Choices-the steps we need to make the right ones.

Posted: May 5, 2014 in Thoughts on God
Tags: , ,

choiceAn American lawyer and evangelist, Charles Finney, was speaking in New York in the 1830s. At the end of each evening, he gave people the opportunity to come to the front of the room and commit their life to Jesus. A great many lawyers came to hear him. One night, the Chief Justice of New York was sitting way up in the gallery. As he listened to Finney proclaiming the gospel he became convinced it was true.

Then this question came into his mind: ‘Will you go forward like the other ordinary people?’ Something within him made him think that it would be inappropriate to do so, because of his prestigious social position (at the top of the legal hierarchy of New York State). He sat there pondering the choice he had to make. Then he thought, ‘Why not? I am convinced of the truth … I know my duty; why should I not do it like any other person?’

He got up from his seat in the gallery, went down the staircase, and came up the stairs at the back to where Finney was preaching. Finney, in the middle of his sermon, felt someone tugging at his jacket. He turned around and saw the Chief Justice. He asked, ‘What is it?’ The Chief Justice replied, ‘Mr Finney, if you will call people forward I will come.’ Finney stopped his talk and said, ‘The Chief Justice says that if I call people forward he will come. I ask you to come forward now.’

The Chief Justice went forward. Almost every lawyer in Rochester, New York, followed him! It is said that 100,000 people were converted in the next twelve months in that area. One person’s choice affected the lives of numerous others.

Life is full of choices. We can make bad choices or we can make good choices. Our choices matter.  

1. Choose trust over worry

Psalm 55:12-23‘Worry,’ as Corrie ten Boom wrote, ‘does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.’ No one goes through life without facing problems, battles and causes for worry.

David faced many difficulties in his life. Here David speaks of one of the most painful battles of his life (v.18b). His ‘best friend’ (v.13b, MSG) has turned against him and joined the many who oppose him (v.18c). David, of course, found this more difficult than if ‘an enemy were insulting [him]’ (v.12a), as we all would.

As in any battle, we have a ‘choice’ about how we respond. David chose to turn to the Lord and cry out to him ‘evening, morning and noon’ (vv.16–17). Especially when we are involved in a confrontation with a close friend or family member, it is vital that we turn to God for comfort and strength. David did so and as a result he experienced God’s peace. He wrote, ‘he has redeemed my life in peace from the battle that was against me’ (v.18, AMP).

From David’s own experience he is able to give this advice: ‘Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you’ (v.22a). As I look at my Bible in One Year, I see that each year I have written in the margins the ‘cares’ that I have ‘cast upon the Lord’ in response to this verse. Most of them (though not quite all) have been more than resolved.

Once we have cast our burdens on the Lord, we can follow David’s example. He says, ‘as for me, I trust in you’ (v.23d).

This is the choice you have to make as you face the worries, battles and disappointments of life. Do you allow them to overwhelm you, or do you, like David, turn to the Lord, cast your burdens on him and then trust in him?

Lord, today I want to bring to you my cares … I cast all these things on you and trust in you.

2. Choose Jesus

John 3:22-36John the Baptist had become a celebrity. He had a remarkable ministry. People ‘were constantly coming [to him] to be baptised’ (v.23). John’s followers were very competitive. They became envious of Jesus’ success. They came to John and said about Jesus, ‘He’s now competing with us … everyone’s going to him instead of us’ (v.26, MSG).

John had to choose how he responded. He began by pointing out to his disciples that ‘It’s not possible for a person to succeed – I’m talking about eternal success – without heaven’s help’ (v.27, MSG). He chose to point people to Jesus rather than to himself: ‘You yourselves can testify that I said, “I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.” ’ (v.28).

John likens his own position to ‘the friend who attends the bridegroom’ (whom we might call the ‘best man’). Far from being threatened by the arrival of the groom, it is the very thing he has been waiting for, and he is delighted by it. Likewise, John explains that he has been waiting for Jesus, and is ‘full of joy’ at Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was John the Baptist’s successor. John says of Jesus: ‘He must become greater; I must become less’ (v.30).

Many people in the world today are driven to become greater, more important, more highly promoted or better qualified. These are not all bad aims in themselves, but our daily choices will be swayed by these ambitions. You have to choose how you live your life. Are you focused on your promotion or on exalting Jesus? Is your ambition more for yourself, or for Jesus?

Sometimes, we even see different Christian ministries competing with each other. This should never happen.

Those of us who follow Jesus must echo this in our hearts, ‘He must become greater; I must become less’ (v.30). Ultimately, the focus is not on ourselves – it is always on Jesus. Our ambition must always be to point people to Jesus.

John highlights the real issue: ‘Whoever accepts and trusts the Son gets in on everything, life complete and forever! And that is also why the person who avoids and distrusts the Son is in the dark and doesn’t see life. All he experiences of God is darkness, and an angry darkness at that’ (v.36, MSG).

That is the most vital choice of all – do I choose Jesus or reject him?

Lord, help me to say in my heart, ‘He must become greater; I must become less’ (v.30). May I become more and more like Jesus, speaking the words of God, full of the Holy Spirit, loved by the Father, enabling others to believe in the Son.

3. Choose to serve the Lord

Joshua 23:1-24:33Worshipping and serving God is the way to a fulfilling life. Don’t waste your life chasing after false ‘gods’. As Saint Cyprian wrote, ‘Whatever man prefers to God, that he makes a god to himself.’ There are numerous other gods around today – perhaps the most common could be summed up as ‘money, sex and power’.

Israel had enjoyed a long period of rest after all the battles (23:1). Joshua, ‘a venerable old man’ (v.1, MSG) at the end of his life, called all the people together and spoke to them. He told them that they had to choose how to spend the rest of their lives.

He reminds them of everything that God has done for them and all the ways in which he has blessed them (23:14; 24:10). Now, Joshua urges them to worship the Lord, their God ‘in total commitment’ (v.10b, MSG).

In response to all that the Lord has done for us we are also called ‘to love the Lord’ (23:11), to worship and to serve him. Joshua says, ‘choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve’ (24:15). He lays before the people of God three options that are open to them (vv.14–15).

  • The gods of their ancestors
  • The gods of the conquered people
  • The God of Israel who is the one true God.

The gods of the conquered people claimed to be modern and ‘scientific’ – with true control over agriculture, fertility and sex. The people of Canaan felt themselves intellectually and culturally miles ahead of the Israelites. But Joshua stresses the shortcomings of the ‘other gods’ as against the goodness and the power of God (vv.3–13).

You have to make a choice. You cannot just drift. Many people just drift through life, never making a conscious decision.

Joshua shows a great example of leadership. He makes a deliberate, personal choice to worship and serve the Lord. He says, ‘But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’ (v.15).

The people answered, ‘We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God’ (vv.18,21,24). Joshua said, ‘You have chosen to serve the Lord’ (v.22). As a result, ‘Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua’ (v.31). Whilst Joshua and the elders – trained presumably by him – were leading Israel, Israel served the Lord. Leadership is key.

Joshua called the people to repentance and faith. This is always what God requires. First, repentance: ‘throw away the foreign gods’ (v.23a). Get rid of the bad stuff. Second, faith: ‘yield your hearts to the Lord’ (v.23b) – put your whole life into the hands of the Lord.

Lord, help me to make good choices in my life. Help me to say, ‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord’ (v.15). I choose to yield my heart to you.

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