Decisions, we make them every day. Some are well thought out and based on all available knowledge at our disposal. Some are “spur of the moment” and we make them without a lot of thinking. Some are “seat of the pants” decisions and may or may not be based on good information. Webster defines a decision as “the act or result of deciding by giving judgment.”
A friend and former business associate of mine recently made a list of all the good decisions and bad decisions that he had made over his lifetime. He showed it to me and it challenged me to evaluate my own lifetime of decision making. Like you, I have made a lot of decisions, business decisions, personal and personnel decisions, financial decisions; health decisions…all kinds of decisions. As I grew in knowledge and experience, I tried to make better decisions.
Thinking about my good and bad decisions and making a list of them required me to consider the question of what is the “age of accountability” – that time when a person should begin to be held responsible for the decisions they make. A little research indicated that there is a wide range of views as to when a young person should be considered accountable for their decisions. A rough calculation suggested that this might be around age 10. I was 11 when I made a decision that is the best one I ever made. It was, on the night I made it, and today as I think back on it, the most important decision I have ever made and it continues to influence my life today, sixty-eight years after I made it.
I made it in a little white frame country church sitting at the corner of two gravel roads. It is gone now. There is a trailer house where it once stood and the roads are now paved. Yet, on a crisp fall evening in 1949, it was the scene for a decision that changed my life forever.
I don’t remember the title of the sermon the young minister brought that evening. I don’t even remember the scripture verses that he read. I do remember him quite vividly. He had come to our two churches, known then as the “Cass River Circuit” right out of college and lacking his seminary degree.
His first visit to our farm home was during haying season. My father was up in the hay mow of our barn when he drove in. He was dressed in a dark black suit with a dark tie and a white shirt. He introduced himself to my mother who was embarrassed to be met in pants and work shirt. He didn’t wait for my father to come down from the mow but, shedding his coat, he climbed up into the hay and began to help mow the dusty hay away. So much for being a sedate, dour, “Minister of God”!
Before leaving, he admired our pinto saddle horse and went for a ride around our pasture. I think it was then, watching that exuberant young man race across our field that I first believed that being a follower of Jesus Christ could be more fun than I might have thought.
On that October night in 1949 in the Sunshine Methodist Church, I was sitting with some of my friends from school towards the back of the church as he spoke that October evening. It bothers me somewhat that, now, sixty eight years later, that I can’t remember what he said that perked my spirit so. I think that it wasn’t the Pastor who was talking to me but God’s Holy Spirit.
That Spirit’s nudging awakened a realization within me that I needed to make a decision. In those days “making a decision” meant that when the “alter call” was given at the end of the minister’s sermon, you got up from your seat and walked to the front of the church and knelt at the altar and offered your life to Jesus. That is what I did. I got up and walked down the aisle and knelt and the minister came and knelt opposite me and asked me why I was there. I responded that I wanted to give my life to Jesus and he prayed with me. Afterward, my father and mother hugged me and the entire congregation of the little church filed by and, one at a time, the shook my eleven year old hand and welcomed me into their Christian fellowship.
It saddens me that fewer and fewer church services offer the opportunity to make a decision on whether to place one’s trust in God through acceptance of Jesus Christ as their savior. It also bothers me that we don’t ask people to make a public profession of their faith when they do. I believe that Jesus gave up his life willingly in full public view and that one of my responsibilities is to make a public profession of my acceptance of the sacrifice He made.
Some might argue that, at the age of eleven, I really didn’t fully understand what I was doing. I resist such judgment with every fiber of my being. I knew what I was doing. I knew that my life from that point on would be different. I had witnessed the change in others who had made similar decisions including my own father and mother. Looking back to that night, I remain fully comfortable that I knew what I was doing.
What I did not know fully was what God was doing and what He was going to do with my life in the future. That continues to amaze me even to this day. God has blessed me beyond all measure. He has brought me through financial, physical, relationship and other trials and issues and he continues to bless me as I travel through the autumn of my life.
Did I always keep faith with the decision I made so many years ago? No. Did I always let God direct my life and not attempt to take its direction back? No. Did I always love God and others as I had promised to do? No. Yet, in the end, God remained faithful to the commitment we made together in that little white frame country church in 1949. While my commitment waned and waivered at times, His remained steadfast. When I acknowledged my mistakes and renewed my commitment to let Him guide my life, He took me back and kept right on loving me.
So, I challenge you to think about the decisions you have made and perhaps are still making. What are the good ones? What are the ones you wish you could have a “do-over” on? What are the ones you would walk away from if you could? What are the ones that are the cornerstones of your life? It is an interesting exercise.
I pray that one of those decisions is your answer to a question that Pontius Pilate asked over two thousand years ago. It is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 27 and the first part of verse 22:
Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”
I believe that the answer is the most important answer you and I will ever give. I believe the decision that lies in the answer is biggest one you and I will ever make. If you haven’t made it yet, I encourage you to do so today.