There are big differences between doing things because you are supposed to and doing things out of joy and freedom for God’s glory. On the surface, they look the same, but the heart is the difference maker.
No decision we make should be made based on the approval of others or what others would choose for themselves. Instead, with a heart of humility, we need to be in tune with the Holy Spirit leading us to choose God’s way. It’s not just about going through the motions of the “Christian life,” it’s about saying: Lord, I trust You in these decisions and I want to honor You with the freedom You’ve given me to make them. We have to make a conscious decision to choose the right thing, and in order to do that, we need to know the Word of God and live by it.
Making a conscious decision to choose what God is leading me to do will often require personal sacrifice, but it’s not about feeling good about what I’ve done or whose approval I win, it’s ultimately about God getting all the glory. So I often need to ask myself: Where is my heart and what (or Who) is the focal point of my purpose here on earth? Like I said, the heart is the difference maker.
There have been times in my life when I cared more about my reputation than God’s glory. I would choose what to do, or what not to do, based on other people’s opinions, caring way too much about what they thought about me. These decisions may have looked like fine choices from the outside, but God knows my heart and He knew that I was doing these things just to please others. My heart was dishonest—I was living a false reality. It appeared as if I was living for the Lord, but in my pride, I was living for myself.
“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” —2 Corinthians 3:6
I can find myself caught up in the letter of the law instead of the Spirit of the law. I don’t want to blindly follow God, I want to hear His truth through His Word and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance. When we are able to consider His commands and line those up with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, we see that these commands are given to us for God’s glory. Out of the freedom and complete joy that we have in Christ, we will want and choose to obey Him, seeing both the temporal and eternal benefits of living righteously.
There are times when God doesn’t clearly show us which specific choices to make, but gives us freedom to make a decision, and as long as we are walking with Him, He will bless that path.
I remember trying to decide if I should finish my senior year at Stanford or sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates to play professional baseball. It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make—I felt like I really couldn’t make a wrong choice. After praying about it, I truly didn’t feel a strong pull either way. It wasn’t a matter of being right or wrong, neither choice was sinful, I was simply choosing where I wanted to play baseball for the 2013 season.
I had many Christian influences telling me different things—some told me to stay in school and some told me to sign on. Many people whose opinions and advice I really valued wanted me to sign, telling me that I could do a lot of good with the money and platform I’d gain.
During that time, God, in His sovereignty, granted me the freedom to make the decision one way or another. I honestly felt like God was affirming my choice through His Word and His Spirit because my heart wanted to bring glory to Him in whatever situation I chose to be in. I ended up choosing the one that received a lot of criticism, but I’ve never regretted staying in school to finish my degree at Stanford. I’ve never regretted it because I’ve never forgotten the circumstances I was in, knowing that I made my decision to glorify Christ where I was going. I had peace that God would bless that, and bless it He did, in ways I could not have imagined.
Mark Appel is a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.
View Mark’s Increase Profile here: http://theincreasebaseball.com/author/markappel/
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