Faith that Works: A Million Little Choices (The Vanilla Ice Sermon)

Here’s the audio of my “Vanilla Ice” sermon:

(Note: This sermon followed the video clip with the same name:  https://www.ignitermedia.com/products/8665-a-million-little-choices)

Slide01This morning we are talking about how even our little choices impact our wisdom, and how to become wiser through the practices I am calling the “3 P’s of Wisdom,” in order to make it easier to remember. The 3 P’s are Pausing, Praying and Paying Attention.

So first, what do we mean by wisdom?

For starters, it’s worth noting that wisdom is not the same as knowledge –

Slide02

(image credit: shockinglydelicious.com)

To quote Miles Kington: “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad.” (pause, hopefully for chuckles) (Side note: What I learned this week is that tomatoes in a fruit salad is a real thing people do!)

So, wisdom isn’t knowledge. Wisdom is having the ability to have insight about relationships and choices. It is a natural ability to understand things that most people cannot, and is a knowledge gained by having many experiences in life.

The opposite of wisdom is foolishness, silliness, stupidity. Nobody wants that!

Having wisdom makes your life easier…Where in your life is the lack of wisdom getting in the way?

I don’t know about you, but if I’m honest, one of the areas of life I struggle most with being wise is in how I spend my money – although some might argue that my biggest struggle is how much time I spend time on my phone. 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I want to be wise in how I spend my money. I want to give generously to the church and to good causes worth supporting. I want to set aside enough money to send our kids to college (all FOUR of them!) and I want to save wisely so someday, probably quite a ways away, I want to retire. I want to be a good role model to those little people who are watching.

But if I’m honest, there is a lot of pressure to use money in ways that probably aren’t the wisest.

I spend money on clothes and shoes that are cute but I don’t really need, I buy things from Amazon, I feel the pressure to upgrade my phone and get the latest and greatest gadgets. I may or may not have a problem with buying too many Sharpies and art supplies.

In fact, really large corporations are banking on my inability to make wise choices. It doesn’t help that credit card companies are more than happy to extend credit to me to make purchasing more things easier. Actually, I just read a stat recently that, as of 2017, the average American household’s consumer credit card debt was over $15000, so I’m apparently not alone on this.

My husband jokes that our problem is we have too many resources and not enough good things we are doing. Consumerism solves that problem for us. Bang! Problem with having too many resources is solved!

And it’s not just finances, there are choices to make all the time on how to spend my time, (yes that includes how much I’m on my phone), what to eat or drink, how to treat others, what to pay attention to… What about you? What are the areas you struggle with when it comes to making choices? (pause) While the areas we are working through probably vary widely, deep down we all want to walk in wisdom.

It’s like our faith says one thing, but all the other messages we are seeing say something different. A lot of the choices are probably no big deal, but there are still so many choices. The thing is, nobody sets out to get his or her self in a bad or unwise place, whether it’s about our finances, relationships, addictions, health, or whatever – it’s almost like we wake up surprised one day wondering how we got here.

Consider this:

Slide03In Science class, there is a concept called “tipping point” and an experiment where you make a boat out of aluminum and try to see how many pennies you can put in the boat before it sinks. How it usually works is you put the pennies in one by one, and eventually a penny drops in and the boat sinks quickly to the bottom. (Side note: We tried this during youth group recently & one of the groups figured out a way to make a nearly unsinkable boat…so maybe we have some wise students in our midst!) In the same way, we make choices that, individually, are insignificant. But, like the opening video illustrates as well, the accumulation of several choices brings us to a place we never expected to be.

Isn’t it great to know that even though we all face this issue, God’s word has something to say about it?

Remember at the opening of worship when I asked you to think of the wisest people you know?

For me, my friend Bill came to mind, but I also thought of all the times I would visit with John Cash on Sunday mornings before he moved to Florida – there was a lot of wisdom to learn from his 9 decades of life experience!

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” James 3:13

The book of James reminds us that people who are focused on gaining God’s wisdom are known as being pure, peace-loving, considerate, full of mercy, impartial & sincere.  Think again about the wisest person you know – how do they measure up? (pause)

So, as we move forward from here, how do we become wise?

To become wise, you need to follow what I’m calling the 3 P’s on this path to wisdom. I’m calling them “Pause, Pray & Pay Attention,” but those who are Gen- Xer’s in the room might appreciate that Vanilla Ice’s word to “Stop, Collaborate, and Listen” also would work. 🙂

The first “P” is to PAUSE. (STOP)

In order to grow in wisdom and learn from experience, it is essential that we PAUSE for time to meditate/reflect/know yourself. We live in a culture that is constantly busy. We rush from one thought, one activity, one bit of information to the next.

The problem is, if we are so busy moving around all the time, we will absolutely miss out on opportunities to learn, miss out on opportunities to hear what God might be saying.

Slide06I love this movie quote from the classic Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” This is so true. (image credit: quotesgram.com)

Life is full of choices. Every day we can make a million choices without thinking, so the first “P” is that we need to PAUSE and consider the impact of our actions before we move forward.

What does “Pause” look like? I’m a big believer in the practice of taking a “Holy Pause” between activities – just a moment to catch your breath. (pause) You can even taking a weekly “Pause” in the form or Sabbath rest which will give you the space to move forward with wisdom.

A huge benefit of this is if we pause to reflect on our own lives, our own shortcomings, we grow more patience with others.

The second “P” is PRAYER. (COLLABORATE)

James 1:5 says we need to ask for wisdom – that anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask.

In Scripture there are several examples of people who struggle with wisdom. King Solomon, the son of David, is the best-known Biblical character for wisdom. In the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles, Solomon had just become king when God appears and tells Solomon “Ask whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.”

Solomon thought about all of the things he could request & wisely said, “Give me wisdom and knowledge so I can lead this people, because no one can govern this great people of yours without your help.”

In response, God, delighted that Solomon didn’t ask for things like wealth or power, gives Solomon not only wisdom but also wealth, riches and fame beyond any kings before or since.

We begin the search for wisdom by pausing and praying, but we can also gain wisdom in two ways: personal experience and learning wisdom from others’ experiences – as long as we follow the final “P”

The final “P” is Paying Attention. (LISTEN)

You gain wisdom either through your personal experience or – the great shortcut to wisdom – through listening to the wisdom of others.

Think of it this way: I believe people can be divided into two main categories: Stove touchers and non-stove touchers. Which are you?

Here’s how it works: there are people you can tell “hey, don’t touch the stove, it’s hot and will burn you.” They will touch the stove anyway, get burnt & learn that stoves are hot.

Non-stove touchers will hear the good advice, follow it & still learn that stoves are hot.

Whether it’s to gain wisdom through personal experience or through the experience of others, you have to follow the final “P” and Pay Attention to the available wisdom.

We can learn from Scripture quite a lot of wisdom from others – some things never change. We can learn to follow instructions and put the words into action.

Having a lot of different experiences helps you gain wisdom – but only if you let it.

It’s not enough to just have experience, you have to PAY ATTENTION to life as it happens around you.

Like in the video, we are often distracted by the screens and other things vying for our attention. We miss life as it happens when we are so busy trying to get a video or an Instagram image of it!

To grow in wisdom, you have to be able to see what is right in front of you

And also see the deeper meaning of life

My friends, in conclusion, here is the hope in this message:

We constantly receive messages from our culture about what we should do and how we should spend our time and resources in order to measure up to the world’s standards of success or happiness.

As people of faith, we have a unique opportunity and challenge to live lives that are markedly different than the world’s standards. As we seek God’s wisdom instead, we seek to live lives of grace, mercy and love. You have the opportunity to live lives that exemplify God’s love and especially God’s love for all people.

No matter where you find yourself, you can move toward wisdom. By following the 3 P’s of Pausing, Praying and Paying Attention, we can make a million little choices that move us toward wisdom.

It is my prayer that you will walk thoughtfully through your millions of small decisions, perhaps even learning wisdom from others often (as opposed to touching the stove yourself!) and live a life that brings peace and hope to others.

As we close, I want to offer an opportunity for you each to practice the 3 P’s of wisdom. In a minute I will pray and the band will come forward to play a song. During their song I invite you to spend time perhaps with your worship guide and a pencil, and take a moment to PAUSE and reflect on your life, PRAY for God’s wisdom in decisions you need to make, and PAY ATTENTION to what God might be saying to you. You can write down a prayer, or ideas on what you might want to work on, or spend the time in prayer as we reflect on God’s word for you.

Let us pray:

Spirit of wisdom,

This morning we confess that all too often we make choices that pull us away from you, distract us from the path you have for us. Forgive us for the choices we make. We ask for your true wisdom to be a guide in our lives. Thank you for being a God who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

In the name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.