Summary: How can I make sound Christian decisions?
21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. 27Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. Philippians 1:21 - 30 (NRSVA)
Have you ever heard that old song “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries”? Whoever wrote it needs a serious dose of reality. In case you hadn’t noticed lately – life is not a bowl of cherries; mostly it’s a struggle! Life is filled with complex and often dangerous or difficult choices.
What shall I choose? Have you ever been faced with choices? We don’t have a choice about being born, our family, or any of the conditions with which we begin life. The choosing begins with how we will use the circumstances we inherit.
In 1784 Ben Franklin wrote to his daughter expressing his disappointment at the poor choice he felt the American government had made in selecting the eagle as our national symbol; Ben wanted the TURKEY! (I’M SO GLAD THEY DIDN’T LISTEN!)
Some choices carry greater consequences than others. A student nurse came into the hospital room to give her 79-year-old patient a shot. She asked him, "Which hip do you want the shot?" Said he, "YOURS, HONEY!"
Choosing is important in the Christian life. Alaska’s highway is well-known for its primitive roads, and the long, lonely stretches. A sign located at the beginning of one such stretch reads:
CHOOSE YOUR RUT CAREFULLY...
YOU’LL BE IN IT FOR THE NEXT 200 MILES!
Paul had a hard choice in front of him. He was languishing in a Roman prison - a dark, dirty, sickening place. His circumstance of life was appalling. He certainly wished for release (nobody likes prison). But he had another choice that took precedence - should he just sit back and wait to die? (At least he’d be with Jesus - that was preferable in Paul’s eyes.) Or should he remind God how useful he could be for the furtherance of the ministry?
This was a trying decision for Paul. And we face many decisions about family, job, relationships. We (like Paul) want to make sound decisions, Christian decisions - choices that will be good for our welfare, and pleasing in God’s sight. The question before the house today is,
HOW CAN I MAKE SOUND, CHRISTIAN DECISIONS?
Paul’s answer to that question is a diatribe, one of those question and answer sessions you have with yourself pacing the floor. He uncovers for us four FACTORS that influence Christian decision-making. The decision that you make is determined by:
I. What You Want
Paul knew what he wanted; whether in prison or free, he wanted to please God. He chose Jesus in everything. The question becomes, "Do you want Jesus, and the life He offers?" C.S. Lewis, the author of “The Chronicles of Narnia” also wrote: "...every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heavenly creature or into a hellish creature..."
Here is the lesson about choosing - When you choose Christ first, you begin to know Christlikeness firsthand. I often pattern my prayer after Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, "Lord, I want to be more like you when I make choices - NOT MY WILL, FATHER, YOURS!" The bottom line is that when you begin to want Jesus, you will begin to want to BE like Jesus, and your decisions will be more like Jesus makes!