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Decisions Series # 3
Conservative Decisions

Decisions Decisions

by Dennis Pollock

When we think about making decisions that honor and please God, we sometimes think about dramatic and direct guidance from the Lord. Certainly throughout the Bible we find some pretty amazing ways and means by which God has led His servants. When we read of these visions, dreams, and angelic visitations, we sometimes get the idea that this should be the norm in all of our lives. When we are facing the various decisions that must be made, wouldn't it be wonderful to have an angelic visitation giving us the mind of God or a vivid dream that would leave the right course of action in no doubt whatsoever? But of course this is not how life normally works. Even for the Bible characters dramatic, direct guidance was the exception and not the rule. For every holy visitation they had, they probably faced thousands of decisions in the more ordinary way – thinking, pondering, praying, wondering, and finally deciding.

Whether prophet or bank teller, apostle or church janitor, pastor or plumber, dramatic guidance will always be a rare thing. It is far more usual to make decisions based on our knowledge of God and His word and an inner sense of the appropriate thing to do. If it seems right, doesn't violate God's word, and there are no serious red flags going up we can usually move forward. When deciding which car to purchase, or whether to switch jobs, or wondering whether to take up jogging or give up doughnuts, it is not necessary for us to hear the voice of God as Moses heard it on Mount Sinai. Of course it helps when we have been Biblically educated to the point where we have developed a set of Scriptural guidelines that serve as a framework for the decisions we must make. And one of those basic guidelines which will help us in our more ordinary decisions is a conservative approach to life and the choices we must make.

A definition of conservative is: "restrained in style, moderate, cautious…" To demonstrate the opposite of conservative we might use words like: reckless, uncontrolled, hasty, careless, unrestrained… A conservative individual is one who refuses to take unnecessary or unreasonable risks. Conservative people like to pay their bills on time, live within their means, and they think long and hard before making major life decisions. They live up to their responsibilities, work hard, and don't feel the necessity to go out and buy the latest, greatest gadget the minute the advertisements hit the airwaves. Impulsive types often consider such people boring. One of the descriptions for hard-drinking, wild, reckless people who are always living on the edge is to say that they live "in the fast lane," but the conservative types will never be found in that lane. They are to be found steadily making their way through life moving along in the slower lane, never making too much of a splash but rarely finding themselves in the terrible accidents that occur in that faster lane. As we read the Scriptures, we find that the Bible generally endorses the slower lane.

Conservative Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is a great encourager of conservative choices. In Proverbs 22 we read: "Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts; if you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take away your bed from under you?" (Proverbs 22:26,27). A modern translation might read: "Don't co-sign for other people's loans – you may lose your shirt!" God is giving us a pretty simple, yet necessary lesson here: putting your money at risk is risky! People who are reckless and loose with their money or their lives get hurt a lot throughout their lifetime; conservative, careful people don't normally get hurt nearly as much. All of us are going to experience pain at various times, regardless of how wisely we conduct ourselves. But careless, fast-lane people are usually going to receive major doses of extra pain, suffering not only due to the nature of our fallen world but also due to their own careless decisions.

Another proverb says: "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished" (Proverbs 22:3). Sometimes Christians assume that since Jesus tells us not to worry, this means there is no need for planning or prudence, or concern with dangers that may loom ahead. This is both wrong and foolish. Prudent people are always looking ahead. They watch for potential disasters, and when they detect them they take the necessary actions to avoid them, or in Biblical terms, "they hide themselves." A man whose is overweight, with his blood pressure starting to soar and his blood sugar out of control would be most unwise to ignore the evil that lies ahead. If he assumes that because he is a child of God, reads the Bible, and goes to church he is somehow immune to the dangers associated with high blood pressure and high blood sugar he is sadly mistaken. He needs to "hide himself," to begin taking the necessary steps to getting his health under control. Let him start exercising and changing his diet while he prays and claims the Bible's promises of healing and health.

Folly of Haste

hasteOne of the marks of the non-conservative, reckless types is haste. Again in Proverbs we read: "The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty" (Proverbs 21:5). Notice that haste is placed as an opposite to diligence. One of the greatest sources of human tragedies is haste. How many divorces could have been avoided if the couples had given themselves a little more time. Houses purchased too quickly, businesses started without enough planning, churches planted with little forethought, marriages entered into too lightly, lawsuits initiated on an angry impulse, contracts signed out of lust rather than careful thought – all sorts of woes and miseries have occurred because people never gave themselves time to think things through carefully and logically. The Bible says it simply but powerfully: diligence leads to plenty, haste to poverty.

God's guidance in our lives normally comes about in the process of time. This is, or should be, one of the main reasons we respond with, "I'll pray about it," when someone asks us for a decision. We are not saying, "I'll pray, and soon God will appear to me clothed in flashing lightning, and tell me exactly what to do." To say, "I'll pray about it," is to say, "Give me time to ask God's wisdom, and to keep asking and looking to Him, and as the days pass He will give me a settled peace about which direction He wants me to go. When that happens, I'll get back to you." In Proverbs 15 we read: "Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established" (Proverbs 15:22). Not only do we seek God's wisdom, but we ask wisdom from others as well. The reckless impulsive types don’t have the time or patience to stop and get counsel from anyone else. Their motto is: "I want what I want when I want it." A conservative approach that takes the time to get advice and listen to others, prays for wisdom, thinks long and hard about the decision, and does some research before acting, is far more likely to end up deciding rightly than a hasty, impulsive mentality which listens to no one and assumes that strong feelings must always be followed.

Jesus was Conservative

Jesus was conservative. If anyone had a right to throw caution to the winds, it was Jesus. He was the Son of God; He was the promised Messiah. And yet our Lord refused to live recklessly. When Satan tried to persuade Him to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple, Jesus replied, "It is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test." To engage in foolish and dangerous actions, assuming that God must protect you, is to put God to the test. This Jesus would not do.

One of the most amazing passages in this regard is where we read in John: "After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him" (John 7:1). Surely Jesus had the ability to keep people from killing Him! Surely He did not need to take precautions for His own safety. And yet He did! Jesus, as the Son of man, was following the basic rule of living conservatively and avoiding unnecessary risk – He was staying out of a situation that was dangerous. If they were out to kill Him in Judea, He would stay out of Judea. And if Jesus, the Son of God avoided dangerous, risky situations, how much more should we do the same?

I have been invited to preach in Pakistan, but I tell them that at present it is too dangerous for an American to be preaching there. Sometimes they try to encourage me to have faith in God and come anyway. I strongly believe in the protective hand of God. I know and love to quote the verse that "he who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." But this doesn't give us a license to be reckless with our lives. Yes, there will be a few times when God may clearly lead us into a dangerous situation; and if He does we can expect His protection, but short of that He expects us to use wisdom and caution.

In our finances

One area that many Christians struggle with is their finances. Many buy the biggest house and fanciest car they could possibly afford, and stretch their budget to the absolute limit. They give themselves no margin for emergencies. These are distinctly "un-conservative" decisions. The Biblical concept which speaks to this is contentment. In Hebrews we are told "be content with such things as you have…" (Hebrews 13:5). Paul writes to Timothy: "And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (1 Timothy 6:8).

It is contentment and finding our joy in Christ that keeps us from making foolish financial decisions: buying that house or car that we cannot afford, quitting the job God has placed us in to go for that other job that promises great riches, but turns out to be a terrible fit for us. Through contentment we can live with our old TV for a few more years, even though these latest televisions have such delicious new features. Because we are content we can live with our rather plain and boxy car, even though our best friends just bought that beautiful new luxury car. Content people have the extra cash available when their air-conditioning goes out in the middle of July or their transmission starts shuddering six months after the warranty has expired. This is not to suggest that God does not want us to ever buy new or nice things, but the conservative approach is to buy new things as we need them, and as we know that we can comfortably afford them. To rush out and spend money that we do not have on things that we do not need is folly.

The ultimate recklessness

To be conservative is to refuse to put ourselves in harm's way when there is no good reason. Sadly this is exactly what most people do every day of their lives when they refuse to come to Jesus Christ for salvation. They get up in the morning, go through their day, and go to bed at night a heartbeat away from hell. They live their days under the wrath of God. One car accident, one unexpected disease, one sudden heart attack as they lie on their bed, and they will find themselves eternally lost. Not only is the sinner in eternal danger from sudden death, but also every year that passes makes it far less likely he will ever choose Christ. Statistics show that if you don't receive Christ by the end of your twenties, you likely never will. No one is so hard to persuade as an older person.

Let us run to Jesus for the refuge that His cross and His resurrection have provided. In Him there is safety; in Him there is eternal security. To gamble with our money is bad, but to gamble with our souls is terrible. Even if you have lived your life recklessly and carelessly from your youth until now, you can make the one truly safe and conservative choice that will more than make up for all your previous foolish choices – you can choose Jesus Christ.

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