How to Make Good Choices
How to Make Good Choices
Charles Finney, lawyer and evangelist, was speaking in a New York church 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... 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. The Chief Justice said, ‘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 make choices every day of our lives. You can make bad choices or you can make good choices. Your choices matter. Some choices have life-changing consequences.
Choose trust over worryPsalm 55:12-23
As has been said, ‘Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.’ 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 ‘close friend’ (v.13b) with whom he had ‘shared’ his ‘secrets’ (v.14, ERV) 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). If you are involved in a confrontation with a close friend or family member, 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). Each year, I have written in the margins of my Bible 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.
As you face the worries, battles and disappointments of life, don’t allow them to overwhelm you. Like David, turn to the Lord, cast your burdens on him and then say, ‘as for me, I trust in you (v.23b).
Lord, today I want to bring to you my cares... I cast all these things on you and trust in you.
Choose JesusJohn 3:22-36
John 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).
At times, all of us may be driven to become greater, more important, more honoured, 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.
Echo these words in your heart: ‘He must become greater; I must become less’ (v.30). Ultimately, the focus is not on yourself – 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, I choose that you ‘must become greater; I must become less’ (v.30). Fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I may speak the words of God, enabling others to believe in the Son.
Choose to serve the LordJoshua 23:1-24:33
Worshipping and serving God is the way to a fulfilling life. Don’t waste your life chasing after false ‘gods’. As St 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 you, you 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 out the options (vv.14–15):
- False ‘gods’ (‘gods’ of their ancestors or ‘gods’ of the conquered people), or
- 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, like all good leaders, leads by example. 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). While 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, I choose to yield my heart to you. Help me to make good choices in my life.
‘But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’
This is my family verse. I have come back to it many times over the years. We want to be a family that serves the Lord.
Verse of the Day
‘Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders –
he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out’ (Psalm 55:22, MSG).
St Cyprian, cited in Alphonsus di Liguori, Preparation for Death (Brooklyn, NY: Redemptionist, 1926) p.157.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.