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Choosing God No Matter What

By Jim Barringer

Have you ever had one of those times where two things you’re reading suddenly make more sense combined with each other than they did separately? I had one of those a couple of days ago. The two things I’m talking about would be Galatians 5:22, the fruit of the Spirit, and the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, a business-success manual.

The first “habit” that Covey speaks of is called “being proactive.” He observes that many people in the world make decisions not based on what they want to do, but on what is thrust on them. You’ve heard these people, probably. “I have to pay the bills, I have to go here, I have to do this.” There are so many have-tos that it’s almost as if life is living them rather than vice versa!

Covey’s remedy for this is to recognize that each of us are responsible for our decisions, and that many of our “have-tos” are not have-tos at all. He shares the example of a student in his class who “had to” skip class for a tennis trip. “Do you really have to go?” he asked the student. “Of course you don’t. There will be a consequence if you don’t, but you don’t have to. You’re choosing to. You might as well own that decision instead of pretending that you’re completely helpless.” People make decisions based on their principles. Covey’s advice, which he terms “being proactive,” is to sit down and decide your principles, and then make decisions based on your principles, and don’t let anything stop you.

In other words, Covey says, if your principle is honesty, you will never “have to” lie; instead, you will choose to tell the truth no matter what the consequences. (Of course, if your principle is self-preservation, you still don’t “have to” lie; you choose to because you don’t want the consequences of telling the truth.) You can even improve your attitude toward daily events. You don’t “have to” stay at home with a whiny two-year-old; you choose to because you know that staying home is better than daycare, and you want the best for your child. Being proactive helps you own your decisions, and helps you understand how many things about your life you can change (starting with your attitude) if you’re willing to make decisions based on your own principles instead of based on the people and circumstances around you. Nothing, no person or circumstance, can stop you from choosing according to your principles – unless you let it stop you, give it power over you to change your decision-making process.

To me, this is the entire point of the fruit of the Spirit as well. The things that Paul lists in Galatians 5:22 are the principles that we’re supposed to live by. When he says that the fruit is love, what he really means is that we’re to make decisions for love, and not let anything stop us. See, if our display of love is contingent on feeling a certain emotion, or expecting a certain reaction from people, then there are going to be times when the emotion isn’t there or the other person doesn’t appreciate it, which will make us stop choosing love. That’s not acceptable. It shows that our our principle is not love at all, but “whatever we feel like doing, and if we don’t feel like love right now, then tough nuggets.” Paul is basically calling us to be proactive, to decide on love beforehand and then to choose it at every opportunity, no matter what factors seem (in worldly eyes) to make it a bad idea.

The same applies to peace. It doesn’t matter who’s trying to pick a fight with me; I’m not going to fight back, not with fists or even with words, because my principle is peace, and I will not let anyone cause me to choose something other than peace. I make my own decisions; other people don’t have that power over me. This is why I don’t think Christians can approve of war. If we’re called to choose peace, it doesn’t matter that there are people somewhere trying to kill us. We can’t let those people force us into a decision that contradicts our principles. If we really believe in peace, then we have to choose peace every time, or we’re not embodying the fruit of the Spirit, and we’re not really living according to our principles. We’re choosing to follow Muslim terrorists (and, by extension, Satan) and the way they want us to respond to them, rather than choosing to follow God and the way he wants us to respond, with peace. Put that way, it’s kind of a scary thought.

We could go like that the whole way down the fruit of the Spirit, but the same idea fits all of them. Every situation we’re in, we have a choice whether to respond to the situation according to our principles, or according to the whimsies of the moment, the people that we could please by making a different decision, or the circumstances that make us think this time is surely an exception to the rule. If we’re looking for a reason to disobey God, we can always find one. We can always rationalize, always make some beautiful argument about why it’s okay for us not to be loving or not to be peaceful in this particular situation. But that’s not what we’re called to do. We’re called to live proactively, choosing the fruit of the Spirit no matter what other factors are involved. God’s checklist is basically this: “Can you choose the fruit of the Spirit in this situation? [ ]Yes [ ]No. If yes, then do it. (P.S.: The answer is always yes.)” No ifs, ands, buts, exceptions, or excuses.

It’s not unspiritual of us to admit that there are times when it’s very hard to choose love or peace or joy or self-control, but the fact that it’s hard doesn’t excuse us from the obligation, does it? We can be proactive. We can live according to our principles rather than being hostages to the moment. I realize that Stephen Covey is not inspired Scripture, but he has certainly helped me understand the fruit of the Spirit a lot better, and he’s gotten me to stop making excuses for the times that I selfishly choose my way over God’s. I own my decisions. So do you. If we can choose the fruit of the Spirit, let us do so – no matter what.

Jim Barringer is a 26-year-old writer, musician, and teacher serving at The Church of Life (.com) in Orlando, FL. More of his work can be found at facebook.com/jmbarringer and ExtantMagazine.com. This work may be reprinted for any purpose so long as this bio and statement of copyright is included.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITERSMAKE A WEBSITE

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