Twenty years ago, Dutch cyclist Fred Rompleberg set the world bicycle speed record at an amazing 169 miles per hour. In September of this year, that incredible record was shattered when 45-year-old American cyclist, Denise Mueller-Korenek rode an average 183.9 miles per hour in the Salt Flats. As was done by her predecessor, she was tethered to a race vehicle until she reached 90 MPH and then released.
Think about this, she was riding a bicycle more than twice the speed of the highest speed limit in the United States. The fastest I have been able to ride is just a little over 33 MPH and it was quite an intimidating speed. I cannot imagine going faster but a friend of mine did; during a triathlon, he turned the wrong way and ended up going downhill on the only genuine mountain in Florida. I am not sure what his speed was, but he had both brakes on, and his front wheel kept lifting off the ground – he may have hit 50+ and he says it was not fun. As intimidating as his speed had been he then, of course, had to turn around and go back up the mountain (at a much slower but more comfortable speed).
While I do not know Mueller-Korenek’s status with God, I do know for her to accomplish such a remarkable speed she invested a great deal of personal resources and time preparing. There were also many others involved such as those who designed the gearing and engineered the structure of her bicycle. There were also the support people such as the well-trained race car driver that led her and of course family and friends that encouraged her.
With that in mind, no matter what her relationship with God, He was involved. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” Proverbs 16:9 says, “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
We may think we have everything under control; however, it is a terrible thing to ask God to lift His hands off of you, even for a minute. Never let your own pride or arrogance lead you to believe you have things so well in check that you do not need God’s assistance, guidance, support, direction… Though His goals may have differed from yours, God is and has always been on your side, even when you did not recognize Him.
Who Better Than God to be on Your Side?
“for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” [Philippians 2:13]
Saved or unsaved, God is on your side. He wants the best for us and generally gives us ample opportunity for salvation and to grow in our relationship with Him as we perform work for Him. No matter what we face and how difficult it is, He is with us and though at times it may seem He is so far away, He is still with us. You can see in Philippians 2:13 above, that what we do is for His pleasure so of course He wants the best for us and to be a part of what we do.
God loves us so much and so sincerely wants us to succeed He has given us so many undeserved gifts including salvation, talents, skills, successes we could not have had without Him… There is no one better than God to be on our side and quite frankly, if I cannot have God on my side, I don’t want to “play.”
With that said, we know God is on our side, however, are there circumstances where He steps out? Yes, there are times He does not support us. Think about this, if you start a ministry, business, or do anything He does not want you too, do you really believe He will support you in it?
The August 20, 2008 magazine, Our Daily Bread, printed the following ‘article’ (I cannot say it better so am reprinting here):
I do not boast that God is on my side,” wrote Abraham Lincoln. “I humbly pray that I am on God’s side.”
Lincoln’s words paraphrase the thoughts Azariah expressed to King Asa of Judah. After the Spirit of God came upon Azariah, he said, “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2).
Throughout history, people have done despicable deeds while boldly claiming that God was on their side. But being a Christian doesn’t guarantee that God is “on our side” any more than being an ancient Israelite guaranteed that God was on theirs (Isa. 3:14-15). God is on the side of those who are on His side—who know His heart and mind and do His will—not those who insist on convincing God and others that their way is right.
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord indicated that He sides with the oppressed (Isa. 58:6-7,10). For Christians, that means it is right to be on the side of those who are being wronged.
Instead of jumping into a situation with the presumption that God is on our side, we need to be certain that we are on His. Before starting something new and hoping God will be in it, find out what God is doing and then jump in with all you have. He will help you find your place in this.
So, Whose Side are You On?
One of my favorite Bible verses is Joshua 24:15. In this verse, we are instructed to choose a side and even given options.
15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis stated, “Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won't last forever. We must take it or leave it.” We do not want to miss God so we need to seek Him every morning when we rise and continue to seek him all day until we go to sleep at night.
In life we are often called on to choose sides. For example, which political party, or athletic team, or church; perhaps which neighborhood, what clubs, or even which friends. We tend to want to join or be associated with one that will satisfy us; however, that may not be the choice God wants us to make because what satisfies us may not satisfy Him.
There are times our experience and maturity will help us to know instinctively which is the right choice; however, there are other times we make decisions without really checking it out and it is at those times we will probably make the wrong decisions. Yes, it is on those latter occasions, that we are most prone to error. We learned earlier that God is on our side, but hopefully you understand now that though He is always on our side universally, He may not be for specific times or events where we make a bad choice. At those times, God is only on our side when we are on His.
God is the best coach we have; therefore, before jumping into anything where we may not have heard from Him, and performed other research, maybe we should talk to the coach!! Oh, and by the way, when we skip this step, it probably will not be too long before we are asking ‘coach’ why He is not helping us and what we should do.
Matthew 6:24 tells us we will have to make a choice because we cannot serve two masters. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money, material wealth, or anything that promises wealth].” In this case, we are taught that you cannot serve two masters (God and the world) because you will learn to hate one and love the other – never forget, if you choose to hate God, the consequences are severe.
What Happens if I don’t Choose?
The following quote is attributed to any number of people, however, it really does not matter who said it first, it fits here so I am going to borrow it. “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Satan wants us all to fail and if we do not stand for Jesus, we will end up serving Satan. Whether he or his demons are whispering in your ear or just being a nuisance, he will do his best to get you to choose poorly. In his song, Gotta Serve Somebody, Bob Dylan said:
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Many people say they will not vote because they do not like any of the candidates. I understand this as a statement of principle; however, the affects of it can create the worst-case scenario when the least qualified person ends up in office. So before arbitrarily deciding ‘none of the above’, seek God about making the appropriate decision.
Please understand, if you and I both hear from God and our choices on something differ (different teams), it doesn’t mean either of us are wrong. God has different plans for each of us; therefore, what we choose and what others choose can and frequently do differ. On the other hand, either of us could have missed God and His guidance.
Hopefully you understand you cannot be in a position where you do not choose because failing to choose is a choice; however, it quickly becomes a choice where you have no control of the outcomes or consequences. By the way, have you noticed that frequently it is the more aggressive complainers who do not get involved?
Overcoming Bad Choices
We all make mistakes and occasionally make bad decisions. The outcomes of those decision may take time and resources to overcome. My dad used to tell the following story:
In the late 1970s, a newly hired executive in a Fortune 50 corporation made a mistake that cost the company two million dollars. The next day, the executive was summoned to CEO’s office. After sitting nervously for a few minutes, the CEO asked, “do you know how you erred yesterday and what it cost this company?”
The new executive said, “yes sir.”
The CEO then inquired, “are you going to do it again?”
The new executive responded, “no sir.”
The CEO said, ok, “go back to work.”
The new executive was surprised and responded, “thank you; however, I certainly expected you were going to fire me.”
The CEO responded, “fire you? I just spent 2 million dollars educating you.”
Like the CEO, our mistakes can also become opportunities to learn and grow. However, how can we grow from mistakes if we spend time making excuses, covering them up, blaming others, or even lying about them. If you hide or even forget your painful experiences, you will not learn lessons from them. That means you experienced all the suffering for nothing. What's the point of that?
Bad choices breed bad outcomes and no matter how hard you try to “hide” a bad choice you will never be free from it until you own up to it. In his book, Competent to Counsel, Jay Adams says we must destroy those things that cause us to stumble. Side stepping them or retreating from them are not sufficient because the issues still exist. He also says, when we have sin in our life, it is like a downward spiral that leads to more and more difficulty; however, when we deal with the sin, bad choices, we go through an upward spiral which gives us joy because the events that led to our failure have been eradicated.
While it can be, making a bad decision is not necessarily sin. Contrary to what I was taught in my early years of being a Christian, we are not always sinning and most of us do not have this closet of unknown unconfessed sins that God will use against us one day when He has had enough.
Whether bad decisions may or may not be sinful, they all have consequences. As a rule of thumb, you can assume the more serious the bad choice, the more serious the consequences. Also, it is kind of strange, however, the consequences for our bad decision will likely affect others such as your family, team, coworkers, friends, neighbors…
As we have seen, people make mistakes and though some are sin others may just be oops moments (errors in judgment or oversight). If you are driving, do not stop in time, and cause an accident, unless you were texting or otherwise distracted, where is the sin? An accident happened, you are responsible, and you must be held accountable. It does not make you a bad person, nor will you lose your salvation over it. On the other hand, carelessness can be a sin therefore if you have a history of running into other vehicles, you may want to spend some time confessing and repenting.
Overcoming bad choices can be very easy from a functional perspective but very difficult in the real spectrum of life. This is because consequences include penalties and those penalties may be with us for a long long time.
Here are a few examples of bad choices and the resulting penalties.
If you rob a bank, the penalty will take years if not the rest of your life to overcome – serious consequences.
If you make a car payment late, you are penalized a few dollars, you catch up and all is done – short and sweet.
If you are late to work once, the boss may chew you out and then it is finished as long as it does not happen again.
If you are repeatedly late to work, you may get disciplined at the office or even lose your job – these consequences are very serious and affect not just you, but your family also.
If/when you make bad choices, confess to God, confess to anyone you may have hurt or offended, accept the resulting punitive actions and move on with your life having learned a valuable lesson you will hopefully not repeat. Having said that, it is important to remember if you are like most people, you may not recognize your weaknesses, your participation in making bad choices, or that sometimes, it really is your fault (hey anything is possible).
Narcissism is a term that describes a person who is preoccupied with themselves. It is named for a mythological Greek man named Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image and was doomed to die because he would not turn away from it.
A narcissist exhibits the characteristics of selfishness/self-centeredness, vanity, and pride at a chronic level. They view all aspects of life based on how it affects them and at times their family. It is very difficult if not impossible for a narcissist to overcome bad choices because, if you remember, the catalyst for all their choices is how it will affect them, and they are flawed so their choices will almost always be flawed. In case you were wondering, yes, Christians can be narcissists; they do not reflect Christianity in a good light. Though they are saved, their thinking is corrupted because they make decisions based on how it affects themselves (or their family) rather than seeking God and following His direction. The sad thing about a Christian who is a narcissist is they almost always believe they have special gifts such as prophesy when in reality, as discussed earlier, they do not listen to God so when they “exercise these gifts” they are actually trying to draw attention to themselves rather than serving God.
On the other hand, you do not have to be a narcissist to fall into the trap of failing to take responsibility for your bad choices. Today more than any other time I can remember, people are playing the blame game – ‘it’s not my fault, I had a lousy day.’ The assignment was given so late-it’s not my fault.’ ‘My dad abandoned me when I was a child.’ You get the idea. The biggest problem, and this is very sad, is adults are teaching this to their children and like a flu bug, the kids are passing it around.
To further complicate the blame game, those who blame rather than take responsibility for their decisions, almost always view themselves as victims. When this occurs, they become angry, resentful, and filled with negativity. These responses lead to fatigue, depression, sadness, stress and disease (e.g. heart disease and cancer).
All of us need to find the correct balance with these items:
Take responsibility for what you do and who you are
Do not blame others for your shortcomings
Except in those unusual circumstances, do not accept the responsibility for others poor choices
Do not let others walk all over you
God will hold you responsible for your actions, so quit blaming everyone or everything. Alright, like all of you, I do not like to make mistakes and have been known to try and side step responsibility too – it is not that unusual; however, it is not God’s way and because of that we need to strive to learn from the mistakes we make so we can continue to advance ourselves and others.
If/when you realize you made a bad decision, go to the person or persons and ask forgiveness. Do what is possible to rectify the situation and then forgive yourself and move forward.
We all make bad choices from time to time and need to start owning our decisions and actions no matter what the consequences. When we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, we will be less likely to make bad decisions and we will be able to better represent God in the world. No matter what our weaknesses, when we take ownership of our mistakes, God will be able to help us through. However, conversely, when we fail to take ownership, He will not support our efforts – in other words, we chose the wrong team.
Learn to confess and repent (as well as repair) so you can advance. Then you will find it easier to forgive others for their shortcomings and in turn help them to better represent God.
I wrote a drama about puns, it was a play on words