Choose and Refuse
A cost-benefit analysis is a tool most of us employ when choosing what actions are worth pursuing, even if we do not identify it in those terms. When buying a car, we evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of maintaining our current vehicle versus the cost of buying a newer one. Those who ride an exercise bike or go to a fitness center regularly calculate the benefits of physical exercise compared to other ways they could spend their time.
Before Debbie and I were married, I had a motorcycle. As we began setting up the apartment where we would live after the wedding, there was a decision to make: would we rather have the motorcycle or a washer and dryer? She was not excited about the motorcycle, and I was not excited about spending a lot of time at the laundromat. We weighed the plusses and minuses together. The result? The motorcycle was sold and we purchased a washer and dryer.
While many decisions we make using a cost-benefit analysis are not life-altering, in the Book of Hebrews we read of one that was. It was made by the man Moses, who later became the leader of the Children of Israel, and it changed the direction of his life. Hebrews 11:24-27 tells us, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” Moses weighed the options, evaluated the potential risks and benefits, and made a decision.
Every individual in this world will face a decision like the one Moses faced: whether to choose God or “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” It is important for us to consider this vital choice very carefully. Sin promises an alluring “reward” but any enjoyment it brings is only in the short term; there is also a lifetime of adverse consequences. The greatest risk—the possibility of ending up in a lost eternity—is hidden at the outset but will be the outcome unless sin is forsaken.
One man’s decision
I am reminded of the testimony of Bill Cripps, whose descendants are still part of our church congregation. An Apostolic Faith paper came his mother’s way when he was a boy in the Midwest. She read the paper and was saved. From then on, she taught him that there was a Heaven to gain and a Hell to shun. And Bill began to count the cost.
Bill described his decision-making process this way: “I said to myself, ‘If I should gain the whole world, live to be a ripe one hundred years of age without an ache or a pain, and then spend all eternity in that lake of fire and brimstone where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, I would still be the loser.’
“I looked at the other side of the picture and thought how much better it would be to have salvation even if I had barely enough worldly possessions to get by. Then when it came my turn to cross over, I could enter in through the gates into that beautiful city, whose Builder and Maker is God, of which the Bible says: ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’ I decided Heaven was cheap at any price.”
When Bill did his analysis, he looked at the outcome of both choices and made the right decision. Like him, we want to walk those streets of gold in Heaven above someday, but we too must make the right decisions in this world for that to happen.
The choice of Moses’ parents
Looking again at the Book of Hebrews, we find that Moses had an advantage when it came to making the right decisions: his parents were people of faith. We read of their trust in God in Hebrews 11:23, which states, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” The account in Exodus chapters 1 and 2 indicates that the Hebrew people, who were enslaved in Egypt, were multiplying in number and the Pharaoh became concerned that they would become numerous enough to conquer his nation. We read in Exodus 1:15-16 that he commanded all the newborn sons of the Hebrews be killed. However, Moses’ parents had faith in God. They hid their infant son for three months, and when they could no longer do so, they placed him into the river in a basket—the same river where newborns were being cast at the edict of Pharaoh.
Moses’ parents understood there was a risk involved in taking that step, but they also assessed the benefits. They chose to trust God, having faith that He would preserve their child. That was a courageous decision. The basket that held the infant Moses was placed where Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe, and when she saw the baby, she took him to be her own child. Moses’ older sister Miriam was watching close by, and she quickly went to the daughter of Pharaoh and offered to find a woman of the Hebrews to nurse the child. Of course, the woman was Moses’ own mother.
As a result of their courageous decision, Moses’ parents had the opportunity to raise their son for a time in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He grew up understanding the possibilities and the blessings of serving the God of Heaven. What they taught Moses is what he later taught the Children of Israel: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
Faith in God is transmitted, not inherited. If you want those under your influence to serve God, show by example that He is the center of your everyday life. The impact is not so much in what we say but in how we live. When we choose to serve God in our homes and among our associates, that makes an impression.
My wife, Debbie, testifies that as a young child she observed the lives of her aunts, uncles, and grandparents who were faithfully serving God. When things were in an upheaval during some of her growing up years, she noted a difference between the lives of the few who did not serve God and the many who did. That observation influenced her decision to serve God. We want home environments where the Lord is the center of every choice we make! Then the little ones in the household will observe the benefits of this decision, and they will not forget it.
Moses’ cost-benefit analysis
Since Moses’ parents were people of faith, it is no surprise that when Moses “came to years,” his heart was stirred to contrast his mother’s simple, God-fearing faith to the idol worship of Egypt. He employed a cost-benefit analysis. No doubt he contrasted life in a humble desert home to living in the midst of the pomp and pleasure of Pharaoh’s palace. Moses was already being taught all the wisdom of Egypt; he excelled academically and was highly regarded in the court. He had a bright future! Then he looked at the Hebrew people, in poverty and enslaved. According to Exodus 1:13-14, they were forced to “serve with rigour,” and their lives were made “bitter with hard bondage.” Compelled by their taskmasters to make bricks, they were whipped and beaten when they did not produce enough. Moses weighed the hardships he would endure if he identified with them, considering what choosing his parents’ God would mean.
To refuse to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter would require a decisive break. He would have to walk away from all the material advantages he had enjoyed in order to be a part of the people of God. However, his focus was not on the afflictions he would suffer, but on the reward afterward. In the short term, there was not much to see in the way of benefits, but there was something to gain in the long term. Moses realized that, and he made a premeditated, thoughtful, and deliberate decision to “suffer affliction with the people of God; . . . esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” He forsook what passes away on this earth to gain what will endure eternally.
Choosing God means refusing the world
For Moses and for us, choosing does not come independent of refusing. When we choose to serve God, we must also refuse to follow the world. Are we willing to walk away from friends who are pursuing what this world offers? Perhaps some of our relatives will oppose our decision to serve God. Jesus said that He did not come to bring peace on the earth, but division. He warned, “The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” (Luke 12:53). While we experience unity with our fellow believers as we serve God together, we will have to separate ourselves from ungodly influences.
Matthew 6:24 makes it plain. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” There is no straddling the fence when it comes to serving God. We cannot remain noncommittal; we must choose and declare our allegiance.
Choosing God may bring peril
For almost a year, I have been corresponding with a man in Pakistan who has embraced the doctrines of the Bible and decided to be a part of the Apostolic Faith work. This past spring, one of our ministers went to meet him in Pakistan for the first time, and at one of the services held during that trip, over two hundred were present. More converts are frequently being added to this group, and new groups are also forming in other Pakistani towns and villages.
If you were to research Christianity in Pakistan, you would find that it hardly exists. Perhaps one-half of one percent of all the people in that country consider themselves to be followers of Christ. Yet, that field is ripe for a spiritual harvest, and people are turning to the Lord. “Choosing and refusing” is relatively easy here in the United States, especially when compared to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries where few Christians exist. To choose to serve Christ in such places comes at great personal peril.
While our physical safety may not be endangered by choosing God, there is a certain stigma that comes with being a Christian in our society today. We will not be regarded favorably in many circles. This is particularly true for our children and young adults in the educational system, but antagonism exists in the occupational world as well. We are expected to toe the line, go along with non-Biblical policies, align ourselves with non-Biblical positions, and not resist. Frequently it seems that all viewpoints are embraced except true Christianity.
Choosing God includes a declaration
Some may suggest that it would be prudent to modify our beliefs a little, adapting them to the world so that we do not attract attention. However, serving God is more than a choice. It is also a declaration! We cannot slip into walking with God and think no one will notice. We cannot hide our choice for God; there are no “closet Christians.” If we have been saved, it will show in our lives, our words, and in the choices we make. God demands loyalty and our manner of living will reveal where our loyalty lies.
At some point in life, God calls every person on this earth to do a cost-benefit analysis and make a choice. If you are not serving God yet, it is time to consider. What will it cost you to continue going your own way without God? Then consider, what are the benefits of yielding to God and purposing to follow Him from this day forward? An honest cost-benefit analysis will reveal the truth: Heaven is cheap at any cost. What could possibly be better than spending eternity with the Lord, free from sin, suffering, and death, and enjoying uninterrupted peace and joy?
Mark 8:36-37 asks, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” There is no better decision—no more vital decision—than choosing to serve God.