“Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions.” (Dallin H. Oaks)
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.” (Haggai 1:7)
At the beginning of the year, people post their end-of-the-year reviews and their beginning-of-the-year resolutions on social media. Their contemplations of flux, regret, ambition, and intention are publicized for friends and connections.
These posts show the evidences of the things that drive people. My own personal Facebook news feed is varied, as the pictures give me a number of messages, especially about the priorities in my friends’ lives at times. The narratives all add up to one thing: the testimony of the power of personal choice.
In Haggai 1:7, the Lord speaks through the prophet to tell the people of Israel to consider their priorities; they were at work rebuilding the temple that had been destroyed. In other words, their obedience and priorities were of their choosing. The choice that honored God would bring the nation His blessing. Throughout Scripture, we see wrong choices being the undoing of nations and people, even from Adam and Eve’s choice in Genesis. How often do we carefully consider our ways and the end results of our choices, prioritizing, and habits? Do we really understand the power we have in choice?
In Charles Dickens’ famous book, A Christmas Carol, the protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, has a visitation by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. They have a poignant exchange:
“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
We often look to new years for fresh starts, but the reality is that each day is another opportunity to make the choices that can carry us out of previous poor decisions.
There are some important questions to be considered:
1. Where is God in the midst of my choices? Is His glory my foremost priority or something that I hope just happens as a side effect?
Are your actions and motivations God-centric or you-centric? Is your identity in Christ? If so, then it is no longer you that lives, but Christ who lives in you (Gal. 2:20). Christ’s foremost desire was always to glorify His Father.
2. Am I allowing others’ approval/affirmation to rule my life to the point that my choices aren’t healthy? Who do I allow to influence me?
We live in a culture that asks us to brutally be striving for others’ approval. But as Christians, we are instructed to live our daily lives in a way that brings God glory (I Cor. 10:31). We are loved by the Father who has an unmatched knowledge of us (Ps. 139), and as we gain a knowledge of the depth of that love, we can begin to be freed from the trap of always needing to seek others’ approval.
3. Am I being honest with myself about the motivations behind the choices I’ve made?
The Lord seeks truth in the innermost parts (Ps. 51:6). As we seek to honor him with our choices, we should also analyze our motivations.
4. Are the results I am wanting realistic with the choices I am making?
We need to wisdom of the Lord to know if we are making choices that will line up with our goals. For instance, if I want to lose weight, but I eat burgers and fries five times a week, odds are, I need to make some healthy changes. Pray and ask God if your choices and results have a realistic relationship.
5. Are my choices affecting my attitude in a positive way or a negative way?
Our choices set us up for joy and pain, success and failure. We are a product of what we prepare for ourselves and what we consume on a day-to-day basis. This is why we are told to guard our hearts (Prov. 4:23) and take unhealthy thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (II Cor. 10:15). How do your choices contribute to your attitude toward yourself, God, and others?
6. Where do my choices stand in light of I Cor. 6:12?
Paul wrote, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but I will not be mastered by anything.”
What role is self-control currently playing in your life? Are there any habits or compulsions that you need to ask the Spirit to help you break?
As you prayerfully consider these questions and their role in your own life, rejoice in the fact that God has given you the right to choose and allow His spirit to guide you into all truth (John 16:13). You can be victorious because Jesus made a choice to redeem you and place His Spirit inside of you. He desires your growth and health and maturity because you are important to Him. Don’t be afraid to ask Him for help. He will gladly give it to you without reservation (James 1:5).