The Valley of Decision - F.S. Marsh
THE VALLEY OF DECISION
Luke 5 : 27, 28 ; Proverbs 1 : 1-5
The desire I have is that we might face together the necessity for definiteness and decision in the things of God; that we might be stirred up and awakened to what the Lord has to say to us, so that there may be positive progress. May all barriers be broken down, and may we be set free to go forward in spiritual energy and in definite decision for Christ.
I would suggest that there are three great barriers to progress: Infidelity; Indifference ; and Indecision. These are the barriers in the way of an unconverted man, but they also have to be faced, though perhaps in a different setting, by the people of God.
With regard to the first barrier, it may be that some have thoughts arising constantly which trouble them greatly, and which they would not like to disclose even to their dearest friends. They may be the Lord's and have confessed His name, and yet have doubts arising. If that is true of any here, I would seek to encourage you, because the Lord knows even our most secret thoughts.
I would suggest that you first of all remember that your mind is that of a fallen creature, and as such is susceptible to all manner of evil influences. We find ourselves in the world, and though we have the light and truth of God shining on us, yet we have to face the fact that we have the flesh in us and are therefore liable to evil thoughts. At some time or other every one of us must have lent our ears to something that has poisoned us, or have read some books that have suggested to our minds infidel thoughts.
These things the enemy uses to sow seeds in our minds, and these, in their turn, produce a harvest of thoughts that are often infidel in their character. These are realities. We have to remember that many teachers of men, and even of children, today are openly and deliberately preaching infidel doctrine, and that we possess minds which are capable of being influenced by it.
What is the answer to it all ? It is faith in God, for " without faith it is impossible to please him : for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." I would urge anyone who is troubled with thoughts like this to get alone with God, and pour them out into the ear of the only One to whom you can tell them ; the ear of the One who loves you perfectly. He will hear, and He has given us the Holy Spirit, who by His divine power can bring us under the direct influence of God, for " greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world."
Satan began his work of instilling infidel thoughts into the heart of man very early. Right back in the garden of Eden at the beginning he came to the woman, and said, " Yea, hath God said ? " He raised a doubt as to the goodness of God, and he is still doing it today. He has to a great extent captured the educational system of the world, and is flooding it with poisoned literature, many teachers going out of their way to teach infidelity. In the midst of it all, do you wonder that there are those who are apparently sound on the surface, but who are cherishing infidel thoughts as to God ?
In view of this state of things, I would urge you to get into the presence of God and ask Him for divine light, so that you may be established by that light. Take your Bible and open it, asking God to instruct you, and let your soul by waiting on Him be established. Remember, it is true for your mind as well as for your body that " They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength."
Now I would pass on to the next barrier, that of indifference. The Lord is stirring up many young hearts ; yet it is so easy to come under the influence of the enemy, and to lapse into indifference in our spiritual life. If we are not so bright as we once were, if the Lord's service has lost its interest to us, if sleep has come over our souls, and we, without realising it, have become in measure indifferent, we need awakening.
We read of one named Archippus in the New Testament, and we find that he was urged to " take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it." Then, in writing to Timothy, Paul urges him to " Rekindle the gift that is in thee." There is need to be awakened that we do not drift into routine. " Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." In what epistle is that found ? In the Epistle to the Ephesians. Even there, by the brightest company of all, this word was needed. There is need for constant concern, for we may have been awake last week and be asleep this ; and the sleep of indifference is one to which we are very prone. One would desire that we may be awakened to spiritual life, and be able to sing :
" Just as I am, Thy love I own Has broken every barrier down ; Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come."
But what I desired to speak principally upon was the third great barrier—indecision. There are many who have come to be interested, who are not asleep, and yet they have still the need of decision. They have genuine desires to be pleasing to the Lord, and have received light as to the path; they know that the Lord, in instituting His supper, has asked them to " Do this for a remembrance of me " ; they know there is a pure, holy life to be lived, but they lack one thing : decision. They are at the place where two ways meet; they have reached the gates but not entered them ; they wait for some great soul experience ; they wait for some little difficulty to be removed ; or, alas, they wait till they have reached some supposed spiritual stature before taking up the path of affection and loyalty to the Lord. Dear friend, if the Lord has opened this path to you, it is His mind for you to take it, and take it at once. There need be no delay if you are prepared to wholly follow the Lord.
We have read one beautiful instance of a decision—the great decision made by Levi. He was sitting at the receipt of custom, and was absorbed in his business. There came across his path the One who was the embodiment of all that was holy and good. Think of those two—the One holy, harmless, undefiled and separated from sinners ; the other a publican with his occupation. They met; the Lord, with His perfect wisdom, saw that that man was ready for a call, and He said, in the simplest possible words, " Follow me."
Dear friends, if you have never heard those words in living power, my prayer is that you may hear them in your hearts now. Some of us had to hear these words many times before the decision was made. I am sure there are " multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision " to-day. You will never be serviceable to the Master, or available to Him, until the decision is made ! I cannot make it for you ; your parents cannot make it for you ; no one can decide but yourself. Nothing will serve your purpose for spiritual prosperity but obedience to the Lord's call, " Follow me."
Levi, in one glorious moment of his history, responded, " He left all, rose up, and followed." Notice those three steps ; we should not have written it like that. We are told, first, that " he left all," and it is the Spirit writing ; he turns his heart from all that had held him captive before. If we would follow the Lord, we also must leave all that has held us hitherto. Secondly, " he rose up "—expressive of spiritual energy ; and thirdly, he " followed." Marvellous decision ! And that man was chosen to write the first gospel. He could tell us about Jesus, for in one moment he left all to follow Him.
Scripture abounds in beautiful instances of decision. I will recall some striking ones in the Old Testament. Abraham's servant came to Rebekah, and, after he had told her all about Isaac, there comes a moment when she has one question put to her : " Wilt thou go with this man ? " She answers clearly, " I will go." Now are you prepared to leave all, rise up, and follow Him ? Are you prepared for Him to be the One to control your wealth, your outlook, your service, your all ? From that moment Abraham's servant (who is for us a type of the Spirit of God) was ready to take Rebekah to the bridegroom ; and the Spirit is ready now to take you to the One who will be Bridegroom, Husband and everything to you.
I would like to ask, Will you say, " Christ for me "? With all your privileges, and with all the light you have, there will be no soul prosperity without the decision, " Christ for me." You may reply, " That is an expression we look for from an unconverted person." Yes, though then it is connected with repentance, but it is still more blessed when from the believer comes the response, " Christ for me." When the world offers its best, there is glory to Jesus and spiritual prosperity as we say, " No! Christ for me." Let it ever be our decision. We are always being tested, all along our earthly course ; all kinds of difficulties and temptations arise, but the great solution is found when the heart rises above the temptation and says, " Christ for me."
May we refer to another instance of decision—that of Moses, who reached a point in his history when there lay before him two paths : one of reproach with the people of God, the other a path of wealth and of all that Egypt could afford, a path where he could have enjoyed to the full the " pleasures of sin for a season."
Moses stood at the parting of the ways and he chose the path of reproach, " to suffer affliction with the people of God." From henceforth God could use him, not only as a man marked by spiritual power and energy, but as the great leader of His people.
You remember, too, the case of Elisha. He was ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he was with the twelfth. There drew near a man and he threw his mantle over Elisha— no word was spoken. The act was so significant that Elisha knew the greatest moment of his life had come and that it was a clear call from God. At that critical moment he says, " I will follow thee." We have reason to thank God that he said this. The life of spirituality that marked Elisha was all the outcome of that momentous decision.
I appeal to all young men and women here. Have you passed the other two barriers ? What about this one ? Is it still a matter of indecision with you ? In His name, and for His glory's sake, God calls for your decision—decide for the One who has died for you ! You will never get through this world without decision. We know who gains the victory when there is no definite decision for God. It is the enemy !
One instance of indecision occurs to me, that of Jonathan. He had been with David and had done much for him, but there came a moment when they stood together in the open field, and Jonathan realised that a great crisis had come, and that to be associated with David meant to be an outcast. So they parted and he went back to his house. It meant spiritual disaster, for, as we all know, he lost his life soon after. He never had the place that might have been his.
With so many young lives in the balance, one would urge that, this very night, you get alone with God, and let these words fall from your lips, " Christ for me." You say you were converted years ago; yes, but He wants your decision definitely, now !
I would advise you all to read the book of Proverbs. A friend recently told me that he reads one chapter of Proverbs every day in addition to his other reading. In our movements in this world, we need the book of Proverbs. It is a book for every sphere—family, business or private life. The object of the book is to give to a young man wisdom and discretion, to choose between the evil and the good. Our needs vary. There is soul need; we need the assurance of sins forgiven, and thank God many of us know this. But there are other needs as we walk through this world, and how can we know how to walk or act if we do not read the Book of Proverbs ? I would not set it up against other books of the Bible, but, in the complex character of our lives, we cannot afford to do without that which is written in a book intended to give discretion to a young man.
So keep near the book of Proverbs— read it. I speak of it here because of its effect in helping decision. You will find the path of the just described in it faithfully, and as you stand at the parting of the ways and a crisis arrives, you will find the two paths described there, and you will say, " God grant me wisdom to go along the path of the just." Do not give way " just this once," as the world would tempt you to do. " My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not."
Think of a young man going out from home. He is soon plunged into life, to find many questions that need decision. Perhaps an opening which involves dishonouring the Lord is offered to him, and he does not know how to act. If he refuses, his employer will call him foolish, and his companions will tell him what he has missed. He goes to the book of Proverbs ; his decision is made ; he says, " No ! I cannot accept it, for Christ's sake," and he is saved from a path of ruin. These are realities. I am not speaking of fables, for the result of such a crisis means spiritual prosperity or spiritual ruin, and the Bible is given to save us. We are living in times when decision is needed daily, and how can we get God's mind unless we know His word !
The mighty men of God of all ages have been men of decision. The martyrs reached a crisis when they must take the choice of life without Christ, or Christ and death, and they chose Christ and death. We are not called to choose Christ and death, but we are called to say, "Christ for me." The enemy is trying to bring in religious compromise. He says, " Let us sink our differences—go a little way into the world and be ' hail fellow, well met' with every one, and you will be welcomed by the world." Then let us say to him, " No ! Christ for me," for " Whosoever is the friend of the world is the enemy of God." Christianity is a daily, living matter. You may say you were converted twenty years ago, but the point is, are you saying to-day, " Christ for me " ? I feel the importance of urging the necessity for uncompromising decision for Christ. The position will be held for God by those who are prepared to say, " Yes" to Christ and " No " to the world. " To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
The Lord Himself is making the appeal to us to come out of the valley of decision. Do not wait till all your natural ambitions are fulfilled, but say, " Lord, here am I," now. Do not forget that the Lord has made a special appeal in His supper ; He has made a place for you there ; He wants you, and on each occasion He looks for you, and if you are not there, He misses you. He knows why you are not there. Is it because you fear the consequences ? Do not study consequences ! As you look into the history of men, it was those who decided without studying consequences that came through in victory. Those who act according to the light they have, will bring glory to God, and be counted worthy of His service. The Lord would make a very special appeal to all our hearts that this question of decision may be answered, and that the answer of each heart may be " for me to live--- christ ! "
F. S. Marsh