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To say that I was never going to make it to the NBA would not come as a shock to anyone who knows me. At 5 feet, 10 inches tall, with much more of a power-lifter build than a lean jumper, it simply was never going to happen. Nonetheless, since I always enjoyed playing the game, I jumped at the chance to be in a local 30-and-over league some years ago.

As it turns out, everyone else on my team was a lot like me. That being the case, we usually muscled our way to a quick lead in the first half, then tired out and lost in the second half. We could not control that we were not as long and lean as the other teams.

But when we finally put our heads together, we realized that there was something we could control: the clock. Since there was no shot clock, we simply held the ball, dribbling and passing for nearly the entire first half, and then played all out the second half. We got booed, we got made fun of.

And we won.

Certainly not among everyone, but definitely among many, there is a growing tendency to believe that society is rigged, as it were, and it is therefore impossible to get ahead in life unless one is the right race, born in the right place and well-connected. And while I believe the actual data and evidence do not support that broad-brush anecdotal belief, that question is, in many ways, not the right place at all on which to place our regular, daily focus.

By that I mean that, even if I am wrong about race and place and background, those things are a bit moot anyway since we have absolutely no control over who we are or where we were born, but we do have control over all of the other things that steer our lives from youth until death. There are choices we make along the way that, regardless of the condition of society around us, have the power to radically change our lives. Proverbs 12:14 says, "A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompense of a man's hands shall be rendered unto him." That verse means that the choices people make largely determine the outcome of their lives.

As a pastor and evangelist, I have been in the "people business" for three decades now. That is enough time to accumulate a huge amount of data on the choices people make and the results that follow.

May I tell you what I know for certain? The people who make a few very simple decisions, over which they have absolute control, almost invariably lead what by any measure or metric would be considered successful lives, no matter who they are or where they came from.

Decision one is to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, and truly live for him the rest of your life.

Decision two is to remain a virgin until marriage.

Decision three is to graduate high school, and then get at least a two-year degree in some practical, needed field, and then either faithfully work a solid job or, if those are hard to come by, start a business.

Decision four is to stay completely away from people who get into trouble and break the law.

Decision five is to marry, not just live together, and to be 100% faithful to that spouse for the rest of your life, stay married and thus allow your children the benefit of both a mother and a father in the home to guide them.

Decision six is to be wise with your money by living well below your means, saving, investing and avoiding undue debt.

Decision seven is to never do drugs, drink alcohol or smoke, and to live an overall healthy lifestyle.

Every one of these decisions is both colorblind and culture-blind, and determines what becomes of our finances, our family and our future. Every one of these decisions is utterly in the control of the individual. Each human being possesses an amazing amount of power and control over their own future, no matter what happens around them.

Every day of our lives, 99% of the outcome is based on the choices we ourselves make. Take control. You can do it, and you will be glad you did.

Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@cbc-web.org.

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Pastor Bo Wagner
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