“Making Good Choices”

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I recently received a letter from a good friend who relayed to me a very inspirational story from an anonymous source:

Michael is the kind of guy you love to hate.  He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say.  When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, “If I were any better, I would be twins!”
He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Michael was there telling the employee how to be on the positive side of the situation.
Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Michael and asked him, “I don’t get it! You can’t be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?”  Michael replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, Mike, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood. I choose to be in a good mood.  Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life.” “Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,” I protested. “Yes, it is,” Michael said. “Life is all about choices.  When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice.” The bottom line: It’s your choice how you live life.”
I reflected on what Michael said. Soon thereafter, I left that job to start my own business. We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.
Several years later, I heard that Michael was involved in a serious accident, falling some 60 feet from a communications tower. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Michael was released from the hospital with rods placed in his back. I saw Michael about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, “If I were any better, I’d be twins. Wanna see my scars?” I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the accident took place. “The first thing that went through my mind was the well-being of my soon to be born daughter,” Michael replied.
“Then, as I lay on the ground, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or I could choose to die. I chose to live.”
“Weren’t you scared? Did you lose consciousness?” I asked. Michael continued, “…the paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the ER and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read ‘he’s a dead man.’  I knew I needed to take action.”  “What did you do?” I asked. “Well, there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me,” said Michael.  “She asked if I was allergic to anything.” ‘Yes, I replied.’  The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, “Gravity.” Over their laughter, I told them, ‘I am choosing to live.  Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead’.”
     Michael lived, thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully. Attitude, after all, is everything.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Who has not thought and even told others that making good choices is the key to living a victorious life? Is that true? I would love to hear your comments on that question and on my thoughts as well.

This story corresponds almost perfectly with the way we have often been told that good Christians are to live—by “making good choices” rather than bad ones. When faced with a decision, I must use my “sound mind, evaluate pros and cons, then make the ‘good’ decision. Successful people make good decisions.” What could possibly be wrong with that?

Even though the man in our example would appear to be making excellent decisions in what he did, said and thought, that is certainly not always true in my experience. I may be able to choose what may appear to others and to me to be “good choices” in what I do relatively consistently, but I don’t do nearly as well in what I say, and what I think is another matter altogether! I am now, in the twilight of my life, finally beginning to realize that I am a complete failure at meditating on things that are “true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report,” as Paul admonishes me to do in Philippians 4:8.

On the contrary, I am discovering that every intent of the thoughts of my heart, as a descendant of Adam, is truly “only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). My thoughts are fraught with impure motives—self-seeking, self-promotion, self-aggrandizement and self-protection.  I am trapped in the prison of self with no hope of escape, and for most of my life I was totally unaware of that fact.

However, the Bible tells us that as Christians we are now free from having to live by the law of making “good choices,” or the law of having to “set our minds on things above and not on things of the earth.”

We are “no longer under a tutor”—the law of God (Galatians 3:25). We have been “released from the law, having died to that by which we were held” (Romans 7:6). We are now completely free to live “by faith” instead, i.e., by listening to “the voice inside,” the Holy Spirit, who actually lives in our hearts and is, unbeknownst to us, busily at work changing our interests, desires and motivations. He is not showing us what we “ought to, need to, and should do,” i.e., “what good choices we should try to make.” Instead, Paul says God is actively “producing in us both the desire and the ability to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13 – ISV)—literally changing our “want to’s” so we are free to live by doing what we actually want to do.

We simply trust (have faith), moment by moment, day by day, that He is accomplishing this promised task as we naturally go about daily life, doing what we really want to do—which just happens to be, according to Philippians 2:13, what He wants us to do as well! That is living by faith, and it is the exact opposite of living by making good choices—the law.

My mind tells me that it is “too good to be true” that the Holy Spirit is actually changing my “want to’s” just exactly as the Bible says He will do, with absolutely no help from me.  When the rubber hits the road, I find it hard to believe He is really doing anything at all with me when I don’t see any changes occurring in my life.

So, I reason, living by doing what I want to do would be a disaster. I don’t believe all things that happen to me are working together for my good and come straight from the hand of a God that loves me. I don’t believe that I can really “live by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

But, Hallelujah, He is tirelessly at work in my life, slowly but surely giving me His precious gift of faith. “I believe; help my unbelief.”

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  1. Dan Marshall says:

    At any given moment in our lives, we are the sum total of our previous choices. All choices have consequences. The goal is to make wise choices directed by God’s Spirit and His Word. Even though we may make bad choices at certain times in our journey, we do not have to let those choices define who we are. We can move ahead by confessing our wrong choices (sins) and choosing to walk in God’s paths of righteousness. Remembering what a spiritual mentor once shared with me (his name is Robert Andrews): the truest thing about you us what God says about you. I make my choices in light of what God says about me.

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