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Book Jacket

176 pages
Oct 2004
Multnomah Publishers

The Best Question Ever

by Andy Stanley

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


Chapter 1

Dumb and Dumber

Finding Common Ground

You and I have something in common. Weíve both done some really dumb stuff. Stuff we hope nobody ever finds out about. Stuff we wish we could forget. Thereís money we wish we hadnít spent, cars we wish we had never bought, investments we wish we hadnít made, invitations we wish we hadnít accepted, relationships we wish we had stayed out of, jobs we wish we had never taken, partnerships we should had never entered into, phone calls we should have never returned, contracts we should have never signed.

We look back and wonder, How could I have been so dumb? So blind? So foolish? We should have known better. In some cases, we did know better, but for some reason we thought we could beat the oddsóthat we would be the exception to the rule. In spite of what common sense (and maybe a friend or two) told us, we believed that we could control the outcome of our decisions. So we followed our hearts, we trusted our gut, we did our own thing, and now we wonder what in the world we were thinking.

If youíre like most people, some of the decisions you wish you could unmake led to chapters of your life you wish you could go back and un-live. Picking a stock based on a bad tip is one thing; picking a marriage partner without doing some due diligence is something else entirely. Making four $24.95 payments on something thatís only worth $24.95 to begin with is embarrassing; twenty-five thousand dollars in credit card debt can ruin you.

Some of our bad decisions simply embarrass us. Others scar us.

Whatís obvious now wasnít so obvious then. And whatís obvious to us now may not be so obvious to everybody around us. Chances are, youíve already bumped into somebody on the verge of making the same dumb decision you made when you were their age. And you were sure that once they heard your sad story they would drop to their knees in gratitude for your life-changing insight. Having come to grips with the error of their ways, they would immediately reverse course, call off the marriage, pay cash, tear up the contract, dissolve the partnership, sell their drums, stay in school, or whatever.

But no. Instead, they endure our tales of woe, thank us for the unsolicited advice, and continue full speed ahead into the oncoming train. And we think back and wonder, Could I have possibly been that naÔve? That stubborn? That foolish?


Poor Planning

When we watch people we knowóor strangers for that matterómake foolish decisions, itís as if they are strategically and intentionally setting out to screw up their lives.

After all, it takes a lot of planning to marry the wrong person. Any marriage, even a bad one, is not a casual endeavor. Think of the time and energy it takes to set up a doomed business partnership or to start a business that has no hope of success. Think about all the paperwork a person has to wade through to purchase a house they canít really afford or to lease a car they are going to lose or  to apply for a loan they canít repay.

Having watched dozens of people methodically waste their life, potential, and money, Iíve concluded that while nobody plans to mess up their lives, the problem is that few of us plan not to. That is, we donít put the necessary safeguards in place to ensure a happy ending.

Nobody plans to destroy their marriage, but few people take precautions that guarantee that ďuntil death do we part.Ē

Nobody plans to raise irresponsible, codependent children, but itís clear from looking at society that a bunch of parents donít plan not to.

Nobody plans an addiction, but it happens. Why? A lack of necessary precaution.

Iíve never talked to anyone who planned to be buried under a mountain of credit-card debt, but Iíve met a lot of people who didnít plan not to be.

Our poor planning leads precisely where we had no intention of going. And once there we ask, ďHow did this happen to me?Ē

The Best Question Ever will provide the answer.

Better yet, the Best Question Ever will help you stay out of the situations and circumstances that rob you of your potential, your opportunities, and your future.

Chapter 2

A Most Uncomfortable Question

And the Courage to Ask it

At the age of twenty-five I came across three verses in Scripture that would totally change the way I make decisions. I suddenly had a new filter through which to evaluate every opportunity, invitation, and relationshipóeverything I was asked to do, everything I was tempted to become a part of. I began to consider my whole life through this new grid, a grid that boiled down to asking one simple question.

The reason I consider it the best question ever is that it has the potential to foolproof every aspect of your life. It will give you with a new perspective on your love life, your career, your finances, your family, your schedule, everything. The Best Question Ever sheds light on issues the Bible doesnít specifically address. The Best Question Ever provides you with a context for addressing questions of where to draw the line morally, relationally, and ethically. Like a piercing light, this powerful question cuts through the fog that surrounds so many of your decisions and enables you to see clearly.

And yet, as you are about to discover, itís not an easy question to ask. Itís not that the words are difficult to say. Itís just that the question exposes so much about your heart and your motives that it is, well, itís just not an easy question to ask. Itís like walking out of a dark building on a sunny dayóthere is something about this question that will make you want to retreat to the shadows where your eyes are already adjusted. Like direct sunlight to the unshielded eye, this question can be extremely uncomfortable.

Hereís why.

The Art of Self Deception

You see, in addition to making the occasional dumb decision, you and I have something else in common: We are good at deceiving ourselves. Really good.

Self-deception comes naturally to me. I can make a bad decision look and sound like a great decision with one hand tied behind my back. I can make a poor financial choice sound like an investment opportunity. Iíve made poor relationship decisions sound like ministry opportunities. Iíve missed countless workouts under the guise of ďI need my rest.Ē Iíve rationalized gallons of ice cream with the phrase ďEverybody needs to live a little,Ē as if ice cream adds to the quality of life. Iíve wasted massive amounts of time doing all kinds of things that seemed important at the time but had no cumulative value. And given enough time, I can even find a Bible verse or two to support my foolishness.

Every kind of addiction begins with similar self-deception.

ďThis wonít hurt anybody.Ē

ďIíll only do it once.Ē

ďI havenít had any for a week.Ē

ďIíll be careful.Ē

ďI can handle it.Ē

ďI can quit whenever I want to.Ē

Sound familiar? Chances are, you donít have to think past last week to come up with a bad decision or two that you talked yourself into. Probably some of your greatest regrets started with choices that you convinced yourself were good ones. But in fact you were actually robbing yourself. Your bad decisions ended up costing you relationally, financially, and maybe even spiritually.

And the strange thing is, most of the time we are fully aware of the game weíre playing. The fact that we have to give ourselves a reason or excuse at all ought to tip us off. Think about it. You donít have to go through a series of mental gymnastics to convince yourself that itís a good idea to eat a serving or two of vegetables every day. You never have to rationalize why you ought to exercise, save money, or avoid bad company. You just know. You donít sit around looking for reasons to do the right thing; itís the bad decisions that require creative reasoning.

Reading the Gauges

It is this human habit of self-deception that makes the Best Question Ever so uncomfortable to ask. This question exposes the irrationality of our excuses. It reveals our true intent. It penetrates the walls of rationalization behind which we are prone to hide. It dismantles the arguments we use to keep the truth at armís length.

All of which is fine if you really want to do what is right. But this little question can become a nuisance on those occasions when, instead of trying to make a right decision, you are trying to make a decision right. On those occasions the Best Question Ever has the potential to irritate as well as illuminate. Because of that, it is very important for you to pay close attention to your emotional response to the Best Question Ever. Your reaction to this dynamic little question will tell you a great deal about yourself. And this is one lesson you cannot afford to miss.