In October of 2016, Brit Hume cited a variation of a Winston Churchill remark on the broadcast of the Fox Evening News. The undocumented remark proclaimed, “Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.” Though he often disagreed with U.S. actions, he always appreciated the friendship between the two countries.
Martin Luther King, Jr. concluded, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
Zig Ziglar advised, “When you do the right things in the right way, you have nothing to lose because you have nothing to fear.” Perhaps you have seen the popular meme quoting Roy T. Bennett, “Do what is right, not what is easy.”
Michael Josephson offered a comment with incredible depth. “People of character do the right thing even if no one else does, not because they think it will change the world, but because they refuse to be changed by the world.”
Josephson’s words bring us to the fourth concrete way we can “confirm our calling.” We have looked to the development of the fruit of the Spirit within our character, our attitude toward temptation, as well as a faith that spurs us toward action. Today we realize that because of our calling, when we act we must do the right thing.
Paul’s words to the Romans are translated meaningfully first by J.B. Phillips. “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within” (Romans 12:2 Philips). Eugene Peterson phrased it, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking” (Romans 12:2 Message).
Perhaps there is no greater benchmark today for confirming our calling than Paul’s advice. I must do what is right, regardless of what the convenience or correctness of culture seems to demand.
Understanding what is right and what is wrong is not as easy as it may sound. Recent studies have shown that 91% of teens do not believe in truth that is absolute. Among adults, 66% do not either. The consensus among most people is that truth exists only in a relative, personal way. Right and wrong reside as subjective — a concept that is reduced to someone’s opinion or personal understanding.
Several years ago, a group of college students were discussing the question, “If you are speeding down the highway at 75 mph in a 55 mph zone, are you breaking the law?” One young man answered honestly, “Only if you get caught.”
George Barna research from five years ago showed that Christian morality was leaving most American social structures, and the broader culture was trying to fill the void. Their research then uncovered that many Americans were uncertain about how to determine right from wrong.
When asked, “How can someone know what to do when making moral decisions?” the majority (57%) said that knowing right and wrong is a matter of personal experience. Many acknowledged the culture influences and shapes morality. Less than a majority said that the church guides their moral decisions.
Their findings showed that practicing Christians (those who go to church at least once a month) are nearly four times more likely than adults with no faith background to believe that there is absolute, moral truth. A real proof of the confirmation of your faith calling is the understanding of a standard for moral truth.
The Bible offers some insight into our behavior. “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8 ESV). When our behavior violates truth, there is a price to pay.
But doing the right thing is a challenge that needs to be nurtured daily. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with making the right decisions. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18b ESV).
What changes when we are following God’s calling are the leanings inside and how we feel about our actions when we fail to respond correctly. “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives” (Galatians 5:25 MESSAGE).
The verses just before show that our character is what drives our actions. The qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The C.S. Lewis Institute’s website speaks about “keeping in step with the Spirit” when it comments, “In thought and speech, preaching and prayer, the Spirit’s power” gives you the ability to do what you know you should do but lack the strength to accomplish.
Paul says that our inner selves are strengthened “by the power of the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:16). The Greek word for power is the word from which the English forms the word “dynamite.” We have incredible power from God available to overcome temptations and make the right decisions, but dynamite left sitting in a box does little good.
Max Lucado tells the story of a Welsh woman living in a remote valley many years ago. As electricity became available, the woman believed it would be worth the cost and the trouble to have wires run to her home so that electricity could be installed. Several weeks after the project was completed, the power company noticed she had barely used any power. A company representative contacted her wondering if there was a problem. “Oh no,” she replied. “We are quite satisfied. Every night we turn on the lights to make it easier to light our lamps.”