Monday, February 2, 2009

Real Choices in the Real Battle

Willie approached me one day as I was leaving my office and said, "Please, we have to talk." One glance told me he hadn't slept well for days. His face was drawn and his eyes were bloodshot. As soon as we closed my office door, Willie's story unfolded. His father and he had begun a construction company fifteen years earlier. The father was to be the senior partner, but, Willie noted, "everything would be split fifty-fifty. I have worked hard and the company has prospered. The net worth is over a half-million dollars." Then, Willie explained, financial upheaval came, shaking the company and their relationship. "My father has recently made some bad investments and he is on the verge of bankruptcy. Last week he informed me that I was fired and the construction company was his sole property. You see, selling the company is the only way he can remain financially solvent. The real kicker is, he not only wants my half of the company, but he also wants the registration to several pieces of equipment that I bought out of my pocket. He now denies that we ever agreed on the partnership. He insists that I was only his employee, and he is threatening a lawsuit if he doesn't get the equipment." It's amazing what parents will sometimes do to their children. But it's not uncommon. Willie continued, "I am so angry, I kicked my dog and yelled at my wife and children. I can't sleep and I feel like choking my father. What can I do?" Willie was at a crossroads and had to make a choice. He was leaning toward hating his father; already he felt estranged. In his heart he felt his attitude was wrong. But what could he do? Willie had recognized a biblical principle: Choices begin with our thoughts. Evil always plants its seeds in the thoughts, then nurtures them so that they take root in the heart (James 1:13-15). What we think about, what we meditate on, what we dwell on will determine what choices we make at crucial points during the day. Jesus Himself warned of the relationship. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornication's, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit..." (Mark 7:21-22). How does that work in our lives? If we (as men) look on women, imagining them with their clothes off (or even think of tearing off their clothing) and ravishing them, it's quite possible we could make the damaging choice to commit rape or adultery, look at pornographic images, or even treat our wives as lust objects. Similarly, if a woman envies another woman's fancy clothing, possessions, or attractive husband, this could lead to hatred, ill will, theft, and thoughts of adultery. Such devices are the tactics of the enemy. He will do anything to build a stronghold in our minds through our thinking. What choices, then, do we have when we begin to have selfish thoughts? How can we respond and resist temptations that come from within and are fed by Satan? That, in essence, was Willie's question. The first choice is to seek and heed wise counsel. We are not at the mercy of fate, or ill circumstances, or even our own stupidity. No, we can choose, when difficulties strike, to seek out help from relatives, church members, and others. This is an amazingly helpful resource that many people overlook. They say things like, "I have no choice about what to do." Or, "I'm caught! I can't go any way that is good!" But often, God opens up vistas we never considered, simply by our finding wise counselors-friends, pastors, or even actual counselors like myself. Rarely does God allow situations to come into our lives in which there are virtually no options. When Wille looked at me through bloodshot eyes and asked, "What can I do?" I admit that my first response to his predicament was to close my eyes and shake my head. This was difficult. Sitting up in my chair, I questions Willie on his ability to support his family. He was happy to report that the day after he was "fired" by his dad, he started another job with a ten-dollar-per-hour increase in pay. "How much are peace of mind and the ability to sleep worth to you, Willie?" "Priceless," he answered immediately. I thought of Willies buying equipment for the company and of his father threatening a lawsuit. Then I chose to remind Willie of the following words of Jesus: "If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also" ( Matthew 5:40). I explained that there has been misapplication and abuse of this verse, but I believed it applied in Willie's case. I even suggested that Willie sign over an extra trust to his father-which he said he no longer needed-to fulfill the "let him have your cloak also" part. Willie pondered, prayed, and then called his wife and explained the proposal. She wholeheartedly agreed this was God's will. Willie forgave his dad, repented of his anger and bitterness, and signed over the equipment. The peace of God poured into his heart, and the love of the Lord was reestablished in his life. Today Willie is happy, his wife and children live in a peaceful home, and even his dog is grateful. Willie's father's health broke in less than a year, and he is confined to a nursing home. What was the devil's lie in this situation? The great deceiver had said "Willie, fight for what is yours. You earned it. Don't back down; you have a right to be angry and bitter. Get your dad." In contrast, God's truth was "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:330. Willie confronted the temptation to "get" his dad. True, he has not regained the money he lost, but he has kept his peace, his joy, and his life, and his walk with God. What could be more precious than that? Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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