“If you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become my spokesman” (Jeremiah 15:19).
Theodore Roosevelt was asked by a newsman if he could not control his then 17-year-old daughter Alice, who was gifted with a penchant for stirring up matters.
He said, “I can control Alice or I can be president of the United States. But I cannot do both.”
He was making a joke, but he was making a point.
He had to make a choice and he opted to run the country rather than his daughter.
The business section of your local bookseller will offer plenty of selections on how to become a multi-millionaire, rise to the top of one’s profession, or “make your mark before you are 40.” But almost all will point out that in order to achieve such a lofty goal, one must sacrifice a lot of other things in life, including recreation, hobbies, and quality family time.
We make our choices.
Randy Tompkins, a consultant on church health, said to a group of ministers, “To grow your church you’re going to have to lie and steal and cheat. Lie awake at night thinking about these things, stealing hours from sleep and from other things, and cheating (something or other; I forget exactly what).”
It’s about choices.
The Apostle Paul was speaking of choices when he said, “This one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
A contemporary of British writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge said the man was gifted with the talents of a Shakespeare. However, upon his death the entire collection of Coleridge’s writings filled one slim volume. The reason? “He could never say, ‘This one thing I do.'”
Our problem is we want it all. We dislike having to make choices.
–We want to play throughout our college years, and still go on to medical or dental school and become an outstanding professional. But we have to make a choice.
–We want to sow our wild oats throughout our youth, the most formative time of life, and yet grow into the mature years as seasoned and successful adults.
–We want to become Olympic athletes or other world-class performers but without paying the price. Not going to happen.
–A family wants to serve God and give generously while still enjoying the same high standard of living their neighbors display. But they have to choose.
–A pastor may wish to relax all week and play golf several days and give little time to sermon prep, but still “hit one out of the park” on Sundays. But it does not work that way.
My friend Larry Kennedy, now in Heaven, told me of the time his little son Steve attended his first big church wedding. He sat in the congregation beside his mother as the side door opened and Larry walked in, wearing his wedding robe, and followed by a dozen handsome young men–groom, best man, and groomsmen–all decked out in their beautiful tuxedos.
The bridesmaids came down the aisle and took their places across the front of the sanctuary. Finally, as everyone stood, the bride entered on her father’s arm and slowly made her way down the aisle. At this point, little Steve tugged on his mom’s arm and said, “Mother, does she already know which one of those men she’s going to marry? Or is she going to decide when she gets down there?”
Larry told me that, then said, “You know, we can save ourselves lots of confusion later in life by making some decisions early.”
When the Apostle said, “This one thing I do,” he knew whereof he spoke and what that would require. So he says…
—“The things that were gain to me, those I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
–“More than that, I count all things to be loss, in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ.”
–“I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upway call of God in Christ Jesus.”
And Paul completes this thought from Philippians 3 with this: “Let us therefore, as many of us are perfect (spiritually mature), have this attitude…. let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.”