Living With Wrong Choices
A while back, a lady in her 20’s came to see me. She’d been married for about four years and now there were a couple of children.
“Pastor,” she said, “I’ve married the wrong man.” After hearing her story and discovering the facts, I concluded she was probably right. She had made a wrong choice in getting married. She was a talented and gifted girl, but the guy was a jerk. He was a lazy lout and quite abusive. Her question was, “What do I do now that I’ve made a wrong choice?”
I know a man in another city who made some unwise choices. He put all his money into a get rich scheme. He thought he was going to make a lot of money in a hurry, but things didn’t turn out the way he expected. He lost all his money. He said, “I shouldn’t have done what I did. I know I made a dumb decision.”
A number of years ago I bought a new car. It was a terrible choice. It looked great on the outside and it was comfortable, but under the hood, it was a lemon. I lived to regret the decision to buy that car.
It’s important for us to learn how to handle bad choices, because at one time or another, we all make them. One bad choice can undo 100 good choices.
There’s a story in the Old Testament that can help us. Most of the story is in 1 Samuel 12.
1. SOMETIMES, WE MAKE WRONG CHOICES
i. The Israelites made a bad choice. Samuel was the priest, the spiritual leader of the people. The Jewish form of government at that time wasn’t democratic; it was theocratic. God was the king of the nation and God spoke to the people through the prophets and priests.
However, the time came when Israel asked for a king; they wanted a man to be their leader. “They said to Samuel, You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” (1 Samuel 8:5). The Jewish people had been watching the nations around them. Each of them had a king and they wanted to be like other nations.
This was no small decision; it was a decision with big spiritual implications. What they were doing was an affront to God. They were saying, “God, we don’t trust you to lead us, we know how to do things better than you do!”
Samuel knew what was happening and understood the implications of their demands. He also knew this was an irreversible decision; once they made it, they couldn’t turn back.
But when they said, Give us a king to lead us, this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him, Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected as their king, but me. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. (1 Samuel 8:6-8).
Israel asked for a king; they made a bad decision and this was tantamount to rejecting God.
ii. No one always makes the right decisions in life. Most of us can look back and say, “If I had that to do all over again, I’d surely do it differently.”
We can make bad choices for a variety of reasons. Some are the result of inexperience. When we’re young, we can make poor decisions simply because we don’t know better.
Some bad choices are made innocently. We think we’re doing right, but things don’t turn out as we expect. There were things we didn’t know when we made our decisions.
Some bad choices are deliberate. We might intentionally do what we know isn’t right. We know we should do something but we react and rebel and do the opposite. People have said, “I know what I should do, but I’m going my own way anyway.”
Some of our bad choices happen because we fail to discover God’s will. His plan is the best possible plan and he wants to reveal that plan to us. But at times we refuse to find it and when we do, we make bad choices and there are serious consequences.
iii. Bad choices can be made in many areas of life. We can make poor choices with our money and get heavily in debt or make poor investments.
We can make poor career choices, leave a job prematurely or take positions that aren’t right for us.
We can choose the wrong friends. We can associate with people who drag us down. We can date the wrong person.
iv. Bad choices can have serious consequences. Some bad choices have only minor repercussions while others have significant consequences.
People handle their bad decisions in a variety of ways. Some people get down on themselves, discouragement sets in and there are feelings of despair and hopelessness. Some folk withdraw into a shell because they’re embarrassed by their mistake. They don’t want to be around other people, they don’t go out with their friends and they withdraw from church.
Some folks get angry, some blame others and some complain about their circumstances. Husbands get mad at wives and wives get angry at husbands. Some folk even get angry with God.
2. AT SOME POINT, WE REALIZE WE’VE MADE A BAD CHOICE
It may be the consequences of our choice or perhaps a sense of guilt in dealing with the results, but eventually we reach the point where we know we’ve made a bad decision. The realization may come quickly; it may take some time.
i. Israel realized they had made a bad decision. When they asked for a king, they were arrogant and demanding and they wouldn’t listen to the advice of anyone. God gave them what they wanted and Saul became the first king of Israel.
It wasn’t long until they realized they had made a mistake and they wished that they didn’t have a king. They regretted the decision they’d made. They said, “…we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king!” (1 Samuel 12:19).
Israel knew they had not only made a wrong decision but sinned in making that choice. They knew they couldn’t reverse their decision. They were stuck with a king and felt trapped. They wondered what they could do.
ii. You will likely reach the point where you realize your decision was a bad one. Some people are at that point right now. They’ve made an unwise decision and are now living with the consequences of that choice. They feel trapped, frustrated and wonder if they have any future.
iii. Remember there’s hope. God still has a plan and purpose for you. God hasn’t written you off. He’s the God of the second chance.
3. HOW TO FACE THE FUTURE
The rest of the story gives us some clues as to how we can face the future. Chapter 12 tells us how the Israelites came to grips with the consequences of an irreversible, wrong choice.
i. Come before the Lord. Samuel called all the people together and spoke to them from his heart. He was an old man at the time, but he spoke with conviction and he unburdened his heart to the people. Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes. (1 Samuel 12:16). The people came before the Lord.
This is the first thing we should do. Come into the presence of God.
This isn’t what some people do. Some refuse to come to church when they make an embarrassing mistake. Others stop praying. Some look in the wrong places for answers.
Standing before the Lord can be hard. We might be embarrassed and afraid to meet with others. We may feel awkward coming before God. Frequently, after we’ve made a wrong choice, we feel guilty and the devil tries to keep us away from the presence of God.
This is what happened to Adam and Eve. They made a terrible choice. They did what God told them not to do and then were afraid to meet with God. They hid.
It may be embarrassing to stand in God’s holy gaze, but remember, God is on our side, he’s the source of help and he’s the best one to help us. When we make bad choices, we shouldn’t stay away from church. We need to get into the presence of God.
ii. Experience God’s presence. What happened when they stood before the Lord? The Lord revealed himself in a remarkable way and there was a demonstration of the power of God.
It was the time of the wheat harvest, a time of the year when it never rained. But Samuel called on God, and God sent thunder and rain and when it happened, the people stood in awe of the Lord. God revealed his power and reassured them.
iii. Admit your mistakes. The people all said to Samuel, Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins, the evil of asking for a king. (1 Samuel 12:19).
The people admitted their mistake, they acknowledged they’d made a wrong decision, they confessed and they asked Samuel to pray for them. Notice, they didn’t make excuses or blame anyone else. Rather, they accepted the responsibility for their decision and sought forgiveness.
Confession is a big part of recovering from a bad choice. Until we face up to our mistakes, we’ll never fully recover.
iv. Receive new hope. Samuel was a wise leader. He didn’t chide or berate the people and he didn’t say, “I told you so!” He recognized God’s forgiveness and said, “I’ll pray for you,” and “I’ll teach you.” Notice his words, for they are at the heart of the lesson.
Do not be afraid, Samuel replied. You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people because the Lord was pleased to make you his own… but be sure to serve the Lord faithfully. (1 Samuel 12:20).
Israel had offended God but notice what Samuel told them. Don’t be afraid of God. God loves you. God cares for you and God will forgive you. Don’t turn away, don’t look for answers in the wrong place and don’t go chasing after useless idols. Fear the Lord, respect God, stand in awe before him and serve him faithfully.
God hasn’t written you off and still has a plan for your life. Receive his forgiveness. Forget what’s behind and press on to new goals. Don’t live in the past, live in the future.
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