The View From 1776
Monday, February 18, 2008
Technological advances and changing life styles confront the average person today with unprecedented numbers of often worrisome decisions to be made each day.
Pastor Steve Treash’s sermon today at Black Rock-LongRidge Congregational Church (North Stamford, Connecticut) focused upon guidelines for making Christian choices in our lives.
In the past, most women became housewives and mothers, assuming the primary role in holding the family together. Men tended to take jobs that followed in their fathers’ paths. Both men and women remained all their lives in or near their birthplaces.
Lower cost and ease of travel, coupled with instantaneous worldwide communications, have blown apart the traditional, intergenerational family as a cohesive unit. The rapidly proliferating numbers of choices for consumer goods, investment securities, and job opportunities, often far from home, engender pressure and anxiety.
When we worship false gods - wealth, power, and fame - pressures and anxiety increase.
How to deal with it? The answer, of course, is to turn to God.
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thessalonians 4: 3-12)
From the foregoing Biblical passage Pastor Treash drew three fundamental guidelines for making decisions that affect our lives and the lives of our spouses and children.
First, always make the choice that maximizes your relationship with God.
Pastor Treash explained that, in the original Greek, the implication of “sanctified” is separation, becoming followers of Jesus and relegating the standards of secular society to secondary status. Following Jesus does not mean short-changing your family seeking to become rich, comfortable, and successful. It means being close to your spouse and children, living a life that radiates the light of Christian love.
Nor does it mean that we are promised happiness. We are to be holy, thinking of others’ welfare, putting our own in second place. Sometimes, in an unhappy marriage, for example, maximizing our closeness to God may mean sticking it out to find accommodations that will spare children the trauma of divorce.
Second, maximize your love for God and for others.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)
When conflicting loves present us with dilemmas, wisdom must temper love. Within the family, sometime tough love, denying a child’s urgent desires, may be the path of maximum love in the long run.
A great new job opportunity that increases income and opens a path to advancement might necessitate uprooting a family and moving to a strange, new community. A move that severs friendships of wives and children, and may involve having to work longer and harder hours, can damage the family. Maximizing love for God and your family may dictate passing up the job opportunity.
Third, maximize your God-given strengths and purpose.
The text from 1 Thessalonians above admonishes us to “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands..” Pastor Treash observed that the original Greek text “mind your own business” means literally to practice your unique part in life. The Greek term for virtue, arete, implies a skill; honing that skill requires continual practice.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
Sometimes what appears to us to be the role we ought to play may not play to our God-given abilities and may thus not maximize our strengths and purpose in life. Someone well qualified and happy to tutor underprivileged children, for example, might do a poor job and be unhappy managing a kitchen feeding the homeless.
The message is to pray to God for guidance and to consult our own wisdom and conscience, aiming to maximize the gifts God has given us, not to play to our weaknesses.