Endurance, Season 3, Episode 8, Fork in the Road
Endurance is your weekly spiritual workout, whether you think of yourself as a beginner, an intermediate, or advanced!
Explore with us as we talk about what we should do when we hit a ‘fork in the road’.
Go Deeper with Andy B, as he explains how we make sure we’re going in the right direction.
He touches on the armour of God, in particular the shoes of the gospel of peace.
In reference to Habakkuk 3:19, he looks at deer, climbers, and athletes being sure-footed and confident due to knowledge, practice, and experience.
He relates his experience of learning to ride a motorbike. He explains how he was shown what each of the controls did and was taught how to operate the bike.
He looks at mountain goats, doubt, driving, confidence, and more…
Read and Remember:
Steven points out that the key to knowing that you’re following God is to know His ways.
We do this by praying, spending time with God, and by reading Scripture, where we find many accounts of people following God.
Reflect and Respond:
Nathan explains that we need to make sure we are following God’s leading in our lives.
After all, who knows the right way for us to go better: us – flawed, imperfect human beings, who frequently mistake opinion for fact, and truth for emotion – or God – the perfect, omnipresent Creator of the universe?
Welcome to Endurance. I’m Steven.
And I’m Nathan.
This is Endurance, your weekly spiritual workout.
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This week we’re looking at how do we know when we’re on the right path? How do we know we’re being? We’re following God? How do we know we’re on the right path? Which Andy B will unpack, unpack for us after the break.
Those who never changed their minds, never change anything. #SpeakTruth.
#GoDeeper with Andy B
So we are looking at Fork in the Road. What do we mean by that? Well, if you’re thinking about a fork in the road, you might, if you’re from the north of England, think of Sheffield, where silverware, and cutlery was made, but we’re not talking about that sort of a fork. We’re not talking about the kind of fork you find that you’ve got a knife, and a spoon, squished together to make one utensil. We’re not talking about that sort of a fork in the road, either.
What we’re looking at is you’re going along your journey, and you come to a place where you have to choose to go in 1 direction, or any 1 of another directions. Maybe it’s just two decisions you’ve got to make. Do I go left? Or do I go right? Or maybe you got to think well, this 3, 4, 5 if it’s a huge intersection of life. And you’ve got all these things, and you’re not quite sure if it’s just as simple as it will is it get left or right. Do I carry on? Do I stop?
Actually, there’s a whole host of things you’ve gotta decide. And that’s what we’re looking at. As disciples of Jesus Christ, how do we as Christians decide which way are we supposed to go? How does that work? What does that look like? How do we make those decisions? When the rubber hits the road? Where do we go? How do we decide? What does the Bible tell us? Well, we’re going to go, at the start of this, to the armour of God, in the armour of God, we’ve got the best piece of evidence and information of how we should make decisions. And there’s an awful lot in this 1 tiny little verse.
So, the armour of God, as you should know, talks about the belt, and the breastplate, and the helmet, all these different parts that make up the armour of God. And if you want to know what that is, go and look that up in Ephesians 6. I’m just gonna read 1, slightly out of context verse, which is verse 15. Ephesians 6, verse 15, which says this
"and as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace".
Now, I could preach on that for days. That 1 little verse. I’m not, don’t panic. But I could preach a long time on that. Because, one of the things that I’ve said to lots of people is, when they said, Andy, what how do I make this decision, and lots of people will say, Andy, I don’t know what decision to make. I don’t know which way to go. Do I? Do I go this way, or that way? How am I supposed to make the decision? And, quite often when I’m asked this question, I say, well, this needs to be a decision that you can make, ‘cos you need to follow through with it and deal with the consequences of that. I can’t tell you what to do! But what I can tell you is how to choose how to make that decision. And you need to go with the peace, which comes straight out of Ephesians, 6, verse 15. But, it’s not just about having peace.
Let’s just go a little bit further back.
"Having put on" so this is something you have already done, before you come to needing to make a decision. This isn't, ooh, we've got to make a decision. What I do? Actually, we should already be in this place before we have to even think about reaching a place where decisions need to be made. "Having put on" 'already' if you want to stick that word in, to help you understand it, "having 'already' my version, put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. What's the gospel of peace? Well, the gospel is peace is a relationship with Jesus Christ, so that things don't freak us out. So we're not worrying and panicking and letting anxiety get the better of us! And when you do, like I do, Jesus also gave the answer that, when you have anxiety, here's a solution. We're not going to go into that today, you can look that up. But, we're not supposed to be troubled or anxious. But, when we are troubled and anxious, God's given us a get out, of how to help us, there. So, peace, we need to pursue the gospel of peace. We need to see that God is at the centre of our lives.
At the moment, Jo and I are filming some episodes for our brand new podcast, video podcast, actually, called Marriage Matters. And we’ve been looking at how do you move through life and into marriage specifically, with your Christian faith, ‘cos it’s gonna change? And the thing that we were talking about our last episode, which hasn’t even aired yet, but that one of the themes was, how is it that we get married, or we get to this life place where we have to make a decision, but we’ve changed, we’re different, we’re not who we were and people may not recognise us? And how does that play out? If you want to know more about that, you need to look at the 2nd Episode of Marriage Matters.
But how do we pursue God? How do we get this peace? What does that look like? What does that mean? How do we arrive at that place? How do we access this peace? Well, the peaceisn’t something that we, in a sense, access. It’s not something we generate or create. People do all sorts of crazy things. nothing to do with the gospel, nothing to do with God, nothing to do with the Bible – to try and find peace. But, the kind of peace that they’re looking for, it’s short term, not real. It’s a bit like being really, really hungry and eating some crisps, it is not going to fill you up, and it is not going to sustain you. It is, in effect, fake food. It’s not real. Yes, you can eat it, and there are some nutrients and you’ll get something from it. But, it really isn’t going to last. It’s like a hollow bubble. You press on it, you’re going to collapse.
If you’re exercising, physically, you don’t want to eat crisps, and rubbish. You want to eat healthy food. You want to eat food that’s going to keep on giving you what you need. And, the thing is, when you want to exercise in a race, you don’t give yourself energy, any more than you give yourself peace. We get peace because God gives it to us. You get energy for your race, because the food gives it to you. We’re not really participants at 1 level. Okay, you can argue, well, your body’s doing some stuff, and processing it. You’re not really consciously thinking about it, it just happens around you. But, with God, He gives us the peace. It’s not something that we can generate or create. We can try. We will fail!
So, how do we get His peace? Well He gives it to us. Why, or how, does He give it to us? Well, as we have a relationship with Him. As we walk rightly with Him, we find ourselves walking the path, treading the ground – in a righteous way – and that helps us to have peace. But peace is far more than that! It isn’t just peace about what you’ve done or where you’re going. We should have peace before we get there. And, that comes from a right relationship with God. Let’s move over to Habakkuk, in the Old Testament, chapter 3, verse 19, right at the very end of the New Testament. And it says this,
"God the Lord is my strength. He makes my feet like the deers he makes me tread on high places".
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen deers. Where we go riding very, very rarely, we may see deers prancing about. And it’s kind of awesome. And, they’re very short footed and they jump in and out and prancing and all this stuff, and it’s awesome. Have you ever seen a mountain goat? I’ve only ever seen photos, and video clips, of mountain goats. But these things go up these cliffs and you’re thinking that’s like a perfect, marble-flat, smooth surface and this goat is walking up and up. How on earth is it doing that? Well, it’s sure footed. Maybe that’s not something you’ve personally, directly, experienced.
But, what about seeing an experienced mountain biker, or an experienced climber. You know, maybe you’ve just started climbing and there’s somebody who’s was zipping past you at lightning pace, and you’re still thinking how do I get off the ground. Mountain biking. As you’re going down the hill, you get your finger on the brakes, and you’re going dead slow and someone comes racing by. Why is it they can go so much faster up that hill, or down that hill, then you? Well, they’re more sure footed. A bit like the deer, that’s able to climb to high places. It knows where it’s feet are, just like the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ being part of the armour of God, that we’re supposed to put on daily, we are prepared for all that comes – because we are prepared! Those climbers that go up the mount, up the wall faster, and I’ve watched this, and it’s really frustrating to see how fast they can go, and kind of scary. Ice climbers. I mean, they’re like running up the wall. It’s ridiculous. Mountain bikers, coming down the hill. I like mountain biking, I like coming off the hill. It’s very satisfying when you’ve cycled to the top, to roll down again. But, there are people much faster than me, because I’m not very quick at all. I’m a bit quicker than Jo, my wife. But, then, she’s quicker than other people, and people are quicker than her.
So, what makes people faster and quicker? And it’s all to do, being sure footed. It comes to do with with being experienced. That, having done that, and knowing that if I put my foot there, that’s going to be good. And if I put my foot there, it’s not going to be good. And if you’ve not done it, you’re thinking where do you put your foot? So, that experience counts for a lot. Because it means I know that if this happens, it will lead to this. And when that happens, I know how to deal with that. But if you’ve never faced that, and you face that for the first time, you’re probably going to fall off your bike, or slip off that wall.
So, practice, experience, and confidence. It all helps us make those decisions quicker, better, more easily, more ably. Certainly makes us look more confident. I remember one time, where I was listening to somebody who had this prophetic word for someone. And everyone said, this person you must listen to him because he’s always right. Now, aside from the alarm bells of ‘always right’ – that’s rubbish – this guy was waffling absolute nonsense. It wasn’t biblical. It wasn’t in keeping with what Scripture teaches. It wasn’t in keeping with the Christian faith. But people were saying, yes, well, yes, but we need to listen to him because he’s always right. That’s not sensible decision making.
We need to listen to people wisely and maturely. We need to measure it against the plumb line, as I would always say, of Scripture. It needs to fit this. You can’t say I’m going to interpret this scripture, and God’s given me a brand new revelation. One thing, there’s nothing new under the sun – from Ecclesiastes. But, two, if that brand new revelation doesn’t match up with Scripture, it is wrong. End of story! Scripture cannot contradict scripture. God cannot contradict the Holy Spirit. ‘The Holy Spirit said to me that this is what I need to do’. ‘Well that’s not in the Bible.’ ‘Yes, but the Holy Spirit said it’. God and the Holy Spirit are 1. They can’t disagree with each other! We need to be sure footed. We need to have, and know God’s peace. And, we do that through reading scripture, through understanding, through prayer, through a right relationship with God, through reconciliation of our heart to the Lord’s.
When I learned to ride a motorbike, which I really, really enjoyed, I got on a motorbike I had no clue what to do. Somebody trained to be what do they told me. My right foot? that works the back wheel brake. My left foot? Tthat works the clutch. My left hand? Doesn’t do a great deal, but my left fingers do, ;cos they have to operate the clutch, for the gears. My right hand? That operates the throttle. It also operates the the front brake. And someone told me what all these different things do. And they told me how to synchronise all the bits and pieces of my body, to make it work. Not wanting to fall off is a very good motivator for learning how to brake, or how to get going. But someone taught me what to do. They told me how to do it. And they showed me how to do it. So, they told me and they showed me. So, I learned how to behave, on a motorbike, against what they were doing. Their standard was really high! So I copied and imitated them. That’s part of how we understand the fork in the road.
How do we make a decision? Well, we need to look to others. We need to look to other people. Hebrews 12 reminds us there’s a cloud of witnesses. There are Christians who are in the past, the, the, the, men and women of faith who are cheering us on. And in a similar context, there’s people today, who want to help us and guide us.
One of the things that Jo and I are really passionate about, as older Christians, is that younger Christians should be expecting to talk to, listen to, and hear from older Christians in the faith. That means you should be looking to people who are not older than you – who are older in the faith. Let’s be really very careful about that. My 11 year old, Peter, has been a Christian since the age of 3, and he’s very mature in his faith. So don’t just look at someone’s age. We need to think about their maturity in the faith. And generally speaking older would, possibly, mean wiser.
But I’ve met some much older people who are Christians who are not mature in their faith at all. So let’s not jump to that. Again, my confidence to say It doesn’t just come from a position of arrogance, but experience. And there’s a really, not very fine line, whatsoever, between confidence and arrogance. I’m not arrogant when I say that. I’ve experienced it. I know that. Coming back to my motorbike, I learned to do it because someone showed me what to do. They told me what to do. They learned by, I learned by watching their example. And in the same way, in a Christian, our faith, when we have those decisions to make, there are people we need to look to. People who are more mature than us.
Marriage Matters, for Jo and I, I keep on going on about it, because it’s a very current brand new project. But for us, at 25 years of marriage, we want to help others who are not newly married, sorry, who have not been married for that long, who are looking to get married. Or thinking of getting married. Or have just gotten married. Or are five years in and struggling. Well, some of those struggles, you know what, they’re really, really healthy and normal. And we’ve been through those, so don’t worry about it. But when we speak to somebody more experienced and more mature in something, it can be really, really encouraging – that confidence.
Let’s jump to gentle James. Not very gentle, good though. Chapter 1 of James, verse 5.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts in one of his doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways."
When we’re thinking about that, that sure footed climber, they’re not indecisive. They might doubt a path. But indecision is not quite the same as doubt. And I was sharing with somebody, recently, who was really tired, ‘cos they’ve got so much going on in their life, which can be good at a time. But I said, look, you need to learn to say no. And I’ve said this to many people. You need to learn to say no, because one of the greatest enemies of this life is busyness. And that busyness creates no opportunity for silence. We fill everything with noise. Whether it’s audible noise, or reading noise or whatever. We don’t leave opportunities for God to guide our footsteps. So, when we do come to a fork in the road, we’re so busy charging along, we can’t even recognise it.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this in a car, but, somebody who misses that red light, that stop sign, that junction, and they go straight through where they’re not supposed to. Because, they’re too busy on their phone, quite probably. And, I’ve seen some really bad, near misses, and a few accidents, tragically, where people have been so busy on their path, they didn’t stop to look for the signs, like a red light. Or that stop sign. Or the white line in the road that says stop. We need to look at the stuff that’s going on around us.
Part of the armour of God, part of that gospel of peace, is that our lives are worshipping God. We don’t just get to a fork in the road and say, God, what do I do? Yeah, we should be doing that. But we should be ready for those forks in the road, by already being in a place of peace. Not suddenly arriving in this panic stricken place, handbraking to a stop, and thinking, what do I do, what do I do? That’s already a little bit late. Not that God can’t redeem that. But the whole point of the armour of God is you put it on before the day. So, when those forks in the road come, and everyday has them? Do I have lunch now, or later? There’s a fork in the road. A fairly mundane, simple one. But it might be more complicated. Do I send that email or do I not? Do I check on that website or?
There there are various forks in the road we have to decide those decisions. But if our lives are embodied with the Holy Spirit, it makes it much easier. And the gospel of peace that resides in us, as we have a relationship with Jesus – God gives us that peace. It’s not something we can chase or pursue. Pursue God, you will get peace. Pursue peace, you’re going to miss it. It’s God that we pursue, and it’s God that generously gives us peace as a result of that relationship. A lot of study Bibles will use the word spontaneous. The spontaneous outpouring, as we have that relationship with God, as we’re doing that the Holy Spirit gives us that peace.
Let me just tackle doubt and indecision. James is really saying, if you don’t know what to do, and you’re getting all uncertain, and you think I’ll do this, and I’ll do that, and I’ll do this and but all of that. That’s bad. That isn’t helpful. That is like the wave of the sea being flopped to one side, to the other, to the other. That’s not doubt. That’s being indecisive. And indecision is exhausting, utterly exhausting. Let’s remember that if we’ve got the gospel of peace, we won’t have to have indecision, because we’ll already be in a place of ‘well, I’m in place of peace, so, I’m gonna peacefully make this decision’.
But doubt is really healthy and we’ve tried to eradicate doubt. ‘Oh, you shouldn’t doubt anything, you should know that you’re a Christian’. Well, yeah you should. But the Bible also teaches, and very clearly, that doubt is not bad. Doubt is us saying, ‘I want to know your law. But are you really real? Show me God, how to know you better’. That’s doubt.
When you sit on a chair, you have a moment of doubt. ‘Is this chair, good, safe, broken, a trick chair’, whatever. And as you sit down and your weight transfers to the chair, you start to have faith in it. Doubt isn’t wrong, it means we question things, and questioning things is really healthy.
A few years ago, they changed some of the legislation in the United Kingdom. And they said, right, from this point on, in education, in the state education system, you must not question evolution. You must teach it as fact, without questioning it. And you must teach creation, the biblical version, as just a fairy tale. And immediately you’re, you’re making this big mishmash. And the biggest problem I have with that, is the idea of teaching that evolution is true, and you should never ever question it. Because Science, real science, is something that we can test and we can repeat. And if you’re not allowed to question it, that’s a really serious alarm bell, that there’s something very seriously wrong. There’s plenty wrong with evolution, I’m not going to go into that today. But the idea of teaching children that you must believe this without questioning it. That’s really dangerous.
We should question everything. Because through that questioning, we understand, and through that understanding, comes confidence. And it’s that confidence, we have a better grasp of how to live, and be a part of this world. And when we teach our children that you must not question this, we’ve just set ourselves up.
I’ve heard people who talk about Paul as this horrible man, who hated women, he wrote a letter, I’m going to ignore all of Paul’s teaching, because he’s horrible. No! All of Scripture is useful for teaching and rebuking. We must be careful not to use our emotions, as a way of measuring whether scripture is good or bad. Our emotions can be a great way of seeing how we feel. But scripture is always good, always useful, always great stuff.
And James is making the point, not that it’s bad to doubt, but it’s bad to have all the information and just sit there saying, oh, I don’t know, I don’t know what to do. Because that indecision leads to inaction. And inaction is bad.
You ever been in a church? ‘We want to do this amazing outreach. So, we’re gonna pray about it.’ Sounds good. ‘Well, we think this is what God’s saying, so, we’re gonna, we’re gonna pray some more’. And I have seen prayer used as a delaying tactic, to doing nothing, so we’ll just pray and pray and pray and pray. And there’s a time for prayer. And there’s a time for stopping. There’s a time for taking the time out to have a fast -Jesus did it for 40 days. But at the end of the 40 days, He didn’t fast and pray and another 40 days, He did something. And that person climbing up that wall has to make a decision and go with it.
Really, really simple, almost a fickle example. If you’re making a Yorkshire Pudding, you have a cupcake type bowl hot thing with oil at 200 degrees. That will cause serious burns. You take this out the oven, when it’s really hot. You pour in the batter mix, and it goes into the thing. It starts sizzling. If you pour it really badly, and from a great height, just in case you spill it, you’re going to splash the oil.
Being confident, you learn to pour it quite happily. It’s going to sizzle, it’s not going to burn you. Having done it a few times you get confident. The first time, ‘how am I going to pour it in and is it gonna get us? It’s the same as putting vegetables into boiling water. You don’t drop it from a height. You get it really close, and you do it gently, and slowly, and you do it smoothly.
And part of this taking a fork in the road, we need to understand that our journey, and our life as a Christian, should be a fairly smooth one. In as much as we should be able to be at peace about the things that are coming around us. Doesn’t mean to say we won’t have challenges, and problems, and unexpected forks in the road, and a flat tire, and we have to fix it and.
Indecision is not good. Having doubt is really healthy. Nothing wrong with doubting. Doubting should lead to action to question which increases our faith in God. People who have doubts, and then question God, and deny Him, wellit’s quite probable they weren’t saved in the first place. Or they haven’t had people around them that can guide them. Not to convince them, but to develop that relationship with God for themselves.
That climber on a wall can read as many books as he wants about how to climb a wall. But putting your foot on a bit of stone, on a bit of rock, that’s how you learn.
How do we make decisions, and not be indecisive? Well, doubting, questioning, learning from our experiences, but learning from others as well. But always holding everything to the Word of God. ‘Cos it’s the plumb line that helps us. It gives us the one, firm, fixed points to measure against. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you.
Let’s make sure that as we’re trying to go through life, we don’t seek peace ‘cos we’re not going to find it. We pursue God. That peace comes from a relationship with God. And we’re putting on my armour of God in the morning of our day, we’re saying God, guide me today. Help me to be ready to do what you want me to do for my.
And we need to learn, as I finish – one more thing – we need to remember that that may well be not what we want, but God wants for our good. To develop our relationship with Him. So, that fork in the road might take us in a path that we don’t wanna go, but that God wants us to go, so we can have a better relationship with Him.
James. Go and read James chapter 1. Don’t be double minded. Doubt? Yes. Double minded? No. Don’t be indecisive. Make some decisions. And, close with this sentence, don’t have such a busy life, that God has no opportunity where you are willingly allowing Him to guide your footsteps. And when we get to those forks in the road, we won’t be in a rush to make the decision. We’ll already be at peace because it will already be in a right relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
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The key way to know that you’re on the right path with God, that you’re taking the right path, that you’re following God’s guiding, you really need to know God’s ways. And you can do that through reading scripture, through spending time in prayer with Him. Because in the Bible of loads of accounts of people who’ve listened to God, and followed His leading. So I think that’s the key.
Yeah, and we need to make sure we are following God’s leading.,we’re pursuing Him, we’re making sure that we are on the right path. So, like Paul, often said, we need to examine ourselves. And of course we follow God. When we come to that fork in the road. We need to trust that God knows best because, really, let’s be honest, who’s likely to know better? Us flawed human beings who are, confused, who get confused with opinion and fact and emotion and truth. Or the God of the universe, who created us and knows everything!
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