By Bro. Eddie C. Villanueva
Friends Magazine Hong Kong
It is not always easy to live a good and godly life. Daily, we are confronted with various circumstances that try our character, test our integrity, and tempt our morality. The bottom line is, we must not be held hostage by peer pressure or corrupt societal influence.
How do we live a good and godly life in our compromising society? God shows us the way.
First, we must intentionally keep and guard our heart. Proverbs 4:23 exhorts us, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
Our heart determines the course of our lives. Therefore, we are accountable for our desires, decisions, and actions. In all and every situation, we have the choice to do what is good, true, and right – and there’s no excuse valid enough for us to do otherwise.
The following is a beautiful poem attributed to Mother Theresa of Calcutta, said to be a paraphrased version of Dr. Kent M. Keith’s The Paradoxical Commandments:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.
In a society where conformity to the credo of self-love, self-expression, and self-preservation is the name of the game, where it is an even harder act to choose to become the odd-man-out if only to keep our personal testimony in tact, let us choose to keep our hearts pure. Anyway, this is the only thing expected of us to do.
Second, we must purposefully live according to the instructions of the Lord. According to Psalm 119:1-11, “Happy are those who live pure lives, who follow the Lord's teachings. Happy are those who keep his rules, who try to obey him with their whole heart. They don't do what is wrong; they follow his ways. Lord, you gave your orders to be obeyed completely. I wish I were more loyal in obeying your demands. Then I would not be ashamed when I study your commands. When I learned that your laws are fair, I praised you with an honest heart. I will obey your demands, so please don't ever leave me. How can a young person live a pure life? By obeying your word. With all my heart I try to obey you. Don't let me break your commands. I have taken your words to heart so I would not sin against you.”
First Samuel 15 tells us how Prophet Samuel instructed Saul to annihilate the entire Amalek nation, to spare nothing and no one, as God’s retribution for the Amalekites’ cruelty on the Israelites. But instead of fully obeying Samuel, Saul chose to spare “… the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed” purportedly “to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal” (v.21).
“But Samuel answered, "What pleases the Lord more: burnt offerings and sacrifices or obedience to his voice? It is better to obey than to sacrifice. It is better to listen to God than to offer the fat of sheep” (v.22).
The world we live in will surely impose upon us ideas and systems that are contrary to God’s instruction. Whenever we reach this point, the eyes of our hearts must see through the deceit of worldly wisdom so that we may choose to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
Third, we must behave ourselves wisely at all times. Whether King Saul promoted David or haunted him down out of jealousy, insecurity, and fear, only one thing was said of David: he behaved himself wisely (1 Samuel 18:5,14,30; 1 Samuel 24).
It is how we respond to our situation that defines us, not our situation itself. Thus, in good or bad times, we must consciously choose to please God with our lives. We must refuse to become victims of our circumstances.
To illustrate this point further, here’s an interesting story from the Internet:
“A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer's well.
“The farmer heard the mule 'braying' -or-whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.
“Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he should shake it off and step up! This he did, blow after blow. "Shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up!" He repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or how distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought "panic" and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up!
“It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him... all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.”
The writer of the story ended it with this counsel: “If we face our problems, respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity, the adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to benefit and bless us.”
Living a life that pleases God is possible. We only have to intentionally keep and guard our heart, purposefully live according to the instructions of the LORD, and behave ourselves wisely at all times. The power of God is at work within us. “Christ gives me the strength to face anything” (Philippians 4:13, CEV).