Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com
Since the time we open our eyes in the morning until the end of day just before we close our eyes, we face, wrestle, and make multitude of decisions.
A million and one decisions a day. Most times the consequences of those decisions are not as important as others. It usually does not really matter if I wear pants or a skirt or even if I skip breakfast or not.
Sometimes, though, the decisions are more complex, and the consequences of the decisions more life-altering like in deciding the following:
It’s the life-altering decisions that cause people to resort to consulting mediums, horoscopes, crystal balls, and fortune cookies. We all want to make THE right decision at all times –to avoid the sometimes unfortunate consequence of wrong decisions. But then, there are times when we are not sure, and decision- making becomes a dreadful, daunting task. If only another person can simply tell us what to do, or make those decisions for us. Perhaps then, we can be absolved of any blame when the decision does not turn out right.
King David's Example
There is a story in the Bible that taught me an important lesson in decision-making. It’s the story of David and his affair with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11. Although the story is about infidelity and murder, it teaches us so much about decision-making as well.
The story begins with this: “It was at the time when kings go to battle… David remained in Jerusalem” (verse 1). David, the King, should have gone to battle during that one time when he was supposed to provide leadership and inspiration to his men in the battlefield. However, David chose to stay. This is the first crucial decision that sent him towards the ending that resulted in deaths and living under a curse!
Having chosen to give himself vacation time, he was then faced with the next seemingly innocent decision: how to spend his free time. It would seem that he spent the first day or two quietly at his palace. One evening, perhaps when sleep was eluding him, he made another decision: he decided to enjoy the breeze from his palace roof top. But once there, looking down: “he saw a woman bathing,” and he realized at once that, “the woman was very beautiful” (verse 2). It is hard to blame a man from staring at a beautiful, perhaps semi-naked woman! Perhaps, another married man would look away, and seek the company of his wife. David, though made another (wrong) decision, which ultimately sent him spiraling through the slippery slope that led to his own ruin and of those He loved!
The very next verse describes how David immediately, “sent someone to find out about her” (verse 3). He was told that the woman is a military wife, married to a soldier named Uriah. Another married man might have stopped pursuing her right here after finding out she is married. Not David, he sent for her. Bathsheba, either thrilled by it, or scared to disobey her king (lots of speculations had been made about her complicity in the crime) went to David, and slept with him (verse 4). As a consequence, she got pregnant (verse 5).
This consequence of their illicit affair is now impossible to reverse, and difficult to deny as her husband was out to war, protecting the very Kingdom David was called by God to lead! The best thing David could have done was perhaps to own up (or ‘fess-up as we would say nowadays), and help support the child. However, he did the unthinkable: he orchestrated Uriah’s (Bathsheba’s husband) death in the battlefield when his plan to pin Bathsheba’s pregnancy on Uriah failed.
David pretended to suddenly turn generous and called Uriah home and gave him a 3-day pass to spend time with his beautiful wife. However, Uriah proved to be nobler than his king. He refused to sleep with his wife, because he cannot bear the thought of enjoying his wife when his comrades are out in the cold, harsh environs of the battlefield. When that failed, David tried to get him drunk in hopes that Uriah, in drunken stupor, would go to his wife and sleep with her. Even in a drunken state, he still refused to go anywhere near his wife. That was when David plotted his demise with the help of Joab, the field commander, who agreed to place Uriah in the most vulnerable position during a skirmish, where Uriah was later fatally injured.
Up until this point, David was probably feeling smug, thinking he got away with murder! He forgot that God knows. God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke him severely: “I anointed you King over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah” In other words, David had absolutely no reason to be so greedy and scheme to get what he wants. God in essence was reminding him: “if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more! David, all you needed to do was ask me!”
After the rebuke, he was disciplined for his sins (covetousness, infidelity, immorality, lying, murder - an impressive list of sins in one go!). “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel’” (2 Samuel 12: 7-10).
And it did not stop there. Even after he confessed his sins, he was told that his son with Bathsheba will die. David decided to appeal His case before God. He fasted and prayed, hoping God would change His mind and let his son live, but to no avail. His son died on the seventh day of his fast.
In the series of decisions, starting with the seemingly innocuous ones to the downright sinister ones that ultimately led first to Uriah’s death, and his son’s death, David could have stop dead in his tracks, and made right choices. After his first look at Bathsheba, he could have looked away, or after Bathsheba got pregnant, he could have confessed his sin and let Uriah live. He didn’t. There had been so many possible turning points after the first wrong decision (he chose to stay home), but he kept going down the path of wreckage.
What can we learn from the above story about decision-making?
Lesson 1: we need to be careful and be prayerful in making decisions. Decisions have consequences, even the seemingly innocent ones, and can lead to many regrets! If unsure, ask God to give you wisdom: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
Sometimes all it takes is for us to be patient and take the time to assess the pros and cons of the various options. If I do A instead of B, what will happen? This process of decision-making is called the “sound-mind principle.” You must not be afraid to use your own mind. After all Christians had been given a “sound mind,” (1 Timothy 1:7). Paul declares, we have the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
I have met a lot of Christians who are paralyzed with fear, because they are so afraid to use their own mind and common sense to make decisions. If indeed we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, cannot we assume that He is also available to help us think and come to a safe and right decision? Sometimes, we make decision-making so complicated especially when we try and wait for signs and wonders, when perhaps the answer is already clear before us, if we just put our mind to it!
Having said that, I also believe that sometimes God does use signs: He arranges and rearranges people and circumstances in our lives by way of saying: "...This is the way, walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21). So, when unsure, wait. I believe if God wants us to do something He will let us know not just the what, but also the where, when and how. Just think about his instructions to Noah on building the Ark, or His instructions to Paul on reaching the Gentiles!
Lesson 2: we need to realize that making a wrong decision does not mean we have doomed ourselves to a life of failure, sin and misery! So you dropped out of school, but unless you are already debilitated with Dementia or Alzheimer’s, you may still go back to school and finish that degree (or high school!). So, your first marriage ended in divorce, your second marriage need not end in the same way! God says when we sin, we can repent and confess (do a complete 180 degree turn), and He promises to forgive and cleanse, so we can start over (1 John 1:9).
Lesson 3: we need to realize that some of our wrong decisions do have dire consequences. It does not help to play victim and blame your self-imposed problems on somebody else. David could have gotten belligerent with God, and blame Bathsheba for seducing him. He finally made the right decision by owning up: “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the LORD, the son born to you will die” (2 Samuel 12: 13 and 14).
These verses imply that had David refused to acknowledge his sin, God would have taken his life! The rest of the Bible would have been so different! As soon as David confessed, God’s forgiveness was immediate. He also allowed him and Bathsheba to stay together and give birth to the wisest person who's ever lived: Solomon! However, David still had to suffer the immediate consequence of his sinful decisions: the death of his first son with Bathsheba. He fasted and prayed to appeal to God’s mercy and for Him to spare his son to no avail. When God chose not to answer his prayer, David did not throw a temper tantrum. He accepted his son’s death gracefully though painfully.
Sin is an affront to God’s holiness and it also brings Him pain. I think it pains Him, because He knows sin hurts and destroys us and those we love. Although God already took care of the penalty for sin, He does not keep us from suffering its painful consequences. If you steal, you will eventually get caught and perhaps be put to jail. If you cheat during an exam, there is a strong likelihood you will get caught, get suspended and even thrown out of school!
However, sin is also a very real and powerful force. Even Paul, the great Apostle admitted: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do…For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:15-25). Can you feel his anguish, and identify with his struggle? The answer is simple: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25). Amen to that!
God desires for us to make right choices, after all He says: “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). He has given us all we need to do and be good: the enabling power of His indwelling Spirit, His Word for instruction and direction, and His Church for support and encouragement. God does expect us to obey Him and come out a winner at all times.
Written by Esmie Newman,
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