Chance, Choice and Blessing

Is your life the result of the random events of Chance? Are you being tossed about by the winds of change and the cold realities of circumstances you can’t control? Is the ‘luck of the draw’ the determiner of your hope?

Many people feel as if life has dealt them a bad hand and they are trapped by circumstances they can’t overcome. These fatalists have no alternative but to grit their teeth and press through each challenge thrown at them with grim determination, hoping the next wind blows a softer breeze and a kinder cloud of dust.

It is interesting that God claims responsibility for random chance events, such as the luck of the draw (which straw you pull out) and the direction of the wind that blows. 

Consider these verses …

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” Proverbs 16:33

“The LORD has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Nahum 1:3

So what about Choice? Is your life the result of the choices you have made? Do you shun the idea of chance and recognise that you are where you are because of the decisions you have made. 

It’s wise to recognise consequences. Solomon’s wisdom points to the fact that we reap what we sow and suffer consequences for who we are and what we do. These truths are clear in scripture in general too.

“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” Proverbs 22:3

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for what you sow is what you will reap.” Galatians 6:7

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” Deuteronomy 30:19

So Choice is a much greater reality in determining your life and future than Chance. You can’t change the events that impact you, but you can Choose how you will respond to those events.

Wise people know to keep guard of their heart and their reactions to things, since what choice they make about their response sets up the issues of their life.

“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Choice, then, is a critical factor in how you travel through life, including your choice to trust God and go God’s way, and your choice to respond to things with godly character and wisdom.

God Himself sets us up in situations where how we respond has great significance. God is watching how we react to and process the good and bad of life.

“Remember the way the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” Deuteronomy 8:2

“The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” 2Chronicles 16:9

Sometimes what might seem an insignificant decision or reaction has great significance in God’s sight. God is looking at your heart as you respond and make your choices, to see if you are trusting Him and obeying Him, or doing your own thing and trusting your own wits.

So then, is your life the product of Chance or Choice? I expect you should recognise that your Choices are far more important than the Chance events of life.

However, I think it is inappropriate to put all the weight on Choice. While choice is way ahead of chance, God’s Blessing is far beyond even our choices.

We have the Bible record of Kings of Israel who made bad choices, and yet were blessed and protected because God’s blessing rested on them. This usually occurred in honour of their father or predecessor, such as God’s honour on King David.

“The LORD said to Solomon, Because you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I commanded you, I will tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. However, for the sake of your father David, I will not do it during your lifetime.” 1Kings 11:11,12

If I have to protect myself by being ever vigilant about my choices then I have hope, but I have far greater hope in knowing God loves me and is committed to my care. I want the Blessing of the Lord, not what I deserve or what I can reliably bring on myself by my own responsible actions.

God promises His blessings, such as His promise to Abraham. And God’s blessings bring about wonderful outcomes, better than we can cause by our own choices.

“In blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand on the sea shore; and your seed will possess the gate of his enemies” Genesis 22:17

“The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” Proverbs 10:22

My counsel is that you give up blaming circumstances for where you are and the limits weighing on you. Recognise that your responses and choices are far more important. 

Repent of wrong choices and reactions. Humble yourself before God and accept the blame for things you have messed up. But then make right choices, knowing God will bless you for choosing right and for reacting correctly to life’s challenges.

Then cry out to God for His blessings. Place yourself under the blessing of Almighty God, through faith in Christ, becoming God’s child and looking to God to bless you as any loving father would bless his children.

With God’s grace you can make the right choices and responses time and time again, despite the circumstances. And with God’s blessing you can have the very circumstances turn around to positive and wonderful things you don’t deserve. So, abandon Chance, make wise Choices, and live in God’s Blessings.

Pleasing God

Christians often give thought to how they can please God, or how to respond in a situation so God is pleased with their choice.

People who don’t really know God will at times feel an urge to do something to get God’s approval, such as by making a donation, helping someone in need or supporting a good cause.

The Bible says something quite startling about pleasing God which most people miss.

Most of us think of pleasing God as an action or choice. Our humanity (what the Bible calls our ‘flesh’) is keen to earn merit by what we do. The Bible calls such activity ‘works’.

When the Apostle Paul compared the flesh with the Spirit in his letter to the church at Galatia he used two contrasting words to describe what each produces. 

He said the flesh produces ‘works’ while the spirit produces ‘fruit’.

“Now the works of the flesh are evident” Galatians 5:19

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness …” Galatians 5:22

These verses indicate that our human nature will readily incline toward works of service, while our newborn spirit is designed to produce fruit. There is quite a distinction between works and fruit.

It’s no wonder, then, that people who try to please God out of their own ideas will look for things to ‘do’, works to accomplish. And people will compare themselves with others based on the appearance of works of service. Such as, “Oh, he’s a better Christian than me. Look at all the good things he does. I could never be that good.”

What the Bible says, however, cuts right across our human inclination, giving no credit to all the things people do. The Bible says we can only please God by our faith.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who draws near to God must believe that God exists and that God rewards those who seek Him earnestly.” Hebrews 11:6

Don’t skip over that verse too fast. Look at what it says. 

“It is impossible to please God with anything but faith!”

You could slavishly do works of service all day long, but not make one positive impression on God. God is not looking for the things you do with your hands and feet, but the things you do in your heart. When you ‘believe in your heart’ and rely on God, trusting Him to come through for you, putting your faith in Jesus for your salvation and in God for your complete security, God is pleased. In fact, it’s the only way to please God.

I like to apply the words Jesus said to a father who had just heard his little girl had died. The man was a religious leader and he went looking for Jesus because his daughter was very ill. He found Jesus and Jesus agreed to go and heal the girl. But there was an interruption on the way that held things up and then news came that the girl was dead, so there was no need to bother Jesus any longer.

When Jesus heard that news he spoke directly to the father and said, “Only Believe!”

“Overhearing what they said to Jairus, Jesus said to him, Do not fear, only believe.” Mark 5:36

Jesus commanded the father to put aside his deeply disturbed emotions, and the grief that would have swept over him, and to do the one thing that pleases God, to believe.

Jesus then went and raised the girl from the dead.

Only Believe becomes the slogan or catch-cry for those who want to please God.

“What do I have to do to please God?” “Only Believe!”

That doesn’t mean you squat on the floor and do nothing else, as there may be many practical things that need to be attended to, but in your heart you settle that you will trust God, expecting God to come through for you.

If you are searching for something or someone, you keep up your search program, but you commit the problem to God and trust Him to bring a positive outcome. If you are in need of something you may well look at how to find or source that thing, but you also commit it to God and trust that God will provide a supply for you. The emphasis is not on what you are doing to solve the problem. You act responsibly and do what you can. The emphasis is on your heart and your choice to believe God has everything under control and will bring about a wonderful outcome.

Even when things are going bad, you do what you might have to do, but you keep trusting God to bring about a positive outcome, even in the face of hardship, tragedy and loss. You remain confident that God’s Word is true and that all things will work for good, even the dark things of life.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

That confidence, deep inside us, pleases God. There is nothing else that can put a smile on God’s face.

So, every day and in every situation, stop and ask yourself what it is that you have to believe from God. Choose to rely on God and to look to God and to wait on God in each of those situations. That is far more wonderful to God than all the sacrifices you could make, all the good deeds you could do or all the acts of devotion others might tell you are important to do.

You now know what pleases God, so start right now to act in and live by faith.

“For the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, The righteous ones will live by faith.” Romans 1:17

Make this a day of Pleasing God.

My Peace I Give You

God promises to give us peace. God promises to give us His own peace, which has to be the most amazing peace of all.

“Peace I leave with you; I give you my peace. I do not give as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

Peace is one of the things we often feel great need for. When we are afraid, or agitated, anxious or uncertain we dearly wish for peace and to put those things aside. Fear not only takes away our peace but it torments us.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love expels fear, because fear has torment. He who is afraid is not made perfect in love.” 1John 4:18

The world can give us peace, such as by ‘getting away from it all’ or cutting off the source of pressure or disturbance. We can even quell our concerns with intoxication or sedation. These are the ways the world can give peace, but God says He gives peace differently to the way the world does.

One of the keys to God’s supply of peace is that God resolves the crisis.

Through Christ’s victory over Satan, Sin and Death we have nothing to fear and nothing that can overpower us.

“I tell you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” John 16:33

“If God is for us who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Those things that were a source of conflict have been dealt with by Christ, so we can have peace with others, because that which divides is removed.

“Christ himself is our peace, who joined the two into one and broke down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing in His flesh the law of commandments and decrees.” Ephesians 2:14,15

Another key to us having peace from God is that Christ carried on Himself all that agitates us. Christ interceded for us, meaning He took on His shoulders the load that should have fallen on ours. Christ took on Himself those things that would otherwise give us reason for concern.

“He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities, The chastisement (and disturbance) of our peace was placed on him; and with his whip lashes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

We can now draw on God’s peace, since it is given so completely, by the removal of all that could make us afraid, and by Christ carrying on Himself what would otherwise disturb us. However we need to give room for God’s peace, by putting aside our fear and agitation.

“Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather be afraid of him who can destroy soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

Peace is one of those things we receive from God, including in an active sense. Some times we will have God’s peace settled on us and not even think we need to be agitated. At other times we may come under the enemy’s attack of fear and agitation. Or we may suddenly be confronted with a disturbing situation that throws us off balance. Those are the times to consciously and intentionally draw on the peace that comes from God.

That’s the time to put off fear and trust God’s promises and God’s provision through Christ.

When news came that the daughter of Jairus had died Jesus told him not to be afraid but to hold on to his faith.

“Overhearing what they said to Jairus, Jesus said to him, Do not fear, only believe.” Mark 5:36

We can take control of our fears and those things that agitate us, casting our cares onto God and determining to put our confidence in Him. King David did this.

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise. In God I trust. I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:3,4

“Why are you agitated, O my soul? Why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I will still praise Him for the help of His presence.” Psalm 42:5

As we learn to live in reliance on God and drawing from His peace we can allow God’s peace to be the umpire and source of confirmation in our lives.

“Let the peace of Christ rule (be the executive decision maker) in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

So, rather than being controlled by agitation, fear, anxieties and worries, we are to be ruled by God’s peace in our hearts.

Practically that means that when we have fear, anxiety or agitation, or when you are tormented by things that steal your peace, you can speak to your heart and remind yourself that God has everything under control. Remind yourself that God loves you and God’s perfect love casts out fear. Remind yourself that all of God’s promises are confirmed in Christ and made available through Him. Remind yourself that the really big things to fear, such as eternal judgement, are in God’s hands, not the hands of those making you feel afraid. Remind yourself that you can resist the devil and he will flee from you. Then ask God to release His peace within you.

If you are making a decision and you find that the choice you are heading to makes you feel disturbed then ask God to confirm if that is not the choice He has for you. That may be the removal of peace, so you get a signal not to proceed.

And in all your working through of these issues remember God’s promise: My Peace I Give You.

From Your Heart

A struggle some people have with spiritual truth is getting it into their heart. Westerners have been raised to be mental, or at least to filter everything through their mind, and that seems to block them engaging with truth at a deeper level.

People often give mental assent to something, but don’t seem to believe in their heart.

It is interesting to note Bible references about our heart.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.” Romans 10:9,10

“Philip said, If you believe with all your heart, you are allowed to be baptised. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Acts 8:37

Note that the word ‘believe’ in these verses is directly linked to the ‘heart’, not the head. Belief isn’t a matter of mental calculation, determining all the evidence and weighing up your response. It isn’t a matter of convincing yourself and being able to give a plausible reason.

In the West today, if you tell someone who is not a Christian that you believe in God, they immediately hit you with interrogation as to why, and on what evidence, and how you can justify that belief on logical grounds. This reveals the endemic addiction we have to worshipping our minds, when we don’t actually live out of our minds at all.

Most people make choices based on what they want at a deeper level, and use information to give a plausible reason. It is as if we have to give homage to our mind, even if we are not really relying on it.

If you try to apply a spiritual truth at a mental level it loses potency for you. You need to engage God and the reality of the spiritual world with your heart, at a deeper level than just understanding or thinking something is a good idea.

Your mind is only a part of who you are. No matter how well informed it might be and how calculated your decisions or how profound your insights your mind is just a thin slice of who you are. Your will and your heart have a lot more to do with who you are than what you think you think.

Years ago one of my sons liked engaging Christians in discussion about their fundamental beliefs. He found people who were quite articulate about what they believed and quite firm in their declaration of that belief. Yet as the conversation rambled on, discussing a variety of situations he would find them coming up with responses and choices opposite to what they said they believed.

He did not point that out to them, since his purpose wasn’t to shame them, but it is alarming to find many Christians who think they believe something and don’t in reality live by that belief.

So let me repeat that your will and your heart have a lot more to do with who you are than ‘what you think you think’. You might be quite pleased with your careful and thoughtful determination of what you believe, but not realise that you don’t really believe it in your heart. You give mental assent to it, but your mind is only a part of who you are.

Sadly, the distinction between our mind and our heart may have something to do with the charge of ‘hypocrite’ often levelled at Christians. Some Christians declare what they believe and what they are committed to, but it’s simply not true. They are likely committed to whatever they think will play out the best for themselves in a given situation.

I have shared at times the testimony of a small time property developer who invited his minister to be part of a property development, since the man was a great faith preacher. As soon as there were difficulties the minister lost his nerve and panicked. The non-Christian investors in the project told the developer to get rid of the minister as he was a fool and a jerk and likely to mess up the whole project.

Yet when the preacher was up front preaching his best message on faith he sounded unshakable.

So, for your own stability sake, you need to anchor who you are and what you believe in your heart and not your head.

I heard a Christian counsellor speaking recently about how he finds many Christians who give mental assent to their need to change, or repent, or deal with an issue. He then finds them trying to deal with it at a head level, not from their heart.

Most people ‘know’ things in their head that don’t touch their heart. The heart is the source of all of life’s issues, not the head.

“Keep your heart with great care; for the issues of life come out of it.” Proverbs 4:23

Ask God to help you get past your head and to be able to recognise and live out of your heart. Ask God to sensitise your heart, give you a tender heart in place of a stony heart, and to enable you to connect with God and spiritual reality from your heart.

Remember, your heart is the heart of the matter. So build your faith and your walk with God From Your Heart.

Remove the Toe-Hold

Years ago, while trying to explain to someone how the devil can get a grip on our lives, I came up with an analogy that seems to be helpful. I used this in the last few days to assist a young person to understand their situation, so I’m sharing it with you, in the hope it is helpful.

I have often seen trees with a sleeve of smooth metal wrapped around them, so possums and other climbing animals can’t get up the tree. The unwanted animals can’t get a grip or a toe hold, so they slip off the tree trunk.

Our lives are like that tall tree trunk. If there are many indents in the tree trunk it is easy for things to cling to our life. If the enemy finds toe holds in our life then the enemy can cling to us. Such things as fear, anger, hurts, shame, jealousy and the like, can stick to our life and seem to be unshakable.

One of the ways to deal with those things is to remove the toe hold. 

So imagine there is a tree with smooth, shiny skin and no toe holds. It is safe from the climbing animals. But if a truck was to drive too close to the tree and scratch large gashes into to skin of the tree, then there are places for creatures to grip our life.

Similarly, when our life is scratched up by things that hurt us, or make us afraid, or stir up wrong responses inside us, like jealousy, hatred, lust or the like, then toe holds are scratched into our life and the enemy can jump on and hold on tight.

For the tree to be free from the climbing things it would need healing of its skin, making it shiny and slippery again. In our case we need Jesus to heal us from those scratches, hurts and damaging experiences, so we can be restored to a shiny surface that does not allow the enemy to keep grip in our lives.

There is a godly way to respond to nasty things that happen to us. We are to keep a humble heart and repent of anything we did to bring the problem into our life.

We are also to forgive all those who offend us, no matter how nasty they were to us.

We then need to make a spiritual break with the evil that scratched up our life, and any evil that seems to want to come out from inside us.

Let me explain that point more clearly. You may be offended and insulted by a stranger. Maybe that offender is angry and aggressive and speaking abusive language. They look at you and say some horrible things, with aggressive tone and vile language.

You are offended and hurt, scratched and wounded by what they did.

To completely clear up this experience, so the enemy can’t get hold of it, you need to be sure you didn’t do anything to bring that problem onto you. You may have been an innocent victim, but you might also have seen the offender and spoken something to rebuke him, causing him to target you with his abuse. Or you may have looked scornfully at him. If you have done anything to prompt the problem you need to be forgiven for that before you try to fix the problem.

You could pray, “Lord, I have been offended. If I have done anything to cause this attack on me please forgive me. I repent of all attitudes, thoughts and actions that I may have had that opened me up for this offence.”

You then need to forgive the one who offended you. “Lord, I forgive that person for what they said and did to me and all the hurt and pain they caused me.”

Next you need to break from the evil they dumped on you, and the evil that seemed to come up from inside you. They dumped on you their aggression, vile language, hurtful words, insults and anger. So, what came out from inside you in response?

Did you respond by cursing them, or being aggressive in return, or by threatening them?

Even if you didn’t respond outwardly was there an internal response? Did you decide to despise and distrust people who were like them (males, or from their nationality, or people in their social standing)? Did you respond with inferiority, shame, resentment, bitterness, hatred, vengeance or anything else that offends God?

As I said earlier, you need to break from the evil they put on you and the evil that comes from inside you. So you might pray something like, “Lord, I now break off the evil that came from that experience, including all the evil they put onto me, such as their anger, aggression and vile language. And I repent of and break off all the evil that came up inside me, of resentment, despisement, anger, retaliation, (name all the things that you responded with).”

The next thing to do is to give all the hurt and damage of the experience to God, which is putting our cares and concerns onto Him, instead of carrying them ourselves.

“Dump all your worries and cares on God, for he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7

You might pray, “Lord I give you all these hurts and issues in my life. I dump them on You because You love me and only You can take them out of my life.”

The process I have outlined is like a legal process for getting rid of toe holds. Once you have carefully covered each of those points the next thing to do is to resist the devil, telling the problem that has attached itself to you to get out of your life. You might pray something like, “In the name of Jesus, the Christ, I speak to the problem in my life (name it, such as fear, shame, evil thoughts, etc) and I command it to go in Jesus’ name. Get out of my mind, my emotions, my body and my whole life, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
“Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

I also encourage you to find Christians who have strong faith in God to join you in prayer, agreeing with you and praying for you to complete the process of setting you free.

What should result from that is the healing of the scratches and dents in your life, so the devil no longer has a Toe Hold in your life.

I have found for some people that repeating the process is needed, especially when the hurts and offences have been very deep or repeated over time. Allow God to prompt you to anything you left out of any part of the praying process.

God bless you as you put these suggestions into practice in your life.