Here we are – a new year. A new 365-day sequence of days, each one holding a bucketful of choices to be made. Some choices we make unconsciously. They are habits or uncompromisable preferences; the choices to brush our teeth or how we take our coffee. Other choices require more deliberate thought; what will we eat for lunch or the name we give to our newborn …. or should we really build the ark or fight against a massive army with a mere 300 men. Ok, so it’s not likely you will be asked to gather up your Facebook friends and take out the rebel army of terrorists oppressing parts of the globe at present – but what if you were?
I think when we read the stories in scripture, there are a lot of passages we take for granted and skim over because we have heard them so many times. We know how the story goes – we know the journey to the outcomes – but it is easy to forget that the people faced with the hard choices did not. These people had free will, the same as we do. They could have said ‘no’. I talked about the choice Jesus made in Battle in the Garden. He could have said ‘no’. What about the other great men and women of faith throughout biblical history? They could have said ‘no’.
Actually, a couple of them did. It didn’t go so well for them. Jonah (Jonah 1-4) got swallowed by a whale and Samson (Judges 13-16) spent his last years shackled to a millstone grinding corn, then got crushed by a falling temple.
What about the rest of them? What if they had said ‘no’? Would they have had similar stories to Jonah and Samson or would God have just asked someone else, as in the case of Saul and David? The Lord anointed Saul to be king of the Isrealites. In 1 Samuel 15, Saul became rebellious and arrogant. At that time, the Lord rejected Saul and chose David to be king.
And then there’s that – the process between the calling and the outcome. When David was anointed to be king, he did not simply step out of the pasture and into the throne room. He had years of hardships and difficulties in between. Years of training, testing and trials. Most of it not pleasant, to say the least. Would he have accepted if he had known? Do you think he ever had questions or doubts about the path he was on? What about some of the others?
What if Noah had refused to build the ark? (Genesis 5-8) Think about it – it was 120 year project. One hundred and twenty years of ridicule and persecution, accusations and condemnations.
What if Sarah had refused to bear a child in her old age? (Genesis 17 & 21)
What if Abraham had not taken Isaac to the mountain top to offer him as a sacrifice? (Genesis 22)
What if Joseph had not forgiven his brothers? (Genesis 37-45) After all, he was imprisoned and enslaved for thirteen years – who would blame him?
What if Moses had refused to confront Pharaoh? (Exodus 3) Even after all that, his disobedience in the wilderness cost him entrance into the promised land. (Numbers 20)
What if Rahab had not hidden the spies? (Joshua 2)
What if Gideon had been too afraid to go to battle? (Judges 6-7)
What if David had killed Saul in the cave? (1 Samuel 24)
What if Mary had not agreed to be pregnant out of wedlock? (Luke 1) She carried that social stigma her entire life.
These choices were hard choices and saying yes had a great price. The journeys were difficult, dangerous, going against common sense, instincts for survival, and sometimes against socially acceptable standards. These people did not know the impact of their agreement other than the promises of God. That was enough for them.
Awhile ago (as in years), I read a wonderful book by Hannah Hurnard called “Hinds Feet in High Places”. The main character, Much-Afraid, a crippled and disfigured member of the Fearlings family, has asked the Great Shepherd to take her to the High Places where she can live in the Kingdom of Love. He gladly agrees to take her there, sharing with her some of the glorious features of the High Places and promising her good health and a new name. She is eager to go. She thought her journey would be a straight shot up the side of the mountain. Alas, it is not. It is a journey of ups and downs, twists and turns, dangers and despairs, and a lot of sacrificing her will.
This is so often the case when we agree to God’s will. Like God’s people from biblical times, and like Much-Afraid, the journey from the calling to the outcome is rarely a short one. Or a straight one. Or a comfortable one. It rarely looks like we think it should. Many times we even cry out in despair, “How will God ever glory from this?” Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. His story – His glory! Submitting to His will, to His journey, to His plan, not only gets you to the outcome but through the process on the way – with His power – for His glory.
We are starting a new year. Resolutions are expected to be made. And broken. What if your resolution this year is to say ‘yes’ to what the Lord is asking of you? It’s really not as risky as it sounds. He has nothing but the best outcome planned for you. Romans 8:27-28 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. This is a resolution that you can actually keep as long as you are relying on Him.
I watched the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” again this year. If you have never seen it (I can’t imagine there’s anyone who hasn’t), I recommend it as a must-see. At least once. We get to see what would have happened if George Bailey had said ‘no’. If he had decided to refuse existence. One person changed so many lives for the better. One person who said ‘yes’ to good and spent his life standing against evil, aka Mr. Potter in this story. Believe me, there are lives depending on your choice.
What hard choices are you faced with? Do you trust God for the outcome? Do you rely on Him during the journey?
Psalm 31:24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.