By Rick Warren, in his Daily Hope devotional blog, April 27-May 3, at: www.pastorrick.com
In these devotions Pastor Rick Warren offers some good, practical advice, listing six ‘tests’ (questions) to ask yourself as you make your decisions.
#5 — THE INFLUENCE TEST
Everything you do influences someone else. Some decisions are good for you and also good for others. But sometimes it’s tempting to make a decision that might be fine for you but would harm the people around you.
That’s why it’s helpful to use the Influence Test when you’re making decisions. You simply ask: Will this harm other people?
The Influence Test is the opposite of what our culture encourages. Our culture teaches you to think of yourself only: What do you need? What do you want? But God expects you to think of people around you, too.
Romans 14:12-13 says, “Each of us will give an account of himself to God . . . Try to live in such a way that you will never make your brother stumble by letting him see you doing something that he thinks is wrong” (TLB).
Whether you like it or not, you’re being watched by other people. We all are together in this boat called humanity. If I decide to drill a hole in the bottom of the boat, everyone else will be affected. The Bible says that one day we’ll be judged on how our decisions have affected other people. God takes this seriously.
One vivid picture of this is with parents and other people who have children in their lives. You’re directly influencing the next generation as your children watch the decisions you make. They see whether you treat rude people with respect or returned rudeness. They know if you lie to your boss about being sick just so you can get a day off. They’re learning what’s appropriate by what you watch on television and what you let them watch.
Maybe you don’t have kids in your life, but almost everyone is a neighbor to someone. Ask yourself: “Am I a good neighbor to the people who live closest to me?”
The random people you come in contact with every day are watching you, too—the new guy working the checkout at the retail store, or the restaurant server who’s having a hard day and takes it out on you. As a Christian, you can’t just respond to these things however you want. If you do, the non-Christians around you may look and say, “If that’s what a Christian is, forget it!”
Mature people limit their freedom for the benefit of others. They consider how their decisions will affect people around them. They limit their own freedom out of love. They use the Influence Test and ask, “How will it affect others?”
#6 — THE INVESTMENT TEST
“So be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise. Live wisely. I mean that you should use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times. So do not be foolish with your lives. But learn what the Lord wants you to do.” –Ephesians 5:15-17 (ICB)
If you want to make the best use of your life, you’ve got to get control of your time. Your time is your life. If you don’t learn to manage your time, you won’t go very far in life.
So when you’re making a decision, use the Investment Test: Is this the best use of my time? We all have the same amount of time every week: 168 hours. Time is far more important in your life than money. You can get more money, but you can’t get more time. You’ve only been allotted a certain number of days in this world. If you blow them, you’ve blown it! If you waste time, you’re wasting your life.
You don’t have time for everything. And the good news is this: God doesn’t expect you to do everything. In fact, there are only a few things worth doing in the first place.
Effective people figure out what’s essential and what’s trivial. And they spend more time doing the essential things and less time on the trivial.
That may sound easy, but, frankly, it’s quite hard. It’s difficult to choose what’s best over what’s easiest.
As I’ve matured, I’ve had to choose not to do many activities. It’s not because those activities have been bad. It’s because I want to maximize my time. I want to choose the best. I want to spend my life on the mission God has sent me here to fulfill.
Did you know you’re here for a reason, too? You were not put on this planet to drift. God made you for a mission. If you know what that mission is, start clearing out the clutter in your life so you can spend your life on your mission.
Are you unsure what your mission is? First, stop doing some of the trivial things that take up so much space in your life. Then ask God what your mission is. With the trivial stuff cleared out, you’ll have more time to hear his answer.
You have a choice. Don’t settle for second best. Figure out what is God’s best for you and spend your life on that.
“If you want better insight and discernment . . . learn the importance of reverence for the Lord and of trusting him . . . He shows how to distinguish right from wrong, how to find the right decision every time.” —Proverbs 2:3-5, 9 (TLB)
These then are six different tests you can use when making decisions. Reflect on your own decision-making habits. As you read through this list, you may be haunted by bad decisions you’ve made. You may be feeling shame, guilt, regret, or remorse. Maybe you were unfaithful to a spouse. Perhaps you lied to protect yourself. You may have done something so bad that you never have told anyone what you’ve done.
Here’s what I think Jesus might like to say to you today about decisions you have made in the past:
You may have made some bad decisions. Everyone has. But you are valuable to me. I love you. I will forgive you. I can restore you. I can even reverse some of the damage you have brought on your life and the lives of other people. I will welcome you back home with open arms. I died for those poor decisions that you made. They’ve already been paid for on the cross. Come to me and give me all the pieces of your life: the good parts, the ugly parts, the parts that embarrass you. I will take your pieces and give you my peace. Some of your past decisions have caused scars and shame. I will give you the power and wisdom to start making smart decisions that will lead to satisfaction and significance.
Who could turn down an invitation like that? If you’ve realized today that you’ve been calling your own shots, give that control over to God; and enjoy the peace that will follow.