Are you going to “thrust out a little from the land” or “launch out into the deep?”
Decision-making may very well be the most difficult task for any person, Christian or otherwise. All of us will concur, that making hard decisions can cause overwhelming levels of stress and anxiety. How do we go through the process? What is the best approach to major decisions? As a Christian person, is there a biblical model for decision-making? I think there is.
Is there a biblical model for decision-making?
First we must count the cost.
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? … So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:31-33 ESV).
We do not roll the dice when it comes to living out our faith. Faith is not the absence of reason. We do not play Russian roulette with our future or the future of those affected by our decisions (and there are always others affected by our decisions). Gambling requires no faith connection between a subjective, uncertain outcome and us; there is a disconnect. Rash decision-making results from fools who fail to pour out their heart before, during, and after the decision. There is a disconnect between the individual and that which is actually happening. So it is easy to answer roughly, erratically change plans, or hurt others without feeling remorse or responsibility.
Faith, even in times when we do not have all the information, connects our emotions, our personal interest, our very will, with whatever is happening or has potential to happen. For this reason, it is wise to “count the cost,” i.e. to know as much as possible about the issue at hand before lunging forward with action. Tangible and intangible data must be taken into account. Principles from God’s Word must be drawn upon and applied to real situations. Prayer, fasting, and thoughtful consideration are necessary before making major decisions. Seeking counsel from those with more experience is a must. The Bible says, “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counselors they are established” (Prov 15:22).
By counting the cost beforehand, we become involved. It gets more and more personal as we familiarize ourselves with the facts. For the spiritual man this is more than stacking numbers and running percentages, and trusting in probabilities; it means we enter the realm of faith fully aware of what is at stake. With the knowledge we do have, and the wisdom we do have, and the Bible principles we do have, we can then step out into what we do not yet have, which is the thing “hoped for,” the thing “not seen.”
Faith without knowledge (i.e. humanly attainable knowledge) is wishful thinking. Faith without knowledge (i.e. divinely revealed knowledge) lacks substance (hypostasis – that which has foundation, is firm, that which has actual existence). When we know to some degree what is actually at stake, then we are prepared to “thrust out a little from the land.” When we receive revelation, i.e. we catch a vision, of what God has for us “on the other side,” then we enter the crux of the decision making process. With Jesus before us, and the crowds behind us, will we have the courage to “launch out into the deep?”
With Jesus before us, and the crowds behind us, will we have the courage to “launch out into the deep?”
“And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land” (Luke 5:1). Notice that Jesus compelled Simon to “thrust out.” Jesus is perfectly comfortable off land; that is, away from the sure footing of absolutes. The land is solid, sure, and predictable. Jesus is challenging, compelling Simon Peter to leave the familiarity of land, “thrust out,” and go before the people. Going with Jesus even “a little from the land” places us “out there” where people can see what we are doing, see the mistakes we make, see how we either work together/or don’t work together with Jesus. “And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship” (Luke 5:2). Decision-making is a process that is difficult, but not impossible. Making right decisions does not guarantee us sure footing and security; but in fact, it will lead us further away from the routine, the comfortable, the predictable, into new experiences with God. It is doubtful that Peter ever envisioned himself on a boat providing the venue and “pulpit” for the Messiah to preach the Gospel.
Like Peter, if we are able to make right decisions based on faith and “thrust out a little,” then Jesus will lead us even further. This faith journey is about learning, doing, pursuing, and even risking things in order to move from one place in God to the next. If we get hung up on one test of faith, we could linger there too long, wasting our time, our family’s time, or even worse, God’s time.
Perhaps Jesus chose hard-working fisherman and laborers because he didn’t want anyone to waste his time!
If we can embrace the uncertainty of life and recognize opportunities God is placing before us, then perhaps we will have courage to take the risks that are necessary. There are always risks. Peter would agree, for the next thing Jesus said to him after he obeyed in “the small things” was “launch out into the deep…”
Here, in between these two statements of the Lord, is the subtle difference. You see, sitting there on the boat with Jesus, just an earshot distance from the shore, Peter could have quickly and easily returned to land. But somewhere, in between “thrust out a little” and “launch out,” is that moment of decision.
Peter must count the cost. “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Jesus wants to know if Peter has the will to decide. Can Peter let go of _______ to get to ______. This is the difficulty of decision-making. The will to forcefully separate ourselves from the crowd, from our familiar stomping grounds, from _______, and “thrust out.” For some it is an impossible decision. The rich young ruler could not do it; he loved his wealth (i.e. his security, his safety, his sure-footing). Yet in the “moment of decision” resides all that it means to be called a Christian. Herein lies the wonder of the Christian faith. It is total abandonment, total surrender, total separation from this world, in order to win Christ. “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” (Mark 8:35).
To revisit an earlier question, is there some biblical model for decision-making? Our lives are still confined to this finite world. So, we must “count the cost.” We must consider the things we do know, weigh them against what else we know, and make wise calculations. However, the Christian life compels us to go beyond calculations. Even an unbeliever can “count the cost.” We are challenged to “thrust out” with Jesus, and afterwards to “launch out” with him, beyond the realm of the rational, the predictable, into waters that may be unstable, unpredictable, where our outcome is no longer in our control. We must relinquish control! This is faith. This is the realm where God operates. Some may have “thrust out a little from land.” Will you “launch out into the deep” also?
“And what shall I more say? (Heb 11:32).
Will we renounce the shore life and choose, by faith, to venture into the deep with the Lord?