Making Good Choices
It seems to me that some have an easier time making good decisions than others. We read of those godly examples in the Scriptures that stand out because of their good choices. Joseph chose the better part rather than give in to the tempting allurement of Mrs. Potiphar. Moses decided to suffer affliction rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. These examples are replicated in good men and women of God then and now. While some struggle to make good choices, at least on any consistent basis, others appear to make good choices more often than not. Why is that? Maybe an even more valuable question is how can I become one of those for whom good decision making is just a way of life?
Let’s look at another example, that of Daniel, and see what we can learn from him about making good choices. Daniel was one of those who made good choices even when it was difficult to do so, even at great personal sacrifice to himself. How did he do it? How can we do what he did?
It would be nice if making good choices was always easy. If there were never a price to pay for doing right, if the right path was always broad and easy, everyone would be choosing it. Alas, that’s simply not reality. Daniel is proof of this. Remember the history of Daniel’s life. He was a young man (Dan. 1:4), who was a captive in a foreign country (Dan. 1:1-3), who had his name changed (Dan. 1:7). He was forced to serve under four different kings (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus). He was a two-time loser (he was taken captive, then his captors were defeated) who faced real threats of death: when he refused to eat the king’s food in chapter 1, when the wise men were being slaughtered in chapter 2, his fear when interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream in chapter 4, and in the lion’s den in chapter 6. It seems that Daniel couldn’t catch a break. At every turn, there was another choice to make, each seemingly harder than the last.
Consider what is probably the most famous incident in Daniel’s life; the story of him being thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel’s choice to be true to God was not an easy one. The lion’s den was not a neatly swept Disney-like cave with cartoon lions. He was being thrown to a certain violent, bloody death. Talk about a tough decision to make. Many times making good choices requires real courage. Courage is not a lack of fear, it is doing what’s right even in the face of tremendous fear. Daniel demonstrated this courage.
Our Lord never hid the fact that a life of serving Him would at times be a difficult one (Matt. 7:13-14). He also never hid the fact that it would take courage to live the good life (Luke 14:25-33). Maybe the first step in making good choices is to be fully aware of the challenge. Don’t be naïve. Steel your courage and be ready to face the difficulty that too often comes with making good choices, knowing that the crown will make the cross worth bearing.
Making Good Choices Starts with Making Good Choices
Daniel’s life was full of good choices. Those good choices prepared him for the next good choice. When we get to Daniel 6 and the monumental choice Daniel made, we must remember that he had been preparing for that day his whole life. A wise man prepares for the day even if he doesn’t know what that day will hold. Let’s look at the good choices that prepared him for that day. Daniel’s earlier choice to not defile himself with the king’s food (Dan. 1:3-13) prepared him. Daniel’s good decision making is seen when he sought prayers to God for His help (Dan. 2:17-18). Daniel thanked and praised God for answered prayer (Dan. 2:19-33). He gave God the glory (Dan. 2:27-28,37). He furthered prepared himself by surrounding himself with godly companions (Dan. 3:12).
Life is a training ground and making good choices requires practice. The Hebrew writer tells us that a part of spiritual maturity is to have our senses exercised to discern between good and evil through reason of use (Heb. 5:14). Making good decisions creates momentum that leads to other good decisions. Unfortunately, it works the other way as well. Making bad decisions often leads to other bad decisions. David’s sins that follow the sin with Bathsheba illustrate this principle.
Daniel made good choices because he first chose God. Even his enemies realized this, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God” (Dan. 6:5). They saw in Daniel a commitment to follow God above all else. Daniel knew that when he first chose God, he chose to let Him make his choices.
It is a simplification, but resisting temptation comes down to a choice: God over sin. James makes this connection in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” Did James say that the crown of life was promised to two different groups of people: one group that endures temptation and another group that loves the Lord? No, surely he was teaching us a correlation. Those who love Him will endure temptation. Easier said than done, but resisting temptation is choosing God over sin.
Why does it seem that some have an easier time making good choices? Because they have chosen to choose God!
Good Choices Will be Rewarded by God
Daniel’s three friends were rewarded by being protected from the fire. Daniel was saved from sure death at the mouth of savage lions. If we, like them, make good choices we will receive the crown of life (James 1:12). Like Daniel and his friends, we too have been promised God’s protection (1 Peter 3-5). Not protection from bodily harm, but an even better form of protection.