Faith and Decisions
“whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23, ESV)
Should I, or shouldn’t I? This is one of the most plaguing questions that many, including myself have dealt with over the years. There are certain situations where we do have to make immediate decisions. When I was in the military as a platoon leader on field maneuvers, I would have to make immediate decisions based upon the changing situations encountered. In these there was no time to delay. So, I would lead the platoon to take immediate action from many choices based upon my best assessment at the time.
However, in most of our important decisions in life, we do not have to make an immediate decision. We have time to consider our options. In other words, we can process out thoughts and ideas. I have had many of these. One such situation was regarding the pastorate. When I pastored the church in Savannah, there came a time when there were changes in policies that resulted in the closing of that work. So, I contemplated several choices. One was to go back to full time engineering in the paper converting industry. The other was to pursue what I believed to be God’s calling on my life for pastoral ministry. I actually sent resumes out to churches and to companies looking for people with my engineering skill set. I immediately received a call from a company that offered a serious and good opportunity in the engineering field. I did not hear much from the churches to which I sent resumes. I just could not make up my mind regarding if I should pursue the engineering job or continue to seek the pastorate. Because I was not certain, I did nothing until I was. After much prayer, I just could not give up the calling that God had for me. Thus, I turned down the engineering job and continued to search for the right place for ministry.
Very soon after I came to the place of certainty regarding the pastorate, I received a call from a church in New Hampshire. I ended up moving there and pastoring that church. It was the most blessed time of ministry, as I had the privilege of watching the Lord move in that congregation. Yet, to turn down a lucrative engineering job with nothing else in hand took faith. I would not have taken that choice unless I was certain.
Ultimately, having certainty in discerning our thoughts and ideas is an issue of faith. Let us not forget, as mentioned in Filter #4, that true faith is not trusting in oneself, and it is not presumption. Yet, it does take faith to be absolutely positive. To make a choice to act on one’s thoughts and ideas, the believer must be assured to the best of his or her ability that it aligns with God’s will. Paul alludes to this principle in writing to the believers in Rome (Rom 14:13-23). Here, the issue was one of eating and drinking (v17). Some believers would eat meat and others would not. Apparently, some would drink wine and others only water. There were significant differences of opinions on these things. Paul wrote to the believers that they should exercise caution in what they eat and drink because of the person who does not have faith to partake in those things. He does not want the liberty of some to cause another to stumble (v20-21).
Paul went on to give us many principles in this area. The first was that those who had faith to participate in an area where another believer had a different opinion, should keep their faith between them and God. They were to be discrete. Then he presented this universal principle, “whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23, ESV)
The big principle for us to consider is this, “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” in short, if we are not certain regarding the thoughts and ideas we have, we should not proceed until we are. When I pastored, I had plenty of people come to me for advice, primarily on issues of opinion. Many wondered if it was alright for them to drink wine or beer on occasion. Now, it is absolutely wrong to partake in excess and become inebriated, but partaking in moderation is the question. I know people do not like the way I handled this, but I would ask them, “Why do you ask?” They would tell me because they were uncertain. Then I would say, “If you are uncertain do not do it.” Why? It is because it is a matter of faith and if they are uncertain whether it is permissible or not, they would be sinning against their own conscience to partake. If you are not certain as to whether your thought and ideas are within the will of God for you, do not act upon them until you are.