Richard Weirich

When You Fail to Do the Good You Know

When You Fail to Do the Good You Know

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

James 4:17

Do the right thing. That shouldn’t be difficult. But it is. If it were easy, nobody would cheat, lie, deceive, manipulate, or steal.

Queen Elizabeth II once faced a moral dilemma that arose from a promise she made to her father when she was a little girl. She vowed to always stand by her sister, Princess Margaret. The Princess appealed to the Queen to honor that promise by supporting her plan to marry a divorced man. Queen Elizabeth’s initial reaction was to give her blessing,  but then she learned of opposition from Parliament and the Church of England. She was forced to decide between family loyalty or faithfulness to the crown. Ultimately, Queen Elizabeth ruled against her sister and sided with the church and British law.

The Queen made her decision based on her higher calling. She fervently desired to honor her sister’s request and uphold the promise she had made to her father. Doing the right thing was excruciatingly difficult.

You and I have a higher calling in Christ. Sometimes what we feel or desire is not the good the Lord wants. Spiritual maturity means we forgo the fleshly temptation and surrender to the heavenly expectation.

Many years ago, a family member told me how he lost weight. “Just push yourself away from the table,” he said. I assume he meant to push-off before the chocolate cake and ice cream lands on your plate. His diet plan never worked for me. But in life, pushing away from wrong is the right thing to do.

All of us are well-versed in moral values. Even before we become Christians, we have been taught the basics of right and wrong. However, there’s a lot more to learn after we come to Christ, and we have the onboard help of the Holy Spirit to raise the caution flag when the potential for sin is near.

Since we’re a work in progress, we’ll have situations thrown at us in which we don’t know the good to do. In those rare circumstances prayer, Bible study, and wise counsel will quickly right the course.

You’re familiar with the old expression, “Hindsight is better than foresight.” How many times have you realized you shouldn’t have done something after the fact? “I shouldn’t have married that man. Why didn’t I listen to my mother?” “I should have waited to take another job. I knew better.” “I should have helped that person. It was the right thing to do.”

God speaks through people, and His Spirit speaks to us. Often times we want something so badly we dismiss the good we know in our heart of hearts.

I recall a young lady who’s reason for getting married was because she thought her fiancée was her only chance for love. She ignored the fact they fought like cats and dogs. The marriage lasted less than a year.

James tells us that “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” And as is often the case for sin, there are consequences. When we place personal ambition and desire over God’s good, we are headed for trouble.

To seek God’s counsel and then reject it is foolish. To know good and reject that course of action is sin.

So what is the good you know to do that you’re ignoring? Is there someone you know you should forgive, but haven’t? Is there a sinful habit you have refused to get under control? Has God laid it upon your heart to help someone, but you have ignored His instruction? That decision you’re about to make. Is it in keeping with the Lord’s wise counsel?

Christians should never be guided by “If it feels good do it.” Our guiding principle should be, “If it IS good do it.”

For more on this topic, check out this article: With Christian Freedom Comes Responsibility

Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 3 (July – September) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.

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