The Best Choices We Can Ever Make
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - May 17, 2015
*All of us make choices in life, and when you think about it, it's amazing how many choices we make every day. I am so glad that you chose to be here with us this morning. You didn't have to be here. Well, there may be a few of us who had to be here today. But in that case, someone else made the right choice for you.
*This morning we are going to focus on the most important choices in life. And in order to do that, let me ask you to open your Bibles to the Old Testament Book of Ruth.
*Before we read the Scripture today, we need to know a little background. Ruth's story took place during the time when the judges ruled in Israel. It was a period when God's people continued to move from disobedience to defeat to deliverance.
*The last verse in the book just before Ruth helps us to understand why. Judges 21:25 says, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes." That sounds a whole lot like the United States in 2015. But back in Israel, everyone did what was right in their own eyes, because God's people had hardened their hearts. As a result, sin was rampant.
*In Ruth 1:1, we will read that because there was a famine in Bethlehem, a man took his wife and two sons to live in the country of Moab. That famine was a direct consequence of the deliberate disobedience of God's people. . .
*At the time, Moab had rich soil and plenty of rain, so this man went to a place where he thought his crops wouldn't fail. But Moab was a long-time, bitter enemy of Israel, much like the fanatical enemies that surround Israel today.
*Back in Numbers 25, the Moabites had led Israel into immorality and pagan worship. And in Deuteronomy 23:3, Moses spoke these words from the LORD about Moab: "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the congregation of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the congregation of the LORD forever."
*All of this tells us that Ruth's father-in-law was trying to flee the LORD's judgment on His own people. But Ruth's father-in-law was doubly disobeying God by going to live among the Moabites.
*Well, Elimelech died and then about ten years later, both of his sons died. That left the three widows in a desperate situation, especially Ruth's mother-in-law, Naomi. She had no Social Security, no 401k, no IRAs, nothing but a desperate 80-mile walk to try and find some help. (1)
*With this background in mind, let's read Ruth 1:1-16, thinking about the right choices for our lives.
*The story of Ruth reminds us that our right choices will make all the difference in the world. And today's Scripture shows us four of the best choices we can ever make in life.
1. First: Choose the right priorities.
*That's what Ruth was doing in vs. 16, when she told Naomi, "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you." That word "entreat" has the idea of sincerely or anxiously urging someone to do something, even begging someone to do something. So in effect, Ruth was saying, "Naomi, please stop begging me to go back home to Moab. I want to do the right thing. I want to help you."
*Ruth made this right choice even in the worst of times. Her husband was dead. She was a poor widow. She could have gone back to her family and friends, like Orpah. But Ruth chose the right priorities. She chose to stay with Naomi and help her.
*What matters in our lives? In a bad situation, will we just help ourselves, or will we help others? Ruth knew that Naomi had lost so very much and that she needed a friend. Ruth chose the right priorities, and so should we.
*Brian Atwood explained that "the interesting thing is: We can help ourselves out of trouble when we decide to help others out of trouble. . . You see, we usually get a bad case of the blues when we're focused on our self. But when we focus on meeting the needs of someone else, it can also be good medicine for us. God made it that way on purpose, because He wants us to be like Him: Giving, unselfish, and ministering to the needs of others." (2)
*Dean Rhine said: "There is never a bad time to love other people. And real love endures, no matter what the circumstances are. As Proverbs 17:17 says: 'A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.'" (3)
*Young Ruth chose the right priorities, and that's what God wants us to do. But choosing the right priorities can be hard. Sometimes you will not be appreciated. Naomi did not appreciate what Ruth was trying to do. Naomi tried to persuade Ruth to go back to Moab five different times!
*We see this starting in vs. 8-9:
8 Then Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, "Go back, each of you, to your mother's home. . .
9 May the LORD grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband." Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud
*Then in vs. 10-11:
10. . . (They) said to her, "Surely we will return with you to your people.''
11. But Naomi said, "Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Are there still sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands?"
*In vs. 12-13:
12. "Turn back, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband tonight and should also bear sons,
13. would you wait for them till they were grown? . . ."
*Finally, in vs. 15, Orpah had already left, and as Ruth was clinging to her mother-in-law, Naomi said: "Look, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.''
*Now, Naomi was a believer in the one true LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But there she was in vs. 15, basically saying, "Go back to your gods. Go back to your false gods, Ruth." -- What in the world was Naomi thinking?
*Young people, this reminds us that you are going to get a lot of horrible guidance as you go forward in life. You are going to encounter teachers, co-workers, and misguided friends who will try to tell you that wrong is right, and right is wrong. Don't let yourself be deceived. Let God's Word be the ultimate guide for both your beliefs and your behavior.
*Naomi reminds us that even other Christians can give us some terrible advice. Ruth will be eternally grateful that she ignored Naomi's guidance. And in the end, you will never regret following God's Word.
*Naomi did not appreciate what Ruth was trying to do, but Ruth did the right thing anyway. She chose the right priorities, and so should we, because it will always make a difference
2. Choose the right priorities. -- And choose the right place.
*That's what Ruth did in vs. 16, when she said, "Where you go, I will go; and where you live, I will live." Ruth was blessed beyond measure, because she chose the right place. And only the Lord knows how much we will be blessed when we do the same.
*I remember 42 years ago, in June of 1973, when the Lord led me to Louisiana. Living in Georgia at the time, I had no idea that I would be moving out to Louisiana. In fact this was one of the last places I would have wanted to live.
*And I was as lost as I could be at the time, but God made it crystal clear that this was the place where He wanted me to move. Three weeks later, I met my future wife. Two years after that, I wound up teaching at Woodlawn Junior High in West Monroe, even though we had tried to move to Shreveport. A few weeks after that, one of my co-workers invited us to McClendon Baptist Church, and we went.
*Then they invited us to go on a young adult choir retreat, and I thank God we went, because that was when the Light came on for me. I realized that Jesus was real! That He really did love me, and that He really did die on the cross for me! I realized that Jesus really is alive from the dead, and that He wanted to be the Lord and Savior of my life. My whole eternity was changed, by going to the right place. And that's what happened to Ruth.
*Right now, you may not know where God wants you to be, but keep seeking the Lord's guidance. Confidently wait on Him to show you the right place to be. And at the right time, He will show you what to do.
*Also notice here that Ruth made a total commitment to be in the right place. In vs. 16, Ruth didn't just say, "Where you go, I will go," but "where you live, I will live." And in vs. 17, Ruth said, "Where you die, I will die." Ruth was blessed in an amazing way, because she made a total commitment to be in the right place.
*But what about her mother-in-law, Naomi? -- She was going back to a place she never should have left, but the Lord blessed her too! And there is a great lesson for us here: Maybe you have gone down the wrong path. Maybe you have gotten away from God's will for your life. But the Lord will welcome you back with open arms.
*In Isaiah 44:22, the Lord says this to His people: "I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.'' Just like Naomi, God wants to welcome us back with open arms. And He will, when we choose the right place.
3. So, choose the right place. -- And choose the right people.
*That's what Ruth was doing in vs. 16, when she said: "Your people shall be my people." Ruth could have gone back home to the Moabites, but she probably would have wound up worshiping their false gods.
*The people we spend time with have a huge influence on us! Some of the biggest mistakes I have ever made in my life were helped along by running with the wrong crowd. And some of my greatest victories came through the good people who influenced me.
*Christians: This doesn't mean we should shut ourselves off from the world. In John17, Jesus was just a few hours before the cross, and the Bible records one of the prayers He lifted up in those crucial moments. In that prayer Jesus spoke to His Heavenly Father, and said this about His followers:
15. "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.
16. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
17. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
18. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world."
*God wants us to reach out to lost family and friends. He wants us to love them, to share the Lord with them, and help meet their needs. But we have to be careful about the choices we make, because our friends really do have an influence on us, either for good or for bad.
4. Choose the right people. -- And most of all, choose the right Provider
*That's what Ruth did in vs. 16, when she said, "Your God shall be my God!"
*And just think about what the Lord did for her. Ruth was one of the Moabites who came from the incest between Lot and his daughter. But the Lord took her out of a corrupt, godless background, and gave her a home with the people of God.
*Then, in chapter 2, God met all of Ruth's physical needs, when she went to the field to glean. Gleaning was one way that God took care of the poor, because His law required the harvesters to leave some of the harvest for the poor.
*Then in chapters 3-4, God gave Ruth a new husband: The generous and kind kinsman-redeemer, Boaz. Boaz is a picture of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, because he was taking care of Ruth before she even knew it.
*Boaz also paid the price for her. He rescued and redeemed Ruth. And he chose Ruth to be his wife. Then the Lord gave Ruth King David as her great grandson! God also gave her the privilege of being an ancestor to Jesus. Ruth is in Jesus' family tree!
*God gave her the honor of having her story in His Word. And best of all, He gave her an eternal home in heaven! All of that happened, because Ruth chose the right Provider.
*Now think what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us. He has created us, and taken care of us. He has blessed us in countless ways. Jesus came to Earth for us, He died on the cross for us, and He rose again from the dead. Now our Risen Lord will give you eternal life, if you will receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. And all of these blessings come from God's amazing grace. Think how helpless we would be without the Lord.
*On July 24, 2002, about the same time our graduates were heading off to kindergarten, nine miners in western Pennsylvania got trapped 240 feet below ground in a flooded mine shaft.
*Picture a building 20 stories tall. That's how far down they were! Rescue efforts began right away. But the rescue crews knew the odds were massively against them saving those men.
*Almost everybody in the country had their eyes glued on the news from the mine. Those nine miners were trapped for 3 days. Then, they were miraculously rescued. Even the mainstream media called it a miracle, because there was such a slim chance that anyone could survive in that flooded mine.
*The 55 degree water threatened to slowly kill them by hypothermia. And the rescue shaft had to be drilled in just the right place, 250 feet down, in time for the men to be saved.
*Those miners were gasping for air, as floodwater rose to their chins. Blaine Mayhugh asked his boss for a pen when the water in the shaft kept rising. He said, "I want to write my wife and kids to tell them I love them." They tied themselves together so that no one could float away or slip under the water, but also so all of their bodies would be found if they died.
*From the beginning they watched out for one another. If one man got tired, his bond to the other men kept him afloat. When one got cold, the other eight would huddle around him and warm him up. They shared food from a lunch pail that floated by. They vowed that whether they lived or died, they would do so together.
*Joyful celebrations broke out when all of those men were saved alive! There was no doubt that God had answered many prayers for them to be rescued. And that story is a beautiful picture of God's amazing grace.
*Those men did everything they could possibly do to help each other, but there was no way they could save themselves. Those nine miners were absolutely hopeless without help from above. And when the rescue came, all they had to do was receive it. All they had to do was climb aboard the rescue cylinder and be lifted up to safety. (4)
*That's what Jesus Christ does for all who will trust in Him. But the Lord's eternal salvation didn't just take 3 days of non-stop work. It took 3 days in the grave. And Jesus Christ was the only one who could die on that cross for our sins.
*Now the Risen Savior is more than able to lift us up to the safety that last forever! Jesus Christ will lift us all the way to Heaven, if we will give our lives in faith to Him.
*So make the right choices in life. Choose the right priorities, the right places, the right people, and above all, choose the right Provider: Choose the Lord Jesus Christ! You can do that right now, as we go to God in prayer.
(1) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Ruth: A Loyal Love Story" by Brian Bill - Ruth 1:1-4 22
(2) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Starting Over when You Don't Feel Like It" by Brian Atwood - Ruth 1:1-22
(3) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "How Far Does Love Go" by Dean Rhine - Ruth 1:1-4:6
(4) "Miners took vow to live or die together" by Larry Neumeister, Associated Press, The Knoxville News-Sentinel July 29, 2002, p. A1. - Source: Sermons.com sermon "I Can Make It By Myself - Five Things Christians Should Never Say, #2" by King Duncan - 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 - 2005