Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)

It has been a difficult week for this congregation. What has happened has not been good. The fact that we as a congregation experience grief together is good. Why? Because we increasingly are a family who care about each other!

This week Helen Branum fell, suffered a brain hemorrhage, and died just under 24 hours later. Larry Schluterman lost a nephew, Ben Schluterman, who was only 21 years old. Ben lost his battle with cancer. Larry and Ben were quite close. Eleanor Casey lost a brother-in-law, Joe Kincy. John Keller lost his grandfather.

With all our sorrows this week, a thought repeatedly came to me. The thought: none of us choose our parents, and few of us choose when or how we leave this life. The thought is not in the context of “us poor helpless victims.” It is in this context: though we do not choose how we enter or exit this life, we exercise an amazing number of choices.

We decide who we are. Regardless of our past circumstances or our present conditions, we choose to be the person we are. We choose what will be the dominant influences in life. We choose what will be the insignificant influences in life. We choose the influences we will add to our lives.

We decide how we will use our lives. We choose our life focus. We choose what to hold to as valuable. We choose our causes—are we an “inwardly turned” person or an “outwardly turned” person. We choose selfishness or unselfishness. We choose anger or compassion. We choose to be hate-centered or love-centered.

Even if we allow a victim mentality to enslave us, that is our choice. Bad things cannot be prevented from happening to any of us, but it is our choices that determine if bad things are allowed to make us bad people.

The great hope in this life in Jesus Christ is found in the power of transformation (Romans 12:1-2). Through God’s forgiveness there is opportunity to begin again and be a different person. Through God’s strength there is the opportunity to be resurrected to escape the seemingly inescapable struggles and hardships of physical life.

What “I am” can end. What “I can be” is the unending opportunity and hope God provides us in Jesus Christ. Incredibly, each of us can choose to end what we are and become what God can make us. Investment in God is life’s most wonderful investment!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 7 July 2005

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