Choices

CHOICES

Reading: Joshua 24:14-18

14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

 16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! 17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we travelled. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD because he is our God.”

Whom would you choose to be cast away with on a desert island?

  • Which of your old teachers or neighbours?
  • Who from your church?

Politicians love to talk about CHOICE… they see it as a vote-winner… choose your hospital, school, surgeon…

  • They really mean preference… not choice!

But Joshua didn’t say to the people:

Choose who will serve you” but the other way around:

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve

Choosing to serve is not for wimps! It takes courage, perseverance and sacrifice

WE CAN CHOOSE WHETHER OR NOT TO DO GOOD

  • To show kindness, patience, consideration for others
  • To make sacrifices on their behalf… or walk by on the other side

Only God is good… but He promises us His Holy Spirit to give us the power to walk aright… BUT WE MAKE THE DECISIONS… God will enable us but never force us

And bear in mind that the result of the good we do may not happen straight away… but it is never wasted…

CHOOSING TO DO GOOD can have amazing results…

It is claimed (though the details are disputed) that the father of Sir Alexander Fleming saved a young Winston Churchill from drowning. In gratitude, Churchill’s father paid for Alexander’s education and he eventually became a doctor whose discovery of penicillin has saved countless numbers of lives. Goodness is never wasted!

Yes, choosing to do the right thing can lead to a wonderful outcome, though we may not always be around to see it

  • You may sometimes wonder if your love and sacrifice has all been worthwhile…
  • There seems so little fruit… even members of your family don’t seem to have responded
  • But the fragrance (‘aroma’) of Christ is never wasted… like perfume it clings and spreads to others with whom we have contact
  • Even though you may not live to see the results of your goodness

WE CAN CHOOSE TO LOVE rather than hate or show no interest… though love often has a cost… just as it did for Jesus…

  • It’s horrible when we try to do good and someone reacts negatively
  • Nevertheless, as the old prayer says: “Give and ask for no reward, save that of knowing that we do your will

As CS Lewis’ once wrote in his book, The Four Loves

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness…”

If we choose to love rather than hate, we make ourselves vulnerable

Someone has expressed the situation as follows: There’s no way to go through life without being hurt. But if you think that what the person who hurt you did was bad, wait until you see what bitterness will do. It will extend your pain, infect your attitude, control your moods and cause you to lose friends.”

Likewise, the path of love will have the opposite effect

WE MUST ALSO MAKE CHOICES ABOUT HOW TO USE OUR TIMEand our MONEY

What would you do if you won the Lottery or were left a fortune by a distant aunt?

Lots of people say:

I’d give most of it away” I wonder if that would be the case!

Greed can have a devastating effect on us…

  • Remember Achan’s greed and Israel’s defeat at Ai
  • Remember Ananias & Sapphira

There is a story of Emperor Charlemagne and Tancho, who was given the task of casting a huge bell for the church… But Tancho substituted tin for silver and kept the ‘excess’ silver… However, the bell contained too much tin and became weak. One day, it collapsed and fell on Tancho, killing him.

AND WE KNOW FROM EXPERIENCE that choosing to do good can be difficult… and even bring suffering or hardship…

GOD WILL GIVE US THE POWER BUT WE MAKE THE CHOICES

When we choose to do what God says, He then gives us the power… not the other way around…Choose first…”

However… CHOOSING TO OBEY GOD AND FOLLOW JESUS is not a single decision, made once… it’s a lifelong practice

Choose THIS DAY whom you will serve…” and every day

The Son of God chose to give His life on the Cross… if we don’t choose to follow Him, who are we following?

You might say: “I’m a Christian… I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who loved me and died and was resurrected for me…

  • Ø I was baptised… I serve in the church
  • Ø I sing the hymns with enthusiasm
  • Ø I read the Bible, pray, give money…”

What more do you expect?!

And God replies: “I want to give you a test and I want you to pass the test before I show you great and wonderful things that you haven’t seen or known before

It seems to be a principle that spiritual growth follows a certain order:

  1. God invites us to choose and decide
  2. We respond (positively) and declare that we will submit to His will and purpose
  3. He puts us to the test
  4. We pass or fail the test
  5. He puts us to the test again… but only so many times

So how do individuals… and churches… grow and mature spiritually?

  • By choosing, deciding, submitting to the Spirit’s testpassing the test… choosing, deciding, submitting, passing… choosing, etc
  • And then but only then does blessing follow

This is true for individuals and for churches…

Job (chapter 2:10) asked a key question… “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?

  • We often assume that trials and tribulations are a sign of our weakness and failure
  • But if we are trying to walk in step with the Spirit, opposition and difficulties are a sign of success, not failure

So be encouraged… Jesus quoted from the prophecy of Zechariah (Matthew 26:31)…

I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered

But also: “After I have risen I will go ahead of you into Galilee”

  • Yes, Jesus ‘goes ahead of us’

Whatever you and I have to face, we can be encouraged to know that Jesus has gone ahead of us… So nothing that we experience has not first been experienced by the one who says to you and me:

The person who wants to be my disciple must first {and willingly} take up his cross (daily) and follow me… and I will be with you, even to the end of the age


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