Union University R.G. Lee Society of Fellows

"Making Tough Decisions
Is Tough"

by Dr. Roy Graves
Pastor, First Baptist Church
McKenzie, TN

Dr. Roy Graves

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision." (Joel 3:14 NAS)

"What is the secret of your success?" a reporter asked a bank president. "Two words." "And what would they be, sir?" "Right decisions." "And how do you make the right decisions?" "Experience." "And how do you get experience?" "Two words." "What are they?" "Wrong decisions." 1

Making decisions based on Biblical beliefs and Christian convictions is getting tougher for many Christians. Never ending changing social standards and popular political issues challenge Christians to make tough decisions concerning things that are right and wrong. Judge Roy Moore in Alabama is sticking by a decision he made that has recently come under fire. Octopus-like organizations with social and political agendas that run contrary to his Judeo-Christian convictions have openly attacked his views. At issue is, Judge Moore opens court with a prayer and has posted the Ten Commandments on his courtroom wall. 2 The decision to say a prayer and post the Ten Commandments on his wall was easy. However, to stick by the decision and implement the decision when faced with overwhelming opposition is where it gets tough. Judge Roy Moore is sticking with his decision.

Ike Graham was in the advanced stages of Parkinson's disease. Soon after his diagnosis, he and his wife decided Ike would not be "hooked up to medical machinery" to keep him alive when the time came for such action. They had made their decision known to their doctor and the appropriate papers had been signed stating their decision. A tough decision. Shortly after a Sunday night worship service I received a phone call from Ike's wife. She said Ike had been taken to the hospital by ambulance, and after gathering a few things together she was going to the hospital to be with him. She asked if I could come. Upon arriving at the hospital I saw her standing at the door of the emergency room. When I walked toward her she took a few steps toward me and said, "Pastor, they have placed Ike on life support equipment; what am I to do? We had decided not to place him on the equipment, but when he arrived they decided it was life or death and put the equipment on him. What am I to do?" I asked if she had made them aware of their decision. She said she had, but since the equipment was "hooked up" it was now a decision of whether to leave it on him or take it off. After several hours of agonizing over the decision she decided to have the life support equipment removed from Ike. Making tough decisions is tough.

I. You make tough decisions after a baptism of prayer.

Tough decisions are made after a baptism of prayer. Never attempt anything great (or small) until you have prayed about it. Immerse into the greatest depths of your soul every decision in prayer. Mark 14:34a illustrates clearly how tough decisions need to be baptized in prayer. Jesus was face-to-face with the biggest decision and event of His earthly life. He wrestled like Jacob with the outcome and said "...remove this cup from Me." Our tough decisions might not compare in magnitude with Jesus' coming crucifixion, yet our tough decisions are to be handled in the same way Jesus handled His - baptized in prayer.

Before making tough decisions in life you should give special attention to Mark 14: 37-38. In this passage we discover that Peter had not been praying. He is found sleeping. When the time came for Peter to make a decision of whether to be identified with Jesus or deny Jesus, he denied Jesus. Why? In part, because he had not prayed, and the power he would have received through prayer simply was not there. The questions comes: Would have Peter not denied Jesus if he had prayed and received the power and wisdom to make a good decision? We don't know for certain. But we do know Jesus prayed and made the right decision, and Peter did not pray and made a bad decision. The making of decisions must be baptized in prayer.

II. Tough decisions are often misunderstood by some people.

You make tough decisions which many times are misunderstood by some people. The decisions you make based on your Christian convictions and beliefs will be misunderstood by some people and you will wonder, "Why?" In Luke 9: 51-53 we see how some people did not understand Jesus' decision to go to Jerusalem, therefore they did not receive Him. You need to know that whenever you "set your face" to do the right thing based on the perfect and directive will of God, people, some people, will not receive you. They will turn away from you as though you had a diseased body. You may have to stand alone with some of your decisions. But stand you must. During the ministry of Jesus we find that some religious leaders thought He was filled with Beelzebul. For them the problem was that Jesus had decided the "right thing to do" was to heal people on the Sabbath. They could not understand how a man who claimed to be the Son of God could break the laws of God. However, Jesus had come not to break the law, but to fulfill the law. Jesus was misunderstood.

Even the disciples thought Jesus was misguided when He made the decision to go to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem a "death threat" had been voiced by those in authority. The disciples closest to Jesus didn't understand Him at times.

In Mark 6:1-4 we read where Jesus taught in the synagogue and performed miracles. The people in this passage did not understand that His teachings were from God and His miracles were the acts of God.

Young person, when you make the decision to remain sexually pure, you will be misunderstood by some people. Business person, when you make the decision to be completely honest in all your business dealings, you will be misunderstood by some people. Working person, when you make the decision to be pure in heart and character on the job, you will be misunderstood by some people. When you make decisions in life based on Christian principles, precepts, and biblical truth you will be misunderstood by some people. Make the "tough decisions" anyway, and those decisions will ultimately bring glory and honor to God.

III. You must live and die by your tough decisions.

You make tough decisions and live and die by them. Harlan Popov had decided to live for Jesus in communist Bulgaria, but he never expected what was to follow. Because he was a pastor, Popov was arrested and thrown into prison. Over the next thirteen years he was constantly tortured. Why? Because he made the decision to stand up for Jesus instead of bowing down to government demands to renounce his faith. In this book, Tortured for His Faith, Harlan Popov describes his initial decision to faithfully serve Jesus in communist Bulgaria like this:

"In June of 1948, all the members of the Supreme Council including the chief religious representative were called to the office of the Minister of Religious Affairs. Our moment of truth had come, and within days there would be no mistaking. "Gentlemen, today in the National Peoples' Republic of Bulgaria, there are no two ways about it but only one: You are either for the Soviet Union or you are for the United States." He then made it very clear what it means to be with the Communist party and to be loyal to its aims.

Then came the crunch. He wanted each of us, in each of the churches, to make a statement from the pulpits-declaring our loyalty to the Bulgarian Communist party, the Bulgarian government, and the objectives of the Communist world-and to accuse the United States as imperialist and of interfering in the affairs of Bulgaria.

We considered this a very brutal interference into the lives of the churches. We told the minister of religious affairs in clear terms that we as churchmen in our churches are not a political people. After we discussed the proposition, we told him that rather than do this we would close our churches. "we cannot do this," we insisted.

He replied, "Don't talk to me like that. I can take that telephone and have you arrested right this minute!"

He didn't pick up the telephone and make good his threats. Instead, he gave us a week to think it over. But our minds were set, and the week's Communist grace was only a matter of form. We returned and repeated our stand. Our character and conviction as Christians could not permit any other position.

This, of course, in the situation of the day, was counted as betrayal of Bulgaria-not only betrayal, but as we soon were to find out, collaboration with the United States. There was no way out for us but to be loyal to the Christ within us. And this we were determined to do. The Communists were just as determined to do us and our churches in.

That, then, is the setting. That is how we, and many like us, went to prison. That is why many more in the Suffering Church still go to prison.3

Harlan Popov decided to live for Jesus, and to die for Jesus if necessary.

In the Old Testament we read where Daniel was confronted with a decision to pray or not to pray. He knew to live out his faith would mean to be put to death. Like Jesus before Pilate, no fault could be found in Daniel. (Daniel 6:6-9) Confronted with imminent death by the jaws and claws of hungry lions, Daniel continued with unwavering conviction his prayer life. Why? Because he had decided to live or die by his decision to commune with God. You know the events of the story well. Daniel was thrown into the den of lions, but God protected him from harm. What a witness! What a Savior!

In the days leading up to His crucifixion Jesus had decided to go to Jerusalem no matter what awaited Him there. He had "set his face." He was going to live by His decision, and ultimately die because of His decision.

In His infinite knowledge and in His endless love God decided the only way a sinful world could be saved was through His sinless Son. What a wonderful decision made on our behalf, yet what a painful decision it was for God. "His only begotten Son was to die." God's decision to send His Son for the redemption of humankind shows us just how tough, tough decisions can be.

Let me ask you - Are you willing to make tough decisions for the sake and glory of God? We should daily sing and live the song of faith and courage that says, "Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone." Many Christians live for convenience, not Christ. And, if those Christians were honest with themselves and God they would have to admit, "I follow the crowd not Christ." They would also have to admit that they seldom ask what God's will is, or what His word says, but rather ask questions like; "Will this win approval from my peers? Will I benefit from this decision? Will I have to sacrifice anything? What can I do in this matter to receive the least amount of criticism? What is the route of least resistance? Which way is the political wind blowing?"

I earnestly pray you will never ask those questions as you seek to make decisions for Christ's sake. But rather, you will be willing to live your faith consistently based upon God's Word, and when called upon will correctly make tough decisions that bring glory and honor to our Lord.

"There were two sons in the Taylor family in England. The older one set out to make a name for the family and turned his attention toward Parliament and prestige. But Hudson Taylor, the younger, chose to give his life to Christ, so he turned his face toward China and obscurity. Hudson Taylor is known and honored on every continent as a faithful missionary and as the founder of the China Inland Missions. But when you look in the encyclopedia to see what the other (older) son has done, you find these words, 'The brother of Hudson Taylor.' Men may have their names inscribed on marble monuments for feats of fame; some day the monuments will fall in fragments. But he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." (1 John 2:17)4

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!" You are in that valley today. So, make your decisions after a baptism of prayer. Understand that when you make your decisions you will be misunderstood by some. And, be willing to live or die by the decisions you make to the glory and honor of our Lord.

Written by Roy D. Graves
Pastor, First Baptist Church
McKenzie, TN

1 Arthur F. Lenehan, The Best of Bits and Pieces, (Fairfield, New Jersey: The Economics Press, Inc., 1994), page 175.

2 Newscast, CableNews Network, March 1997.

3 Harlan Popov, Tortured For His Faith, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), preface.

4 Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, (Rockville, Maryland: Assurance Publishers, 1984), page 1208.


Dr. Roy Graves has been pastor of First Baptist Church, McKenzie, Tennessee since 1990. He is a graduate of Belmont University, Southeastern Seminary, and the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Fran, have two children: Wendy, who is a freshman at Union University , and Matthew, who is a freshman at McKenzie High School. Dr. Graves, at the invitation of Union University, is the first inductee into The R. G. Lee Society of Fellows.

Joanna Moore, Campus Ministries & Church Services

R.G. Lee Center for Christian Ministry