Every decision you make sends you down a path. And every path has a destination, good or bad, painful or joyful, fruitful or damaging.
Most of us do not take into account, or calculate the possible destination of a decision. From a person who has drunk too much deciding to drive home to the well educated, middle class, successful person who decided to finance a new car they cannot quite afford, or invest in a stock which is a gamble, or even to having an extra marital affair.
Andy Stanley’s book examines how people, even smart, well educated people, make decisions which lead to the path of disaster or ruin, and how we can begin to avoid traveling such paths.
As a pastor of a large church, Stanley often sits listening to a congregation member explaining why things have gone wrong in their life thinking “How on earth did you not SEE that coming?” Stanley writes regarding a friend whose lung cancer has returned;
“Our hearts are broken. But no-one is totally shocked. He’s smoked since he was a teenager. Does that make it any less painful? Nope. Do I still pray for him? Yep. Does God still care? Absolutely. Will forgiveness reverse this? No. Will his teenage son learn something through this? I hope so. Does everyone who smokes dies of lung cancer? No. Is God punishing him? I don’t believe so. He chose a path…..”
Over spending, bad purchases, poor investment decisions, smoking, taking drugs, driving too fast, buying houses you can’t afford, poor relationship decisions are all decisions which send you on a path which has a destination – bankruptcy, foreclosure, diseases, serious injury, divorce etc.
So, what is Stanley’s solution? Using the story of King Saul and David, when David had opportunities to kill Saul, but refused because Saul was still God’s anointed, Stanley lays this principle out for us:
David honored the law, principles and wisdom of God and the story ended well…..God’s will for your life will always line up with his law, his principles and his wisdom.
That is the key – even in the most emotionally charged situations, if we focus on God’s law, principles and wisdom we will gain clarity, and if we then ACT on these three things then our decision will take us on a path where it’s destination is God centered.
This of course requires us to submit – submit to God. Choosing the right path begins with submission to God, not information, or even direction – but submission.
Stanley unpacks what this looks like throughout the book. Submission is not easy – and it does not mean an easy path. One of the last stories of the book illustrates this. A dear friend of the Stanley’s had cancer. In a conversation with her she told them that “Once I was able to accept the cancer as coming from the hand of my heavenly Father I was okay.” This statement stunned the Stanley’s. She explained that she believed that God had the final say-so over what could and could not enter her life. She didn’t pretend cancer was a good thing. She didn’t believe cancer was from God. She believed it was part of his plan for her. This gave her peace. She had submitted to God – and therefore the path she traveled was a God centered path.
Of course, not all our dreams or hopes will come true. Stanley’s last chapter, Road Closed, is a useful look at what happens when through either one decision, or not fault of our own, our path is stopped and our hopes and dreams end.
This is really a great book for all believers to read. But primarily for me, I will give this book away to young people – especially those going to college, young youth pastors and young ministers. Another ‘must’ read book for apprentice and leadership programs, and with the study guide in the back it will serve as an excellent book for discussion.