Tim Throckmorton: Freedom of choice doesn’t always determine outcome

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 1, 2021

C. S. Lewis said, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”

We have been entrusted with the stewardship of a moment in history that has handed to each of us the demand of being courageous!

My friend, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, the executive vice president at Family Research Council wrote in Decision Magazine, “Joshua stood on the bank of the Jordan River contemplating the enormous task ahead of him. He was about to lead millions of his fellow Israelites across the flooded river in a quest to finally conquer the land that had been promised to his people, the Jews. Canaan was part of the covenant that Yahweh had made with Joshua’s ancestor, Abraham. For 40 years Joshua had wandered with the Jewish people in a barren desert waiting for this very moment. What Joshua never anticipated was that he would be the one to lead his people in the battles that would surely follow as they wrested the “Promised Land” from the current inhabitants.

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After all, Joshua had walked in the footsteps of the great leader, Moses, throughout those years in the desert, and he naturally expected that Moses would lead them across the river and into battle against the heathen forces of the Canaanites. But now he stood bewildered, having been informed by his beloved Moses that the responsibility for the final quest was being passed to him. Joshua approached the Lord for guidance. God made His instructions for Joshua quite simple, “Be of good courage … Be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:6-7, NIV). In verse 9 of the same chapter, God repeats his directive to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous?”

Oswald Chambers: “Our destiny is not determined for us, but it is determined by us. Man’s free will is part of God’s sovereign will.” We have freedom to take which course we choose, but not freedom to determine the end of that choice.

The book of Deuteronomy gives us this advice, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”

So how are the decisions you are making in life going to affect your future?

Listen to this description of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in northern Ukraine: There were two electrical engineers in the control room that night, and the best thing that could be said for what they were doing is they were ’playing around’ with the machine.

They were performing what the Soviets later described as an unauthorized experiment.

They were trying to see how long a turbine would ’free wheel’ when they took the power off it.

Now, taking the power off that kind of a nuclear reactor is a difficult, dangerous thing to do, because these reactors are very unstable in their lower ranges.

In order to get the reactor down to that kind of power, where they could perform the test they were interested in performing, they had to override manually six separate computer-driven alarm systems.

One by one the computers would come up and say, ’Stop! Dangerous! Go no further!’ And one by one, rather than shutting off the experiment, they shut off the alarms and kept going.

You know the results: nuclear fallout that was recorded all around the world, from the largest industrial accident ever to occur in the world.”

This city, which formerly had 55,000 people, is now largely abandoned.

The instructions and warnings in Scripture are just as clear.

When mankind lacks the courage to take a stand for truth while ignoring the known will of God, it is at their own peril, and tragically, at the peril of innocent others.

There was a lad who lived in the area where an old and wise sage would offer people counsel for their lives.

He always knew the right answer, and those who listened to his counsel profited in their lives.

In the village was a lad who thought he could trick the sage into giving a wrong answer.

He decided to take a dove with him for his visit.

His plan was to hold the dove in his hands behind his back.

His question would be: Is the dove I hold in my hands alive or dead?

If the sage said, “Alive,” the lad would quickly squeeze it to death.

If the sage said, “Dead,” the lad would release it to fly away.

As the sage looked at the boy and pondered the situation, he came to this conclusion: “The answer is up to you. It will be as you choose.”

Though we may not have control over all circumstances, we do have control over our response to what we face in life.

May I say again in closing, we have been entrusted with the stewardship of a moment in history that has handed to each of us the demand of being courageous!

Tim Throckmorton is the Midwest Director of Ministry for the Family Research Council.