A line in the sand.

My articles over the last few weeks have centered about a particular theme: Am I pursuing “the better life” or “the better hope”? Is my relationship with God primarily about what blessings He can provide to my life or am I truly interested and desirous of knowing Him and worshipping Him? Bottom line: if He did not bless me (as I define blessings) would I even want to have anything to do with God?

This push-pull tension came crashing into my office last week in a way that shocked my “I am a safe and comfortable American Christian” mentality. I talked and fervently prayed with a woman who was being forced in the moment to choose between “a better life” or “a better hope.”

Here is the scenario in a snapshot (she has allowed me to share): her father, speaking on behalf of her family and community, gave her an ultimatum and demanded that her choice be made this week. She could remain part of the family and receive a home, a vehicle, gifts and recognition – but only if she would renounce Jesus and never speak of God again. Or she could remain a Jesus follower and be ejected and excluded from the family, possibly ending up homeless and penniless.

Initially her tumultuous discussion centered about whom could provide her with “the better life.” Her dad promised tangible and immediate benefits that were almost perfectly aligned with her definition of a good life. God, on the other hand, promised none of that. In fact, it appeared to her that picking God would result in an unknown, unpredictable life that was just the opposite of what she envisioned and hoped for. It was like she was sitting at a table with Jesus and her dad, interviewing them, asking the question, “What kind of better life can you offer me?”

I explained that if she were making her decision on the basis of which of these two would immediately provide a house, a car, clothing, gifts and position – her definition of a good life – that her dad would win in a heartbeat, hands down.

However, I asked her to change the interview question to, “Who are you and what have you already done for me?” I suggested that the answers would be diametrically opposed; and if this were a real scenario, her father would probably have many words to share – Jesus would likely just hold up His nail-scarred hands.

We opened the Bible to the book of Joshua to read this infamous statement: “Choose you this day who you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15) In Joshua’s mind the choice to be made was not about “how do I achieve a better life”; the choice was simply “whom will you serve, no matter where He takes you.”

After a season of prayer for her I wrote out the following verse for her to consider as she made her decision: “Today I set before you life and death…choose life.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

After she left I sat for a minute, praying more – and reflecting on the reality that I am faced with the same choice, in more subtle and less dramatic ways, every day. “Dear God, give me the faith to choose life.”

Pastor Jim