Oftentimes, we focus on one decision at a time, but we never consider the path we are walking. As Senior Pastor Jeff Jones said in one of his messages, “Our path determines our destination more than our individual decisions do.” If we are on God’s path, then we can be assured God will guide us in our decision-making. But sometimes, staying on God’s path can be difficult. Here is the story of one Chase Oaker who has found how to find direction on God’s path.
The wind seemed to howl as it blew large snowflakes furiously in the blackness of that January night. A small church in rural Ohio was my destination, but dipping temperatures coupled with the deepening snow made driving treacherous. Everything in me was urging me to call my college friend, Dave, and tell him I couldn’t attend his wedding even though I was officiating. It was my first wedding, and I didn’t want to disappoint my friend. But it was early 1973, long before GPS or iPhones. Maps seemed pointless because the signs along the roads were snow-covered. I made the call.
Eventually, I made the decision to make the trip. How did I do it? Certainly by the grace of God but also by the leading of my friend’s taillights. Dave agreed to meet me a few miles from the church and led me. All I had to do was follow.
Now, after having followed the Lord Jesus for more than fifty years, He’s taught me how to stay close and listen attentively to His leading. I won’t pretend it’s been easy, as it wasn’t easy following my friend driving in the snow storm, but it’s been fulfilling and worth the risk.
I think of Helen Keller’s words: “Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” Have I ever lost my way? Of course, but every time I went in the wrong direction, the Lord put something or someone in my path that helped me find my way again.
In much the same way as my sole aim that snowy night was to keep my friend’s taillights in view, as a Christ-follower, the most important issue I face from day to day is staying close to Jesus, seeking never to lose sight of the mission He’s called me to pursue. And what mission is that?
Essentially, to do His will instead of mine; to follow the dictates of His heart, not mine; to want what He wants for me more than what I want for myself. And I realize, even as I write these words, that following an invisible Person who doesn’t speak to me in an audible voice isn’t an easy course to follow. But it’s possible, and it’s a journey worth pursuing.
Helen Keller, who could neither see nor hear, wrote: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched—they must be felt with the heart.” The pathway to which the Lord Jesus calls us is a journey of the heart, so the logical question becomes: “Who owns my heart: Jesus or something or someone else?”
I haven’t always wanted Jesus to lead me. His destination for me hasn’t always been the destination I wanted. Like every other human being who ever walked the earth, I’ve wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. So, what changed? My heart! How did it change? By the power of God, released through faith.
Yet, even as believers, we think relying completely on God to initiate change in us is too foreign to our nature. We want to make it happen ourselves. We want to be in control.
Ponder these words by the late R.C. Sproul: “We can no more assist the Holy Spirit in the quickening of our souls to spiritual life than Lazarus could help Jesus raise him from the dead.“
Isn’t that the point? We can’t have our way if we’re going to follow Jesus on His way. If our lives are ever going to change for the better, we must make the decision to let the Lord do what only He can do in our hearts. He’s willing, but we must be willing to allow Him to change our direction.
Decisions dictate direction, which reveals our heart and soon displays our motives. In making decisions, we must decide what we want most. Ultimately, it boils down to one of two outcomes—my will and desires or God’s.
For example, I have a physical condition that can sometimes be debilitating. I’ve asked God repeatedly to take it away, to heal me. But He’s helping me to understand that “healing” can come in many ways.
I wanted what I wanted—health, not God, in that moment. I was seeking the gift, not the Giver. And the Lord called me on it. And so, by faith, because I want Jesus to be first in my life, not because I want to be sick, my prayer has become: “Father, I want what you want—sickness or health, riches or poverty, plenty or want, to be known or unknown.“
I’ve concluded that if I really believe, if I’m willing to let my belief in Jesus become the foundation of my choices, then the choices I make will reflect that belief—in my relationships, my personal habits, the way I invest time, spend money, in virtually every dimension of my life.
Some decisions are inconsequential. For example, should I take the trash out at night or in the morning? Make the bed or leave it unmade? Many decisions I make are driven by my personal habits, formed over the years, but there are those decisions that can change our lives forever.
How do we know whether the decisions we’re called to make, often in a split second, are “God’s” choice or ours? Implicit in every choice I make is my desire to do God’s will. Allowing Him to live His life out through me demands vigilance as I navigate the pathway of my daily life. But what does that look like?
The decision to retire from full-time pastoral ministry was one with which I wrestled for many months. Ultimately, the Lord made it clear, primarily through what I recognized as God-crafted circumstances. In other words, things just seemed to “fall into place.” It “felt” right. My heart was at peace with the direction the Lord was leading. And the “rightness” of that decision has been verified in manifold ways.
God’s desire for us is that we be conformed to the likeness of His Son–to become more mature in our faith, evidenced in increasing measure by the fruit of the Spirit being displayed in our lives. Thus, the proverbial proof of the “rightness” of our decisions is: Am I more like Jesus because of my decision? Am I sensing God’s closeness in greater measure? Are my relationships with the people in my sphere of influence being positively affected?
The circumstances of our lives should become platforms upon which we declare God’s glory, through which we allow the Lord to reveal His presence in and through us. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “So all of us (who have turned to the Lord) who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image.”
This has been God’s desire since before creation and has now become my heart’s desire. That’s the outcome upon which I seek to focus as I make the decisions of my life, that when rightly discerned keep me safely on His path.
Join us for our Happy Place series as we examine what it means to walk on God’s path and how we can find direction to help us make decisions. This week, we will be exploring how we can seek and find wisdom.