We have a number of graduates in the congregation this morning and each one of them is faced with choices to make. Where will you attend college? What career will you choose? Where will you live? Who will you befriend? Should you move out or stay at home with your parents? These are all difficult decisions and each one will have a direct affect on the remainder of your lives.
We all face decisions, times when we find ourselves at a crossroads. Some have decisions to make about employment. Some may be contemplating a major purchase. Others may be thinking about a relationship. My daughter recently got engaged. She and her boyfriend have been going together for seven years. He said, “I wanted to make sure.”
But, we don’t always have that amount of time to decide. Many of our decisions require us to decide in a very short time, even on the spot. The paths we choose will determine the consequences of our life’s journeys, the quality of life, where we will go, who we will meet.
We basically have two choices; we can choose the path of prosperity, a life that leads to happiness, as the Psalm describes, OR, we can choose the alternative; what I like to call, the path of “nothingness.” Which will you choose?
The answer is simple. Everyone would choose prosperity over nothingness. Why would you want to go down a path that has nothing to offer you? A path that causes you regret, disappointment, or even pain. No one in there right mind would want to end up there, yet, that’s where may people go. They go there because they do not believe that God can offer them a road that will bring them much joy.
God wants us to be prosperous. God wants us to choose the path that will bring us the most happiness, a meaningful and joyful existence that lasts for all eternity. The choice seems simple, unfortunately we are led to believe that “prosperity” exists down the path away from God.
We normally think of prosperity as winning the lottery, being a top executive, living in a mansion and having servants, having the resources to do whatever we want, having power, beautiful things and lots of toys. Although some of these may be realized it is not how prosperity is understood in the first Psalm.
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One time I had the opportunity to cruise on a yacht in Annapolis, Maryland, in Ego Alley. That is the place where yacht owners parade their boats in order to be envied by the poor souls on the shore. Since it is an ego trip they have appropriately named the place, Ego Alley.
The yacht I cruised on that particular day was not my own. It belonged to an attorney from Pennsylvania. A group of friends and myself leased it for 5 days. We wanted the experience of seeing the look of envious faces and standing tall on the deck of this luxurious craft. For a few moments we were in heaven. Minutes later we hooked up to a mooring buoy and for the next 24 hours watched other yachts do the same thing. We were very proud and our egos were bursting at the seams.
A little later in the day, another yacht followed the same path only he had his sails up. Maneuvering a yacht in Ego Alley with full sails is not only a sight to behold but an impossible fete. Never again would we attempt to be so vain.
To choose the path of “nothingness” is a futile attempt to be someone important. It is nothing more than a way to look good or fill one’s self with gratification. When one is consumed with one’s self, they are choosing, as the Psalmist says, a life that “like chaff, the wind will blow away.”
In other words, a life that is self-centered, or worse, a life that is filled with self righteousness, will perish. On the other hand, a life that chooses happiness will prosper, will be “like a tree that is planted by streams of water.”
To choose the path of prosperity is to choose a life of (1) inner peace, (2) fulfillment and (3) oneness with God. It is a life that is God connected, open to the teachings of God and has an intimate relationship with none other than the Lord, Almighty.
One evening last week I was sailing with my wife at Grand Lake St. Marys. We were on our way in and just a few hundred yards from our dock when we passed by two men fishing in the channel. One of them said, “nice boat.” Now, our boat is seventeen years old and only 19 feet long. It is no yacht. I believe that what the man saw was not a yacht, but a happy couple, enjoying the evening , casually and peacefully concluding a beautiful day in a gentle breeze. I am sure that what he also noticed was two people navigating the channel with precision teamwork. Two people, content with one another and connected with nature in complete harmony.
For me, it was peaceful and prosperous.
To be prosperous is also to be open to the teachings of God. I believe it was Neale Donald Walsch, who wrote in his book, Conversations with God, “there are no mistakes, only lessons.” Every day is a lesson. Every day God teaches us about life. The key is to be open to what God wants to teach us and then apply it to our lives and to choose the path that will lead to prosperity.
It is interesting to note that the Psalmist helps us to choose the right path by telling us what the pitfalls are of choosing the wrong path, the path of nothingness. He says “do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers.” By these words he means; be careful who you listen to, don’t feel pressured to conform to what others are doing and don’t be envious of others (especially their yachts).
Choose instead the path that leads to prosperity by listening to your heart, pursuing a course that brings peace and fulfillment, all the time staying connected to the one true source of life.
I am not a very confrontational person but one time I confronted a couple for whom I was giving counsel to. They were arguing, as if there had to be a winner. I told them that what I observed was two people, competing with each other, rather than working together as a team, striving for peace and happiness. When I said that they got very quiet. They looked at one another and connected as if for the very first time. I then told them that if they could spend the energy that they used to outdo one another on a course that would lead to peace they would find unlimited resources to follow that path.
Prosperity is available to us all. It is the path we choose that yields peace, harmony and contentment. As long as we are open to the teachings of God and remain connected to God rather than live as self centered persons, wrapped tightly in our own egos, we can live as the Psalmist says, “happy and prospering in all that we do.”