This is the third in a series of blogs meant to provide tips about making godly choices, all based on Jesus’ wilderness temptation and the proper decisions he made. The below thoughts come from his first test found in Matt 4:3–4.
“The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
Who are you? The devil’s conditional challenge, “If you are the Son of God,” can’t be over emphasized. It is the key clause of Matt 4:1–11, and the emphasis of Jesus’ immediately preceding inaugural baptism, when the Father declares, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (3:17). Twice, the devil directly challenged Jesus’ status as God’s Son, hoping he’d resultantly make a wrong choice. Nonetheless, Jesus correctly responded each time. Why was Jesus able to do so? He knew who he was, where he was going, and how he was supposed to act (cf. John 13:2–5; 12–17)!
For us, the devil’s same line of questioning might unfold two ways: “If you are ____, you should do ____ or have ____ . Since you are ____, you should do ____ or have ____.” Do you make decisions with a motive to prove something? Are you doing things to demonstrate that you are the leader or are your decisions an inherent outflow of that fact? Are insecurities forcing your hand? Do you know your place at work? In the body of Christ? At home? Is the lack of fruit in your marriage or pleasure from your job causing you to question your position there?
Don’t be that round peg in a square hole! When faced with several good options, often the best choice is the one that represents the most strategic investment of your time and talents; one that lines up with what the Lord has already done in your life and where you think he is leading you. However, this doesn’t mean you should blindly and boldly push forward, regardless of any introspection. Paul told the Corinthians that a life lived solely to fulfill personal destiny, one that might even express God’s good gifts of grace but minus the emphasis of love and community, could very well be nothing but a loud and obnoxious and wasteful noise (1 Corinthians).
Each person—whether farmer, mother, wife, police officer, pastor, or computer specialist—has a particular calling and life’s context that allows God to bring goodness both to us and through us to others (Acts 17:27–28; 2 Cor 4:1–18). God brings goodness to us, when our work done in fallenness—a fallen world, crises, demanding times, sinful people, or broken things—becomes the place of God’s sanctifying work. God also brings goodness through us to others, by our vocations and locations. Both farmers and doctors are part of God bringing his goodness to people: good food, good health. These vocations also allow us to build relationships with those who need Christ. Here also, the pastor is as valuable as the co-worker.
Don’t just settle for any job, any spouse, or any house. What you do matters!
If your heart is healthy and your mind sound, often your option is as easy as answering: What am I passionate about doing? What do I do well? Does your choice fit your God-given shape and is it the loving thing to do? If so, don’t let anything deter you from it. If not, perhaps it is actually God that is challenging your steps.
You have the mind of Christ. Yes, God still communicates with his adult children. (See above point on prayer.) Further, a young child especially needs the voice of her parents, when making choices; however, as we mature, we often make wise choices from the reservoir of what we know is right and wrong. Similarly, as we grow in our understanding of the ways of God, we’re both challenged to take our thoughts captive to Christ and encouraged by the knowledge that our thoughts can be God’s thoughts. We’re also promised that peace will be our governor, our knowledge of right actions will be our ruler. Jesus consistently and flawlessly based his decisions on the Word; we’re challenged to do likewise. Per Augustine’s advice, adult Christians should be able to love God and do as they please, because not only does their “wont to” change but their ability to distinguish right from wrong correspondingly develops. Is your decision based on the living, active word of God that is able to “judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” and be “a lamp to your feet and a light for your path” (Ps 119:105; Isa 60:17; John 14:27; 1 Cor 2:6–16; 2 Cor 10:3–6; Phil 4:9; Col 3:15; Heb 4:12–13)?
Make decisions for the sake of eternity and for the time you’ll stand before God, not just for how your choice will impact you or others today. After forty days of fasting, Jesus certainly was hungry and could’ve used some food; however, when the devil challenged him to turn stones to bread, he made the right decision; i.e., he chose God’s ways. And, after he chose correctly, he still got to eat!
Satan may use legitimate needs in our lives to cause us to settle for second best. Such temptations challenge our priorities, patience, and sense of timing. Yes, we innately seek first the natural needs of our life: food … security … friendship … respect … and usefulness. However, when making decisions, we must not let personal needs be our sole determining factor. You might need respect, a house, a job, money … or more help. Maybe a new car, pay raise … or promotion seems appropriate. Or you may feel you can’t do without a spouse … or a child. Really? All these things may be ours one day; however, they are only healthy for us, when God is more important than any of them.
When you make a decision, what matters most to you? What you want, now, no matter what? A legitimate need or right could be a second best choice for you! One choice may satisfy for a season, the right choice for eternity. Is the decision you are about to make in line with God’s timing and priorities? Are you feeding a lesser need at the cost of starving a greater opportunity? Most dieters know the expression: “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” Paul put it this way, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor 4:17).
Fortunately, Jesus chose, as his first food of importance, God’s overarching will for him. He put this ahead of the immediate natural need of food that was pressing in upon him.