With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and PaulÑ men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements...
Thoughts for Today:Thursdays are trash days in our neighborhood. Fortunately the gardener comes on Wednesday, so he kindly takes the two recycling and one waste bins out to the street for me. On this particular Thursday morning I was running late and of course my wife asked me, just as I'm about to leave, to make sure I've taken out the household trash. I grabbed the two trash bags we keep in the kitchen, ran out to the street, threw them in the recycling bin, jumped in my car, and raced off. Half way down the street I realized one of the trash bags was recycling, but the other was waste and I had put them both in the recycling bin. I thought to myself, "its okay; one little waste bag with the recycling won't matter much; I'm not the only man in America who will make this mistake today; don't be obsessive; its okay." The Spirit sends me a quote, "Character is revealed under pressure," and I'm under severe time pressure, so what character am I displaying? I stopped the car, turned around, got the trash in the right receptacles, and then went back to my day. Did it matter that I was three minutes later than I would have been had I not stopped? Maybe, but probably not; however, doing the right thing each and every time I have a choice makes a difference to me and who I am in Christ. Its one small way the Lord gives us to model our faith.
Certainly there are times like the one I just described when doing the right thing is absolute -- we just don't want to do it because it is inconvenient, difficult or costly. You will know these types of decisions because they always have a component of truth, integrity, honesty, etc, attached to them. The only confusion comes in when we are tempted to give in to our sinful nature. I heard it once said, "Integrity is what you do when no one else is watching." Most decisions regarding character and integrity are clear cut and simple -- we may not always like the answer but we will know the right thing to do.
Other times the right answer will only seem to be the right answer. In our passage today, the Apostles and elders were faced with one of those decisions. I find it interesting that these men, pillars of Christianity, who would become authors of most of the New Testament, many of whom had known Jesus personally, would write summarizing their decision, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us." In other words, if the Holy Spirit did not speak to them against their decision so it must be okay.
One of the more difficult aspects of Christianity is "knowing" if the decision we are about to make is the right one. So how do we know for sure which direction is really God's will? The answer, as unsettling as it might be is we won't always know for sure -- sometimes there aren't absolutes -- we are forced to go with what seems good to the Spirit and to us.
Questions to Ponder:Many times God leaves decisions up to us and our personal preferences. God did not make us to be robots, mechanically doing His will. If God made each of us uniquely in His image, why do I see so many Christians bound up and tortured with decision making, afraid to make a mistake? Let's take character and integrity issues out of the equation because those decisions are clear cut (even if you don't want to admit it). That leaves us with personal preferences. Which mean, for example: Do I like this job offer? Do I like the work environment? Do I like the boss or new responsibilities? So many Christians confuse themselves with decisions while waiting for God to magically speak His will. Have you ever considered He has spoken His will by giving you an opportunity and it is now your personal preference and choice? He is waiting for you to choose.