Something we must do every day, no matter how old we are, what our social position is, or where we live is make decisions. Some of these decisions are more important than others. Deciding what to eat for supper is usually not as important as deciding what job to take. But no matter how important the decision or what the decision is about, we should make it in the same way - with the same goal in mind. The apostle, Paul, tells us what our life’s goal should be in 2 Corinthians 5:9.
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. (ESV)
No matter where we are or what we are doing, it should be our aim or goal to please Christ. This motivation should find its way into whatever decision we have to make. We can see the difference the motivation makes in decisions by examining two Old Testament examples.
Lot was the nephew of Abraham. In Genesis 13, we read about his decision about where he would live. He was living with Abraham, but both of them were very rich and had many cattle, so Abraham gave Lot a choice. He told Lot,
If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left. Where Lot would live was completely up to him. So, Lot looked all around and
saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere which would be very good for his cattle. So, he decided to move there and we read that he
moved his tent as far as Sodom. We all know what happened to the city of Sodom.
What seemed like a good financial decision turned into disaster for Lot’s family. They moved into a city that was so wicked that God decided to destroy it. Because Lot was righteous man, himself, and because he was Abraham’s nephew, God made sure that Lot escaped the destruction. He sent His angels and they warned Lot to leave. Lot told the men who were supposed to marry his daughters that they needed to get out of the city but they thought that he was only joking, so they died in the city. As Lot and his family left, the angels warned them,
Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife had lost her respect for the word of God, so she looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. Lot escaped with only his two daughters. But even his daughters had not escaped the influence of the city in which they had been living. They got their father drunk and had sex with him so that they would have children. Basically, Lot lost his whole family because of his decision of where to move.
We have a much nicer example in Daniel. Daniel was one of the first to be taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. He was among the young men who were being trained to govern the Jews while they were in captivity. These young men had to make many changes in their lives. They had to change the way they dressed to be like the Babylonians. They did that. They had to change the language they spoke to be what the Babylonians spoke. They did that. They had to change their food to be that which came from the king’s table. Most of them did that. But there was a problem with that food. It was against the law for the Jews to eat that food. In Daniel 1:8, we find that Daniel made a decision.
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. (ESV)
Only Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah stood up to the order of the king and convinced the man in charge to let them eat only vegetables and drink only water. God blessed them greatly for their decision and they were the healthiest, wisest young men that Nebuchadnezzar had. They were put in the highest positions of authority where they were great blessings to the Jews while they were in captivity. All of that happened just because of a decision on what to eat. Wow.
What was the difference between the decision by Lot and that of Daniel? The difference lies in what they were thinking about when they made their decision. What was Lot thinking about when he decided to move beside the Jordan River? He was thinking about his cattle/wealth. What was Daniel thinking about when he decided to disobey the order of the king? He was thinking about his God. What was Lot thinking about when he decided to move into the city of Sodom? Why does anyone move to the city - a better/nicer/easier life. What was Daniel thinking about when decided to eat vegetables and water instead of the king’s food? He was thinking about the righteous life. What was Lot thinking about when we find him sitting in the gates of Sodom with the other important men? He was thinking of being part of society. What was Daniel thinking about when he and only three friends decided to be different from everyone else? He was thinking of being part of God’s people.
|Thought about his cattle||Thought about his God|
|Thought about the easy life||Thought about the righteous life|
|Thought about being part of society||Thought about being part of God’s people|
Do you see how the difference in what they were thinking about made a big difference in their decision? In Philippians 3:18-19, Paul explains what the fundamental difference is in what we think about.
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (ESV)
Lot had his mind set on earthly things. That cost him his family. Daniel had his mind set on the spirit (Romans 8:5-8). That led to great blessings for him and many others. But did you notice that having your mind set on earthly things doesn’t just get you into trouble in this life. Paul says that people who set their minds on the things of this world are “enemies of the cross of Christ.” That is very serious. Any decision we must make, from where to live to what to have for dinner should be guided by thinking on the spiritual things instead of the things of this world.
Let us examine a few examples of decisions many people have to make. If you have decided to get married, you must then decide whom to marry. Get someone in your mind that you want to marry. Then ask yourself,
Why do I want to marry this person? Is it to please yourself? Or is it to please God, as it should be? Will it help you get to heaven? Will it help someone else get to heaven? Do you see what a huge difference this can make to your decision?
Imagine that you are visiting your friends who are having a party and they hand you a beer. You say,
No thanks. I’m a Christian, so I don’t drink. They reply,
Do you really think that taking just one drink is a sin? You may think,
I don’t really know…. Maybe I’ll just go ahead and drink it. It’s just one. But you should stop and ask yourself,
Why am I going to take that drink? Is it to please God or is it to please yourself and your friends?
You can easily answer many difficult questions about right and wrong by examining the motivation. Do you think it’s a sin just to miss one church service? It depends on why you are missing. Is it to please God or to please yourself? Do you think it’s a sin just to…. Fill in the blank. You can answer it by asking,
If you make your decisions out of a motivation to please God, you will in turn be happy yourself - especially when you get to heaven. If you make your decisions out of a motivation to please yourself, you will be miserable - especially when you get to hell. Because that is where you will go along with all other enemies of the cross of Christ.
When you have to make a decision, ask yourself,
Will this make God happy? Will it help me get to heaven? Will it help others get to heaven? If you have to answer no to these questions, you need to find a better option. Be like Daniel who
resolved that he would not defile himself in disregard of the king’s order and be blessed and a blessing to many others in your life.