Part 4 – I Resolve: The Habit of Being Decisive
I am your constant companion. I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure. I am completely at your command. Half of the things you do you might as well turn them over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed – you must merely be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons I will do them automatically. I am a servant of all great men; and alas, of all failures as well. Those who are great, I have made great. Those who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine, though I work with the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a man. You may run me for profit or run me for ruin – it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me, and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you.
• Who am I? I am a habit!
Today we are going to talk about decisiveness
Decisiveness is the opposite of procrastination.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
What do these verses have to do with decisions?
On July 20, 1993, while cutting down oaks in a Pennsylvania forest, Don Wyman got his leg pinned beneath a fallen tree. No one could hear his yells for help. After digging for more than an hour to try to free his bleeding, shattered leg, he hit stone. He would bleed to death unless he did something drastic.
Wyman made his decision. Using a wrench and the starter cord from his chain saw as a tourniquet, he cut off the flow of blood to his shin. Somehow he had the fortitude to amputate his own leg below the knee with his pocket knife. He crawled to his vehicle and drove to a farmer’s home. The farmer got him the help that saved his life.
· On a hillside in Galilee, Jesus makes this statement
· “If your right hand offends you, cut it off”
o You know cutting something off is decisiveness!
· Jesus made that statement – right in the midst of an entire list of corrections that He made to concepts that people had heard from their teachers under the law.
· Jesus said – You heard this
o “committing adultery is bad”
§ I’m here to tell you there is something worse – looking on a women with lust is worse
o You heard this – “you can divorce if you want to””
§ Here’s a better thought – “Unless there is fornication involved – don’t do it.”
o You heard this – “do the things that you have sworn to do.”
§ Here’s a better thought – “Don’t swear at all”
o You heard this – “an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth”
§ Here’s a better thought – “go the extra mile with people”
o You heard this – “love your neighbor – hate your enemy”
§ Here’s a better thought – “Love your enemies – do good to those that hate you – pray for them which despitefully use you.”
· So right in the midst of these corrective statements – Jesus says if your right hand offends you ‘make a decision’.
o Here is another oak tree story!
· Right next to our cabin near Austin there was an oak tree that my son, Albert Jr., who had died in his twenties, had insisted on saving when the house was built a number of years ago. For years (this father says) I had tried to steer the tree away from the house so that it would not damage it. For a while I was successful, but as the tree grew thicker and taller, I was no longer able to control it. It kept coming closer and closer to the house, and when the wind blew, the main trunk began to sway and strike at the vital structure of the house.
That oak tree had much sentimental value for me. I had made up my mind that I would steer it away from the house at whatever cost. But each time, after a few months, the tension lines came loose or snapped and broke. Nature was too determined, too forceful for me. There was nothing I could do to control the tree and pull it away from the house. Prospects for the future seemed even worse. Within a few years, at the rate it was growing, it would cause even more damage.
Last Tuesday (this father states) I made up my mind. The tree had to come down. As I cut its upper branches, then the lower ones and finally the trunk itself, it was as if I was cutting my arms, my legs and finally my own heart. I had cut the tree that Albert Jr., wanted so much to save. When the last section of the trunk fell to the ground I sat down and wept.
· Decisions such as these are difficult. Yet decisions must be made, not on the basis of what is evil and what is good, but on the basis of what is good and what is better. I cut down the tree that our son loved. But, more important, I spared the house that he helped build and loved, too. When the day was over, I felt that it had been good one. Though hurtful, I had made the right choice.
· Many of our decisions are painful because we are faced with choosing between what is good and what is better. Yet we must make them.
Teddy Roosevelt said this:
o “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing”
· It’s painful to make a choice for something that’s better in the place of something that’s good.
· So what was Jesus saying…?
o I guess it might feel good to your flesh to divorce your wife for any reason but it’s much better to make a decision to live with her forever.
o It might feel good to your flesh to hate your enemy but it’s much better to pray for them and do them good when you can.
· It might feel good to let your ‘hand’ lead you into sin – Jesus says it is much better to make the decision to cut it off.
· So therefore the art of decision making is part of the process of turning the better in for the best.
o You have to choose to live the best.
· Jesus lets us know by this graphic ‘cutting off the hand’ statement that real decision making or resolutions are not for the weak at heart.
· If you want the best – if you want the will of God – if you want to live a spiritual life – if you want to be effective in this New Covenant relationship we have with God– you’re going to have to decide to make a better choice.
· If you don’t make up your mind, your unmade mind will unmake you.
· This is not the only time Jesus made this ‘cut off your hand’ statement – 13 months later after the transfiguration, in Caesarea Philippi, on an elevated mountain like town – the disciples ask Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of God?
o Jesus takes a child sets him in the midst and says – whoever becomes like this child
o Whoever turns in their adult independence for childlike dependence is the greatest (in fact opposite from the normal since wise parents raise their children to be independent of them).
· Jesus warns the entire human population on planet earth
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
o Jesus says – if you offend – if you sin against – if you take advantage of this exposed vulnerable child of mine – woe unto you.
o How are you going to avoid it, Jesus? Tell us how?
§ Don’t you want to know?
Matthew 18:8-9 (NLT)
8 So if your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better to enter heaven crippled or lame than to be thrown into the unquenchable fire with both of your hands and feet. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better to enter heaven half blind than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.
o What is Jesus saying?
§ He is saying – make a radical decision to not offend one of these little ones that believe in me.
There are many other places in the Bible where men are called to decide or make decisions.
o Joshua makes this statement to Israel after he gives them a history lesson of God’s dealings with them.
Josh. 24:15 (NLT)
15 But if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”
· Joshua is saying – Choose today – make a decision today whom you will serve.
· Do you know at what point in Joshua’s life that he made this call – when he was old and stricken in age
o You’re never too old to decide.
o You are never too old to make a decision of quality
o Let’s talk about quality decisions
· What is a decision of quality?
o A quality decision is one from which there is no turning back.
o Quality decisions should be made with adequate time.
o These types of decisions should not be quickly made.
o “Until death do you part” decisions should not be made with haste.
o You do yourself a disservice making a lifelong decision in the wink of an eye.
· Anything lightly spoken is easily broken.
o ILLUSTRATION: – I told my wife this when I was courting her. I said to her, “If I tell you ‘I love you’, if I let those words go out of mouth – we are going to the altar.” Therefore, I did not speak those words until after many dates, much time talking and until I was sure, I was sure. Young people make a great mistake letting those words fly out of their mouth about every Tom. Dick, and Sally they date. – Are you kidding – you don’t even know what that phrase means!!!
o “I love you” is a commitment phrase
o “I love you” is a covenant phrase
o “I love you” is a decision
o I love you, means – I promise to endure long and be patient and kind with you. I promise not to be envious or be ate up with jealousy. I promise not to be proud and boastful and puffed up.
o I love you means – I will not be rude, nor selfishly seek my own. I promise not to be easily provoked with you and I will not think evil of you.
o I love you means – I promise not to rejoice when you get into difficulty even sin. But I will rejoice with you when you walk in truth, when you experience victories in truth. I will not be jealous of you when God prospers your way.
o “I love you” means I will bear up under anything that comes between us. I will believe all things – hope all things – endure all things – no matter how you push my buttons.
o “I love you” means I will never fail you.
o And I will do it forever.
o Love is for a lifetime.
o ILLUSTRATION: A photographer tells of a young man who wanted duplicate copies of his girlfriend’s picture. The photographer noticed the following inscription on the back of the portrait, “My dearest Tom, I love you with all my heart. I love you more and more each day. I will love you forever and ever. I am yours for all eternity.” Signed, Dianne. “P.S. If we ever break up, I want this picture back.”
· That is not a quality decision. A quality decision is no turning back!
o Polycarp made such a decision.
§ The year was A.D. 155, and the persecution against Christians swept across the Roman Empire and came to the city of Smyrna. The proconsul of Symrna, swept up in this persecution, put out an order that the Bishop of Symrna, Polycarp, was to be found, arrested, and brought to the public arena for execution. They found Polycarp and brought him before thousands of spectators screaming for blood. But the proconsul had compassion on this man who was almost a hundred years old. He signaled the crowd to silence. To Polycarp he said, “Curse the Christ and live.” The crowd waited for the old man to answer.
In an amazingly strong voice, he said, “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong. How dare I blaspheme the name of my king and Lord!” With that Polycarp became a martyr.
· You are never too old to make a decision
o Now this type of decision, dying for Jesus, may be like a ‘WOW’ in your thinking.
o Can I give you a thought about this about this type of decision?
§ Making a decision to die is easier than laying your living life down here every day.
§ Dying is easy – living is the trick!
· Hear Jesus on this out of the Amplified.
Matthew 10:38 (AMP)
· “And he who does not take up his cross and follow me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to my example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his lower life will lose the higher life], and whoever loses his lower life on My account will find the higher life.
· You need to make decisions of quality because if you don’t, the only good that you will do will be by accident.
o You do not want to be an accident – you want to be an ‘on purpose’.
On the top of a hill in a Midwestern state stands a courthouse so situated that raindrops falling on one side of the roof travel by way of the Great Lakes into the Atlantic, while drops landing on the opposite side find their way through the Ohio and Mississippi to the Gulf. Just a breath of wind one way or the other may determine whether a single raindrop will end up either in the Gulf or in the Atlantic. Even so, one single decision is enough to determine a man’s destiny. Have you made the right decision?