Chose Whom You Will Serve

by Chaplain Paul G. Durbin, Ph.D.

Chose Whom You Will Serve

(1) The Winds of Circumstance

(2) I Can Think Light

(3) The Empty House

(4) Greek Story of The Sirens

(5) Life is for Living: Not Quitting

Chose Whom You Will Serve: would like to share with you a legend of a shepherd boy. Each day the shepherd boy of our legend would lead his sheep to their food and water. He watched over them, protected them and tended to their every need. As he cared for the sheep, he often picked flowers to give to his mother at the end of the day. One day, as he was leading the sheep to the field, he saw a very beautiful flower on the side of the cliff. When he pulled the flower, a cave door opened before him. He was greatly surprised and a bit frightened, for nothing like this had never happened to him before.

As he cautiously walked into the cave, he looked around. To his amazement, he saw piles of sparkling diamonds, opals, rubies, and other precious stones. He tossed the flower aside and filled his pockets and both hands full of these precious stones. As he started to leave, he heard a voice, "Do not forget the best." The boy thought, "Nothing could be better than these stones." As he walked out of the cave with his hands and pockets full, the cave door closed behind him and the stones turned to dust. You see, he forgotten the best. What had opened the cave to the treasure? "The flower." The little boy had forgotten the best "The flower" for without the flower, nothing taken from the cave had any value.

The voice in the cave said, "Do not forget the best" and the challenge of Joshua to the children of Israel was, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve." (Joshua 24) Both these statements call upon us to choose the best, to look for the important, to look for the meaning of life, to set our priorities in order. Our lives and activities are greatly influence and shaped by our thinking. Imedla Shankli, a Unity writer, says, "Your mind is your world. Your thoughts are the tools with which you carve your life's story on the substance of the universe. When you rule your mind, you rule your world. When you choose your thoughts, you choose results...Your life is what you think: think straight and your life will become straight for you.

This says to me that where our thoughts are, there is our life. Jesus said, "And a man's foes shall be those of his own household." (Matthew 10:36) Could this mean that the "thoughts" of an individual can be his own greatest foe? The way we think controls our lives. Jesus also said, "and if a house is divided against itself, that house can not stand." (Mark 3:25) Our understanding of God has a tremendous effect upon how we think about life. Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21) I believe that to be true, but there is also the God beyond us. I will not attempt to say what that means to you for that is up to you.

Joshua was a leader of his people, yet he did not command commitment to God for God does not forcibly compel commitment. He exhorts, He calls, but He leaves the choice open. God has left our wills free to choose to reject Him. This liberty is essential to the voluntary commitment of our lives to God. God will not force devotion. The worth of devotion and commitment to God depends on its free willingness to respond.

It is said, "Hope springs eternal in the human breast," but this spark of hope is sometimes reduced to a faint glimmer. Many people cry with Shakespeare's Juliet, "Come weep with me...past hope, past help." These people feel trapped in situations and relationships that are destructive which moves from resistance to complete resignation, as they say, "What am I to do? I have no choices!"

(1) The Winds of Circumstance: To all such person, I would like to say, "As long as you have mental capacity, you have a choice." You may be living with a disease or illness which has or is greatly limiting your life. You may be living in very trying times, faced with problems in your health, your work, in your home and with your finances. You may feel that you are an innocent bystander in a world of conflict of which you feel you have no control. The winds of circumstance do blow and they may not always blow in the way you want to go. Though you cannot regulate the wind, you do have a choice.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox sat by the East River in New York years ago reflecting on the fact that people coming from the same home environment turn out so differently. Inspired by some boats sailing on the river, she wrote, "One ship drives east and the other dives west with the self same winds that blow. Tis the set of the sail and not the gales which tells us the way we go." Joshua put it this way, "Choose you this day whom you will serve."

Consider Abraham Lincoln. The winds of circumstance could have blown him into the harbor of mediocrity or ignorance, but he set his sails properly into the gale winds of circumstance. Every gust of wind became for him an opportunity to educate and improve himself until he became a fitting person for the responsibility of sailing the great American ship of state.

You may say, "Hey Chaplain, you are talking about attitudes again." Of course I am, for it is attitude that colors our life. You may object, "But one must be realistic. This situation has happened. It was not my doing, and it is completely beyond my control. I have no choice in the matter and that's just the way things are." I say, "It is not the way things are, it is the way you are seeing them, thinking about them, holding them in your consciousness." Joshua said, "Choose this day whom you will serve." Will you bow before the winds of circumstances or will you choose a new direction in your thinking.  Perhaps you cannot change the facts of the condition in your life, but you do have a choice in how you think about it. You can choose between fear or faith, despair or hope, pessimism or constructive thinking, good or evil, God or something less.

It is often said, "Into each life some rain must fail." Certainly, some rain must fall, for it takes some moisture for growth and the production of fruit even if the rain is not good for a picnic. You can't regulate the weather, but you do have a choice. Someone said, "Experience is not what happens to you it is what you do with what happens to you." We can always choose what attitude we take toward almost anything that comes into our life. We can hate or love, we can resist or run, we can worry about it or we can pray about it. We can accept the difficulty as a crushing defeat or we can make best of it and thus we can go on to renewed effort and achievement.

(2) I Can Think Light: No matter how dark a situation may appear to be, one usually has the choice of turning to the light. The Christophers have a saying, "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Eric Butterworth tells of a young woman who lost her eyesight. It was the kind of thing that few if any of us would be prepared for. Everyone felt sorry for her. They even felt that the tremendous turmoil of fear and bitterness she was experiencing was justified.

One day something happened to change her thinking and her life. Perhaps she heard the work of Joshua, "Choose you this day whom you will serve." She said, "I may never see light again, but I can think light." She regained a sense of control over her own life for she realized that she did after all have a choice. Now she goes about everything she does with an attitude that is an inspiration to all who know her and it is amazing how many things she had discovered she can do. Everyone has some kind of deficiency in their life, and you can choose to see the light or at least think light.

"Choose you this day whom you will serve." By choosing the best, we can change our negative thoughts to positive thoughts. We can begin to overcome negative thinking by being aware of the negativity in our thinking. Until we are aware of negative thoughts in our mind, we keep acting out of the negativity without realizing why. We can become aware by listening to the word we say to ourselves, "I can't do it." "Life is just not fair." "I never get a break." "If I did not have bad luck, I would have no luck at all." "I always get hurt."

(3) The Empty House: Changing negative thinking to positive thinking is more than just saying "No" to the negative. Jesus told a parable about a man who had an evil spirit dwelling in the house his soul. (Luke 11:24-27) The evil spirit was causing the man much misery so he decided that if he could get rid of the evil spirit, he could live a productive and happy life. The house of the man's soul was sweep clean and the evil spirit was removed.

An empty house never remains empty. Spiders spin their webs, insects claim the empty rooms, rats run about the house without fear, and dust covers everything. The man cleaned his house of the evil spirit, but he put nothing in its place. Some times later. the evil spirit returned to the house of the man's soul. Finding it empty except for the spider webs, insects, rats, and dust, he decides to return and he brought with him seven more evil spirits. The man was then worse off than he was before.

(4) Greek Story of The Sirens: When we get rid of the negative, we must replace it with the positive. The Greeks have a story that may give us some direction. It is about the Sirens who sang so sweetly that sailors could not resist steering toward their island. Many ships were lured upon the rocks and men forgot home, duty, and honor as they flung themselves into the sea to be embraced by the arms which drew them down to death. A man managed to sail his ship safely only if he could resist the Sirens. Finally, they learned a better way to save themselves; they took on board their own better music. When Orpeus sang, who bothered to listen to the Sirens? We must move beyond mere resistance to the negative to say "Yes" to the positive.

Today choose God, good, positive attitudes and then life becomes meaningful. With proper faith, we can choose an attitude toward life that is positive in the face of the good and bad that come to us.

(5) Life is for Living: Not Quitting: Dr. C. Roy Angell tells the story of a high school track meet held in Alabama some years ago. The athletes were getting ready for the mile race which was one of the big events of the track meet. Since it was expected that the state record for the mile might be broken that day, an unusual large crowd of spectators had gathered at the stadium. One of the schools had a most promising miler. Twice at other events, he had come within seconds of the state record and today he was out to break the record. As they lined up at the starting mark, all eyes were on the tall, good-looking young man with a confident, but gracious smile on his face.

On the far end of the starting line was a boy who stood in sharp contrast to the favorite. He was small of stature, his shoulders were bent a little, and one might even wonder why this boy was in the race. The command came to "toe your mark, get set" and then the pistol cracked and the race was on. The favorite easily took the lead. With every lap, he widened the distance between himself and the other runners. The little fellow fell further and further behind. The favorite broke the tape and the state record.

Only a few other runners finished the mile run as most of the runners dropped out as soon as the first three runners crossed the finish line. However, the crowd stood and cheered as the little fellow kept running. Panting, struggling and almost falling; he crossed the finish line. One of the judges ran over to him and handed him a handkerchief. The judge said, "Son, why didn't you stop back yonder when you saw that it was hopeless to win, place or show? Why are you in this race?  Between gasping, the boy answered, "My school's mile runner got sick two days ago and could not run. The coach wanted a student in every event, so he asked me to run the mile." The judge responded, "You were over a lap behind, why didn't you just quit?" The boy replied, "Judge, the coach didn't send me here to quit, he sent me here to run the mile, and I ran the mile." Though he did not win the race, he was a winner. He chose the best. He was an overcomer and you can be also. You can do it. You can overcome. You can choose the best.