The Cost of Indecision

When we put off decisions our minds become as cluttered as this room - courtesy of bedmagz.com
When we put off decisions our minds become as cluttered as this room – courtesy of bedmagz.com

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. – James 1:6-8 (NIV)

 

Have you ever faced a difficult decision, unsure of what to do?  The above scripture reminds us that God will grant us wisdom to make any decision.  The God who is “wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:29) is the most able of advisors.  God may not dispense his wisdom in accordance with our timetable.  In those cases we are to “be still and know that he is God” (Psalm 46:10) and to “wait patiently on the Lord” (Psalm 40:1).  At other times, God may speak to us instantaneously.  What is required in either situation is faith.  Faith to wait in hopeful expectation or faith to ask decisively upon what God has instructed.

More often that I care to admit, God has given me clear guidance and I am reluctant to act.  I am reluctant because I perceive the action to be unpleasant and anxiety producing.  When I delay in acting, there are costs for doing so:

  1. Indecision increases anxiety.  Putting off an anxiety producing decision does not decrease the anxiety associated with making the decision, but rather prolongs it.  Think of a pending decision as a heavy box you are carrying around that needs to be stored on a shelf.  The shelf is the final destination, yet you continue to carry the box around.  I don’t care how strong you are, you will eventually tire from carrying the box.  You may even set the box down for a while to take a break.  You may even pick up another box, but you have not placed the first box on the shelf.  Here’s the thing.  We often don’t have the luxury of having to make just a single decision.  We generally have to make multiple decisions. Indecision in one area of life can spread to indecision in other areas of life.  By not making the initially decision we have not freed up the mental “shelf space” to make decisions and have created mental clutter instead.
  2. Indecision causes us to miss our “launch windows”.  When sending a rocket into outer space, NASA will evaluate weather forecasts and orbital planes to determine the optimal time to launch.  If the launch window is missed, the flight will need to be scrubbed until another launch window appears.  Like NASA, God has “launch windows” when the time is right to act on his prompting.  If we do not act, we miss out on or delay an opportunity for God to work through us.  Initially, the Jews rejected God’s direction to invade Canaan for fear of the land’s inhabitants (see Numbers chapters 13 and 14).  Once God pronounced his judgment on the Jews for their disobedience, they become remorseful and decided to invade the land on their own, despite Moses’ warning.  The Jews were soundly defeated.  Have you resisted God’s prompting to take action only to have the opportunity close?  You missed your launch window.
  3. Indecision blocks us from receiving more of God’s wisdom and power.  James 1:6-7 tells us the person who fails to act on what God has revealed should not expect to receive additional revelation.  God is omnipotent and omniscient, but he uses these attributes efficiently.  He will not continue to waste his wisdom and power on us if we squander it.

 

Note: This marks my 50th post and is a bit of a milestone for me.  This blog is not my first blogging effort. About four years ago, I set up a site and wrote a few a posts, but quit shortly thereafter.  This time around, with the Lord’s help, I was determined to keep at it.  I haven’t always been as consistent in my posting schedule as I’d like to be, but I’m not allowing a missed schedule, writer’s block, fatigue or a host of any other factors from stopping me from plugging along.  To God be the glory!

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The Moses Snydrome

ulius Schnorr von Carolsfeld's (1794-1872) depiction of an Egyptian and a Hebrew fighting; Moses draws his sword to kill the Egyptian, making sure no one is watching.
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s (1794-1872) depiction of an Egyptian and a Hebrew fighting; Moses draws his sword to kill the Egyptian, making sure no one is watching.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Is there any limit to my power? Now you will see whether or not my word comes true!” – Numbers 11:23 (NLT)

It is common to name a condition after someone famous who exhibited the symptoms of that condition.  The debilitating disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s disease” for the baseball legend who suffered from its effects.  Men who are “vertically challenged” and seek to compensate for their height deficiency by exhibiting overly aggressive or domineering behavior are said to have a “Napoleon complex” referring to the 19th century diminutive French emperor.

Moses is known as the lawgiver and liberator of the Jewish people.  God used Moses as a conduit to bring about 10 plagues against the Egyptians to finally convince a stubborn Pharaoh to release the Hebrews from their captivity.  God wrought spectacular miracles through the staff of Moses including the parting of the Red Sea and bringing water forth from a rock.  It was through Moses that God delivered the Ten Commandments and a number of other laws that became the cornerstone for the Jewish people.  Moses led the Jews from captivity in Egypt to the doorstep of the Promised Land.   As if all this were not enough, Moses found time to put to write the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.  Yet for all his accomplishments, Moses remained humble.  Number 12:3 states, “Now Moses was more humble than any other person on earth.”

But Moses was not perfect.  A study of Moses’ life reveals that while often well intended Moses would at times take matters into his hands and not wait for God’s timing or rely on God’s power.  I have coined this tendency of Moses as the “Moses Syndrome.”  Scripture describes at least three outbreaks:

1.  Moses killed the Egyptian whom he observed beating a Hebrew slave (Exodus 2:11-12).  This rash act got Moses banished from Egypt.  Moses was in wittingly attempting   to be the premature deliverer of his people.

2.  Moses took it up himself to judge all matters of dispute among the Israelites. If even a fraction of the two million Jews who left Egypt as a part of the Exodus had disagreements, Moses would have been quite busy.  Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, observed court while it was session.  He advised Moses to appoint judges to hear the minor disputes with only the most serious cases reaching Moses (Exodus 18:13-23).  To his credit, Moses put Jethro’s advice into practice.

3.  The Israelites and their foreign companions began to complain about their “manna diet” and wistfully longed for the “good ole days” of Egypt when they had a more varied diet to eat (Numbers 11:4-6).  (It’s amazing the complainers forgot their “gourmet” diet came at the price of slavery.)  Moses had heard enough.  He cried out to God, “What did I do to deserve the burden of a people like this? (v.11). Once again, Moses assumed a burden that was not his to carry.  Even after God assures Moses meat will be provided, Moses questions him on his ability to do so. But Moses said, “There are 600,000 foot soldiers here with me, and yet you promise them meat for a whole month! Even if we butchered all our flocks and herds, would that satisfy them? Even if we caught all the fish in the sea, would that be enough?” (vv. 21-22).  God reminds Moses he has not suffered a power blackout, “Is there any limit to my power? Now you will see whether or not my word comes true!” (v. 23).  God answered Moses’s inquiry by causing a wind that brought quail from the sea and caused them to hover just above the ground where the Israelites could easily collect them (v. 31).

I must confess that I too often experience a flair-up of the Moses Syndrome.  I have a “Martha” temperament and not a “Mary” temperament.  (For more on this reference please read Luke 10:38-42). I have a tendency to take matters into my own hands, and to get ahead of God.  I can become easily overwhelmed by the visible circumstances, and forget about God’s invisible power.

As I’m writing this, the NFL draft in going on.  In football, a receiver who timidly goes across the middle of the field to make a catch is said to have “alligator arms.”  Instead of extending his arms to make a catch and possibly exposing himself to a vulnerable hit, the receiver with alligator arms “shortens” his arms by pulling them close to his body to brace for the hit.

In scripture the term “God’s arm” is synonymous with God’s power.  In the Hebrew language the question that God actually asks Moses in Numbers 11:11 is “has God’s arm grown too short?” We can take comfort that God’s arms always remain extended, ready and able to help in his children in our times of need (Hebrews 4:16).   God never gets a case of alligator arms.

 

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God’s Thread

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Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few. . .1 Samuel 14:6b (NIV)

It seems everyone loves a good suspenseful movie. You know type I’m talking about where the hero or heroine finds themselves in a life-threatening, precarious situation with no visible sign of escape.  If you need a mental picture think of the popular Indiana Jones movie series.  Even if you’ve never seen any of the Indiana Jones movies in their entirety, you’ve likely seen short clips from them showing Indiana Jones being chased by a giant boulder or attempting to outwit a cobra.

Taking a look at redemptive history, it appears that God too has an appetite for suspense.  A pattern seems to emerge where God will make a promise to an individual or community and then either orchestrates or permit events to occur that would seem to undermine the promise.  The Israelites had been in bondage for 430 years in Egypt when God emancipated them and promised to lead them into a land flowing with milk and honey.  However the escape route that God intentionally chose for the journey was an apparent dead end leading them to be trapped by the Red Sea.  The Egyptians pursued the Israelites and had them boxed in.  The Israelites had two means of escape, one would involve turning around, doing an about face and running headlong into the teeth of the advancing Egyptian army.  The other means, which seemed even more improbable, would be to escape by swimming across the Red Sea, which was 221 miles across and 1,600 feet deep.  This was playing out to be a true cliff hanger if there ever was one, clearly besting anything that Indiana Jones might face.  Why would God place the people he swore to deliver in such peril?  God reveals the answer to Moses, “I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD” (Exodus 14:3b)(NIV).  While God shared his plan with Moses, apparently that word had not yet spread throughout the entire Israelite camp, because the people reacted in fear. “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:1-12)(NIV). 

God did not abandoned his plan to save is his people.  Instead of utilizing either of the two apparent options of rescue; a.) the Israelites turn and face and Egyptian army head on or b.) the Israelites swim across the Red Sea, he created a third more miraculous option; c.) part the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to walk across on dry land and cause the Red Sea to revert back to its original form and drown the Egyptians when they attempted to follow.

We all like a suspenseful drama provided we’re in the audience and not acting it out. But God does not exempt us from his casting call.  He will see to it that we are protagonists in our own spine tingling stories apparently hemmed us in on all sides with no visible means of escape. Sooner or later we will all find ourselves hanging on by God’s thread and that thread will appear to be fraying. But God’s salvation does not rely on appearances.  He often does his best work when situations appear most dire.  He can save by many or by few.  Even if we are saved by what seems like a hair’s breadth the outcome is no less secure than if we had been saved by a mile.  The more dramatic the rescue, the greater the faith lesson taught to us and the greater the witness to God’s glory.

The Israelites’ lament when they saw the Egyptian chariots approaching turned into a song of praise when they saw those same Egyptians washed up dead on shore of the Red Sea, “who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)(NIV). 

Do you feel like you are in a tight spot with no visible means of escape?  Remember that God is just helping you to compose your song.

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