Patience, Patience, Patience!

Several years agLet God Speako it was common to hear the phrase, “Be patient, God’s not finished with me yet!”  Those words could be seen on T-shirts, coffee mugs, lapel pins, they have even been used as lyrics in a song!  The person who used this slogan was asking others to be longsuffering.  Isn’t this an important building block of love for others?  The apostle Paul wrote, “Love suffereth long” (I Corinthians 13:4).  Yes, love is patient!

What should motivate us to be patient with others?  First, we should be motivated by God’s patience toward us.  God’s delay in bringing his judgment upon the world is an indication of his patience, enabling every man to have an opportunity to repent before it is too late (II Peter 3:9).

Second, we should be motivated by Christ’s patience with those who mistreated him.  When Christ was mistreated he refused to get even.  When he suffered, he did not threaten in return (I Peter 2:19-24).

Third, we should be motivated to be patient toward others when we realize that this is the only way we can be pleasing to God (Colossians 1:10-11).

Be patient.  God’s not finished with me yet!

 

ABC’s of Decision Making, Part II

Decgood-choice-bad-choiceisions, decisions.  We make them every day.  But how can we be sure we are deciding wisely?  How can we know we are making the right choices in life?  As we continue to look at the “ABC’s of Decision Making” we remember, from a previous post, that the letter “A” reminds us to Always be Aware of Others.  The letter “B” reminds us to always Base Our Decisions on Biblical Principles.

What are some of these Biblical principles?  First, making the right decision often requires going against the common thinking of the majority of people.  We must be willing to “stand out in a crowd.”    In Exodus 23:2 we read, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.”  Perhaps no better example of this principle can be found than that of Pilate (Re: Matthew 27:11-26).  At the Feast of the Passover it was customary to release a prisoner.    Pilate asked the people, “Whom will ye that I release unto you?  Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?”  The people, because they had been persuaded by the chief priests and the elders, responded, “Barabbas.”  When Pilate then asked what he should do with Jesus, the crowd responded “Let him be crucified.”  Pilate found no guilt in Jesus but, because of the pressure of the crowd, he turned Jesus over to be scourged and later crucified.  Pilate foolishly thought he could wash his hands of the matter and tried to declare his innocence (Matthew 27:24).

Friends, for you and me to make right decisions we must often be willing to go against the crowd.  We must be willing to speak out against the majority.  We must never follow a multitude to do evil.

Second, making the right decision may require going against our civil authorities.  In Acts 5:17-29, the High Priest, acting out of anger, put the apostles in prison.  But during the night, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and told the apostles to go to the temple and preach.  Not surprisingly, the apostles went to the temple early the next morning and taught the gospel to any who would hear.  When news spread as to the apostles’ whereabouts, the apostles were brought before the high priests.  The high priest asked them, “Did we not straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?  and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”  Peter and the other apostles answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”

The scriptures clearly speak of the need for Christians to be obedient to civil authorities (Romans 13:1-6).  But where a conflict exists between the requirements of our government and the requirements of God, making the right decision requires us to obey God rather than men.

Third, making the right decision cannot involve going against our faith.  In Romans Chapter 14, the apostle Paul encouraged those of the church at Rome not to become involved in unnecessary disputes, or strife, over issues that we might commonly think of as scruples.  Specifically, Paul contrasted the weak (who were, because of their lesser knowledge, overly strict concerning the eating of meats that had been offered to idols) with the strong (who, because of their sufficient knowledge of the scriptures, saw no problem with the eating of these meats that had been offered to idols).  Paul taught that, as Christians, we are to strive for unity in matters of Christian liberty and not force our particular “scruples” on others.  Our decisions must be made on the teachings of the scriptures.  But, where this is a lack of clear teaching on a particular subject, we must ensure that our decisions do not violate our conscience (Romans 14:23).

ABC’s of Decision Making, Part I

Decisions, decisions. We make them every day! Many of the decisions we make are very minor. For example, what will I eat for breakfast? What kind of toothpaste will Icoin flip use? What kind of car will I drive? Will I part my hair on the left or the right? Or perhaps, no part at all? Will I drink my coffee with cream, or without? What kind of shoes will I wear, lace-ups, or slip-ons? Where will I take my family for vacation this year?

I could go on and on. I’m sure you could make a list of your own similar decisions. These decisions are, at least in view of eternity, inconsequential.

But other decisions we make are of greater significance. Where will I work? Will I be married? If so, whom will I marry? Will I have children? If so, how will I provide for my family? Will I be a Christian? Not just a Christian, but a faithful Christian. Will I study the Bible? Or will I look upon God’s word as a trivial matter? These decisions have far more lasting consequences. Some of these decisions have eternal consequences.

How should we arrive at the decisions we make? While a “flip of the coin” may be a satisfactory method of making some decisions, no reasonable person would want to make a major, life changing decision in such a haphazard manner. Decisions of any real significance involve serious thought and deliberation. Obviously, it’s possible for a person to make not only wise choices, but unwise choices as well. How can a person know he has made a wise decision? Let’s consider a few tips that should be helpful in the decision making process. What I call, the ABC’s of decision making.

For now, let’s consider the the letter A, as it reminds us to ALWAYS be AWARE of others when making decisions.  Consider the tragic decision of Achan, recorded for us in Joshua 7:1-26. In Joshua chapter six, God had given the Israelites instructions as to how they were to be victorious in capturing the city of Jericho. Notice God’s instructions to Joshua in Joshua 6:2-5: “And the Lord said to Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns; and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.

God had also stipulated that when the city of Jericho was captured all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron were to be consecrated to the Lord. Not one of the Israelites was to keep these things for himself (Joshua 6:17-19).

After taking Jericho, the Israelites next step was to take the city of Ai. However, the Israelites met with unexpected resistance. Thirty-six Israelites died in the battle (Joshua 7:2-5).

Joshua mourned over the Israelites’ defeat. Listen to Joshua’s words of despair, recorded in Joshua 7:7-9: “And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?”

God explained to Joshua that the Israelites’ loss was due to their sin in the camp.  Joshua began an inquiry in order to find out whose sin had caused the defeat before the city of Ai. Joshua began with the heads of the tribes, then with the heads of the families, then the heads of the households in succession to one family, then to individual persons within that family. It wasn’t long before Joshua found the guilty party.

As it turned out, Achan had let his greed get the best of him. Achan confessed that he took a garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight. Achan buried them in the earth in the midst of his tent. When Joshua sent messengers to Achan’s tent, they found the spoils buried right where Achan said they were. After the messengers took these things to Joshua, Joshua took Achan, along with his sons and daughters, to the valley of Achor. The children of Israel then stoned Achan along with his sons and his daughters and afterward burned them as God had commanded (Joshua 7:15).

But notice Joshua 7:1 – “the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing.” It was Achan who had sinned. But Achan’s sin had brought disgrace upon the whole nation, caused the death of thirty-six men in battle, and later resulted in the death of his sons and his daughters.

Achan’s actions remind us that the decisions we make affect far more than just ourselves. The choices we make often affect our parents, our spouses, our children, our coworkers, our friends, and our neighbors.  The next time you make a major decision, remember to ALWAYS be AWARE of others!