ONE BAD DECISION: LISTENING TO BAD ADVICE

INTRODUCTION

In the course of a twenty-four hour period we make gobs of decisions. Some of these we make with a serious amount of forethought and prayer. But, if you’re like me, we make many of our decisions spontaneously with little or no thought as to the consequences or impact our decisions will have—not only for ourselves, but also for the many others whose lives are intertwined with ours.

Have you ever thought much about how a single decision can change your life forever? Sometimes a single decision will change us for the better. And sometimes a single decision will change us for the worse.

In these blog posts I’d like to look at the singular decision that some people in the Bible made that changed their lives forever…for the worse. By looking at ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word it’ll give us reason to stop and think about both the long-term and short-term ramifications of the decisions we make. Lots of forethought and prayer, I’m convinced, will save us from the pain and regret of a hastily-made decision for the worse.

LISTENING TO BAD ADVICE

King Solomon had died. In accordance with his wishes and will, one of his many sons, Rehoboam by name, ascended the throne.

Now during Solomon’s lifetime and reign life in Israel was almost idyllic. At least that’s how we tend to view the Biblical record of the glories, splendor, and public works of the peace-time King. But all his wealth and public works came at the onerous expense of the countless Israelites and foreign laborers who were needed to accomplish the King’s many grand and ambitious works.

1 Kings 12:1-4  tells the story well. Rehoboam went to Shechem, where all Israel had gathered to make him king.  (2)  When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard of this, he returned from Egypt, for he had fled to Egypt to escape from King Solomon.  (3)  The leaders of Israel summoned him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel went to speak with Rehoboam.  (4)  “Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.”

Now if the King had any wits about himself, that kind of talk hinted at rebellion, maybe even secession, if the King proved deaf to their reasonable demands. Thankfully, the King proved smart. Instead of giving them an instant reply he wanted time to think. He needed to consult his counselors. So he told the delegation of leaders to come back in three days to hear his response.

Then King Rehoboam discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father, Solomon. “What is your advice?” he asked. “How should I answer these people?”  (7)  The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects” (1 Kings 12:6-7). The advice of the aged was sound and good. Really, it was a no-brainer. “Serve the people well, treat them good and right, and they’ll be your loyal subjects.”

Incredulously, the King did not give heed to his wise and aged counselors. 1 Kings 12:8-11 chronicles the sad and tearful error: But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers.  (9)  “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?”  (10)  The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist!  (11)  Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!'”

The rest, as you know, is history. The delegation of leaders came back three days later. Rehoboam gave them his defiant answer. And the united Kingdom of Israel was divided that day, split into two rival kingdoms. The King listened to bad advice and it turned out to be his worst decision ever. Israel was never again the same. To this very day! Rehoboam lost the bulk of his kingdom. And the downward spiral into chaos, civil war, and national defeat had begun.

Friends, learn a couple of lessons here and learn them well. First, JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T LIKE THE ADVICE DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN IT’S BAD OR WRONG ADVICE.  Good advice, at times, is difficult to listen to; it’s hard, but not impossible, to do; and it’s terribly easy to resist and reject it outright. WHAT YOU LIKE, OR WHAT PLEASES YOU, SHOULD NOT BE THE DETERMINANT OF GOOD OR BAD ADVICE.

And second, DO NOT LISTEN TO BAD ADVICE. Not all advice is good advice. Both good and bad people are capable of giving you bad advice. So learn to recognize bad advice. Give no heed to it. And you will spare yourself a lifetime of sorrow and regret.

Rather than showing you how to tell if the advice you’re getting is good or bad, I’d like to stick to the Biblical script and give you some pointers about the kind of people whose advice is so totally worth considering.

  • Give preferential consideration to the advice of the elderly. Old age, or whoever you consider to be old, doesn’t automatically make the aged right. But they’ve lived long enough, they’ve been around the block a few times, and, believe it or not, they were once young and in the very shoes you’re wearing now. They’ve learned a few things. And because they’ve experienced life longer, they kinda know how things tend to go or end when you go down a certain path. They have real-life wisdom. Don’t reject their counsel just because they’re old. The very fact that they’re old makes them worth listening to.
  •  Give preferential consideration to the advice of people who love you the most. A lot of time, people give advice for selfish, ulterior motives. They don’t really care about you. They won’t be there to pick up the broken pieces that come with bad advice. People who truly love you genuinely care for you. They seek your best interests. They’re watching out for you. They’re trying to save you from heartache, grief, and regret. Don’t cut off the people who love you the most. In today’s dog-eat-dog world, you need every single person who loves you truly, unselfishly, and unconditionally.
  • Give preferential consideration to the advice of spiritual (that is, God-loving, God-fearing, God-obeying) Christians. Being a Christian is no longer good enough. In today’s world, a lot of people pass themselves off as Christians, but don’t have much of a relationship with God. Listen to people who listen to God and have a close, intimate relationship with Him. They’re in touch with God. And, hearing from God, they’re an excellent source of good, sound, Godly advice.

Let me close by giving you some wisdom from the Word that will help guide and direct your paths.

  • Proverbs 21:2,  Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts. In the vernacular, I know you think you’re right. But be honest with yourself. Don’t fool yourself. Look at your heart because that’s what God’s looking at. IF THERE’S ROTTENNESS IN YOUR HEART, THEN KNOW THAT WHAT YOU’VE DETERMINED TO DO IS ROTTEN.
  • Proverbs 14:12,  There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Translation: Choices have consequences that, in the present, are not immediately or obviously seen. Don’t make rushed, hasty decisions. TAKE TIME TO THINK THINGS THROUGH. Look at the after-scenarios. If you don’t like the way the scenario ends, then don’t go that route. If you don’t know how things are going to end, ask God. He’ll show you.
  • James 1:22,  But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourself. In plain speak, IF YOUR DECISION ISN’T AN ACT OF OBEDIENCE TO GOD THEN YOU’RE MAKING THE WRONG DECISION.

God help us all make the right decisions. Father, teach us to discern good advice and grant us the grace to heed it.

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