Why? That is the number one question people ask me when the discussion about Ultra-marathoning comes up. The usual follow-up question is: “Why on earth would someone put themselves through something like that?” As I mentioned in the introduction to this series of blogs, the answer to the question of “Why run a 50-mile race?” is simply: “How else can you make it to the finish line?” Obviously, no one made me run this race. It was of my own choosing. Since I chose to do this, I also chose to give it my best and asked God to use it somehow for His glory.
“and whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” – Col. 3:24
So this was the next lesson in the series that God was teaching me during the training time frame. It had to do with “choice”. Specifically, it had to do with our choice to be obedient to Him or not. Here I am talking to and about Christians, those who are already saved and call Him ‘Lord’ and ‘Master’. Those are the ones who have a choice to obey Him or not. It is safe to say that no one can really make us obey God. God will not make us obey Him. He will not make us listen to the Holy Spirit. He will not make us love Him or make us love others. All those things are our choice to make and our choice only. The choice comes from our heart and from our own desires. That is why it is so important to guard you heart in these matters.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” – Prov. 4:23
Choosing to set off and continue in the path of obedience and wisdom is no casual matter. Nor is it something that will just happen. Keeping your heart is hard work, a choice that is ours to make, choose to engage in it sincerely and seriously.
Another choice we have is how we decide to show our love towards God. Jesus clearly states how we are to show our love for Him:
“If you love Me, keep My commandments.” - John 14:15
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” – John 15:10
It does not get any simpler than that, but why is it so hard to do? Why is it so hard to stay on the path of obedience? Notice that our love for Him is shown by keeping His commandments. Also notice that each of the verses above (and many more), begin with “If”. “If” is a conditional statement, it is sometimes used as “in case that”, or ”provided that”, and often used in conjunction with other particles to denote indefiniteness or uncertainty. Christ’s love for us is unconditional; there is no uncertainty about that. However, showing our love for Him, well that is another story. Perhaps it is difficult to continually obey Him because we know there is a price to pay.
Consider the following verses which demand a choice from us, often a difficult one to keep. Each of these if followed, requires something on our side, a cost if you will:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” –Prov. 15:1
It’s our choice the way we answer; the cost is to swallow our pride…
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up…” - Deut. 6:9
Our choice to be diligent; the cost is to not give up, persevere…
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” – James 4:8
Our choice to draw near to God; the cost is to move away from the world…
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church…” – Eph. 5:25
Our choice to love our wives; the cost is to give up selfishness…
“For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” - (Proverbs 1:29)
Our choice to fear the Lord; the cost is to give up worldly thinking…
“Do not envy the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.” - (Proverbs3:31)
Our choice not to envy; the cost is to give up worldly desires…
“Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold.” - (Proverbs 8:10)
Our choice to follow the Lord’s instruction; the cost is to give up worldly riches…
“Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust” – Psa. 39:4
Our choice to trust in the Lord; the cost is to give up self control…
“Wait on the Lord, and keep His way.” – Psa. 37:34
Our choice to wait on the Lord; the cost is to give up the “quick fix” and impatience…
“Do not turn to the right or to the left…” – Pro. 4:27
Our choice to stay one the straight path; the cost is to bare the side attacks of temptation that push us away…
“Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.” –Prov. 8:32
Our choice to listen to and obey the Lord!
There are many, many, many more. Next time you are reading and studying the Bible, watch all the verses that pop out at you that require a choice from you.
As mentioned, choosing to obey often has consequences. It is not an easy road to travel; there is a cost to being a Christ-follower, to be a disciple of Christ. Unfortunately, many have tried to make the journey of Christianity without embracing and abiding in Christ. Those who travel down that path make a decision, but do so to their own peril. In his book “The Cost Of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:
“Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ” … “Discipleship without Jesus Christ is a way of our own choosing. It may be the ideal way. It may even lead to martyrdom, but it is devoid of all promise. Jesus will certainly reject it.” (pg.59)
And further along he writes:
“Time is short. Eternity is long. It is the time of decision. Those who are true to the Word and confession on earth will find Jesus Christ standing by their side in the hour of judgment. He will acknowledge them and come to their aid when the accuser demands his rights. All the world will be called to the witness as Jesus pronounces our name before His heavenly Father. But if we have been ashamed of our Lord and of His name, He will likewise be ashamed of us and deny us. The final decision must be made while we are still on earth.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer (pg. 219)
With so many choices, it is no wonder that we often fail. I believe that we fail because we often try to do it on our own strength. But the good news is that we have a helper and the helper is the Holy Spirit.
"All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." – John 14:25-26
The Holy Spirit is the comforter. The Greek word for comforter is “parakletos”, sometimes translated as “advocate”. We have an advocate who loves us and is there, if we choose, to be with us in our decisions. With the numerous daily decisions we make that impact our lives, this is comforting to know. Choose to live a life pleasing to the Lord.
The choice is ours. Also remember, by not choosing, by default a choice has been made.
Questions on Choice:
- What decision making process do you follow to make choices?
- Estimate how many choices you make a day?
- What percentage of those choices have you sought the Lord’s guidance?
- What good choice have you made recently?
- What bad choice have you made recently?
- What are you doing to help you make better choices?
- What Bible verses recently “popped out” at you demanding a choice?