Who is to Blame? The statements below are taken from actual insurance accident claims forms.
I left for work this morning at 7am as usual when I collided straight into a bus. The bus was 5 minutes early. (Clearly the bus’s fault!)
I knew the dog was possessive about the car but I would not have asked her to drive it if I had thought there was any risk. (How could he have known?)
The accident happened because I had one eye on the truck in front, one eye on the pedestrian, and the other on the car behind. (Clearly God’s fault – more eyes needed!)
No one was to blame for the accident but it would never have happened if the other driver had been alert.
We live in a culture of blame instead of personal responsibility. The bible is different in that it very much supports personal responsibility for the choices and decisions we make. I like what Eleanor Roosevelt said, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words. It is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” I want us to see the impact of faith on the choices we make from the example of Moses and his parents. Because it seems to me that the common thread in this section of Hebrews 11 is that they made certain choices because of faith.
1. Faith chooses courageously
Faith chooses courageously, makes brave choices, it doesn’t give in to fear. Moses’ parents could have reasoned, as did most other parents at that time that it would be better to play it safe, the child would be sacrificed so that the rest of the family would survive. To keep the child endangered the whole family. But they believed that he was a special child for whom God had a great purpose and did not give in to fear and defied the king’s decree. That was a risk. It was a brave choice; their faith led them to make it. Adrian Rogers tells about the man who bragged that he had cut off the tail of a man-eating lion with his pocketknife. Asked why he hadn’t cut off the lion’s head, the man replied: "Someone had already done that."
What about you in your life, when was the last time you stepped out in faith and did something risky, challenging or just different? Sooner or later faith will mean having to do something that will challenge us, something that is different, even if that is just speaking to someone about Jesus, or becoming a Christian, or tithing etc. What will you do to get out of your comfort zone?
What they did not do was give in to fear. Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear – Mark Twain. Sometimes we are afraid, but as some of you will have heard me say and my family have heard me say many times – being afraid is not a reason not to do something – if it’s the right thing DO IT SCARED! The more you do it the less scary it gets. When I started preaching I found it terrifying, I would feel sick, I thought how could I do this for the rest of my life and survive. But I did it – scared. Now I may get nerves I love doing it. Courage is doing it scared. Whatever it is, making the decision to become a Christian, stepping into a new area, job, speaking out etc. Perhaps it is time to take a step of faith, a bold and courageous step.
2. Faith chooses the right way not the easy way
This next point is true of Moses and his parents, but it is Moses who exemplifies it in particular in the way he chose to be identified with his suffering people rather than as a prince. There was an easy path and a much harder one – he chose the road less travelled. There is relevance here to the fundamental decision about becoming a Christian or not. Jesus spoke about the broad road and the narrow one. Many people find the broad road, less the narrow – but it is this one that leads to life. Faith chooses the right way, even though less people choose it. Sometimes that means choosing the path of honesty even if that costs us, of integrity, of faithfulness etc. It may be easier to lie, to cheat, and to clamber over other people – but it is not right. When you have faith in God you do what is right even if it disadvantages you because you know God is looking on and is pleased.
Some people think that faith means always commanding mountains to be moved. But I wonder if sometimes there are too many people praying for mountains of difficulty to be removed, when what they really need is the courage to climb them. I wonder if sometimes that may be true of us – Paul was guilty of this with his famous thorn in the flesh. He had seen mountains moved, amazing miracles take place. He wanted rid of this troublesome thorn (whatever it was), but God said no, my grace is sufficient, you’ll have my help so just deal with it and get on with it. In that case faith was in climbing the mountain not removing it. Removal would have been easy, living with it was harder.
3. Faith takes a long term view of things and chooses accordingly
During World War II, Winston Churchill was forced to make a painful choice. The British secret service had broken the Nazi code and informed Churchill that the Germans were going to bomb Coventry. He had two alternatives: (1) evacuate the citizens and save hundreds of lives at the expense of indicating to the Germans that the code was broken; or (2) take no action, which would kill hundreds but keep the information flowing and possibly save many more lives. Churchill had to choose and followed the second course. I happen to think that he did the right thing; he had to take a long-term view of things. Faith means when choosing looking at the long-term implications. There is in our culture today an attitude of just live for the moment and whilst there is wisdom in living one day at a time only living for today is mistaken. Faith means we believe that there is a future, that God has a plan, that heaven is real and that affects our choices in life. Ultimately we know we will stand before God one day – that affects our choices. We know that God wants us to use our lives for good and God, which affects the choices we make. I wonder if some people have to make decisions – can I encourage you to let faith affect your choices, let God into the equation, what will please him, what will make a bigger difference to the kingdom of God? Make up the numbers or make a difference?
4. Faith ultimately rests on Jesus our sacrificial Lamb
Finally mention is made of the choice that faced Moses and all the Israelites at the Passover. When God was to cause an angel to kill the firstborn in every home in Egypt, putting the blood on the doorframe so that the angel would see the blood and Passover or not was the choice. Not much of a choice you may think! But the same choice faces people today – to put our trust in what the New Testament calls “Christ our Passover Lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7). In other words Jesus was the sacrificial lamb who died to save us from judgement. Faith will cause us to make the choice of entrusting ourselves to him and what he did for us on the cross to pay for our sins. If anyone has not done this can I urge you to do so – today, without delay.
We all make choices every day; we live and die by them. Let faith in God inform and guide yours so that we choose courageously, rightly, for the long term and ultimately in Jesus who died for us.