Among the general population, in the month of December, Americans resent the necessity of choice. "David, what are you talking about?" At least in this nation, December's events demand that we make choices. Those from the ages of children to the ages of grandparents have to make choices.

"We do not have to make choices in December!" Oh yes we do! When wrapped packages begin to appear in your home, do you openly immediately or does your family wait? The common December question, "What do you want for Christmas?" demands that you make a choice. Do you like surprises, or do you prefer to pick out the gifts you want to receive? Young families, do you face any challenges deciding where you will be December 25th?

Then there are those who are convinced they can bypass the necessity of choice. They attempt to give everyone everything they want, and fail. They attempt to be at every place December 25th, and fail. They attempt to give everyone exactly what they want, but surprise them, and fail.

December is filled with choices. Some choices are enjoyable. Some choices are not liked.

In regard to choices, December is really not that different to life the other eleven months of the year. December just reminds us over and over and over that choices are inescapable and necessary.

  1. From the very beginning, the person who lived in relationship with God chose to do so.
    1. Every person whose life was lived in relationship with God made that necessary choice.
      1. Genesis 3 tells us evil became reality in this world when two things happened.
        1. Eve chose against relationship with God.
        2. Adam stood there silently, without saying a word, and let her decide for both of them.
      2. Genesis 4 explains that Abel chose to honor God while Cain chose to honor himself.
      3. Genesis 5 says Enoch made such extraordinary choices for relationship with God that God did not permit Enoch to die.
      4. Genesis 6 says Noah chose for God when the entirety of human population wanted nothing to do with God.
      5. Genesis 12 through 22 states that Abraham repeatedly chose for relationship with God among people who did not know that God existed.
    2. Why? Why would these people make such unpopular, uncommon, unacceptable choices?
      1. Hebrews 11:13-16 explains their choices in this way:
        All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
        1. Their choice to live in relationship with God was incredible.
          1. They had a basic understanding that God would send this world a blessing which would be available to all who lived.
          2. They had full confidence God would keep His promise.
          3. But they all died before God sent Jesus who became the Christ, before Jesus died and was resurrected as the Christ.
        2. They had so much confidence in the fact that God would keep His promise that by faith they could look into the far distance and see God doing what He promised to do.
          1. They had so much confidence that they lived in ways that proved they did not belong to this world.
          2. They knew they did not "fit" in this world.
          3. They were looking to live in a place where they "fit," a country of their own.
        3. The result: God was not ashamed to claim those people as His people.
          1. God was delighted to be known as their God.
            1. Because they were perfect?
            2. No, because they chose relationship with Him over relationship with this world.
          2. God was not only happy to be known as their God, but He Himself also prepared for them a place where they belong.
    3. In reference to Moses and his choices, the very same chapter makes this statement.
      Hebrews 11:24-26 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.
      1. As an adult, Moses made some extremely difficult choices.
      2. He lived in Pharaoh's palace [the king of Egypt's palace] when Egypt was the leading nation in the Mediterranean world.
        1. He had opportunity to chose to be a part of the king's family.
        2. He had opportunity to chose a life of pleasure.
        3. He had opportunity to live his life enjoying the "passing pleasures of sin."
      3. But he chose to endure the wrongful treatment of God's people who were slaves in Egypt.
        1. He did not know all the details about Jesus, but he understood God had something very special in mind for the people of this world.
        2. He understood that the reward involved in God's plans far exceeded the "passing pleasures of sin" even when they were experienced in the palace of a wealthy, powerful king.
      4. So, by choice, he spent his life leading some ungrateful, liberated slaves through a dessert.

  2. The one thing all the people who chose relationship with God had in common in their choices was faith in God (confidence or trust in God).
    Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
    1. To belong to God, a person must have faith in God.
      1. Faith is a choice.
      2. If a person does not chose to place his or her trust (confidence) in God, he or she cannot please God.
      3. God requires two things of those who come to Him.
        1. They must believe that He exists.
        2. They must have confidence in the fact that He rewards those who seek Him.
    2. It grieves me that there is so much evidence that we as God's people have forgotten the necessity of faith.
      1. Repentance without faith cannot and will not please God.
      2. Baptism without faith cannot and will not please God.
      3. Godly acts without faith cannot and will not please God.
      4. Our fundamental choice is not repentance, or baptism, or godly acts.
      5. Our fundamental choice is faith in God.
        1. Faith in God means trusting God as we make our choices.
        2. Faith in God means confidence in God as we make our choices.
        3. Faith in God means choosing to live for Him instead of the passing pleasures of sin.

  3. "The floor is now open for nominations for the hardest thing about being a parent."
    1. Whether you are married or unmarried, have children or do not have children, have small children or have grown children, you can make a nomination.
      1. All of us here have been children.
      2. That means all of us have interacted with a parent.
      3. That means all of us are qualified to nominate the greatest difficulty of parenthood.
    2. So, in your mind, right now tell yourself your nomination for the hardest thing about parenthood.
    3. I wish I had a list of all your nominations.
      1. I suspect that our nominations would be influenced significantly by our personal experiences.
        1. Perhaps the unmarried would nominate an unmet parental expectation rooted in their childhood.
        2. Perhaps couples who have no children would nominate the loss of freedom and privacy.
        3. Perhaps couples with infants would nominate the loss of sleep.
        4. Perhaps families with small children would nominate financial or time stresses.
        5. Perhaps families with teens would nominate some form of exasperation.
        6. Perhaps families with grown children would nominate children leaving home permanently.
      2. May I share my nomination?
        1. Thus far in my life I would say the hardest thing about being a parent is watching your child become a person who makes choices.
        2. Our children will do the same thing we adults have done: they will make their own choices; they will decide for themselves.
        3. And included in those choices is the choice to be a person of faith in God.
    4. If your goal is to get your child to attend church as an adult, or to be baptized, or to live a lifestyle that does godly deeds, your goal is too small.
      1. None of those things will please God without faith.
      2. Our goal can be nothing less than helping our children discover and accept faith in God.
      3. The first thing that is essential for that to happen: your children must see that faith in you.
      4. The second thing that is essential for that to happen: our children must see that faith in us.

Are we being religious without having faith in God? Or, are we learning to be spiritual people who build life's foundation on faith in God? What choice do we make?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 16 December 2001

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