Back in the day, I loved to read the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. As you go through the book, you got to choose, you got to decide which the direction the story was going to go. And the thing with those books, if you didn’t like the decision you made and the way the story was going, you could always go back and choose a different path.
Well, all of us, no matter if your 2 or 102, we all have to choices to make. Apple or cherry? Would you like fries with that? Grilled or fried chicken? Original or extra crispy? What kind of dressing would you like with your salad? What kind of cheese on your sandwich? Toasted or heated? What do you want for supper? Do you want to go out to eat? Credit or debit? Would you like a copy of your receipt?
Some of these choices are easy … others are a bit harder, especially if you happen to be an indecisive kind of person. Some decisions are asked of us, others are ones which we internally ask ourselves, and others are ones which we subconsciously just make. According to an article on Psychology Today’s website, the average adult makes about 35,000 decisions a day. That works out to about 2,000 decisions per hour or one decision every two seconds if you consider you don’t make decisions in the seven hours of sleep you get.
Other articles I looked at confirmed this 35,000 decisions a day, but they also referred to something as “decision fatigue.” “Decision fatigue” refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual, after a long session of decision making. Think about when you go to the grocery store … grocery stores put those impulse items by the cash registers in hope of taking advantage of your decision fatigue from shopping.
But really … of all the thousand decisions which we make in a day … there is only one which really matters. Moses lays that decision out before the Israelites and before us very clearly in our Old Testament reading. “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction” (Deuteronomy 30:15).
I want you to picture this. You’re sitting there on the plains of Moab. From your spot you can see the glistening of the sun reflecting off of the Jordan River. You look up a little past the Jordan River and you can see the Promised Land. For the last twenty years or so, all you have seen, all you have ever known is the wilderness, the hot, dry, barren, sand covered wilderness. But now, now you can actually see the future and what it holds for you. You see the lush greenness of the land which God promised to your forefathers hundreds of years ago.
From your seat, you also see Moses. Holding his staff, walking back and forth, Moses is talking to you and all the other people. He’s telling you the history of where you came from, how it is that the LORD God led you out of slavery from the Egyptians, how God held back the waters of the Red Sea only then to have the water swallow up Pharaoh’s army. Moses is telling you about how God has led you and provided you with everything you’ve needed while you and your parents have wandered through the wilderness these past forty years. Moses goes over the Ten Commandments, he discusses the importance of the festivals and sacrifices, he explains the dietary laws, as well as all of God’s law so that you know how you are to live your life so that the surrounding nations will know that the LORD is the true and only God.
But as you sit there, it seems as if Moses has been talking forever about history and laws, about all rules and regulations. And although Moses’ speeches are important, your eyes keep wandering back to the view of the Jordan River and Promised Land. As you gaze out there, you mentally start to tune Moses out and begin to daydream about how wonderful the Promised Land will be. You keep thinking back to the description which Joshua gave. You think of how he said the Promised Land is a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. You dream about the future you will have with your family knowing it will soon become a reality. You think about the abundant crops you will grow, the physical place you can call home, a place where you can lay your head down besides in a tent. You slowly close your eyes so that you can visualize this wonderful new life you’re about to live.
And then you start thinking about how you’re going to live your life and whether you want to go to lunch at Joe’s or Applebee’s or the Iron Saddle. Wait! That isn’t part of the story!
But that is exactly how easy it is for you and me to get distracted from the important choice in our life. When the thing or things which we are deciding about is not or will not become part of our short term reality, we tend to zone out and focus on more pressing issues which will take place in the here and now. We choose the adventure which will give us what we want now.
You know, there’s a story of a catholic church which had a huge crucifix on the front wall of the sanctuary above the altar. It was an older church and like most older buildings, things are in need of repair from time to time. Well, one day, early in the week, the priest was in his office working when he heard a loud crash. Being that he was the only one in the building, at least he thought so, he ran to see what had happened. When he entered the sanctuary, he noticed that Jesus had fallen off of the cross and was lying on the floor.
Immediately a meeting was called to address the situation which needed to be fixed before Sunday morning. The priest asked if anyone would be willing to put Jesus back up on the cross. … There was a long pause. No one volunteered. The group decided to contact some local contractors. One said he was too busy, another said that he just couldn’t do it. Finally, a contractor was found who said he would do the job.
The next day the contractor comes by the church office to find the priest. The priest leads him up the sanctuary and shows him what needs to be done. The contractor said he would have the job done relatively quickly. He gets his scaffolding all set up. He gets Jesus back up to where he was supposed to go. He places the first nail in Jesus’ hand, pulls the hammer back, looks at Jesus’ face … and slowly drops the hammer and begins to cry.
At that moment, the contractor realized what he was doing. He wasn’t just nailing a piece of wood to another piece of wood … no, in his mind, he was nailing Jesus, nailing the very Son of God back on the cross. … After regaining his composer, the contractor came down from the scaffolding and asked God for forgiveness.
You may not think of your sins in this fashion, I know I don’t always … but with each sin we commit, we help swing the hammer and drive those nails into Jesus which held him up on that cross. You and I and all sinners have put him there because of our sins, our decisions. We have at times chosen death and destruction rather than life and prosperity. When we follow our own ways instead of Christ’s … like the Israelites of old who first entered the Promised Land, we choose death and destruction over life and prosperity. Moses told the Israelites, “if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess” (Deut. 30:17-18). And shortly after they got into the Promised Land, the Israelites slowly started to do what they were not supposed to do, they choose the wrong adventure. They gave into the temptations about worrying about the here and now and what would benefit them at that time. They forget all about the things God had done and said He would continue to do for them.
And admittedly … this is how you and I live our lives. We tend to think more about what I’m doing later today or this week or this month instead of the long range eternal future. Of all the choices we have to make … the eternal one is the most important. When we wake up in the morning, we make this eternal decision as we get up and decide to continue to follow God and to follow His ways. We make this when we put our relationship with God before other things which would distract us from Him or prevent us from growing stronger in Him. Choosing the adventure to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, it’s the only way in which life can truly be rich, full, and productive. Notice I didn’t say it was going to be easy, fun, and always exciting or prosperous. Life in the Promised Land for the Israelites was not always easy, fun, exciting or prosperous, but as they continued to follow God, they were content and blessed in other ways.
The most important question you and I will ever have to answer is this … “Who is Jesus to me?” Every other question … who should I marry? Where should I live? What school should I attend? Credit or debit? They all pale in comparison. There are only two real alternatives to consider … “life and prosperity, death and destruction”. Eternal life and prosperity, eternal death and destruction. Or as Jesus says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).
Life and prosperity or death and destruction. Which will you choose? Joshua said, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” The Israelites responded, “We too will serve the LORD because he is our God” (Joshua 24:15b, 18b). Redeemed by the blood of Christ, may we continue to choose the adventure of following Christ as He walks with us and leads us to our heavenly home. Amen.
Go in peace, the peach which surpasses all human understanding and serve the Lord with gladness now and forever. Amen.