Some issues in life are never settled “once and for all time.” Serious decisions are made with all seriousness at the moment of decision. Yet, circumstances have a way of changing. Temptations never end. What is so clear and obvious at the moment of decision is, at best, cloudy and murky on future occasions when “things have changed.”
To me, a classic example is the wedding vow. A couple with love-filled eyes and committed hearts near the beginning of their adult lives willingly and enthusiastically exchange the wedding vow. They, in a sense of self-assured gladness, commit themselves to each other for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death separates them.
The couple may have been through weeks of premarital counseling when they are asked to consider numerous “what ifs.” They may have taken tests that revealed potential obstacles to “years of happiness.” They may have been asked to consider specific background and past lifestyle differences. Still, at a specific time, they stand before family and friends staring at each other in the eye, eager to vow that no matter what happens they wish to belong to each other.
Their vows are exchanged in all seriousness. However, the first Thanksgiving and Christmas decisions of “where will we go” have not yet come. Nor have there been dirty diapers, two o’clock feedings, toddler-irrepressible climbing, toddler curiosity, and tantrums. Nor have there been financial struggles, decisions on the use of credit, and determining “needs” versus “splurges.” Do we dare mention the number of school activities with the kids, the defiant teen, youthful temptations, mid-life crises, hot flashes, unexpected pregnancies, college tuition, dementia, or overwhelming medical bills involving weird illnesses?
One unexpected crisis leads to another unexpected crisis. One temptation hardly ends until another begins. Unless there is deliberate care, the marriage vows are forgotten, the eyes glaze over rather than shine, and the eagerness to be together evaporates. What was an unshakable, forever vow can become a battered, bruised “silly notion” that was naive. What was given in all seriousness becomes a ridiculous promise that should never be taken seriously.
It is simple to say we believe Jesus is God’s son when we are baptized into Christ. It is often demanding to live our lives in the conviction that Jesus is God’s son. Why? For many reasons, but two prominent reasons are: (a) Satan delights in creating crisis, and (b) an evil world replaces one temptation with another. Neither Satan nor this evil world wants us to succeed in living for Christ. A person’s commitment to Jesus is made again and again. Personal resolve to live for Christ in one situation may be questioned in another situation.
The core issue: to what do I commit my life? How do I regard my life? Do I see life as an investment in an existence to come, or do I see it as a commitment to gratification now? These questions never stop demanding answers. Why? New circumstances arise as we age.
The option to decide always exists. That option is always present. The person can invest self in life after death, or the person can invest in physical life now. We can pursue a rewarding life after death, or we can pursue the “joys” of now. About the time we decide, circumstances change, needs change, or the “immediate” crisis changes. There is, for many, a short period when we think we can work hard enough to pursue both objectives. Soon weariness, limitations, or conflicting values say, “No, you cannot—get off the fence and decide!” Half-hearted commitments to both objectives result in continuing guilt and despair! The guilt results from not doing either objective “justice.” The despair is the result of “feeling as if my life is empty and lacking in meaning no matter what I do.” Time spent in a “delayed gratification” until life after death comes feels like wasted time. Time spent selfishly in pursuing “instant gratification” becomes increasingly meaningless as the pursuit for more is increasingly impossible. Our glorified memories of past experiences make the “now” experiences of the present inadequate.
A desperately needed awareness: “Life is not about fun and games.” When Abraham became a nomad for God, the experience was not fun. When Moses led a group of disgruntled people in a dry, uninhabited wilderness, it was not fun. When David fled from Saul, it was not fun. Nor was it fun for Jeremiah to prophesy against Judah and Jerusalem, or for Daniel to be in captivity, or for Jesus to die, or for Peter to preach to Cornelius, or for Paul to suffer. Having fun is not the “now” objective of serving God’s purposes in this physical world. The Christian’s mission is NOT described as bringing an unending “fun experience” to this physical world.
Ultimately, being Christian is a life-long experience of learning how to invest life in Jesus Christ—even in times of suffering. Learning the value of suffering adds greatly to an understanding of how to invest life in Jesus Christ.
FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
1. Why are serious decisions often not “once and for all time” decisions?
2. How can the wedding vow be a classic example?
3. In serious marriage preparation, what may the couple do?
4. What are commonly some of the typical things that have not been experienced when wedding vows are exchanged?
5. What can common experiences after the wedding vows do to wedding vows?
6. What is simple to say at baptism for most people?
7. What is demanding? Give two of many reasons this is demanding.
8. Give a core issue. Why is this a core issue?
9. What option always exists?
10. About the time a Christian makes a serious decision, what can happen?
11. Half-hearted commitments result in what two things?
12. Why does the guilt exist? Why does despair exist?
13. What is a desperately needed awareness? Give examples.
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 10
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