Sometimes the right answer seems like the wrong one. The wrong answer seems the most appealing. Recently I’ve learned that there are areas of life where things are shaded gray. Some people say things are black and white – yes in certain areas – they are. However, with the nature of my job and life, I often find myself living in the gray.
Multiple options are presented that are equally good but not equally beneficial. “Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.” (1 Cor. 10:23-24 MSG) So when we are considering doing things – we need to consider the effects on others first and foremost.
In the last couple of weeks I was presented with two different career paths. Both were equally great and could be God honoring. One took me completely out of Christian ministry and into the very exciting world of public health and knowledge (if you don’t know me, I LOVE learning new things). The other kept me where I was – in ministry but building up the path for me to open my own non-profit. Let me tell you, they both have great appeal and it’s social work so that automatically means you get to “help others live well”. The verse from 1 Corinthians stuck out to me throughout this process because I recognize that in ministry I have always been blessed to have everything I needed – despite not going into the public sector and very few people being paid to do what I do. That helped me decide to stay within ministry. I knew that things would all work out.
That did not suddenly make life amazingly easy to make a decision though. It’s funny because they say that when you make decisions for God the devil attacks. In the song Center by Matthew West it says
It happens every single time I get close to
Everything I know is good and right and so true
It’s like somebody doesn’t want me to love You
And I must be onto something
The reality is when you make decisions for God – the devil pushes back. He knows you too. Just like God knows you, the devil knows you. He will attack the places that are your weaknesses. The devil can even appear as a great decision or idea. “…Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” (2 Cor. 11:14 ESV) I can tell you almost immediately after that decision the devil started throwing more decisions into my life.
The reality is the devil knows how to tempt you. When he cannot dissuade you from a decision, he can throw things into your life that you maybe thought you wanted or give you opportunities to go down paths personally that affect who you are. One of the things I learned throughout all of this is even working hard to be close to Jesus we will still want to do all the wrong things. Branan Murphy says in his song All the Wrong Things:
Maybe I’m not in control
Playing with fire, it’s taking me over
I light the fuse and I’m watching where it goes
I wish you would stop me
This feels too good for it to be wrong
I’m just trying to follow my heart
This whole song pretty much embodies what happens when you do try to follow Jesus. It doesn’t suddenly become magical. You have to work hard. There are people you may have to leave behind or limit time with or places that no longer become your local haunts. Boundaries may have to be set into your life. Ones that allow you to witness to others but not compromise what Jesus would have you do.
The reality is the more you seek Jesus, the more you may be tempted. The good news is “God will not tempt you beyond what you can handle” (1 Cor. 10:13). What you do is draw closer to God. If an offer seems good but it’s the start of a flicker down the wrong path, turn it down. Brannan’s song describes so well what happens when you start the spark. The simple thing you thought you were doing becomes bigger and bigger until it’s no longer innocent or even in the gray area. It draws a wedge between you and God.
Then you have to journey your way back to even find the spot you were in before. Be careful of the decisions you make. You never know where they may lead. I am grateful for the first decision I made but as I am finding, it can be very tempting to think choosing a good decision does not mean you will continue that or have a suddenly great life. To those facing temptation or decision, I encourage you to look to Jesus and also what is surrounding you.
“I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best not the worst; the beautiful – not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”