You may have heard it said that we are all products of our environment and to some degree I believe that is true. But a more accurate statement would be that we are all products of our decisions.
Think about it for a second. No matter where are you in life, no matter what your life’s experiences, can’t you trace your condition – good or bad – to decisions you made or decisions made by others that affected you?
I want to talk about three areas of decision making and how it affects our lives:
- Decisions made in the Garden of Eden
- Decisions made by you
- Decisions made by others that affect you
Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve suck. Okay, they don’t suck; in fact God made them and said they were good. But they were stupid. God allowed them to have EVERYTHING in the Garden of Eden except one small thing – the fruit from one tree. They could eat of 1,000 other trees but just not that one. Well, like us, they wanted the thing they cannot have and screwed it up for the rest of us!
It’s the consequence of that decision, however, that is important. According to scripture creation fell when they ate of the fruit. This doesn’t just mean man became sinful and got kicked out of the Garden. It means the entire creation fell – our perfect bodies became imperfect and susceptible to disease (read cancer, ALS, MS, Parkinson’s, etc…); the perfect environment became volatile (read earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc…); and of course man’s perfect relationship with God and each other fell, too (read denying God and living at war with each other). One little decision and BAM we’re all living under the consequences.
Decision Made by You
Here’s where life gets tricky. Think back on all the decisions you’ve made in your life. Now narrow the list down to the ones that mattered, the ones that had real importance and consequence. Did you make good decisions or bad ones?
Paul tells us in scripture that all things are permissible but not all things are good (1 Corinthians 10:23). I love this verse. See we have the freedom in our free will to choose anything, but God is warning us that not all of it is going to be beneficial to you. God loves you enough to allow you to choose, but He’s also going to let you experience the consequences of your actions good and bad. That’s why scripture says obey God and be blessed, disobey God and be cursed.
Lately I’ve been running into a lot of professed Christians who are making some really bad decisions. The thing that always gets me is how confused they are that their life is going so badly and then they somehow pin the blame on God. God’s not listening to their prayers, or God doesn’t care about them, or God is punishing them. No – you’re being a knucklehead and suffering the consequences of your actions.
No matter your history God always gives you opportunity to make a good decision so your life gets better. The reason is because Jesus told us we could have life abundantly, meaning we really can experience joy and peace and love and all that other stuff if we make the right decisions.
Now don’t get me wrong – this is not so-called prosperity gospel. I’m not saying if you make the right decisions and follow God in all things you’re going to get out of poverty. You may not. But if you follow God and make all the right decisions you actually will improve your circumstances. Let me give you an example.
My father was a crook but he didn’t have to be. He wasn’t stupid; in fact, he was rather intellectual. He was articulate and could have easily applied for jobs and been hired. His problem was he wanted to live a lifestyle way above his status in life. Simply put he was going to be a lower-middle class guy and he wanted to be an upper-middle class guy. Had he decided to be satisfied with where God had him in life he could have had a roof over his head, food in his belly, and taken care of his children. Instead, he chose scheming and crime. He got a roof over his head and food in his belly alright – in prison. And his children suffered greatly due to his decisions (a problem we will get to momentarily!). In my estimation my father gave up stability and happiness for pride and pride goeth before the fall!
If you’re struggling right now grab a piece of paper and a pencil and start writing down all the decisions you’ve been making in the past year or so. Sometimes we just run into a bad period on our lives, but more than likely your decision making has a little to do with where you are right now.
Decisions Made by Others
This part sucks to. You can be the innocent bystander of a drive-by decision that wrecks havoc in your life. You can be the victim of crime – a decision by someone to break the laws of God and man and harm you. You can be the victim of bullying or abuse by a spouse or at work. There are literally hundreds of ways you can be acted upon in life.
I failed to learn this lesson a long time ago but thankfully God gave me other opportunities to figure it out. Here’s that lesson: You cannot control the actions of another person. They are going to do what they do and sometimes you will be the collateral damage.
So how do we as Christians respond to this? Well, we turn the other cheek, and we pray for our enemies, and we forgive and show mercy, and we don’t take things personally even when someone means it that way, and we don’t take offense. But here’s the big one:
Understand that the only person you are responsible to is God. No matter what anyone else says or does to you you’re only responsibility is to God. If you do it His way you’re going to be fine. Let’s take the worst case scenario.
Being a crime victim bothers me. In fact I spent 25 years involved in the martial arts so that I would be able to defend myself to some degree should someone try to make me a victim. But I never really felt safe. Here’s the secret why: In my own power I really can’t protect myself. If someone wants to make me a victim they will.
What I learned instead was what Jesus said in Luke 17:33 which is basically to save my life I had to be willing to lose it. In other words I had to stop worrying about worldly stuff and trust in supernatural stuff like Jesus protecting me, and not worrying about even death because I have eternal life. What can man do to me as a child of God?
Others are going to make decisions that affect you but you are in control regarding how you respond. It is difficult – I still get really fired up about stuff that happens, but I’m working on it which is all I am asking you to do as well.
Look at your life. Are your decisions in line with the commands of Jesus? Are your decisions dragging you down? Do you find yourself praising or blaming God? Think through it and realize that you are a product of your decisions.