14 May Merv’s musings – Making decisions
How do you make decisions, choices? Often it seems like we take a coin and give it a flip. When we were kids we would spend hours perfecting how we would catch a baseball bat using all kinds of strange hand movements to get to the top of the bat and win the privilege of having first choice as we pick the ball team. You knew if you got Preston, you had a really good chance of winning. However, I always prayed that I wasn’t that last kid.
Our story from the Book of Acts tells of the choosing of Matthias, by casting lots. They prayed: Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen. They drew lots and it fell to Matthias; becoming the twelfth apostle.
Making decisions, making choices is not always an easy thing to do in life. In our scrub baseball games you always had those on your team shouting the name they thought you should pick.
So we look for guidance! The apostles looked to God as they prayed for guidance. In our everyday life we look for help with our choices, our decisions. In fact, I think people are constantly searching for guidance and help. However, we don’t always look to God for that guidance! All you have to do is look at the tremendous increase and interest in the Psychic Hotlines, horoscopes, etc. to know there is a yearning for guidance, for direction, from someone other than ourselves.
Each of us have decisions to make. We are faced with decisions, choices about relationships, marriage, children, our use of time, our careers, homes, money, where we should go on holidays, our possessions, our giving, the list is endless. Some are very big decisions, some are small decisions, but choices need to be made.
This morning we read in the Acts of the Apostles, the followers of Jesus were faced with a decision: who would be the replacement for Judas Iscariot? An interesting decision making process took place concerning leadership within the church. Over the years I have been involved in the election process of new Bishops in several Diocese: Rupert’s Land, Ontario and Huron. Questions always floating everywhere around the floor of Synod: How does this person stand on this issue, or on that issue. Is he or she conservative, or are they liberal? Some pretty big issues and big decisions had to be made by the body of Christ as we elected the new Bishop. We no longer cast lots, but voted in a democratic way under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
From our text this morning we see the disciples in their decision making process did three things: 1) they looked into the scriptures, 2) they used common sense and 3) they prayed!
1) They looked into the scriptures. It had been 40 days since the Lords resurrection and we read: Jesus, before his ascension into heaven, opened the scriptures to them. They began to see the prophetic word of the prophets of old concerning the life, death and resurrection. They then awaited the gift the Father had promised: the comforter, the Holy Spirit who Jesus said he would send to them. They looked into the scriptures to see what next! What does the scriptures say?
They had a new understanding of the teachings of the Old Testament which foretold of the suffering, and glory and resurrection of Jesus. Peter quotes Psalm 69 about Judas’ death and then psalm 109: “May another take his place of leadership” and came to the conclusion that they should replace Judas, the betrayer of Jesus.
In our own lives, often as we read the scriptures, there are times we are convicted of what God wants us to do. I have heard over and over how men and women were drawn into ministry as God spoke to their heart as they read the word of God. How often we hear the words of Jesus and we personalized them?
“Do you love me?” The very question given to Peter and yet we hear ourselves responding a “yes” … overriding the guilt and shame of having denied him and running away into the night: a “yes” which rose up from the very depths of each of the Apostles in response to the summons of Christ’s love. Their “yes” greeted with a command: “Feed my sheep.” and Peter responded. So too, there have been many men and women hearing that same call to feed His sheep!
A Conference leader, I believe it was Mark Curtis, once said: we are called to feed His sheep with the words that we say, the compassion that we give, the hope that is expressed, the touch we give, the tone of our voice, the love seen in our actions.
I have a marking in my Bible highlighting 1 Peter. It was May 1983, I was feeling that something was holding me back from being totally committed to the Lord the way I thought I should be. Our priest at the time was involved in a healing ministry called Victorious Ministry through Christ. A ministry dealing with the healing of relationships. I was praying whether I should ask for healing prayers. I knew that I had things in my past that needed healing. I began asking in my times of prayer for God to show me what I should be doing. I read in 1 Peter:
Therefore rid yourself of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy,
envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave
pure spiritual milk, so that by it, you may grow up in your salvation,
now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
This direction through scripture was to have a dramatic effect and change within the relationships in my life.
2) Peter concludes that they were to use common sense.
Peter gave directions to follow in the selection process. They were common sense ways of looking at the decisions that needed to be made. The disciples concluded: If we need another person, maybe they need the same qualifications as the rest of us! So Peter suggested that they look at ministry qualifications, experiences and the candidates’ relationship with the Lord. So they came up with the characteristics of the candidate which were: the person was to be a believer; a follower of Jesus; an eye witness of the resurrection; and had been with the group from the very beginning.
When we make our decisions we need to pray about what we are doing but we also need to use our common sense as well. How many of us had Mothers or Fathers who use to say: “God gave you a brain, you know! However, I haven’t always and probably still don’t use it to its fullest capacity!
3) They prayed. The group of disciples had been in constant prayer through the whole process. It says in Acts 1: that when they came back from the Mount of Olives they joined together in constant prayer. There were 120 people who were close followers of Christ and they were given the task of picking ONE. They sifted the candidates and came to two: Joseph and Matthias. They did their part and then they prayed and asked for God’s guidance and direction. Letting God do His part and they selected Matthias. We never hear of Matthias again in the scriptures. In fact I think it is the only place where his name is mentioned; and yet he has the distinction of being selected as one of the 12.
Matthias is kind of like the last kid chosen for the team. I have wondered if Matthias didn’t think ‘why those guys and not me’. You have to wonder what was going through Matthias’ mind when he wasn’t selected as one of the inner 12 in the first place. He was a better candidate than say Judas and that was to be proven. Yet timing is everything. It wasn’t his time. Things needed to fall into place first. For Matthias the place of recognition had not yet come. We always have to remind ourselves that God’s timing is perfect.
We don’t always see God’s plan as we go through life; but when we place our decision making process in the hands of our Lord; things come out so much better than when we try to it on our own.
God has a plan for our life. Sometimes we question the timing but we cannot run ahead of Him. For Matthias as well. God had a plan for his life. Judas was predestined to fulfill the scripture. But Judas too had the ability to make decisions. Maybe if he had looked into the scriptures, used common sense and prayed, things might have been different!
Each of us have decisions, choices that we make. We make them every day. The Conference leader I mentioned before also said, “ … our life can either be one of entitlement or enlightenment.” Well, our decision making process or the choices that we make can be directed by what we are entitled to: What I deserve, what I am owed, what is mine. Thinking only of me, me, me. Or our life can be one of enlightenment where our choices are ones which are enlightened by the living God; the reality of God’s love, redemption and healing power and care for us. We begin to make our decisions and choices by thinking of others, loving others as we would love ourselves; blessing others as we might want others to bless us. Making decisions, making choices rather than looking through our own eyes, looking through the eyes of Christ …
How would He like us to respond, to act, to love, to choose?
How do “we” make our decisions, our choices? We do have a choice! I think we have a great example to pattern our lives: let us base them on what scripture says, on our common sense and what God has spoken to us in times of prayer!
Rev. Merv Lanctot
Faith grows in the soil of hope