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comfort rather than discomfort, harmony rather than tension.  But God seems to place more value on ultimate results than on short-term benefits.

 

Take the conflict between Paul and Barnabas over the young disciple, John Mark (Acts 15:36-41, NEB), Mark had disappointed Paul by turning back and failing to complete their first missionary journey so Paul refused to take him again.  “The dispute was so sharp that they parted company.  Barnabas took Mark. . . Paul chose Silas.”

 

Surely both of these men were seeking God’s will.  I cannot believe that God caused the disagreement in order to separate them into two teams, thus making them twice as effective, and, not incidentally, bringing Timothy into the picture with Paul (16:3).  I believe God redeemed the choices of two men who loved Him.  He used even their humanness, their temperaments; yes, their tempers.  We will never know what would have happened had they not quarreled, but I am sure God was not placed at the mercy of their disagreement, and neither were they.

 

The Scriptures confirm that sometimes God does give direct guidance by the Holy Spirit.  But if not, He does not allow “wrong” choices to go unredeemed.  It can’t be otherwise.  If not, who would be willing to choose when faced by two paths at a fork in the road?  We would be paralyzed with fear of making the wrong choice.  Or having finally made a choice, we would live always with the agonizing possibility that the other path might have been better.  So, in grace, God redeems the choices of His children.  That is what grace is--undeserved favor.  God does not coerce me, manipulate me, or violate my will.  He does not play from a stacked deck.  He respects the powers which He created within me.  As one who loved Him and is called according to His purpose, I am free to choose--and God elects my choice to be right.

 

All of which says to me, “Love God, relax, and get on with the business of living!”  The principle that God is sovereign over not only my life but my choices liberates me to live with assurance instead of apprehension that I may blow it.

 

Since I am free, I may indeed blow it.  If I violate the principles of life which God has woven into the very fabric of the universe, I cannot escape the consequences.  Choices do have consequences.  David paid sorely for his sin even though God regarded him as “a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).  But God was sovereign even over the consequences.  Though God did not “elect” David to sin, the sovereign result was that Israel received Solomon, the wisest king in the nation’s history.

 

When the potter remade the marred clay into “another vessel as seemed good” (Jeremiah 18:4), he was not making something that was second best.  The final product, according to the story, was still what the potter wanted to make.  God says we can expect Him to do at least as much.  For me, it is more than enough.

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