The Choice of the Moment
(This message is the third message in a four-part series. The previous messages include: The Choice, Is It Real? & The Choice of Life. Scroll to the end for the link to the last message.)
He was only a teenager, but already his life was shaping up to be filled with excitement, terror, loneliness, and heartache, and adventure. Though he had more than a few older siblings, he was the favorite son of his aging father. His mother had died, and his step mothers who still lived with his father hated him. But his father’s love more than made up for their jealousy.
Early in his life, young Joseph was taught to love and honor another Father—his heavenly Father. Little did he realize how soon he would need to stake his life on that faith, nor how far that faith would take him.
Joseph and his brothers were shepherds. In that arid land, following the flocks, they would often travel many miles from home in search of water and good pasture land for their animals. As they traveled, Joseph saw the bad habits of his brothers, but unlike them, he chose not to participate in their wickedness.
Soon, Joseph had another and more difficult choice to make. When he come back home his father, no doubt his dad asked, “How are your brothers doing?” Should he tell his father about the wicked habits of his brothers, or should he keep quiet? If he tells, his brothers will certainly be reprimanded by his father. If he keeps quiet, he may be complicit with them in their crimes, and they will certainly become more bold in their wickedness. Perhaps someone will be hurt worse!
Then again, there will be serious personal consequences for him, whichever way he chooses. If he tells, his brothers will find out, and will “have it in” for him. But his father will be thankful for his loyalty to him, and to the right, and may even reward him. If he says nothing to his father, he will have a better chance to “get in good” with his brothers. Perhaps he could smooth over some of their jealousy by being an accomplice in their evil. But would he be lying to his dad if he doesn’t tell the truth?
We don’t know what all went in to Joseph’s choice to tell his father the “evil report”. Perhaps he didn’t consider all the consequences—perhaps as a naive youth, he didn’t think twice before blurting out the story: Dad, my brothers are getting in trouble!
Regardless of the reasons, Joseph’s choice to tell certainly affected the future of his life, of his family, and ultimately wrote the history of a nation and world. His father was disappointed in Joseph’s brothers, but he was pleased that Joseph was loyal and faithful, and loved him even more. So much so, that Jacob made Joseph a beautiful and special coat, which Joseph proudly flaunted to his brothers.
It reminds me of foolish things I’ve done when I was younger. My first real job I had was working at an oil refinery. I got to know my co-workers pretty well, and I loved working with them. Eventually Bob, another church member came to work at the refinery, and we got along great. While I was overseas in Africa, I kept working some for the refinery over the Internet, and I kept up correspondence with friends and family back home. Although I was mostly out of touch with what went on, I wasn’t entirely out of the loop. One day, I got an email from my co-worker Steve saying “Hey, do you know what’s going on with Bob?” Well it just so happened that I had gotten an email the day before from Bob, that he’d sent to a long list of people, describing some things he’d been doing, and mentioning that he’d traveled recently to a certain place in New York. Not thinking, I forwarded the email from Bob to Steve. What I didn’t realize was that I had just betrayed my friend, Bob. The details that Bob had disclosed in that email were enough to get him in trouble at work, and I felt terrible for being a snitch!
You know, every day we are faced with choices. We are bombarded with information: email, text messages, phone calls, social media.
It has been estimated that the average American adult makes 35,000 decisions every day. In fact, researchers at Cornell University estimate we make 226.7 decisions each day just about food! How do people handle making so many decisions? Well, we generally use a combination of strategies:
- Impulsiveness – just taking the first option you’re given
- Compliance – Taking the most comfortable or pleasing option
- Delegation – Letting others decide for you
Sometimes we try to avoid making the decisions altogether, either to avoid taking responsibility or just because they’re overwhelmed. Another strategy is balancing – weighing all the factors and using that information to make the best decision. Ultimately, most of us end up prioritizing our decisions, putting the most energy, thought and effort into those decisions that will have the greatest impact on our lives.
Ultimately, we end up using a combination of most or all of these strategies in our decision making every day. Ironically, though—the first decision we have to make is which strategy we will use to make this decision.
I believe all of us could look back on our lives, to one or perhaps a small handful of decisions that we have made, that have profoundly affected our lives, and the lives of those around us.
The decision I made to ask Kristina to be my wife was one of the best ones I’ve ever made, besides of course the choice to be baptized and give my life to Christ. The choice to live in Kentucky. The choice to get a degree in computer technology, and then recently the choice to follow God’s call to ministry.
But those are BIG choices. Choices of a lifetime. Choices that we expect, and contemplate, sometimes for years, before we finalize our decision. I talked about many of these choices in the last message I shared: the choice of life.
But there are other choices—choices that come in a moment’s time—and in a moment, they’re over. Tet these little choices can have an equally profound impact on our lives and our families.
These are what I call “The Choices of the Moment.” These are the choices I want to focus on, today.
Every moment, we make choices. Little choices, it would seem. And if the research is true, we make thousands every day. But I would submit to you that it is these little choices, moment my moment, that have a bigger impact on our destiny than even the so-called “big” choices.
Choices like Joseph’s choice: what will I tell my father about my brother’s actions? Will I tell my brother’s about my special dreams? He may have been naive when he did it, but these little choices led to his brothers bitter jealousy and hatred, until one day everything boiled over.
Jacob had sent Joseph to go look for his brothers, and find out how they were doing. After a long search, he finally found them at Dothan. But it was anything but a warm reception.
“Look! Here comes this dreamer!” they sneered. “Come, let’s kill him and throw him into one of the pits!” Jealous as he was though, Reuben, the oldest, didn’t want to be guilty of murder. “No, no—let’s not kill him outright. Let’s just throw him down into this deep pit and leave him there.”
But Joseph was still out of earshot, and he came blissfully up to his brothers, still sporting his long, beautiful coat. He didn’t notice their evil glares until it was too late to run. They sprang on him, tore off his coat and threw him down into the pit.
Reuben secretly hoped to set Joseph free, but while the others were eating, and while Reuben wasn’t looking, a group of traders came by on their way to Egypt. Seizing their opportunity, the brothers decided to sell Joseph as a slave, and sent him off to a fate that would likely be worse than death.
Let me ask you this question: was the story of Joseph’s life the outworking of fate? Was Joseph doomed because of his brother’s jealousy—perhaps because of his own naive and foolish choices that steeled their hatred of him?
No—that’s clearly not the case, as we can see from the story that follows.
Some would argue, perhaps, that Joseph was predestined to become the savior of his family. Perhaps, as it would seem, the evil actions of his brothers, and later the false accusations of Potiphar’s wife, and even the ungrateful forgetfulness of the king’s butler, were preordained in the will of God to put Joseph in the position to become prime minister of Egypt.
I believe there’s a seed of truth in this, although as we discussed in the first message, I don’t believe that God has pre-ordained for evil to take place.
God is not one to say, as in Romans 3:8, “Let us do evil that good may come.” And yet despite the evil, God in his omnipotent power and wisdom, is able to bring from it: “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Joseph himself said to his brothers, speaking of what they had done to him: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)
Yes, it goes without question that God was the One Who orchestrated the events in Josephs life so that, against all odds, Joseph landed in Pharaoh’s palace at just the right moment in history. But as important as it is to see God’s overruling providence, there is a key to Joseph’s story that we must not miss. That key is Joseph’s life is what I call the choice of the moment. Consistently choosing right, regardless of the consequences. Joseph demonstrated integrity—faithfulness under trial, not once, but time after time, even in the most insignificant circumstances.
I believe it was the little choices that Joseph made, that led him from being a slave to being ruler in Potiphar’s house.
Genesis 39:2-6 The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. 5 So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. 6 Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate.
Potiphar saw Joseph’s integrity, and he saw that God was with him. Potiphar trusted Joseph implicitly, and he was not disappointed.
Imagine how strong the temptation must have been for Joseph, when Potiphar’s wife came to him with the temptation—“come lie with me.” Nobody would have known. Potiphar would never suspect Joseph. And what would be the consequences if he should stay faithful, and anger this powerful and unscrupulous woman? He would soon find out.
Genesis 39:8-9 “But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’”
Joseph, in his statement, recognizes several very important facts. This statement gives us a clue to how Joseph lived his life—and how he consistently made good decisions. First, he recognized who he was. “I am a servant. No one else even knows what is in this house—that’s how much I am trusted—no one else is trusted more than I am.” Secondly, he recognizes who she is—she is his master’s wife. She does not belong to him, and he has no right to touch her, no matter how much she may want to have an affair with him. But most importantly, Joseph recognizes who God is: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God.”
“True,” he acknowledges, “Potiphar may never know what goes on in this house—but there is one who does know. I know, but most importantly, God knows. God is watching, and to God, this is a great wickedness. How can I be unfaithful to Him, not to mention being unfaithful to Potiphar who has trusted me so much?”
You see, Joseph lived his life with an eye to the unseen reality of a Divine Sovereign—One Who sees all, and who judges good and evil. And not just the big choices of life, but the every day choices, big and small, were guided by his integrity and faith in God.
For Joseph, it wasn’t a one-time test, but a daily trial that he had to endure. Often its easier to make good choices, when we know we’re facing “the big one.” But life isn’t always shaped by big choices. Like Joseph, our lives are shaped by the small choices we make—the daily choices. The choices we make when we’re tired, and hungry, and stressed, and discouraged—these are the choices that shape our character and future, just as much as the choices we make in a church or a school adviser’s office.
This evil woman, Potiphar’s wife, wouldn’t leave Joseph alone. “So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.” Genesis 39:10
Day after day, whenever she had a chance, she would try to seduce Joseph. But he wouldn’t have it. He wouldn’t listen to her calls. Not only that, he tried not to even be around her! He tried to escape, and when one day she grabbed him by the coat, he left it in her hands and fled.
The apostle Paul admonished Timothy: “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
My question today, for you and me, is this: How can we live a life of purity and integrity, like Joseph did? How can we build character that will stand the test of time?
If you’re like me, you can look at your past life and get really discouraged. You can look at the choices you’ve made, and realize that you’ve been doing things wrong. Like young Joseph, or like me in my first job, we’ve made enemies out of our closest friends. Perhaps we could count a thousand times we’ve made the wrong choice—chosen the wrong path.
You can’t change that—because that’s in the past. It’s over and done, but by God’s grace, He promises to forgive our past. This is the beauty of the gospel, that Jesus takes the guilt of our sinful past choices, and gives us a fresh start, here and now.
We could look at the future, and try to see what big choices we will have to make. But it won’t really do us any good, because we really have no idea what tomorrow holds.
Really, there’s only one choice that really matters. Not the one you made yesterday, or the one you may have to make tomorrow. No, the choice that matters most—the choice that will make all the difference in your life—is the choice you have to make right now.
For each of us, there is one decision that God is asking us to make, right now. It might be a small choice—a choice to change a small habit, a choice to say a kind word, or a choice to hold back some hot words of anger and bitterness. Perhaps He’s asking you to start a new habit. To set your alarm, get up early, and spend more time with Him in Bible study and prayer.
Perhaps it’s a bigger choice—one that God has been impressing on your heart by His Holy Spirit. Perhaps He is asking you to change your career, to change a relationship, or to invest more fully in His cause. I don’t know what He’s asking you to do, but I do know this: for every one of you, He’s asking you to make a choice.
Every one of us, every day, has a choice to make. It may seem big, or it may seem small, but on this choice—the choice of this moment—hangs the future of your life, and perhaps your eternal destiny.
Yes, ever since the Garden of Eden, our power of choice has been stunted by sin. It’s not always easy to make the right choice, but my friends—just as Jesus has forgiven our sin and wiped clean our past choices, Jesus can also empower our choice now—in this moment. This is the power of the gospel, friends, that Jesus can give us the power, and strength, to make the right choice now, in this moment.
Paul, in Romans 7, describes the weakness of our own choices: “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. … Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:19, 24-25) My friends, this is the power of the Gospel—that Jesus can empower our choices and deliver us from ourselves.
Joseph, as the pet son of his father, was called to make a choice. That choice took him from being his father’s pet, to sitting in the bottom of a lonely desert pit.
From the pit, he was taken to Potiphar’s house, and because of His choice to remain faithful to God, he became the ruler over the whole house. Yet that same integrity brought him down to the prison, where again, God blessed his choices, and he became the chief guard in the prison house. From that prison cell, God brought Joseph to Pharaoh’s palace, at just the right time, so that he could save his family and the nation of Egypt from utter starvation in the coming famine.
From being his father’s pet, to the bottom of the pit, to Potiphar’s house, to the prison cell, to Pharaoh’s palace—Joseph remained faithful. Whatever choice he was faced with, whether big or small, Joseph made the choice to honor God.
Luke 16:10 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.
Sometimes, we make Christianity so complex. Some make lists of rules, and talk about perfection as if we had to memorize and execute and exhaustive list of do’s and don’t’s. But I really believe that it doesn’t have to be that complicated. I believe that the whole Christian life can be boiled down to a series of decisions—a series of choices that we make, day by day. And living the Christian life can be as simple as this: saying yes to Jesus, with all our known choices.
There are hundreds, yes thousands of choices that we make, every day. I believe that, for each of us, there is one overarching decision that God is calling us to make. It may be something different for each one of us here. It might be a habit He’s asking us to give up. It might be the decision to keep the Sabbath. It might be something so small—maybe just taking a moment to make friends with a stranger next door.
What choice is God asking you to make today? What will you choose?
This is the third message in a 4-part series. Be sure to check out the fourth and final message:
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