Your Next Move

Recreation 1073

Recently I found myself facing some tough decisions. All of us have them – those decisions that we agonize over, worrying about just which way we are supposed to turn.

These aren’t the right vs. wrong decisions. Whether to look at porn or read a good book, if the alcoholic should have a bottle of seltzer water or a glass of bourbon, whether one should to give in to anger of the moment and lash out or go for a walk and calm down – these are easy ones. Even though we still might make the wrong choice, it’s not because we don’t know which choice is wrong. It’s merely a case of losing the tug of war between our godliness and our humanity.

I’m referring to those decisions where it’s not obvious, where either choice could produce desirable or undesirable results, depending on how things play out. So we weigh everything carefully, seek advice, pray, ask friends, pray some more, get our friends to pray, and on and on.

And the uncertainty is maddening. What does God want me to do? Why isn’t He speaking more clearly? I don’t need a huge booming voice or a burning bush…but can’t I just get something, God?

Regrettably, it doesn’t work like that. Often we’re merely left with a sense of peace about one side of the fence or the other, and we have to just fall in that direction and trust that He’ll catch us.

The decision isn’t easy, and it’s never a sure thing. However, there are a few things that are sure.

Here are three immutable truths about your next move, no matter what it is:

It does not have to be determined by any of your previous moves.  Whatever mistakes you’ve made in the past, they’re in the past. The road we’ve traveled does not disqualify us or nullify our right to make a move now. Also – brace yourself – whatever successes you’ve had in the past are also in the past. Mistakes don’t disqualify you, and success doesn’t give you license.

Remember, this is God’s operation here. The same God that used a murdering recluse to lead his people out of Egyptian captivity instead of a more influential inside man. The same God that used a scrawny shepherd boy to defeat a giant when there was a whole army of seasoned warriors to choose from. The same God that used unrefined, vulgar fishermen to build His church instead of the polished religious leaders.

Don’t ever let what’s happened a decade ago, a year ago, or even a minute ago keep you from making a move right now.

It will be used by God. As a good friend told me recently after I made a tough decision, “Now you have to surrender expectations.” You can’t spend your time waiting for things to play out the way you hope they will. Whatever scenes you have imagined or results you’re anticipating, put them aside. It’s likely nothing will work out that way.

In fact, it’s possible you will never even see results from the decision you just made. Maybe it will impact someone silently and privately. But if so, that doesn’t make the impact any less real.

You have to remember that the absence of visible results doesn’t mean nothing has happened.

You will grow from it. Whatever decision you make, and whatever comes of it or doesn’t come of it, there will be lessons to be learned. Keep your eyes open and watch for them. That’s how personal growth happens.

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I can’t say there is not a wrong or a bad decision. When the Apostle Paul opted to appeal to Caesar while on trial before the governor Festus (Acts 25:12), he had no way of knowing that later King Agrippa would say “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:32).

I wonder if Paul at that point butted himself in the forehead with the heel of his hand and said “What have I done?!”

Maybe he did, we don’t know.

But we do know that he didn’t let that decision influence his future choices, as evidenced by the content of letters he wrote during his incarceration at Rome (e.g., Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon).

We know that God used his circumstances to save 270 people from shipwreck (Acts 27:21-44), and to display God’s grace to Caesar’s royal guard (Philippians 1:12-13).

And we know that the experience spurred further growth in him (Philippians 4:11-12, Colossians 1:24, 2 Timothy 1:12).

So take heart, my friend. Not every decision we make will be perfect. But we have a perfect God who has a knack for making something good out of even our most flawed choices.

 

 

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Onslaught

arrows

Satan never fires just one arrow and moves on. He fires volleys…salvos…relentless barrages.

Anyone who has been assaulted by the Enemy knows that it is rarely dodging one arrow and wiping our brow, like some fortunate wanderer who just happened to step into the line of fire and made it out to tell the story. It’s more like hunkering down in the bomb shelters of London or Liverpool circa 1941, hoping that the explosion that just rocked us was the last one but fearing that there’s at least one more to come.

That’s why Ephesians 6:16 doesn’t talk about using the shield of faith to extinguish the flaming arrow, but all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

I used to think the plural form referred to the accumulation of arrows over a lifetime of living our faith. But experience has taught me differently. Yes, the arrows accumulate over time, but that doesn’t mean they accumulate one at a time.

And the arrows don’t all come from the same direction. Like a good battle strategist, our Enemy wants to flank us and knock us off balance. So he varies the attack vectors to cause more confusion and uncertainty. Hence, the arrows aren’t just coming from personal temptations, or relationships, or finances, or illness, or car problems. They come from any or all of the above.

It almost seems like a mere shield isn’t enough – we need a fortress.

It just so happens, we have one:

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).

He is our fortress and our deliverer. He is our strength and our shield.

There is distinct symbolism here that gives us a three-hundred-sixty-degree defense against Satan’s onslaughts.

Sometimes when the battle is heaviest, we need somewhere to take refuge. We need walls and barriers to shield us, and someone to provide cover. We need to defend and just survive. There’s nothing wrong with hunkering down and waiting out the worst of the attack. God is there to be that fortress and deliverer in those times.

Then come the times to go on the attack. No war was ever won by an army permanently entrenched in their forts. At some point, an offensive strategy is needed. We cannot attain freedom for ourselves or anyone else if we’re locked in defensive mode. That’s where the strength and shield come in. When we’re ready to step out of the fortress and take the fight to the enemy, God is there for that as well. He becomes our strength to wield the sword and our shield to quench those arrows we talked about earlier.

So when it seems like the onslaught is at its worst, remember we have options. God’s war plan is multi-faceted. The next time you feel like you’re taking heavy fire: breathe deeply, know that He has all the angles covered, and plan your strategy accordingly.