You have incredible power! Do you know that the single greatest power in your world lies right there within you—at all times? It is the power of choice. God says in Deuteronomy that He is calling heaven and earth to witness against us (since we keep denying we have this power) that He has given us the power to choose life or to choose death. He wants us to know that we have the power.
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live. Deuteronomy 30:19-20
Surely this is an awesome power! How does it play out?
I stumbled upon the power of choice quite by accident in the aftermath of the wreckage from my drug daze in the very early 70’s. At the time I was under lock and key in a mental ward for my own safety due to a botched suicide attempt. I realized that I had no power to make my life better (I had no idea how to get out of the hell my life had become), but I certainly could make it worse! I have seen this proven to be true time and time again: no matter how bad things are, even if you think they can’t get worse, just let your attitude get off the chain and things will get worse in a heartbeat.
So how is this choosing life? By not choosing death, we are by default choosing life, even if it doesn’t seem so at the moment. Sounds pretty slender I know, but here’s how it worked for me back when I didn’t know Jesus from Adam’s house cat: I chose life by choosing
a) not to try another suicide attempt (I had caught a glimpsed of hell awaiting me after death),
b) never to do drugs again (that was clearly a dead end), and
c) I chose to do whatever it would take to get out of the mental ward and stay out.
All of these were choosing life without me knowing it and they paid great dividends over time. This power radically escalates as we discover His ways of directly choosing life (see Deuteronomy 30:20 for starters)—but in the beginning since I didn’t know Jesus, I didn’t know how to choose life directly through Him. The best I could do was to not choose death.
Simply by saying no—with great resolution and conviction—to that which is death, brings us over to the side of life. Recently, I was talking with one of the men at the Mission where I work part time as a chaplain for those in recovery from addictions. He was telling me how his anger had always gotten the best of him, but that under the conditions of this program (and with the help of the Lord) he now has a strong enough motivation to grab his anger before it gets out of his mouth and beat it down and deal with it in a better way.
This is the “bread and butter” of soul transformation. God very rarely waves His magic wand and takes away our wrong emotional reactions, but He does give us motivations (if we want to take advantage of them) that will help us make better choices in the face of our negative emotions. This actually changes our emotional responses over time. That is one aspect of the power of saying “No.”
Such power has been in us all along. For instance, this fellow could have beaten his anger down at any time he wanted to even before entering our program. It was the rules of the program and his need to be in the program supplied the necessary motivation to finally learn how to reign in his anger. Just as the Lord has “testified against us,” we have incredible power—we just aren’t always motivated to use it!
However, what if we are saying no to Life? One of my friends says that God has given us the greatest power in the universe—the power to say no to Him. It stops God and what God wants to do right in His tracks. In order to preserve our freedom of will, God allows us to say no to Him. And we do it all the time. Fortunately for us, God is very resourceful (and very merciful) and doesn’t take our “no” for an answer. He has a long and successful track record of turning our no’s back into yes’s. He can even find ways to work through our wrong choices so that His redemptive purposes can overthrow the curse once we repent and return to Him. But, of course—as we all know—in the interval much suffering can and does happen.
Once I saw this power of ours, I realized that I am actually the one who gets to have my will my way all of the time. Like you, I am always making choices whether I want to or not and if we can be honest, we are always making the choice we want to make at the time. We just don’t get the results we wanted to get, so then we turn and hate our self or our life for the choices, but the truth is if we didn’t get the “right” results, we weren’t taking God’s “no, not that way,” to heart. We went our own way instead.
God is the One who very seldom gets what He wants—what He wills and desires for us of heaven on earth—up front, since He allows us to say no and we do it so often. But for those who really want His will to triumph over theirs, He will have His way with us down the road. And that will be heaven (either up there or down here when Jesus returns) once our choosing always aligns with His.
In the meantime I love what Francois Fenelon had to say: “God has given us one thing that is uniquely our own—our wills—so that we can have something of value to offer back to Him.” I am paraphrasing from ancient memory, but you get the drift.
Let’s do it! Let’s join Jesus in learning to continually say, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God (Hebrews 10:9)” and “Father, if it is Your will take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done (Luke 22:42).”
Follow up with Truth or Consequences.