Submitted by Pastor Rodney Hopper, First Christian Church, Rock Port.
Vacations are a time of rest and wonder, especially traveling through the mountains in the western U.S. I am always amazed at traveling along and seeing a sign that says “Continental Divide” and then looking at a small stream and finding it flowing in a different direction than it did just a few miles back. There is a point along the Continental Divide high in the Rocky Mountains from Alaska going south through Canada, the Western United States such as Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico where waters of small streams separate. It would not seem to matter much whether a drop of water goes to the left or to the right, but the outcome of those drops of water are totally different. One drop may go west and eventually flow into the Colorado River and then empty into the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean. Another drop may go east until it flows into the Mississippi River and dumps into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, or flow into the Rio Grande that flows south and east from Colorado into New Mexico and then down the dividing line between Texas and Mexico as it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Two drops of water, two entirely different destinations, but one small turning point that determines their outcomes.
Many choices in our lives are just like that. At the time they don’t seem that significant, but those choices set in motion a series of events which shape our life and the lives of our children and grandchildren. As a believer in Christ Jesus, do you remember how you first came to know and develop a relationship with Him? Who was it that first started talking to you about Jesus, which led to a chain of events resulting in your salvation? The original choice wasn’t a big deal, but the outcome was life-changing. What if you shared how you came to meet your best friend or your husband or wife? The story you would begin to share probably seemed insignificant at the time, but that decision led to a relationship which forever affected your life.
Sometimes people make choices that many of us would consider unwise which may not seem momentous in themselves, but they lead to tragedies such as: A teenager chooses to ride with a friend who has been drinking, resulting in a serious accident and the loss of life. A girl decides to have a drink at a party, resulting in her letting down her inhibitions and leads to a life altering event. They never considered at that time how a small decision could have such momentous consequences. So how can we protect ourselves from making wrong choices? The story of Abraham and his nephew Lot starting in Genesis 13 teaches a crucial lesson about life’s choices: Since choices often result in eternally significant consequences, we must choose in line with God’s principles. The herdsmen of Lot and of Abram were quarreling because there wasn’t adequate land to support all their flocks. So Abram gave Lot his choice of where to settle. Lot surveyed the land and decided to move down into the lush Jordan valley. That choice was the beginning of Lot’s gradual but steady spiritual decline. First he looked toward Sodom (Genesis 13:10). Then he moved his tents near Sodom (Genesis 13:12). Next we find him living in Sodom (Genesis 14:12). Finally he is sitting in the gate of Sodom (Genesis 19:1) where he was a city official. He lost his wife, barely escaped with his own life and his two daughters, and goes off the Old Testament page hiding in a cave. He became the father of the Moabites and the Ammonites, two of Israel’s perennial enemies. It all began with Lot’s choice to live near Sodom.
Choices often result in eternally significant consequences. There is a clear progression in this story. First, both Lot and Abram have increased wealth (Genesis 13:2, 5-6). Their increased wealth leads to increased strife because there simply wasn’t enough land for each of them, plus the Canaanites and the Perizzites (Genesis 13:7). They didn’t have that problem before. Where did we ever get the notion that wealth will solve our problems? Some of the most unhappy families in the world are those with the most money, where one member is set against the other, trying to make sure he gets his portion of the inheritance. The increased strife led to increased responsibility for choices. Lot wasn’t just deciding for himself. His family and many servants and their families would be affected by his decision. The increased responsibility for choices led to either increased wickedness (in Lot’s case, choosing Sodom) or increased blessing (in Abram’s case, choosing Canaan). Lot did something many American Christians do, usually without much thought: He made a major life decision based on the unchallenged assumption that pursuing prosperity should be the main goal in life. Lot chose Sodom because he saw the lush valley and thought he could prosper there. We’re given a clue when verse 10 says that Lot saw the valley “like the land of Egypt.” Lot’s heart was still down in Egypt, where he had become rich along with Abram. Lot didn’t want any part of the hard life of faith, of living in famine-stricken Canaan. He wanted to live the good life in Egypt. He never seemed to consider what verse 13 points out, the spiritual implications of moving his family to Sodom. Verse 11 states the problem: Lot “chose for himself….” He and his family paid an awful price. How do we make good choices?
Make choices which value fellowship with God over the approval of the world. Lot has often been criticized for moving to Sodom, but it is not often mentioned that both Abram and Lot lived in corrupt cultures. The Canaanites were maybe slightly less corrupt than the Sodomites. So why did Abram remain untainted, but Lot became corrupted? The answer is in verse 18: “Abram moved his tent and came and dwelt by the Oaks of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to the Lord.” We see again the two things that marked Abram’s life of obedient faith, the tent and the altar: Abram the pilgrim, just passing through; and, Abram the worshiper, bearing witness to a pagan world. You don’t ever find Lot building an altar in Sodom, and he traded in his tent for a townhouse. He settled in Sodom and blended in with their corruption. He was popular, sitting on their city council, but he was not prophetic. Abram lived in fellowship with God and became known as the friend of God.
As Christians, we always face a tension: If we pull out of the world too far, we lose our witness because there is no contact. But if we blend in with the world, we lose both our fellowship with God and our witness to the world. Jesus was the friend of sinners, but He was never tainted by their sin because He put a premium on fellowship with the Father and He never sought the approval of the world. He was in the world with a clear sense of His mission, to glorify the Father and to seek and to save the lost. If we want to line up with Abram rather than with Lot, we’ve got to be people of the tent and the altar, pilgrims and worshipers, here to bear witness. We must put fellowship with God above the approval of the world in all our decisions.
Someone has said that we tend to think of commitment to Christ like laying a $1,000 bill on the table: “Here’s my life, Lord. I’m giving it all.” But the reality is that God sends most of us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there, in small deeds of faithfulness and obedience. But it’s right there, in those little 25 cent choices, that our lives take their direction.
So make your choices based on God’s principles: Relationships over rights; godliness over greed; fellowship with God over the world’s approval; and, faith in God’s promises over immediate pleasure from the world. Because if you have God and His promises, you have everything. So seek Him first, and all else is yours.