It is in moments of decision that your destiny is shaped – Tony Robbins
I can remember the very moment and the decision that I made that caused me to turn in the direction that led, fifteen years later, to attempt suicide. I can see the exact moment: All I needed to do was say something to someone, but I hesitated. “What if I’m rejected?” was my thought. That decision to hesitate, compounded by other bad decisions I made along the way, led to the despair and loneliness fifteen years later.
That decision of hesitation was a directional decision. Not all decisions are active decisions sometimes not making a decision is decision enough. That isn't to say that making better decisions can’t reverse those decisions, because eventually I made another directional decision that turned me onto the path that I’m currently on.
Today, I want to post on directional decisions. This is something we, as Christians, need to be aware of, because even though sometimes it seems to be a minor decision, an obvious, or even right decision it can be a decision that turns us from the will of God.
1 Samuel 13:8-14 (NKJV)
13:8 Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. 9 So Saul said, "Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me." And he offered the burnt offering. 10 Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. 11 And Samuel said, "What have you done?" And Saul said, "When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, 12 then I said, 'The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.' Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering." 13 And Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you."
What has happened here is that Saul has made a directional decision. He has, in a moment of weakness and fear, made a decision that has actually changed his destiny. This is the moment when Saul turned off the path that he was on, which was that his family would rule over Israel forever, to the loss of the kingdom, which would be given to another: A man after God’s own heart. In Tony Robbins’ vernacular this was a destiny shaping decision. God, literally changed his mind as a result of Saul’s decision to burn the offering without waiting for Samuel’s arrival. This was not to be done. Offerings were the job of the priests and no one else.
I believe there are some decisions that we make that cause a fundamental change in our hearts. There is something that happens as we act in our own counsel that can cause us to compound the problem by making more bad decisions. This isn't Saul’s only bad decision; this is Saul’s first bad decision.
In Chapter fifteen Saul refused to utterly destroy the Amalekites, even though God told him to do that. It was another decision that moved him out of the path of God’s destiny for him.
At that time Samuel made this observation about what caused Saul to make these decisions:
1 Samuel 15:17 (NKJV)
15:17 So Samuel said, "When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel?
The phrase “when you were little in your own eyes…” speaks of a humble Saul. Saul has risen up in pride and this is the root of his problem for the rest of his life.
When we act in pride we act against the will of God.
James 4:6 (NKJV)
4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
When we begin to make decisions in our own understanding that impact God’s calling on our lives, God resists us. These are decisions made in pride and pride continues to grow as we continue to act on our own. We fall victim to more decisions that turn us, or move us further away from God’s will. When we make decisions for less of God in our lives it is because we have filled that space with something else. We have elevated something else and placed it into that place where God once resided in our lives.
Look at what God gives to Samuel to tell Saul after this incident:
1 Samuel 15:10-11 (NKJV)
15:10 Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, 11 "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments." And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night.
Saul has “backed off” from serving God. God isn't number one in his life anymore. He has other concerns – The concerns of a king. He took Agag, the king of Amalek prisoner. Agag is a symbol of Saul’s dominance and power over Amalek. He saved the sheep to make a big show of offering it to God. He’s saying, “Look at the wealth and power of the king. I can offer all of this to God.” He’s proud and his pride is propelling him out of the will of God and out of God’s grace. These are directional decisions.
At the end of Saul’s life God’s no longer even responding to him and he ends up at the witch of Endor’s house trying to get advice from Samuel who has already died. This all started with one bad decision; one directional decision to act on his own outside of the will of God. I’m sure that decision seemed reasonable, even right at the time.
He thought Samuel was late. The people were scattering. He had to do something to hold it all together. In his mind, he thought that he had to do something to move God’s agenda forward. So, he acted. But Samuel wasn't late; he arrived at the end of the burnt offering. Saul violated God’s command about offerings, that’s sin. Sin will never result in God’s blessing. When you put God aside for your own will you step out of the will of God and into the will of you, and lose out on God’s power and ability to overcome circumstances. You become dependent on your own power and your own ability and the question becomes, “Who are you serving?”
Matthew 6:24 (NKJV)
6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Mammon is often used to refer to money or wealth, but really, it’s whatever you put before God. In Saul’s case it was his pride; his unwillingness to lose face. Mammon for Saul was himself and his appearance before the people. What is it in your case?
Decisions Affect Destiny
Life is the Sum of all your Choices – Albert Camus
How often do we make decisions that we think have no relation to the will of God for our lives? Saul made a choice to do the burnt offering based on military and political decisions. He couldn't go into battle when all his men were deserting so, he offered that offering to keep them together. I wonder if he gave any consideration at all as to how that decision impacted the will of God for his life.
This is a moment of extreme tension. They’re facing a enemy that outnumbers them by a huge amount – 36,000 plus “the sand on the seashore’ in multitude, against three thousand Israelis. We can understand the reluctance of the men of Israel, they probably thought they were all going to die. Saul is making his decision in light of those circumstances and left God’s power out of the decision.
I've seen this over and over. I know people who were offered a job that paid one US dollar an hour more than they were making…but they had to move to a different city…and they left. Some of them wound up in fellowship churches in other cities, but never really did anything for God, and others drifted completely out of the church and back to the old life. That was never God’s destiny for them.
Saul made his decision without considering God’s power. He never thought about what God had done before. Gideon, in Judges Chapter seven, faced the same size enemy, “As many as the sand on the seashore,” with only three hundred men, armed with only a jug, a lamp and a trumpet. God is able to bring about a victory beyond our abilities…if we trust Him.
I think it’s interesting that Saul panicked and couldn't wait for Samuel – The man of God. He could have used his counsel. He could have used the word of God to help him, but he was the king. In his mind, he knew what to do and that decision cost him the kingdom.
Samuel wasn't a great general. He wasn't a battle-hardened veteran, but he heard from God. Any counsel Samuel gave Saul would be God’s counsel. Besides, who knows that God didn't want to do something like he did with Gideon, so Israel would know it was God that delivered them, and that He was with them. People have this great capacity to assign their victories to themselves and their defeats to the devil, and most often it’s a move of God that brings victory. God used Gideon and his three hundred men to defeat Midian so Israel would know that it was God moving on their behalf.
In First Samuel Chapter fourteen, Jonathan and his armor-bearer defeated a number of Philistines and then God brought about an earthquake that drove the rest away in fear, because he acted in faith and trusted God. Jonathan’s decision to trust God was a directional decision.
I have a friend who overcame a poor education by trusting God. He’s now the number two man in a multi-national electronics firm with only a high school education. He had dropped out of high school and returned to get his diploma at thirty-four years of age. This was after he became a vice-president. This is the power of God to move on our behalf. In the process, he made several decisions that proved to be directional decisions, as he gave and supported his church, and was involved in all the church’s activities. (A practice he continues to this day.) Can you imagine the CEO of your company recommending to the board of directors of the company to make a high school dropout a vice president? Only God could make that happen. This man could have stepped away from the church while he was earning minimum wage but he decided to trust God for the increase, a directional decision.
I know a family that trusted God through a huge financial tragedy. Their entire business burned to the ground. They lost everything and, in addition faced fines for environmental impacts and fees for City fire-fighting services. Expenses of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they continued to give and made a decision to put God first. They were at every service, every outreach and every revival service. Through this crisis, God brought them even more business. Now, they’re successful enough that they can turn the business over to their children, so they can be available to go out and pioneer…they’re in their mid-forties. They could have stopped giving, thinking they needed to hold on to their money, but they made a decision to release and trust God for their provision.
These types of decisions are directional, they’re “God first” thinking. The problem is that often people don’t make these types of decisions. They make “me first” decisions. They are also directional. If you’re making decisions that move God out of the center of your life, I don’t care how much you've prayed over them, they’re not God. If it means that something replaces God, then it isn't God – it’s pride. It’s the same kind of thinking that Saul used in Gilgal.
That decision moved Saul away from God’s will and the result was that Saul lost the kingdom that God had given him. If we make those kinds of decisions then we are also in danger of the same result.
We Can Reverse Course
You write your life story by the decisions you make – Helen Mirren
One day I walked into the Door Christian Fellowship Church in Colton, California and heard a sermon on commitment. After the sermon there was an altar call. I raised my hand, but when it came time to go forward, I hesitated: Not out of fear but because I wasn't sure what to do. One of the brothers came over and asked me if I wanted to pray and I said, “Yes,” and followed him to the altar. This was another directional decision that put me back into a relationship with and led directly to my being in Taiwan. The decision to respond to the altar call reversed the bad decisions that led to the destruction of my life.
Saul could have changed the course of life that he had placed himself on. He could have made another directional decision and placed himself back into the right direction.
David did exactly that, so let’s take a moment and examine his life:
2 Samuel 11:1 (NKJV)
11:1 It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
We probably all know what happened here. David made a decision to stay home rather than go to war. It could be another prideful decision, “I’m king, I don’t have to go.” This decision, a directional decision, took him in a direction that led to great sin in his life.
2 Samuel 11:3-4 (NKJV)
11:3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" 4 Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house.
That decision led to other bad decisions, eventually resulting in the murder of his friend and mighty man, Uriah the Hittite.
Nathan the prophet pointed out his sin through a story and David realized what he had become.
2 Samuel 12:13 (NKJV)
12:13 So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.
David had gone from being a man after God’s own heart to God was going to kill him, but he repented Repentance is directional; it changes the course of your life. In this last illustration, I wrote about answering the altar call and how it changed my life. It moved me out of the path of destruction and brought me into a relationship with God.
David changed his life at that moment. We read throughout the chapters that deal with David’s life that he made decisions after consulting with God. He examined the decisions that he made in light of the will of God for Israel and for himself. The good decisions he made after that moved him further away from sin and folly and closer to God’s will. Directional decisions don’t have to be kingdom-losing decisions they can also be kingdom-gaining decisions. It’s the direction that the decision propels you that’s important. Does it take you onto a path closer to God, or does it take you onto a path closer to the world? Are you making decisions to further the will of God in your life or to further the will of you? Directional decisions: Which way are you heading and how did you get on that path?