Hope in God

Each of us is following a particular path in life. The Bible presents two paths that we must choose from: the path of sin and the path of righteousness. Common sense tells us that we can only travel one path at a time, so we must be careful to stay on the correct one. The first path leads to destruction, but the second leads to life. Proverbs 12:28 says, “In the path of righteousness is life.” Each day we are traveling one path or the other. The objective for the Christian is to consistently stay on the path of righteousness. The problem is, our flesh consistently tries to draw us to the path of sin. If we stay on the path of sin for any length of time, the consequences can be devastating.

In books and movies, time travel is often the solution to life’s problems. If you don’t like your present circumstances, time travel allows you to go back in time and change a decision or two to alter your future condition. If you live with regret over past decisions, no problem. Time travel affords you to opportunity to fix the past and create the future you desire.

If only life worked that way. Altering the time and space continuum works well in the fantasy world, but not in reality. Decisions we make in the real world are unchangeable in the future; therefore, we are wise to make decisions carefully and prayerfully. The vast majority of people would love to have a few decisions in life changed or erased from their past. But, alas, time travel is only possible in works of fiction. While the big choices in life greatly impact our future, we must never forget that even the seemingly small decisions we make each day impact us in ways we may not immediately notice. Many of our circumstances today are the result of the hundreds and hundreds of small decisions we have made over weeks, months, and years.

If you’re like me, there are decisions in your past that you wish you had not made. There are things that I wish I had decided to do, and numerous things I wish I had chosen to refrain from doing. The times we chose to disobey God are particularly problematic, and many of these decisions still haunt many of us to this day. Even if these sinful decisions were years or even decades ago, we still bear the wounds and scars from these choices. The point is this: once decisions are made, they are cemented in our history, unable to be undone, and sometimes impact us for the rest of our lives.

While we can’t change our sinful decisions of the past, we can choose to live a life of obedience from this moment forward. You can’t change yesterday, but you can choose to follow a different path today. When we choose to obey Scripture, God can help you and me write a better future. Living on the path of righteousness brings life, and that is the path we must pursue. All of the consequences of our sinful choices in the past won’t be removed, but we can still choose a course that pleases the Lord. We may not be able to rewrite the opening chapters of our lives, but we can obediently follow Christ and change the trajectory of the chapters that have yet to be written.

While you can’t change your disobedience to the Lord in the past, you can start obeying Him today. It’s possible that when you look at your life, you don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps there are just too many shattered pieces to pick up. The broken pieces are scattered all of the floor and you feel overwhelmed, not knowing where to begin. Maybe you have hurt people in the past, and you’re dealing with some damaged relationships.

I recently read the story of a man who was away on a business trip and decided to join his coworkers for a drink after dinner. The man was a Christian who had been married for many years and had two children. While he was not a drinker, the man decided that one drink wouldn’t hurt anything. Predictably, one drink turned into two, then three, followed by a fourth. With the alcohol impairing his judgment, he found himself deep in conversation with one of his female coworkers. When the woman--who was also married--invited him to her room, he accepted. In less than an hour two marriages were impacted by the sin of infidelity. This Christian man was now faced with the reality of telling his family about his affair and the inevitable pain that was to follow. Maybe you have never had an affair, but you have a list of people you have wounded and you’re not sure how to proceed.

Perhaps you have made some financial decisions in the past that cost you dearly, and you’re now facing a mountain of debt that seems insurmountable. Maybe your debt includes maxed-out credit cards that have incredibly high interest rates. It’s possible you purchased a home you can no longer afford, or you started a business that is struggling. Maybe your dream vacation sounded like a good idea when you booked it, but it has left you strapped financially. There are innumerable ways to get into financial trouble, and the process of recovery can be long and difficult. It’s possible that you have declared bankruptcy or you’re about to, and you just don’t know where to turn.

These two illustrations are big problems with no easy fixes. But with the grace of God as your sustaining power, your life can be changed no matter how hopeless things may seem. You must be honest about the situation you’re facing, and begin putting your life back together one piece at a time.

When I was a kid I loved playing whiffle ball in the summertime with my nephew. Whenever one of us would make a mistake, we would call for a “do-over.” Sometimes, if the play was weird enough, we would agree and replay the pitch. Sadly, life doesn’t include “do-overs.” Your past decisions have established their place in history, but you can make a decisive decision to “hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore” (Psalm 131:3).

I love Psalm 131:3. David is saying, “Draw a line in the sand at this point in time, and vow to set your confidence in the Lord from now on.” We can’t change what has happened in our lives up to the line in the sand, but we can change the direction our lives take after the line.

Draw a line in the sand, and decide right now to follow God from this moment forward. Don’t delay. Today is a better day to start than tomorrow. Don’t procrastinate a decision that could change the trajectory of your life for years to come.

Don’t fool yourself into believing that you can make a one-time decision and expect everything to turn out as you desire. Some of the problems you’re experiencing are the result of years of poor choices. These decisions may take months or even years to overcome. Remember, living faithfully for the Lord is accomplished by stacking hundreds and hundreds of smaller decisions on top of one another over time. But that process has to start somewhere. Start right now by choosing to set your hope in the Lord.

Take a moment and assess the areas in your life where you need to draw a line in the sand. Where do you need to start obeying God today?

Do you need to grow spiritually? Decide to begin reading your Bible, praying, and journaling your progress.

Do you need to get your finances under control? Decide to assess your spending, start a budget, and learn to control your spending.

Do you need to improve your marriage? Decide to share your concerns with your spouse, read a marriage book together, and attend a marriage conference.

Do you need to improve your health? Decide to begin eating healthy, walking for twenty minutes a day, and get an accountability partner.

Do you need to improve your attitude? Decide to begin focusing on the positives, reading Scriptures about the goodness of God, and journaling each day about the blessing in your life.

This list could go on for several more pages, but you get the idea of how change begins. Only you can discern where you need to change and grow. Don’t let the pile of broken pieces discourage you. Draw that line in the sand today. Pick up the first broken piece that needs to be restored. And choose to “hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.”

Jay Knolls