Thursday, May 5, 2016

Defining Moments

Recently, I read a fascinating book by Dan Schaeffer called Defining Moments. From his introduction Schaeffer says,

 “One morning you wake up, totally unaware that today you will make a decision that will define your life for years to come, maybe forever. If you had known this moment was coming, you would have prepared for it; but you didn’t. That moment is coming, and you won’t be able to escape it. You can hope you will say or do the right thing, or you can prepare for that moment now.

Over the years in my ministry, I have had many such defining moments. There have been decisions to be made, choices to make, and paths to choose. It has not been easy to face these many defining moments when they have arrived. With each one of them there was a price to be paid, a cost to count, and a possible consequence that might be faced. For me, to live with a clear conscience was of far more value than to choose the path of least resistance. One of my favorite poems is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

During my years as a pastor, I have seen many people who  have sat under my ministry make decisions that have not only defined them from that moment on but also revealed the true nature of their soul. This is one of the heart-breaking aspects that comes with the privilege of serving the Lord. Some of those that you minister to will make wise decisions, show discernment, and will pass through those defining moments with grace and wisdom. Others will break your heart as you see them flounder like a ship on the rocks in a storm.

Do we sell our soul to the highest bidder? Friendships are often forged on the anvil of convenience rather than conviction. For some, loyalty is only given where there is no cost and where the comforts of compromise seduce the soul. This is not an age of conviction, character and loyalty. Rather, this is an age of compromise, cowardice, and convenience. The Apostle James reminds us with words that pierce us to the very depths of our souls, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17.

There will be crossroads that we must face in life. It’s possible that some decisions will be made, choices cast, bridges burned, doors closed, character revealed, direction set, and their destiny sealed. Think long and hard when you come to those crossroads in life. When you are facing a defining moment, will you make a wise decision? Will you show discernment? Will you respond in a way that will demonstrate that you are truly a servant of the Most High God and acquainted with His ways?

Christians must not sell their soul for the cheap prizes of the flesh.  We should remind ourselves of the cost of discipleship, the principles of obedience, and the awesome authority of God’s Word. (Many have forgotten that one of the commands of the Word is, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive for they watch out for your souls…” Hebrews 13:17.) How many times have I seen those who profess faith in Christ ignore or defy the wisdom and authority of the pastor and of the church. Those individuals came to the crossroads of life and failed to make wise decisions. I have never once met a person who has made unbiblical decisions who has not tried to rationalize, justify, and defend those poor decisions. But cleverness and sophistry are no substitute for simple obedience to God. Those who fail their defining moment test will also seek to justify their behavior by finding someone to give approval for their actions. We must not forget that the approval of man means nothing if we do not have the approval of God. Like the Apostle Paul a wise and discerning Christian will say, "I seek to please God rather than to please men."

Character cannot be summoned at the moment of crisis if it has been squandered by years of compromise and rationalization. The only testing ground of the heroic is the mundane…habit is the daily battleground of character.

Job was a unique man. In the defining moment of his most crushing trials he could say, “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him.” and, “He knows the way that I take when He has tried me I shall come forth as gold.”  King Ahab could not lead his wife Jezabel. Annanias and Saphira, a married couple in the early church, sinned together and died together. Job stands out as a righteous man whose faith withstood the seductive sarcasm of his ungodly wife who chided him, “Curse God and die.” Job was not bound by the chains of a strong-willed woman. There are few Jobs in the world today. 

Cross roads will come. Defining moments will arrive. May we be faithful, wise and discerning to make the right choices when those days come.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, 
and I—I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.”

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