4-Minute Sermons

DECISIVENESS – A Four-Minute Sermon


Contributed by Dr. Paul E. Toms
Senior Pastor (Retired), Park Street Church, Boston, MA

February 20, 2001

How Long Will You Waiver?

Some people can’t seem to make up their mind. Some people seem to make up their minds before thinking. We like to see decisiveness, but it should demonstrate careful and thoughtful purpose. A dictionary’s definition of decisiveness is, “Able to decide quickly and effectively”. One who is decisive must also have the foundation of confidence. This leads to regulative and proper actions. Decisiveness built on nothing but impulse is dangerous and shaky.

Want to hear someone decisive? Listen to William Lloyd Garrison, an early advocate of abolition: he lived 1805-1879. In 1829 he gave a speech in Park Street Church in Boston, and became famous for his stand on abolishing slavery in America. Two years later he wrote in the Liberator. “I am in earnest, I will not equivocate, I will not excuse, I will not retreat a single inch, I will be heard.” This is decisiveness.

For the Biblical believer and follower of God, there is another distinctive relative to this character quality, and that is obedience. We are to act on God’s will and way. To obey Him leads to decisive action. John Ortberg has recently written a book with this wonderful title: IF YOU WANT TO WALK ON WATER, YOU HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE BOAT. This requires obedient decisiveness.

The Bible abounds with great illustrations of this characteristic. Isaiah said, “Because the Sovereign

Lord helps me, … therefore I have set my face like flint.” Isa. 50:7. Paul said in Acts 21:12, “I must go to Jerusalem.” Jesus said, “I must be about my Father’s business.” Lk 2:49. In Matthew 16:21, Jesus explained to His disciples “that He must go to Jerusalem.” In the same chapter, v.24, He said, “if anyone will come after Me, he must deny himself….”. Here we have genuine decisiveness required and practiced.

The plea of Scripture is that we must be decisive, particularly about those things that matter! One of the dramatic moments in Old Testament history is found in I Kings 18. In this challenging episode that reveals the defeat of Idolotry, Elijah confronts the false prophets of Baal. As he prepares for this face-off, he turns to the people and asks this disturbing question — “How long will you waver between two opinions. If the Lord is God, follow Him, but if Baal is God, follow him.” And the observation that follows this question is even more disturbing, for “the people said nothing.”

So here on a famous mountain, Carmel, 1600 feet above the Mediterranean, the people gather for a momentous conflict. On the one side, the king and people and 450 prophets of the son-god — on the other a lonely forlorn prophet. Perhaps he heard the soft stirring of 10,000 angels wings or caught a glimpse of heavenly fire as it tipped the shining swords of this awesome array, sent to support a man who was calling for decisiveness. He points out the necessity of decision. He notes that we can’t straddle the line, or stumble from one position to another. If He is God, then follow Him.

An astonishing statement is found in II Kings 17:41. “Even while these people were worshipping the Lord, they were serving their idols…” How can this be? Jesus said, “you cannot serve God and mammon. You cannot serve two masters.” Matt. 6:24. We have a clear choice, and our response is to decide. If the Lord be God, then follow Him.

Where are you today? Saying nothing? Trying to worship the Lord while serving your idols? Or can you today say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:15). How long will you waiver? The quality of your life both now and in the life to come depend on your decision!

Sermon Outline:

  1. Decisiveness Defined.
  2. An Historical Example of A Decisive Individual.
  3. Importance of Obedient Decisiveness for the Biblical Believer.
  4. Elijah’s Call for Obedient Decisiveness: If the Lord is God, Follow Him.
  5. Personal Application.



This material is published by the Faith Committee of the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Reproduction and Adaptation is encouraged.

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