Dr. Randy Carlson
What moments in our lives define who we are? What moments define why we are here and how we relate to those in our lives? These are defining moments, which I define as: Those moments when a person comes face-to-face with an opportunity, challenge or threat that needs to be addressed.
We all have moments like this in our lives. And how we respond to these moments help to define how we operate and how we relate to the world today.
The decisions we make will impact our futures. And we all have two choices. We can choose to ignore the opportunities or challenges, or we make the decision to act. When we make the decision to act, how should we respond to these defining moment? What does the Bible teach us about making life-changing decisions?
First, how do we recognize defining moments? Well, they show up in our lives in three ways.
1. Opportunities. Remember Blockbuster—the video rental store chain? They had thousands of stores and even more employees and were a very successful business. And several years ago they turned down an opportunity to purchase Netflix—for $50 million. Of course, Netflix is now worth about $19 billion. And Blockbuster has lost its footing in the industry.
Or consider Decca Records, a British record label, which had an opportunity to sign the Beatles. Decca turned them down, thinking that groups with guitars were on their way out.
Of course, the Bible has examples of missed opportunities too. Consider the rich young ruler described in Mark 10, who had an opportunity to follow Christ but wasn’t willing to sell all that he had and give it to the poor.
These opportunities had the power to determine their futures. And here’s the reality—failing to act is a decision. Failing to act will still define our lives.
2. Challenge. When we face a threat in our lives—maybe to our marriage or health—we need to face that challenge. In the Old Testament Joseph faced just such a challenge. What was he going to do when Potipher’s wife came after him? His choice in that challenge put him on a course for the years ahead, which led to leading his family and the entire country through the midst of a terrible famine.
3. Failure. Many of us probably relate most to this area. We’ve all had failures, haven’t we? Perhaps in relationships with our spouses or children. Or maybe in the workplace. And if we don’t learn through these failures to become stronger in our walk with God, then Satan is going to be victorious in our lives.
Every one of us is going to have a defining moment. So how should we respond? Most of us are not adequately prepared to respond when a defining moment appears. And when we’re not prepared, we often make poor choices that lead to regret and loss.
So how do we respond to opportunities, challenges and failures? The biblical story of Nehemiah is a good example here. When uncertain about what to do about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, he:
• stopped. He didn’t jump into making a decision. He stepped away and considered what he was facing.
• sought God through fasting and prayer.
• followed God’s prompting.
• made a decision and took action.
Nehemiah committed his actions to God and moved forward, and Jerusalem’s walls were rebuilt. But there’s a thorn in this story. Three of his friends mocked and scorned him. “But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us” (Nehemiah 2:19 ESV).
There’s a lesson for us there too. If our decisions only lead to smooth sailing, we should stop and ask why. The smooth path is not always the right path. When we go in the direction that honors God, there will always be people who want to resist that. Let’s not let it stop us.
And let’s be ready for the next defining moment. It’s coming.