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Discovering Choices: Lesson #2

Discipleship Level 2: Reaching Beyond Mediocrity

Paul J. Bucknell

Choices | Battlefield | Evaluation | Path of Life | 3 Choices


Purpose: Sharpening the Mind, the sixth part of the second lesson in the Discipleship 2: Reaching Beyond Mediocrity series, provides two exercises to help build discernment necessary to understand and deal with our spiritual problems.

Sharpening the Mind

We will use two exercises to ready our mind for action. {The exercises, complete book and are included in the purchase of the book Reaching Beyond Mediocrity.}

Exercise#1: Making Good Matches

We want to do some matching to help sharpen our discernment. We will have three categories that are the same as the three choices just mentioned. Forty words are listed. Do note I placed the first word 'self-ambitious' in the 'misplaced confident' column. This is because the self-ambitious knows and seeks after what he wants. He has hope but it is in the wrong thing. Each word should be matched with only one of the three categories. If you cannot figure a word right away, that is fine. Go on to the next. matching exercise

As you look at the chart, start filling them in. I will again review the three choices below to help you in this process.

(1) God-focused Confidence (middle column)

God's way is the best. We can accomplish great things when we work with Him to accomplish what He has purposed to do through our lives. He often gives us things we cannot accomplish on our own so that we would rely on Him and grow in our faith of His power and wisdom. God first created Adam and Eve. They were in this category. Through the fall, man turned his faith away from God and now seeks his own way through his own means. When saved, God restores us and enables us to live for Him by His Holy Spirit. This is where we find the full meaning of life. God enriches our lives so that we can serve others. This is simply overwhelmingly good and wonderful.

We are doing well if we can seek God's strength and holiness in our lives so that we can serve others. This is a wonderful vision for our lives. This is the calling of all of His children, though differently gifted, placed and resourced.

(2) Misplaced Confidence (right column)

Misplaced Confidence is false hope. We place our hope on what we want to get done. The plans excite us. Unfortunately, we want things that God has not given to us. We are willing to grab hold of them in ways that hurt others. This is the world and its attraction.

"Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).

The world pulls us along by making us think it offers the best thing for our lives and that it will satisfy our deep inner longings. The world's offered hope is always in vain. When the believer secretly thinks his job, wealth, house, friend, etc. can satisfy him, then he prioritizes that goal and seeks ways to implement it even if it hurts others. When we find a believer who cannot focus on the things that God has for him (e.g. attending worship, tithing, etc.), more than likely it is because he already has 'his' other plans. He is unwilling to place a priority on what God has prioritized for him (e.g. husband love his wife) because he believes others things are better.

(3) Lack of Confidence (left column)

Lack of confidence describes those who in one or more areas of their lives feel hopeless. Depression sets in when we allow our whole system be affected by our lack of hope. Professionals call this a mental disorder, sometimes serious and sometimes not. The seriousness is depicted through how long it impacts one's life and to what degree it affects one's life. For example, does it affect your work or family life?

Developed problemsIf by mental we assume it is something with regard to our minds and the way we view things, the word is fine. If, however, we think there is something chemically wrong with our minds, then we are off track. It is true that our bodies including our minds are affected by our decisions whether it be what we eat, what we do, or what we think.

This thinking is summarized by our approach in life. We have put our hope in something but now it is broken. It is at that point we will latch onto another plan and fall into hopelessness.

God has precise ways the believer is to handle such disappointments. We need to retrain our minds with the Word of God and so be helped. A man might have started a business with great anticipation of its success. When he finally admits it did not take off, he can easily get depressed. His life dream and bank account are both broken. No one likes this state of mind and some might try to escape it by hatching ideas of a new business (perhaps this was the way the former business started) or just give into it. It is hard, though not impossible, to stay balanced with God's perspective.

God's Chief Concern

It is important for us to realize that in Discipleship Level 2 we are not focusing on forming good plans or end goals. We are not discussing the worth of pursuing a biology degree, finishing a college degree, getting married, taking on a second job, but the way we live out our lives. It is important to know how to discern God's purposes, but this is another training series. (And I believe far less important). Discipleship Level 2 focuses on the the way we do things. This has to do with our attitudes and behavior.

People tend to ignore this aspect of their lives. They are more consumed in reaching their goals. God, however, is not very concerned with the great things we do but on how we accomplish them. God will ask us a lot of questions on Judgment Day regarding how we treated a person or handled a financial situation. We cannot avoid that confrontation. But more than this, God has greater reasons for being concerned about how we do things.
The Lord designed us in His image and then appointed works for us to do. In Christ God has enabled His people to be recreated in Christ's image.

"And have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him" (Colossians 3:10).

We will later discuss the implications of this, but for now we need to agree to the importance on how to do things. Legalists focus on outward behavior. This is not what we are discussing here at all. We are addressing the need to prioritize how we live out our lives. When a person properly lives his life, he is living for God's glory. Only these individuals (or collectively as a church body) are genuinely interested in what the Lord has for them.

People normally ask about whether something benefits them. They are thinking about this in a superficial way. God, however, wants us to first think about our inner commitment. We need to prioritize the importance of our conduct. When we can commit ourselves to the way we live our lives, then figuring out the rest comes much easier.
Good choices

What is more important to you? How do you live out your life or gain your goals in life? Our sincerity in our answers will help us note whether we are living balanced lives or not. When a person seeks God's ways, then God can trust Him with His plans. When a person is occupied on getting what he wants done, then he will give God only the leftovers. He will make compromises to get what he wants. God wants His people to live by the same values that He does.

"As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY." And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth" (1 Peter 1:14-17).

A few examples might provide more insight.

A wife is convinced that her husband is not loving her. She keeps 'hinting' at what he should do if he loved her. He is annoyed and takes it as criticism and further distances himself from her. The wife's purpose is to be loved (as she thinks). She is unwilling to trust herself to God's way to meet her needs. Securing her needed affection is her chief goal and thus uses lesser means (nagging, which doesn't work) to accomplish what is most important to her. She should be gentle of spirit and kind. By focusing on his needs, she loves him and enables him to see more of Christ's beauty in her.

Another example is of a worker who feels like he is doing very poorly. Everyone else seems to have a better job with better pay. He gets by but would like a bit more. He hears of others making some money in risky investments. He secretly takes out some of their savings and invests it in that rather risky investment. When the wife discovers this, she becomes raging mad. She does not understand her husband's motives or means. She feels very threatened. The husband should have first discussed his hope with his wife. She probably would have felt negative about it, but if she carefully asked him why, he perhaps would discover his discontent with his income and near compulsiveness to make more to impress others.


It is nice for a wife to be loved and sense that love from her husband. But obtaining this goal is not the most important. She should focus on the way she thinks about her husband and focus on specific tasks that would help her be a good wife. The man, of course, should be able to spot his covetousness and willingness to take risks to feel better about himself. If he focused more on being a better man, then he would not feel threatened to discuss his financial plan with his wife.

When we commit ourselves to doing things the right way, we begin to spot secret motivations that are unpleasing to the Lord. Repentance is practical and very specific. It requires us to live out Christ's life no matter what the consequences. Compromise reflects a false hope that misleads us.

Exercise: Helpful Definitions


This next exercise helps us see what a person believes or trusts. Several examples has been giving at the top of the Helpful Definition sheet. The assignment is to choose two words for each of the three categories and define them. State what this person's faith or confidence is or is not like. The back side is blank. We hope that you will do this with many more words.

Three definitions are provided here, one for each category.

Lack of Confidence: Insecurity

Insecure individuals lack the ability to trust in God's constant love for them.

God-focused Confidence: Faithful

Faithful individuals believe that God will watch over their needs if they carry out their own responsibilities.

Misplaced confidence: Self-ambitious

Self-ambitious individuals believe accomplishing their great plans gives them the best life possible.

Notice the word belief, believe, trust, confidence, faith. They are synonyms. Make sure your definition describes how their faith interrelates to the item. If you do a number of terms, you will notice a possible overlapping. Try to carefully differentiate the terms through their definitions.


If we are careful, we will see how the issue is related to decisions made later on.

Insecure people, for example, lack the full trust of God's love for them. Mankind was created with that need for love and care and when he lived in communion with God, there was no evident need. He felt that love.

When man does not seek God for that love, then he or she insists on gaining it from others. The demand for this attention leads to many possible behaviors and thinking behaviors. Sometimes they do not appear related but they are. A woman might allow petting (let her body be sensually touched for affection), buying things for others (wants others to appreciate her), looking pretty (needs the compliments from others), etc.

Self-ambitious people believe success is everything. They seek a purpose outside what God has for them. They do not know how to be content with what God provides. They must make it happen. Because it is so important to them, they are willing to cheat, steal and backbite. This is the foundation for a 'workaholic.'

More will later be said regarding these items. We want to expose how the lack of trust in God's person and ways compels individuals to otherwise seek fulfillment.

Path of restorationSummary: Path of Restoration

Let's summarize the truths learned in this second lesson on 'Discovering Choices.'

-> Check out the Discipleship 2 Index for more in this series or below for other disicpleship articles.

Reaching Beyond Mediocrity book

Reaching Beyond Mediocrity (Click here)

Discipleship at the 2nd level

by Paul J. Bucknell

God's Word comes alive as you learn how to use it to overcome personal struggles like anxiety, depression, pride, lust and anger. God has made you strong! Many worksheets! (300+ pages). This is the full resource with all the complete and updated pages included!

Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted: (C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988

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