This is the fifth post of an 8 part series I’m writing for Holy Week. I hope you’ll come back to read the entire series in posts #45 – #52
FROM PALM SUNDAY TO EASTER
#5 – THE MOMENT OF DECISION (John 18:1 – 19:16)
It’s something we’ve all had face! We’ve been confronted with a difficult situation that had to be addressed. The circumstances created a level of stress that could not be allowed to continue to go on unchecked. Sleepless nights had become the norm as we weighed the uncomfortable options facing us. While there were valid concerns on all sides of the issue, we knew that no matter what we decided to do we would not be able to address all those concerns. Someone would be disappointed, and even our most ardent supports may not understand. The weight of responsibility hung heavy on our heart. We wanted to do the right thing. We wanted to make the right choice. We wanted to do what would be best for everyone involved. But there was no clear answer, no easy path, no way to escape the harsh reality. It was time for us to step up! We had arrived at the moment of decision!
I’m assuming that this scenario strikes a chord in your life. You’ve been there, done that, and bought the T-Shirt. You’ve walked through those heart wrenching moments of decision. You made the tough choice, but only after paying the price that accompanies making such a decision. You weighed the options, considered the ramifications on others, and courageously set your course. Then you had to face the consequences of the decision you made. Where will it take you? How will it change your future? Who else will be impacted by what you just decided to do?
It’s comforting to know that Jesus understood this type of turmoil. He too had to make some heart-wrenching decisions during HIs ministry. Would He really pick a man to be a disciple that He knew would one day betray Him? Would he allow His close friend Lazarus to experience death before traveling to Bethany to rescue him? Would He choose to accept the verbal abuse and insults of the Jewish religious leaders when He knew who He really was? No decision was more troubling than the one He had to make that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew what He needed to do. His very purpose for coming to earth had always pointed to this very moment. Would He allow Himself to be arrested, tried, convicted and crucified on a Roman cross? Would He be able to follow through on a commitment to sacrifice His life for the sins of others?
In this moment of decision we see Jesus’ humanity. He boldly asked His Father if there was any other way. Was there a viable option, an alternative plan, a way out of this pre-ordained path to the cross? Sweat drops like blood rolled down His face as He poured out His heart to His Father. Twice He had returned to His disciples, His closest friends on earth, perhaps in a desire to solicit their support during this battle with His own emotions. But this was to be a solitary moment of decision. He alone would have to decide whether He would submit to the path that laid before Him. He even would ask His Father to forego the plan they had arranged long before Jesus had been born in Bethlehem. But thankfully for all of us, ultimately He would decide, “Nevertheless, not my will by Thine be done”.
The moment of decision can be a painful turning point in any of our lives. To choose to do that which is uncomfortable, unpopular, but very necessary will be a draining experience. We may not actually sweat drops like blood, but we don’t walk through those decisions unscathed. There is a non-negotiable price to be paid for making the hard choices. It will cost us, sometimes more than we really want to pay, but in the end the investment is well worth the price. If it’s the right thing to do, then it is the right thing to do!
No matter how we may want to spin the situation, down deep inside we usually know what needs to happen next. We may not like it, we may have serious concerns about how this decision will impact others, and we may not relish the personal sacrifice necessary to accomplish what the decision requires. But, if we have the courage to follow through, we will never regret making the right choice.
Most often those challenging opportunities come disguised as problems. We are confronted with the unenviable task of laying people off at our business, stopping life support for a loved one, quitting a job that is consuming too much of the time we should be spending with our families, breaking off a relationship that is unhealthy, submitting ourselves to the authority of another, or living with that used car for another year because we really can’t afford a car payment in our budget. How we react to those situations will go a long way to determine the quality of the decisions we make in those moments. If we react to the chaos going around us with a sense of fear and anxiety we are likely to make a poor decision. If we move too quickly, making a rash choice without evaluating all the facts, we shouldn’t be surprised that the outcome does not turn out the way we thought it would. If we cower in the valley of indecision and refuse to take any action we are setting ourselves up for even more problems down the road.
It would seem there are some solid principles that might help us when we’ve arrived once again at that moment of decision, much like Jesus did that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. First and foremost, we have to ask the question, “Has God already laid out a specific path for us to follow?”. Obedience to the known will of God is the first and foremost factor in making a correct decision. If God has already given us a direction, then He expects us to take the next step in that direction. There may course changes along the way that we don’t yet see, but for now He just wants us to do the next right thing. If we are believers we need to understand that “good decisions” always start right here.
A second principle involves making sure we have all the facts. Too many poor decisions are based on poor research. God has given us a brain and I sincerely believe He expects us to use it. That means we need to dig in and learn everything we can about the situation so that we can honestly consider the alternatives. A list of pros and cons are only as good as the true facts behind them. We have to ask ourselves the question, “Do we really know what we think we know?” I would suspect all of us at times want to slant the “facts” in the direction we want the decision to go even when we know we “really don’t know what we think we know”.
If we’ve truly sought out God’s direction and been honest with ourselves about how well we’ve really researched the facts, then it’s time to check our motives. What is it we are really trying to accomplish? Is there a selfish motivation behind our efforts? Are we reacting to something someone else has done? Why we are making a decision is as important as what we actually decide! I sincerely believe it’s possible to make the right decision, but for the wrong reason. The outcome may be exactly what needed to happen. The results confirm the actions we’ve taken were correct. But along the way people were hurt unnecessarily, our attitudes were less than a stellar reflection of the God we serve, and the process was muddied by “whys and wherefores” that make even the right decision seem questionable.
A final principle that is used far too sparingly is to ask for the collective wisdom of others, and preferable God’s people. Running an idea by one person will give you a second opinion. Running it by someone else may give you a third opinion. But running it by a group of trusted advisers will normally provide a safeguard from making a foolish or incorrect decision. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed”. Ultimately, like Jesus praying in the garden, the decision is ours and ours alone. But before we reach that moment of decision we would be smart to seek out the collective wisdom of others.
Decisions…….some are easy and others are hard. When we find ourselves once again at the inevitable spot where a tough choice needs to be made, perhaps we should all take a deep breath and remember my favorite Bible verse, “……and it came to pass…..”. There’s a light on the other side of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train! Tough decisions are tough; there’s no way around that truth. Take solace in the fact that Jesus, Himself, understood the need to make some difficult choices.
The moment of decision…….the place where faith, difficulty, effort, and counsel collide for our own good!