All my life I’ve heard people quote an edited version of Joshua 24:15: (Choose you this day whom ye shall serve. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.) To tell the truth the scripture has never made much of an impact on me. It seemed kind of . . . well . . . duh! I know there are people who make other choices, either to serve themselves or to serve science or to serve celebrity or sports or music, to serve jealousy or bitterness or anger. The list is endless, so I won’t go on, but the point is that everyone I’ve ever met, including those who have loudly proclaimed they believe in nothing, are putting their faith in something.
My whole life I’ve believed in God, but that doesn’t mean that I always followed the path of a righteous believer. I’ve gone to church and I’ve not gone to church. I’ve told myself that I can worship God as well sitting in a campground in the mountains or on a pristine white-sand beach as I can in church — maybe better. I’ve clutched at religion and I’ve turned my back on it (and all the stages in between.) I’ve hired myself as my own life manager, and I’ve fired myself more than once because the sad truth is I’m not very good at the job. I’ve even appointed myself God’s business manager and tried giving Him a list of things I think He should do to make the world a better place.
I’ve been angry with Him many times over the years. I’ve questioned His methods, I’ve argued and dug in my heels and refused to do things He’s made it quite clear I probably ought to do. I’ve also been on the other side of that coin, trusting Him to protect me and my daughters in the face of danger and hardship.
But it’s only been recently that I gained a new appreciation for Joshua 24:15 which reads in whole:
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
My first Aha! moment speaks to the meaning of “serving” the Lord, which is a very different thing from believing in the Lord. Believing in is sedentary. I can sit in my chair doing absolutely nothing and still believe in God. Actually believing God (believing that He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do) is a more active choice, requiring us to listen to the whispers of the still small voice and acting on them, even when the whisper tells us to do something that seems a bit odd.
Of course, it’s not smart to just jump without confirming that the whisper actually came from God. I’ve heard plenty of “whispers” that I’ve talked myself into acting on over the years, and a whole bunch of them came from my own mind (I really, really want that and I’m pretty sure God wants me to have it) or from the enemy (You’ll never succeed at that, so don’t take the chance.) But once you’ve asked God if He really wants you to act (Pack up your belongings and move across country even though you don’t have a dime in your pocket), and He’s made it clear that the urging is coming from Him, then you act … even if you don’t know where the money to get you and your stuff to the other side of the continent is going to come from.
But actually serving is so much more than just hearing and doing. It’s loving–and by loving, He means accepting, not just tolerating. God never told us to love only those who look like us or those who think like us, or even just those who believe as we do. In fact, Christ specifically told us that “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)
If you’ve judged someone else, talked bad about someone, ignored someone, hated someone, gotten angry with someone, thought someone else was stupid because they don’t think the way you do, you’ve done it unto Christ. If you’ve flipped off the driver who cut you off in traffic or refused to leave your harried server a tip, you’ve done it unto Christ. By the same token, if you’ve noticed a gleam of fear in the eyes of a friend when you ran into her and you stopped to talk, even though your schedule is jam-packed and you really don’t have time for this, or you’ve filled a friend’s super-empty gas tank and bought her lunch when her total net worth was less than $1, you’ve done that unto Christ too.
But the biggest Aha! for me was realizing that Joshua isn’t talking about a one-time choice. It’s not “choose once and you’re done,” it’s choose right now, when you’re panicked to believe God. It’s choose again ten minutes later when you’re frightened. It’s choose, and choose, and choose again. It’s taking a deep breath and then telling God that even though you’re scared to death that you’ll lose the house or that you won’t have dinner, or that you won’t get the job or your granddaughter will have every one of those physical issues the doctors have warned you about, you choose to believe that He will never leave you or forsake you and you choose to believe that even if the unthinkable happens, you know that He really is working all things for your good.
Some days it’s a minute-by-minute choice and that’s okay. Because God’s greatest gift to us is the right to choose, and He never puts limits on how often we exercise that right.