When you stood before the minister and he asked, “Do you take this (man or woman) to be your wedded (husband or wife), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health …” Did you ever wonder what to do if it got worse? You may have been broke then, but did you expect to get poorer? When we were young the question about health wasn’t an issue … who was thinking about being old!
But we made commitments! Later … we come to the place of making hard decisions during tough times. Sometimes it seems as if there isn’t a good decision regardless of what we choose. But know this: we reap a wonderful reward when we have made the right decision!
Chuck Swindoll didn’t know when he got married to Cynthia that she would have difficulties with depression for years with the result being that he lived with an angry, bitter woman while he conducted a very public and positive ministry as a well known pastor. She has recovered and now speaks about her difficulties openly and Chuck enjoys having a wonderful wife! A friend of ours who has spoken here at our church, a man who is the same age as me; his wife has had Alzheimer ’s disease for several years and he takes care of her and his aging father at home. His rewards may not be fully known until he arrives in heaven, but there is joy in doing the right thing!
Life is full of places where we make hard decisions. We have decisions that affect our family! And what are you going to do with your faith? What are you going to do about your finances? What are you going to do with your time? Who are your friends? The question is whether our decision is best one, or the right one, or the acceptable one, or the wrong one. Where do we go for answers? Are you ready to make the hard decisions in life? Do you want God’s reward of blessings?
When Jehovah God led Israel into the Promised Land he said:
11 … Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite.
13 But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images
16 lest you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.
God had promised wonderful blessings to Israel if they obeyed his law, but his warning to Israel was not to worship the gods of the former occupants of the Promised Land and to not intermarry with the people of that land. The results of doing so would cause them to reject Jehovah and to lose their beloved Promised Land.
If you have read the Old Testament you know that Israel made the right decisions at first, but they didn’t continue obeying God, nor did they heed the warnings of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others who called them to repentance. Consequently, Israel and Judah were overcome by the Babylonians, Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple broken down, and many of the people were taken as slaves to Babylon for seventy years.
Seventy years later … Cyrus the king of Babylon … sent Ezra back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. Let’s pick up the story in the book of Ezra:
1 (When the Temple was built) the leaders came to me, saying, "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, with respect to the abominations of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
2 For they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, so that the holy seed is mixed with the peoples of those lands. Indeed, the hand of the leaders and rulers has been foremost in this trespass."
3 So when I heard this thing, I tore my garment and my robe, and plucked out some of the hair of my head and beard, and sat down astonished.
The following verses are very descriptive of Ezra’s repentant prayer and his intercession for the Jewish people who had transgressed the Law of God! After a short period of time Ezra a large group of people came and stood before him:
10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.
11 Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives."
12 Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, "Yes! As you have said, so we must do.
19 And they gave their promise that they would put away their wives; and being guilty, they presented a ram of the flock as their trespass offering.
44 … these had taken pagan wives, and some of them had children with these wives.
They sent their wives and their children back home. Can you believe that! I was reading this last week and I was dumb struck! They sent their families away as an act of obedience to God!
Understand … I’m not asking anyone to send your spouse or family back home. And this passage of Scripture doesn’t give you permission to do that if that is what you think you might want to do!! What I want us to understand is not about marriage, but about life. How do we make the right decisions in life?
God isn’t bashful about asking us for what seems to be impossible. Job didn’t know that there even was a question! Noah was given the task of building an ark when it hadn’t rained! Abraham was directed to leave his home and family in search of a place to live and God didn’t tell him where he was going! God promised him a son and after Isaac was born, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering! Hosea was instructed to marry a prostitute as a demonstration of God’s love for His rebellious people of Israel! Jesus came into the world and died on a cross because God asked him to do it. Paul!
I want you to know that every one of those who obey the Word of God … every one of those who obey the leading of the Holy Spirit of God … they make decisions at times that are extremely difficult! But there is ALWAYS a blessing in obedience!
We are almost guaranteed to make the wrong decisions in life when we make our decisions based on what makes us feel good … or what is more popular with people we know. Making the right decision doesn’t always feel good. We have decisions that affect our family! And what are you going to do with your faith? What are you going to do about your finances? What are you going to do with your time – working and free time? Who are your friends? Are you influencing your friends toward godliness?
Jesus made a promise:
29 "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's,
30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.”
When it comes to decisions … it is always best to fellow Jesus! There is a reward involved and we will enjoy that reward for all eternity. Will you follow Jesus today?
“I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back.”