how to make a life or death decision
The Didache (the Greek word for teaching) is an ancient collection of early Christian writings.
The 1st century document is an ecclesial handbook of sorts, intended to instruct new believers and congregations of the core Christian practices and principles. It’s referenced in the writings of many early Church fathers, where (alongside the book of Revelation) it was even contended as Scripture and considered for inclusion into the Biblical Canon.
It’s the oldest surviving written catechism of the Christian faith, thought to be lost to history until a copy was unearthed by Greek scholars in 1873.
The work opens with a chapter called the two ways, which emphasizes the idea that our daily actions have vital consequences.
“There are two ways: one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: first, you shall love God who made you, second, your neighbour as yourself, and in all things do not do to another what you would not want done to you.”
The work frames the difference between life and death as submitting to the call and the spirit of Jesus’ greatest commandment.
The writers make the case that the small, seemingly trivial choices we make every day increasingly orient ourselves towards either life or death, heaven or hell.
That we pave our own paths to one of two fates by either listening to or rejecting the voice of God.
It’s not always the case that we can explicitly hear God’s voice in our lives, but I have often found that He is apt to speak when I am most still. Perhaps it is that He has been speaking the entire time, but I have been making far too much noise to hear His voice.
So just what is “God’s will for your life?”
Maybe it’s helpful to start with what it’s not.
It’s not a formula.
It’s certainly not any sort of guarantee to riches, fame, or good health.
It’s not an invitation to waste your life in indecision, waiting for a sign from the skies.
Francis Chan adresses this in his Forgotten God: Reversing the Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit:
“It is easy to use the phrase ‘God’s will for my life’ as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience…My hope is that instead of searching for ‘God’s will for my life’ each of us would learn to seek hard after ‘the Spirit’s leading in my life today.’ May we learn to pray for an open and willing heart, to surrender to the Spirit’s leading with that friend, child, spouse, circumstance, or decision in our lives right now.”
Chan goes on to write about how exactly we can best be open to “the Spirit’s leading in [our lives] today.”
Personally, quieting my own soul’s riotous clamor for the novel has always helped me be more open to the Lord’s direction. I’ve found that when I silence myself, He often speaks.
Do you know the voice you sometimes hear speaking truth to you when you need it the most? Comforter, conscience, Spirit, morality, whatever word you use for it, I believe it is of God. Some say it is God.
A friend told me last week that she believes the human conscience is a muscle like any other, one that will ultimately either be regularly exercised or atrophied and decayed.
She reminded me that our moral compass is a gift from God that our daily choices drive into either health or sickness.
Life or death.
The two ways.
We know that to love God and neighbor is our greatest order as Christians. So when we feel the Spirit of God pressing His call upon our hearts, telling us how we can best do this, we have but two choices: we either heed His words, or we ignore them. We either open ourselves to “God’s plan for our lives” or we harden our hearts towards the beauty of the ongoing work of God in this world.
We have but two choices. One brings joy and life, the other, melancholy and death.
If you are, like I am, wrestling in the midst of God pulling your heart and your soul to a particular person or place or cause or thing, maybe it’s time to examine why you have been resisting the change. Yes, the pull is scary. Often the Spirit leads us through what seem to be dark meadows and valleys of death on the path to those still waters. But this is the path we were meant to take.
It’s been a while since I’ve felt spiritually led to write a blog post about a certain subject, but today something has been indelibly pressed on my heart. Reflecting on the teachings of an early Church manual has reminded me that God is good, and that I really do need to listen to His words and submit to His will for my life. I need to make the decision to obey what He has been pleading with me to do for a while now.
When I was a child, I woke up crying one night and crawled into my Dad’s bed.
“What’s wrong?” he mused, eyes blurred with sleep. “Monsters?”
I could barely get the words out through my thick tears.
“I’m afraid that God wants me to be a missionary,” I whined, bleating, “and…and I don’t want to have to live in the jungle.”
My dad laughed and swept me up into his arms, reassuring me that if I ever did become a missionary, I wouldn’t have to eat bugs or live in a hut. He still loves to embarrass me by telling this story at family reunions and church gatherings.
But baby Ryan’s point remains. If God ever DID ask me to do something like that, would I do it? Would I choose life?
We must decide to listen. That’s how to make a life or death decision. Pray, listen, think, and then act.
The alternative is the way of death.
Or stay, if He’s telling you to stay.
May you seek out whatever (or whoever) it is in your life that God is asking you to hold onto, chase down, or let go of.
May you come to see our God as the Counselor who gives of the fountain of the water of life freely to all who thirst, a Dad who knows and wants what is best for His children.
So whether it be a school or a friend or a job or a relationship that God is speaking to you on through your conscience, or through His spirit…