Updated: Apr 16
Chan Gin Kai
Life is full of difficult choices. We wish as children for the freedom to make our own decisions, but learn in adulthood that it brings with it the burden of responsibility. Decisions get tougher when the future is murky, and the stress weighs heavier when the choices are painful.
What do we do when faced with painful choices?
Face The Truth
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! (Luke 12:49-50)
After teaching about God’s expectations and punishments for the disobedient (read article here), Jesus exclaimed, “I have come to bring fire on the earth”. Yes, all of us know Jesus came to bring salvation, but he also came to bring judgement.
In the Bible, fire is often used in association with God’s wrath and judgement. Fire was used figuratively to describe God’s wrath (Psalms 89:46). Fire was also used literally, when burning sulphur rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-25); and fire consumed the Israelites who complained against God too (Numbers 11:1-3).
The NIV version of the Bible uses “bring” in its translation of the Greek word ballō, which means to ‘throw’. God’s fiery judgement and wrath will be cast on earth with force. There is nothing gentle about it.
We love talking about the beautiful salvation we can gain through Jesus, but not the harsh judgement we may receive if we’re not careful. Some even try to explain it away by saying, “That’s the God of the Old Testament”, as though God was hot tempered before, but became kinder after. These words were said by Jesus, and the account is obviously in the New Testament. It is wrong to stress only on God’s love but not His justice.
Besides this common misconception, there are many more lies that Satan try to deceive us with.
In an age of fake news and rampant deceit, opinions override data, and theories overwhelm facts. We are no longer shocked by unbridled lies, and the quest for truth diminishes. We pick from a myriad of handy excuses when we find the truth inconvenient.
We are bombarded daily with temptations, excuses and problems. Satan will seduce us, deceive us and threaten us, so that we’ll make the wrong choices and hurt ourselves.
We’ve got to turn off the alluring voices of deceit and face the hard realities of life. The truth may not please us, and the choices may be painful, but we’ve got to face them.
Do Not Delay
We may be surprised that Jesus wished the fire of judgement “were already kindled” — that it has already happened. Why would Jesus want that?
Jesus knew that humanity’s salvation and judgement required his excruciating sacrifice. He described it as a “baptism”, an immersion in pain. He knew it would be overwhelming, a torture that would totally consume him.
Jesus added, “what constraint I am under until it is completed!” The word “constraint” used here in the NIV is synechomai in Greek, and it means being under great psychological pressure. He was distressed by his looming fate, and couldn’t wait for it to be over.
Jesus decided to face it head-on and made his way to Jerusalem where he knew he would be arrested. At Gethsemane, he had to face the most painful choices ever (Matthew 26:36-46). He made the choice to love us and made the ultimate sacrifice.
We’re faced with painful choices sometimes, but we love to delay the inevitable. The delays only prolong the pain, and may even worsen the consequences. What painful choices do we have to make to be right with God? Is there something that is too painful for us to give up? Do we naively procrastinate our decisions in the vain hope that the inevitable somehow disappears?
Let’s not delay the painful choices we need to make, and be reconciled with God again.
Do Not Give Up
Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51-53)
Divisions with our loved ones would be the most painful consequence of our decisions. But that is what Jesus has warned may be at stake. I sincerely wish that would not be the case for any of us, but sadly, that’s what some of us may have to brave.
Jesus faced it himself, in the early stages of his ministry. At one point, his family even thought he was crazy (Mark 3:21). To be rejected and deemed crazy by your family must have been really painful. But Jesus stuck to it, and his family later became his disciples.
Our faith in an unseen God may be ridiculed by atheists. Our desire to pursue godliness may put off friends we had sinned together with. Our belief in Jesus may offend family members who hold a different religion. They may be friends, schoolmates, colleagues, spouses, parents, children, or some other relationships we hold dear. But there’s no way around it, our decision to follow Christ will definitely estrange some people we care about.
The sentiments and emotions involved because they’re people we love make it so much tougher. But we cannot give up.
We have tough choices to make, and the consequences may be painful at first, but God has promised us an everlasting reward.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry of the Central Christian Church. He describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.