By Dan Vis
September 24, 2017
Note: This is part two of last week's memo, and it fits in perfectly with what we presented in ROCKET 2018 as well. In particular, it suggests a different way to think about goal setting. If you haven't yet signed up for ROCKET, it's a FREE 10-day course on how to discover and achieve your most important goals. Enrollment closes at the end of the month.
In last week's memo, I talked about The-three-types-of-choices believers face and gave some tips on how to make the right decision in each type of choice. For the most important and most difficult choices, I suggested four keys to discerning the best option: a submitted will, Bible study, a consideration of providence, and earnest prayer. This framework gives a sure and proven method for correctly discerning the will of God when faced with tough choices.
But this week I'd like to suggest another tool you may find helpful. Another perspective, really. It is based on the idea that life is more about navigating a journey, than a series of individual right and wrong choices. And as such, what's needed are skills more related to orienteering.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to learn a bit about orienteering. I was taught how to read a topographical map, which shows the contours of the hills and valleys around you, and then how to use a compass to chart a path through that terrain. Our group was broken up into teams, and each team was challenged to race the others in finding its way through a series of specified destinations. It was a great bunch of fun!
Basically, you use the map to locate your position, calculate the direction you need to go along with the approximate distance, and then use the compass to get you pointed the right way. To make it easier, you find some landmark in the general direction you want to go and head for that. Every so often you recheck your position, and direction, and sure enough--you will eventually get to where you are going.
Now in orienteering, there is no single right way to get to your destination. One path may end up being more or less difficult than another, but as long as both point roughly in the correct direction, either will get you to where you want to go. If there's dense underbrush in front of you, it is sometimes faster, to veer slightly to the left or right, and go around. If there's a large tree directly in your path, you pretty much have to veer around it on one side or the other. And it doesn't really matter much which side you take! As long as you self-correct every so often via your map and compass, and keep your eye on the goal--you will reach your destination.
Life, too, is not always about discerning an exact pattern of steps along some unique path. Sometimes it is more about staying focused on and making progress towards a goal. That is, we don't always need a formula for finding a single right answer, we need a compass to help us stay on track.
And to be frank, we need a compass we can refer to quickly and easily. Spending 10-15 minutes trying to decide the best possible choice at each zig or zag in the path will only slow us down. If our destination is clear, and either option can get us there, choose one path promptly and keep moving.
Here is how Ellen White described the importance of making decisions quickly:
It is more excusable to make a wrong decision sometimes than to be continually in a wavering position, to be hesitating, sometimes inclined in one direction, then in another. More perplexity and wretchedness result from thus hesitating and doubting than from sometimes moving too hastily.
To save wasted life energy and time we are to make a decision and run with it. This often disturbs the plan of Satan..
Delays, doubtings, hesitation, and indecision frequently give the enemy every advantage. Rapid movements at the critical moment often disarm the enemy, and he is disappointed and vanquished for he had expected time to lay plans and work by artifice.
Many difficult decisions are best approached through a framework of spiritual orienteering. That is, they are difficult because they are evenly balanced. If one option were clearly better than the other, the choice would be obvious. But because they are so similar in terms of pros and cons--either decision is likely to work. Agonizing excessively will just slow you down.
What you need is a good map and a quick compass. The map is God's Word, which we study in advance to generate a clear sense of mission and purpose. Then the compass is that inner sense of right and wrong we call the conscience. When faced with a tough choice, all we really need to do is prayerfully ask which option moves us most directly to the place we have already discerned we should be. We can choose quickly and act promptly.
Of course, spiritual orienteering only works when we have a clear destination. Knowing where we should be heading, and having some intermediate landmark to press toward is essential. Trying to focus on multiple goals is like trying to keep a dozen ping pong balls under water. One or two balls is easy. Much more than that and it starts getting tricky!
I suspect Jesus was hinting at the simplicity of spiritual orienteering, and the importance of focus in His answer to the rich young ruler. He boiled the decision-making process down to two primary considerations. Here is the first part of His answer to the question "which is the great commandment in the law?"
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.
Loving God should be our first and primary objective. Knowing that this is our ultimate destination means in any decision, we only need to figure out which option pleases Him most.
And the key to that, of course, is to spend time with Jesus. Both quality & quantity. Knowing Him is key to knowing what pleases Him. A moment of quiet reflection, listening for the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through our conscience is often all it takes to discern the real motivation driving our options: love for God, or something else.
If we make this the guiding rule throughout our life, and follow it closely--we may fall short of making every decision exactly right (Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;), but over time our life will become more and more a reflection of the will and character of God. Just as good orienteering is sure to get you to your destination, so chasing after God is sure to lead you into finding Him at last.
There's a second part to the answer of Jesus. A second rule of thumb to help guide our moral compass:
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
While there are many good things we could do that are all pleasing to God, we've been given one overarching command that should drive our decision making in terms of which options are best. We call it the Great Commission. The assignment to go into all the world, and make disciples of every nation. All our decisions should be made in relation to this objective.
There's a lot that goes into the work of making disciples. Evangelism is certainly a part. So is the nurture and follow-up of new believers. There's also the training and instruction necessary to help believers grow into mature disciples. And ultimately equipping them with the tools and vision they need to become workers. But again, it boils down to a simple guide. We are to assess every option by how well it contributes to this mission.
Again, quoting from Ellen White,
The church, enfeebled and defective though it be, is the only object on earth on which Christ bestows His supreme regard. He is constantly watching it with solicitude, and is strengthening it by His Holy Spirit. The church is the repository of the riches of the grace of Christ; and through the church will eventually be made manifest, even to "the principalities and powers in heavenly places," the final and full display of the love of God.... The church is God's fortress, His city of refuge, which He holds in a revolted world.... It is the theater of His grace, in which He delights to reveal His power to transform hearts. God's love for His church is infinite. His care over His heritage is unceasing.
Clearly, our yearning must be to strengthen and bless the people of God. To serve that which lies closest to His heart. That which God loves so wonderfully, so unceasingly. That which through whom He delights to reveal His power.
If our first rule of thumb is to love God with our entire being, then our second rule is to love that which is so precious to God: the church. We are to love our neighbor as our self. Do this faithfully, and our lives will gradually conform to the life of service and ministry God has in mind for each of us.
Life is filled with different types of choices, and different principles apply to discerning the will of God, depending on the type of choice it is. Submission of the will, Bible study, providence, and earnest prayer all have their place. But decision making is sometimes more about navigating through the twists and turns of life toward a clear objective or destination. What is needed are the basic skills of orienteering: a good map, and a quick compass. A compass hinged on the twin guiding principles of love for God, and love for man. Spiritual orienteering makes decision making simple: choosing that which most pleases God, and best serves His church in all that we do.
Do this consistently, and it will bring you to your destination at last!
What about you? Have you ever thought about life as a journey, and the choices you face a bit like orienteering? What lessons do you glean from today's reading?
|Posted by Pamela Kendall on 01/19/18|
This is an excellent lesson. I like the concept of the Bible being the map and love to God and man being the compass. Too often I find myself using other things for my compass - my feelings, desires, convenience, the way that stays in my comfort zone, the easiest looking way (but God's way is the only TRUE easy way - Proverbs 13:15Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard. ; Matthew 11:30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. ) - but these things are not safe guides - and will not get me to my desired ultimate destination of being like Jesus Proverbs 16:25There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. .
It is interesting that you called love to God and for his people (the church) as the compass rather than love to all mankind. I was curious why you put it this way Dan . Perhaps because we could get off course if we look at just loving all people in general - we might be tempted to think that pleasing them is loving, and it might not always be so (if someone, "our neighbor" wants us to do something contrary to God's will.)
If we make our guiding questions:
1. Will this choice or option I'm considering demonstrate my love to God and draw me closer to him?
If the answer to either question is no - we better not go that way for we will get off course.
It's not just about pleasing others - pointing them to Jesus is the truly "loving" thing to do - if our words or actions point them anywhere else we are not being truly loving even if they think we are (when we do what they WANT rather than what the NEED Proverbs 16:25There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. )!
|Posted by Pamela Kendall on 01/19/18|
Fiona oops - thanks for putting the 2 in for me!
I did not get all the references for the last quote - it seemed like it was a compilation from multiple sources.
|Posted by Pamela Kendall on 01/18/18|
|Here are references for some of the EGW quotes in the lesson Rebecca Kohl Gospel Workers 133-134 and Testimonies for the Church vol. 3 page 497 ; Selected Messages 396|
|Posted by Rebecca Kohl on 01/18/18|
|Does anyone have the reference to the EGW quote handy? I would like to add it to the quote in my notes for this memo and for future studies.|
|Posted by Floride Leonce on 01/15/18|
Thank you for another great reading, Dan!
|Posted by John Gilmore on 01/15/18|
|Sometimes he who hesitates is only last. But to hesitate long enough is to become lost. I think of those who hesitated to enter the ark. I think of Felix who thought there would be another time, a better time to hear from Paul.(Acts 24:25And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.) "Almost but not wholly saved means to be not almost but wholly lost." (Christ's Object Lessons, 118) May God help us to be bold and energetic in His service with wisdom and tact.|
|Posted by David Grabe on 01/15/18|
Greetings in the Mighty Name of Jesus, all my FAST Friends!
What a powerful memo, Pastor Dan!
I have seen my life's journey as strewn with places where I heard Elijah's words ringing in my ears,
Exodus 33:14And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.
|Posted by Carole Bliss on 01/15/18|
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge HIM and HE will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5,6Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
This verse came to my mind, as I finished reading this message. It is very helpful to keep the Main thing the Main thing.
|Posted by Ann Lavenburg on 01/15/18|
|I really enjoyed today's analogies. We are having our 10 days of prayer right now at my church and we were discussing this very thing about which direction to go. As long as our heart is fixed on Jesus he will direct our path but not dictate our path, Psalms 119:105Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.. I also like the comments about hesitation. One of my favorite sayings is "he who hesitates is last". Indecisive people are a big trial to others and especially me. I find myself praying for patience many times. It really is a sign of lack of faith in God. He can help us change our direction but we must take the first step in faith like the children of Israel did when they crossed the Red Sea or the Jordan. As long as we pray first, ask for wisdom, James 1:5If 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. and commit our way to God, Psalms 37:5Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass., we can then move out trusting God to direct, and we can get something accomplished!!|
|Posted by Nicole Walker on 10/07/17|
|This helps following the previous talk on making decisions. I can see a bit more clearly, and pray more clearly too.|
|Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 09/29/17|
What is the reference for the Ellen White quote you used?
|Posted by Barbara E. LaRose on 09/27/17|
|These lessons make me think of two stories in the Bible. The story of Joseph and Daniel. By surrendering their lives to Jesus they were enabled to make wise decisions along their journey. That is my goal and through God's help Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. I put my trust in the only one who will help me in my day to day journey. Thank you for this lesson I really enjoyed it.|
|Posted by Ann Lavenburg on 09/27/17|
|Orienteering is a great analogy for good decision making. I have trouble being patient with hesitant people. So I really appreciated the EG White quote. Could you give me the reference?|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 09/26/17|
|Thank you for your prayers Carole! Such a blessing to be part of a prayer-filled community like this...|
|Posted by Carole Bliss on 09/26/17|
Praise the Lord! for His leading.
|Posted by Dan Vis on 09/25/17|
|You are so right. God has to be at the center of every decision. Exciting to think of it in terms of orienteering, isn't it Alice?|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 09/25/17|
|Glad you enjoyed this, Violeta and Carole. It does make a good analogy in a lot of ways. There's a balance in everything, but if this helps us get closer to that balance, then praise God!|
|Posted by Violeta Buckley on 09/25/17|
wow!! I like this illustration. Spiritual Orienteering. We must have clear direction of where to go using the ultimate guide, the word of God.
Thank you Dan
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