StaBest 07-05-047

The Best Question Ever



Andy Stanley

Multnomah Publishers, 2004, 185 pp., ISBN 1-59052-390-3


Why does the dumb stuff we do keep happening?  Andy Stanley, founding pastor of North Point Church in Atlanta, provides a way to change it.  Ask the Best Question Ever for every scenario of life.


It is the best question ever because you can apply it to every decision, it's easy to answer, and most of the time you already know the answer!  It serves as a lens to evaluate your options.  (11-13)


Some of our bad decisions go beyond embarrassing us: they scar us.  No one plans to mess up his life but few put in the safeguards to prevent it. (19)  The best question can foolproof your life.  (21) 


But it may be uncomfortable because it exposes our heart and removes the mask of self-deception.  We play games with ourselves to convince ourselves that bad choices are OK.  And we know we are doing it!  (23) 


"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise…."  (Eph 5:15-17)  Don't be careless how you walk.  Ask the best question ever:


"What is the wise thing to do?"


When we ask, "What's wrong with it?" we may be asking how close to the line we can get.  When we follow that line of reasoning, we end up asking, "How did I get in this mess?"  (29-30)


"Every bad decision I have ever heard about could have been avoided if someone had simply asked the Best Question Ever."  "Just because there isn't a 'Thou shalt not' attached to a situation does not necessarily mean it is a 'Thou shalt.'  What's morally and culturally permissible is often not what's best for us."  God wants the best for us.  (30-2)


"We are meant to analyze every opportunity and invitation through the lens of wisdom." (33)


"We don't live in a morally neutral climate, either.  Every day we interface with a culture of sensuality, gluttony, and greed.  Ours is a culture that encourages us in the most provocative ways to do everything in our power to try and satisfy appetites that can never be fully and finally satisfied." (34) 


"The days are evil.  If you don't pay attention, you will end up paying a price for your carelessness." (35)


"Paul's command to 'understand' God's will is really an exhortation to face up to what we know in our hearts God would have us do." (38)


"Culture has a way of subtly sweeping us beyond healthy moral, ethical, and financial limits." (41)


"Those who don't pay attention to what got them into trouble yesterday are liable to end up in the same trouble tomorrow." (42) 


So the Best Question Ever needs to be asked with an eye to the rearview mirror:


"In light of your past experience, what is the wise thing to do?"


Because of your particular past experiences, what's safe for some folks may not be safe for you.   Your past experience must be a grid through which you evaluate every decision." (43-4)  What is wise for you financially, professionally, relationally?  Sometimes the wise thing is an unusual thing, even an extreme thing. (46)


"In light of my current circumstances, what is the wise thing to do?" (47)


"If we are not careful, we will allow the pressure, fears, and circumstances of today drive us to make decisions we will regret tomorrow." (47)  What is the wise thing in these circumstances or in this season of life? 


"In light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?"  (52)


Everyone has dreams, even though not everyone has plans.  But most people's dreams don't come true.  Along the way they make many minor decisions that take them away from their dreams.  "We have all watched somebody we care about trade his or her dreams for a moment, a weekend, a habit, a promise, or a kiss." (53)


Make today's decisions in light of tomorrow's hopes and dreams.  The future brings today's choices into proper focus.  Make choices with the end in mind.  (54)


The Best Question Ever casts light on the deceptive shades of gray. (55) 


Cultivate the habit of asking before every decision, "In light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?" And then do it! (57)


When you run out of time it's over.  Your allotment is inflexible.  (65)  When we ask, "Where did the time go?" we are really asking… "Where did my life go?" (67)


"There is a cumulative value to investing small amounts of time in certain activities over a long period." (68)


Examples are exercise, family dinner, time with God, church attendance.  What if I miss a day?  The value isn't in one day.  The value is the compounding effect of a sequence of deposits.  (68-9)


"Neglect has a cumulative effect." (71)


"While it is true that small, consistent investments of time add up to good things, and that consistent neglect adds up to bad things, the random pursuits that we allow to interrupt our important routines add up to no-thing." (72)


"In the critical arenas of life, you cannot make up for lost time." (77)


"You can't rewind your marriage.  You can't reraise your kids."  "The important areas of life require small deposits all along the way.  And if you miss those opportunities, they are lost forever." (77)  "Relationships are built on small, consistent deposits of time." (78) 


Get the full value out of your time. (Eph 5:15-16) (79)  "If you are not walking wisely, your time will be fragmented by a thousand urgent, disconnected opportunities and events."  "Harness your time and appropriate it strategically…."  Make continual incremental time investments in the most important things. (80)


Physically.  Relationally.  Professionally.  Spiritually.  "Beside each word write one thing you can begin doing that, if done consistently, would have a positive effect on that component of your life." (83)


"Chances are, if you had been evaluating your financial decisions through the grid of the Best Question Ever, you would live in a slightly smaller house with slightly less expensive furniture.  You would be driving a slightly older car.  Your television wouldn't be quite as big and your closet wouldn't be quite as full."  (87) 


"On the positive side of the ledger, your 401(k) would be maxed out, your credit card balance would be zero at the end of the month, and you would feel free to generously support those organizations that are making a positive difference in the world." (88)


You are rich.  "The reason you don't feel rich is because you don't actually have any extra cash."  (88)  "The fact is, in this country, most money problems stem from poor financial management, not low income.  …the two biggest crises Americans face today are obesity and consumer debt.  We eat too much and we spend too much.  Neither of these problems is caused by earning too little." (89)


"We have allowed culture to influence the way we manage money by teaching us to ask all the wrong questions." (90)  We can stop asking "Can I afford it? and ask "Should I afford it?" (92) 


"In light of your past financial experience, your current financial picture, and your future financial hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?" (92)


"The Best Question Ever allows you to be content with more of what you have and less of what you want." (93)


"When saving and giving are your last priorities, you hurt yourself in the future and you withhold from God's kingdom now."  "…to give God our leftovers is really insulting." (94)  "On the other hand, giving to kingdom work is an invitation for God to involve Himself in your finances." (95)  "God responds to generosity.  Giving is an invitation for God to become active in the world of our personal finances." (96)


"Essentially, Jesus is offering us a deal.  He will take responsibility for our needs if we will piroritize His kingdom. (Mt 6:25-33) (99)


"Nothing has stolen more dreams, dashed more hopes, broken up more families, and messed up more people psychologically than our propensity to disregard God's commands regarding sexual purity."  "No regret runs deeper than the regret asssociated with unwise moral decisions." (108)


"While the outcomes of sexual sin are predictable, the decisions that set us up to sin sexually are equally predictable.  And--and this is a big and--the Best Question Eve will enable you to see those decisions for what they really are." (112)


"Our greatest moral regrets are always preceded by a series of unwise choices." (114)


"So many things in our culture bait us to the edge of moral disaster."  "Let's face it; purity is not a cultural value." (121)  "The impropriety that leads to adultery is actually encouraged, even celebrated." (122)


"Each of us, at a personal level, must scramble back to some long-abandoned standard of purity and modesty.  If we don't, we will always find ourselves on the brink of moral disaster.  Culture has drawn the line of decency far too close to the edge."  (122) 


"The Best Question Ever will lead you away from the brink of a decision you may regret to a place of safety." (126) 


People recognize the line and then try not to cross it.  But there is no margin for error.  "Let me be blunt.  To leave yourself no margin for error morally is about the most insensitive thing you can do to those you love.  Relationally it is a death wish." (128)


Set your boundaries so far from the brink that if you violate one, the consequences are minimal.  (128)  "To what extreme are you willing to go to protect what's most important to you?" (130) Where you set your boundaries, your conscience will take up residence. (133)


"The Best Question Ever enables us to plan not to get into trouble." (138)


What to do when you don't know what to do.  Wise people know when they don't know, and they stop and ask for help.  (148)  "Wisdom seeks counsel." (Prov 1:5 and other Proverbs) (152)


We are especially resistant to advice in three vulnerable areas: time, money and relationships.  We are reluctant to seek or receive counsel.  (154-5) 


"Private decisions have public consequences."  Since others know what you do anyway, why not involve them in the decision-making process? (157) 


"Every professional athlete knows that he or she will never reach, nor maintain, peak performance apart from outside input." (158)  "You will never be all you're capable of being unless you tap the wisdom of the wise people around you." (159)


The second-best question is, 'What do you think is the wisest thing for me to do?" (160)


"Experience is a good teacher, especially if it is other people's experience." (161)


"The Bible has a term for the person who refuses wise counsel: fool." (Prov 12:15)    "When we refuse to listen, when we dodge the truth, when we insist on having our own way, we are fools." (165)


"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Prov. 9:10) (179)  "Wisdom begins with the recognition of who God is."  "Proper recognition results in reverence."  (179)  "Wisdom begins when we recognize that God is God and then respond accordingly." (180)



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