Where Will Your Choices Lead You?

February 15, 2021

We can learn from the decisions made by Abraham and Lot.

FROM A SERMON BY Wayne Butler

H

ave you ever made a decision that you later regretted? It has been said that we make thousands of decisions or choices each day. That is a lot! Most of these are inconsequential, but there are sure to be some that have lasting impact, good or bad.

No one wants to suffer the consequences of a bad decision, yet most people can probably remember making a decision they regretted later, myself included. Shortly after I finished high school, I wanted to buy a car, and a Triumph TR-7 caught my eye. It was a white, sporty two-seater, and it looked good. It was in my price range, too. The first sign that I should have run from it was when the dealer had a hard time starting it. However, I was relieved when he finally got it going. The second sign that I should have fled was when the car occasionally backfired and then misfired during the test drive. It looked good, though, and I thought I looked good in it. So much so that I didn’t even negotiate the price. We signed a few “as is” papers, money exchanged hands, and it was mine.

I wish I could look back on that purchase and say that slowly the reality of my poor choice sank in, but it did not happen that way. From the first day, the engine was hard to start in the mornings, and the backfires and misfires continued. It was not very long before the car would not start at all, and then for a couple of years, it just sat parked in front of the house. Reflecting on my decision to buy the car, I wonder how I could have ignored so many warning signs.

Buying the wrong car is an inconvenience to be sure, but the consequences usually are not lasting. Other wrong choices, on the other hand, can cause so much harm that they ruin a person’s life, or worse, direct that person toward a lost eternity. It is important, therefore, that we heed the Lord’s warnings and base all our decisions, even small ones, on His leading.

Look to God’s leading

The Bible gives the account in Genesis 13 of a man who made a poor choice with lasting spiritual consequences. It tells us that “Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom” (verses 11-12).

Prior to this, Abram and his nephew Lot were dwelling side-by-side in the land of Canaan, and both were prospering. Together, they had so many flocks and herds that there wasn’t enough land for the cattle to graze. Their herdsmen, probably competing for the best ground to please their masters, began to bicker. Abram did not like what he was hearing, so he told his nephew, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.” He gave Lot first choice of the land, telling him, “If you go one way, I will go the other.” With that opportunity, Lot looked up and “beheld all the plain of Jordan,” which was “well watered every where,” and made his choice. 

The plain of Jordan looked good to the eye. It was green and fertile, and a good investment financially. To the farmer or herdsman, it would have looked beautiful—exactly what one would have wanted. However, there was another aspect to the plain of Jordan; it was near the city of Sodom. In verse 13, we read that “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” This was known to Lot, so no doubt there was something down inside his heart that gave a little warning like a “backfire” or a “misfire” telling him that he should run the other way. He did not run, though. Maybe he thought, I know the condition of the men in that city, but it won’t affect me. I know right from wrong, and I will filter out the bad influences and keep the good. I am spiritually strong; I will stay in control of the situation. Whatever the reason, he ignored the warning signs, choosing instead what looked good to the eye, and “pitched his tent toward Sodom.”

In contrast, when Moses was leading the Israelites through the wilderness, they pitched their tents toward the Tabernacle. God had let them know how they were to camp, and He had been very specific. They were to camp by tribe, encircling the Tabernacle, and with their tents facing it. The first thing any of them saw when they stepped out of their tents in the morning was the pillar of smoke. If one got up in the middle of the night and left his tent, he saw the pillar of fire; it was right there in front of him. We read in Exodus 33:10 that “all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshipped, every man in his tent door.” The first thing anyone saw upon leaving his dwelling was God’s leading.

In what direction do we want our tents to be pitched? I want to see the Lord! When I look out of my spiritual tent, I want to cast my eye towards Him. I want to see His leading in my life. That is not what Lot saw. Little by little, he kept moving his tent closer to Sodom until he was in a place where he should not have been: living in the city and sitting at the gate. What he saw in Sodom grieved Lot. We read in 2 Peter 2:7-8 that he was called “just Lot” and he was “vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked . . . and with their unlawful deeds.” Lot loved the Lord, but he was pulled in by the things of the world. All the while, he was probably thinking, I am still in control. I’ve got this. There must have come a time when he realized he was not in control. Maybe he didn’t know how to get back to where he needed to be. However, the Lord knew, and sent help. The answer was to flee from Sodom, leaving everything behind, and pitch his tent toward the Lord once again.

Align to God’s will

It is important that our spiritual decisions, no matter how small, align with God’s will. As they add up one at a time, they have the potential to take us closer to the Lord or pull us away. I am a commercial fisherman, and our crew fishes between ingoing and outgoing freighter lines. There is a safety zone in the middle where those ships are not supposed to enter, so that is where we fish. When the work day is over, we run a couple hours out beyond those freighter lines and then let the boat drift while we sleep. Staying on the ocean overnight saves a lot of time traveling in and out of the harbor. On one of these nights, I woke up and looked out to see the lights of a freighter about a half a mile away. Out there on the water, with that ship all lit up, it looked like it was right on top of us. That got ahold of me! I wondered how we could have drifted so far without realizing it, but it had happened a little at a time. Slowly and steadily we had drifted from a place of safety to where we did not want to be.

In the same way that our boat drifted out on the ocean, Lot moved away from God: a little at a time, so that it was hardly noticeable. In the end he probably wondered, How did this happen? How did I get to this point? His whole life had become entangled in Sodom. So much so that when he knew God’s judgment was coming on the city, he lingered there. It was hard for him to leave, because he had made attachments—the choices he had made were holding him to a place he should not have been.

This can happen to us too if we are not careful that all our decisions take us in the direction of God. Even tiny compromises, single steps back in consecrations, or slight shifts in priorities can add up over time. Maybe some of us are keeping the Lord at the top of our priority lists right now, but are letting other interests take up more and more of our attention. Before we realize it, those things can overtake our devotion to the Lord, and we could find ourselves in a place where we do not want to be. We must be diligent in seeking God’s will in all of our decisions.

Heed God’s warnings

The plain of Jordan was green, and it looked good. We can all look around and see things in this life that appeal to us, but would lead us away from the path to Heaven. However, the Lord is faithful to warn against those things and lead us in the right direction. Isaiah 30:21 tells us, “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” It is not difficult to know in which direction the Lord is leading. He is faithful to make His will known to us. He blesses along the way as we follow His leading, and sends warning checks to our hearts when we are headed in the wrong direction toward danger.

When we feel a check to the heart that warns against a decision, we need to stop and consider what the latter end will be if we disobey. Lot dismissed the Lord’s warnings when he was making decisions. But what did he think about them later when fleeing the city of Sodom before its destruction? Or when he saw his wife turned to a pillar of salt for looking back at the city with longing? Likely, those well-watered plains of Jordan did not look as good to him as they once had.

Receive God’s blessing

While Lot had been moving further from the Lord, something different was happening in his uncle’s life. Abram had been making decisions that took him closer to the Lord. Because he made the right choices, he was able to receive the blessings that were in store for him. Genesis 15:1-2 records that God appeared to him in a vision one day saying, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” Abram responded, “What wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless?” God was pleased with Abram and poured out His blessing upon him. He changed his name to Abraham, which means “father of a multitude.” He also made a covenant with him, promising a son, descendants as numerous as the stars, and the land of Canaan. In choosing to follow God, Abraham gained so much more than a well-watered plain.  

The Lord wants us to experience the abundance of His blessings as well. He wants to make a covenant with each of us. This is possible when we start making choices that draw us toward God. The first choice that will take us in the right direction is to repent of our sins and be forgiven. Oh, what a blessing salvation brings! The Blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, the peace and love of God floods our souls, and our names are written in the Book of Life in Heaven.

The blessings don’t stop there. Matthew 6:33 tells us to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” As we align our lives to God’s will, yielding ourselves fully to Him, and letting Him be our guide in making decisions, He will provide for all our needs.

It is clear from the comparison of the lives of Abraham and Lot that going the Lord’s way is the best choice. When we heed God’s warning signs, pitch our spiritual tents in the direction of His leading, and align our decisions to His will, His blessing will be on our lives.

About the author

Wayne Butler is a minister of the Apostolic Faith Church in Port Angeles, Washington.