Acts 28:24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.
Faith is ultimately a choice. As I have explained to quite a few people, faith is a gift from God, (Ephesians 2:8-9) but we have to choose to receive it. It can be heartbreaking when people we love decline that gift from God, but it is some comfort that Paul had exactly the same problem with those with whom he shared the Gospel. All sorts of things can get in the way, but I personally think pride is the chief of those: people don’t want to acknowledge their need. That is perhaps stronger among men than among women, which might explain the preponderance of women in many churches. Pride really was at the root of the Fall in the Garden of Eden, because of the temptation to “be like God.” (Genesis 3:5) We like to think we’re in charge, when we aren’t. We do have free will, and our choices and actions do make a difference, but we still have to suffer the consequences of our choices. The more consistently we choose to trust and obey God, the better the outcome will be, both in this life and for eternity.
Thinking back over my own life, basic faith was never much of an issue, but the humility of obedience has been quite a hurdle at times. I can be as headstrong as anybody! The choice to trust and obey has not always been easy by any means, but when I have made it firmly, the result has always been good in the long run. There have been times when in the short term obedience to God made things much more difficult than ignoring Him would have been, but over time the wisdom of obedience has always been evident. As a pastor I am constantly urging and encouraging people to listen obediently to God, but I can’t make their choices for them. Not only in the most basic decision to repent and believe for salvation, but also in all sorts of life choices people can’t seem to grasp that not choosing is itself a choice, and it’s the wrong one. I’ve made wrong choices too many times to look down on anyone, but I need to speak the truth to them in love so that they may be encouraged to make right choices.
Father, I didn’t know where this was going when I started, but You certainly led me specifically. Thank You. Guide me as I prepare the outline for sharing this message with the congregation. I have demonstrated that my words don’t do the trick, so I ask You to speak Your truth through me, so that all sorts of the lies of the enemy may be dispelled, and knowing Your truth, people be set free to move into all that You intend for them, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!