the decision-making process is just leaving our future in His hands and waiting on His time frame.

    I doubt that David made a mistake in desiring to make a temple for the Lord. I don't remember God criticizing David's decision as much as gently leading him in a different way. (I haven't read that passage in a while, so correct me if I'm wrong!) Everything in that story was just another part of God's perfect plan, as I see it. =)

    My decision making? Well, I think I got wisdom in some areas... but now other decisions have arrived that I am praying about. Perhaps it's a continual part of yielding and abiding in Christ - making Godly decisions =)

    Thank you for bringing up such good topics! Although it took me a while to respond, I appreciate your wisdom and ability to make me think deeper. ♥

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  7. So then I guess it's possible to make plans and have desire's contrary to God's and still not necessarily be making a mistake or sinning - so long as we hold those plans with open hands and are willing to let God change them or change our hearts. It seems like a strange conclusion to draw, but based on that story about David and our conversation, it seems logical. I guess it comes back to God being about relationship before rules.

    Yes, it can seem like there are times when the decisions don't stop! I'm not actively facing new important decisions these days as I have a work contract that I'm bound by and which is keeping me more-than-busy for more than half a year, yet. But I remember a few months ago when I felt like there would never be an end to the questions!

    I hope this finds you trusting Him.

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    1. I think your conclusion on decision making is true... sometimes we need to just make the decision remembering that God can change it and being open to that. =)

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