Choices (Part 2)

Christians need to have a predetermined mindset about what is and is not acceptable in their lives. They need to have decided-upon convictions that will enable them to make the right decisions. Some years ago the WWJD movement had folks wearing rubber bracelets with those letters, representing the question “What would Jesus do?” That’s a good question, and Christians should use that question as a filter in evaluating their own choices. However, Christians must already have the knowledge available to make the right decision when the time comes to make a decision. Effective, God-honoring decision making takes more than a conscience. The conscience is an important guide in decision making, but the conscience is really only a window or sky light–it serves only to let in light from our decided beliefs and convictions. In other words, conscience that is not informed by biblical principles will be a false guide.

What kinds of decisions am I talking about? Any decision, really. For the sake of the three principles I want to share now, though, think specifically about the influences you allow to enter into your mind through your eyes and ears–what you watch, what you listen to and who you hang out with. This includes movies, television shows, internet sites, video games, music and more. There are three tests that I believe will be helpful in making wise decisions.

First, there is the content test. Philippians 4:8 tells us what we should be thinking about. Ask yourself if the content you are filling your mind with is pleasing to the Lord. Is it helping you grow in your relationship with Him or is it hindering that relationship? I Thessalonians 5:22 tells us that we are avoid even the appearance of evil. I John 2:15-17 and James 4:4 tell is that loving the world means loving sin. Reflecting on these verses and using them as filters through which we evaluate our choices can help us to make God-honoring decisions.

Second, there is the control test. In I Corinthians 9:27 Paul writes that he disciplined his body in order to keep it under control. Some things may pass the content test but fail the control test. How? Because whatever controls us is sin. It becomes idolatry when we get fulfillment from anything other than God. Many people, quite frankly, worship themselves. Just a few chapters earlier, in I Corinthians 6, Paul writes that not everything that is permissible or acceptable is also beneficial. In the NIV translation of that verse Paul writes, “everything is permissible for me but I will not be mastered by anything.” We must be careful not to allow anything other than Holy Spirit to control our lives, thoughts ans actions.

Third, there is the clock test. Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to redeem the time. In other words, we are to use our time wisely–to be good stewards of it. If we spend so much time on unnecessary and unbeneficial things that it takes us away from God then we have failed the clock test. Even those things which are good become bad if they are getting in the way of what is best. Again using the NIV translation, Ephesians 5:15-16 says we are to “making the most of every opportunity.”

So, next time you need to make a decision or evaluate some options, put the matter through these three tests. If it passes the content test, the control test and the clock test, the odds are quite high that the decision is a safe one to make. If, however, there is a failure in any of those tests there should be cause for concern. The should be careful evaluation and consideration given to whether or not that choice which failed the test is really the right one to make. Is it, in other words, really what Jesus would do?

Managing Time

It is has been said that time is the great equalizer. No matter what else may separate, divide or differentiate us, we all have the exact same amount of time in a day. Accordingly, what we choose to do with our time may well be one of the biggest difference-makers in our lives. Some people are incredibly busy but never really accomplish anything. Some people waste their time, either doing nothing or in pursuit of those things which will not last: fame, pleasure, money and more. Still other people are busy primarily so they can either boast or complain about how busy they are. You’ve met people like that, I know–they say yes to everything and they seem to spend most of their time running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but they also derive tremendous fulfillment from letting everyone else know exactly how busy they are. I have not yet determined whether these individuals think they can shame the rest of us into helping them or if they are just soliciting compliments for all the great things they do. I do know that their prattling on can be tremendously irritating. I had a coworker years ago who was quite selfless. She would do anything for anyone at anytime. She had two major flaws, though. First, she would never ask for help herself nor would she usually accept it graciously when it was offered. Second, she could rarely have a conversation without interjecting something about all the things she needed to do and then providing a list for whoever happened to be listening. She was not unlike Martha, who busied herself in the kitchen and then complained to the Lord when Mary was not doing the same. “Everyone needs to be as busy as I am,” Martha was really saying. My coworker seemed to feel the same way. Jesus told Martha, though, that Mary had chosen the better part.

That was not because there was anything wrong with what Martha was doing, by the way. Cleaning the house, preparing meals, serving guests–those are all good things. Even good things, though, can get in the way of what is best. That was the message Jesus had for Martha, and that message is just as applicable for us today. We are responsible to give our best to whatever we are doing–I think that’s biblical. Still, we have to evaluate whether what we are doing is really what we should be doing, either at all or at least at that time. If my job, for example, requires sacrificing time I should be spending with my family or at church then I need to reevaluate my job and whether it is the right job for me.

One of the things I have had to learn since assuming a formal leadership position is that not everyone is capable of bearing the same load. This is why it is important for leaders to get to know the members of their team; taking a cookie cutter approach to determining work load is a recipe for disaster. Some people thrive under pressure while others crumble. Some people live for deadlines while others dread them. Some people need to be busy, busy, busy while others need to be able to work at a more methodical, even plodding, pace. Neither is inherently right or wrong, better or worse. Some may get more stuff done but, as mentioned above, getting more done may not necessarily mean much. I, for example, do well when I have a lot to do. I like to have projects to work on, goals to pursue, and meaningful work to keep me busy. I am quite capable of getting bored. My wife, on the other hand, cannot remember the last time she was bored. She can always find something to do and some worthwhile way to spend her time. When I reflect on what I am doing with my time it may be tempting for me to assume that someone else could surely do more with theirs. That may not be the case, though. Thus it is good both to be reminded that there are people who do far more than me and that there are people who are about at their breaking point but are doing far less.

I serve as the superintendent and principal of a Christian school. I also teach a college-level class. I am currently taking a graduate school course, I blog (semi) regularly, I fill a pulpit somewhere most every Sunday, I just started leading a Sunday evening Bible study that will last at least six weeks, and I read quite a bit. Some people would even say a lot. I am also a husband and a father. Oh, and I help my wife clean our church every week, too. I would be lying if I said there are never times when I look at someone else who seems to be overwhelmed and wonder, “what’s their problem?” Too, though, there are times when I consider how much someone else is doing, how much someone else is reading, how many balls someone else is juggling and I realize I have nothing to boast about. I might even be tempted to think I need to get it in gear. Therein lies the problem, though: comparing myself to others, or others to myself. There is no magic number or secret formula for knowing how much is the right amount of responsibility, of knowing what the optimal work load is or what the ideal work-personal life balance may be. The secret, if you want to call it that, lies in evaluating self against standards which help determine good stewardship of time without comparing self with others. And those standards are what I will address next time.