The Dilemma of Freedom
How do I know that I am making choices that are in God’s will? If I make the wrong choice, will God punish me? Is the only way for God to use me if I consistently or perfectly make the right choice? Am I even making a choice at all, or is it all just prearranged? Freedom often comes with a dilemma, and choice comes with weight.
So how do we resolve them?
In Acts 20 and 21, we were introduced to such a dilemma. The Holy Spirit clearly revealed to several people that Paul would be persecuted in Jerusalem. Even Paul was convinced of this reality. In the end, Paul chooses to go even though the believers plead with him not to. Who was right? Who was wrong? Then, at the end of Acts 26, we learn that Festus and Agrippa conclude Paul is innocent and should be set free, but he enacted a legal process that tied the hands of Festus. By his choice, Paul will get sent to Caesar, not as a freeman but as a prisoner. And again, we feel the uncomfortable weight of freedom and Paul’s choice. Was he right or wrong? Yes, Jesus promised that he would get to Rome, but did Paul take matters into his own hands instead of trusting the Lord?
As Christians, we can get wrapped up and waylaid by the weight of choice. Is my decision in the will of God, or isn’t it? Am I making the right choice or the wrong one? And, if I make the wrong one, will God still love me, or will he punish me?
Want to know a secret?
I don’t think Paul made the right or the wrong choice. I think he made a choice that was in line with what God had already revealed to him. If Paul had chosen not to enact that legal process and Festus freed him, would he still have made it to Rome? I’m sure of it. The journey would have looked different, but Jesus told him he was going to Rome (Acts 23:11).
So, how do we resolve the dilemma of freedom and the weight of choice?
- Examine the choice against what you already know to be true.
- Our first and foundational rubric is and always should be the Scriptures.
- If God’s Word prohibits the choice, there you have it, no dice… don’t make that choice.
- Remember, God’s Will cannot violate God’s Word.
- If God’s Word explicitly commands you to do it, do it!
Ok, but what if the Bible does not command it nor prohibit it? Again, was Paul wrong to choose a legal process to get to Rome? We face decisions like this all the time. Should I take that job? Marry that person? Where do I go to college, and what do I study? Buy that car or house? Etc. There are lots of questions that the Bible does not speak to specifically.
So, what do I do then?
- Ask: Does this bring Jesus glory and honor?
- If it is going to make Jesus look bad, don’t do it.
- If it will bring Jesus honor, go for it!
- If you are not sure, ask another mature believer. If they give you the green light, go for it. And, even if they give you the green light, but your conscience isn’t clear, it is ok not to do it.
Paul was told by Jesus that he would get to Rome to testify about Jesus before Caesar. Two years after that promise, he was still in prison, and at the first chance to get to Rome, he made a choice and took it. And, you know what? God used that choice to accomplish his will.
Let’s not get paralyzed by the dilemma of freedom and the weight of choice. There are times and things that God makes clear for us to do or avoid. Then, there are times and times when God gives us a choice. If we apply God’s Word and seek to glorify Jesus in all things, we can rest easy knowing that God will use our choices for our good and, ultimately, his glory.