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When You Choose The Second Best - Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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September 21, 2023 1:00 am

When You Choose The Second Best - Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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September 21, 2023 1:00 am

If we choose “second best,” will God stop blessing us? Israel chose to not believe the promises of God when they received the spies report, so God judged them severely. In this message, Pastor Lutzer notices multiple undeserved blessings God gave the nation of Israel. God mingles his judgments and his discipline with grace.

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Alan Wright
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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

By and large, Israel chose to not believe the report of spies sent to check out the land. As a result, God said they would all die in the desert, except for Joshua and Caleb. Tough consequences, but there was mercy and grace mixed with this judgment.

Today we will see it. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, how exactly did Israel choose the second best in Numbers chapter 14? Well Dave, first of all, Israel chose the second best in chapter 13 when they decided that they would not go into the land because they were giants and they said, we felt as if we were grasshoppers in their sight. But also in chapter 14, you're right. They decided that on their own, they were going to rebel against God and now that they had blown it, so to speak, they were going to go into the land without God's blessing.

And of course, they were as easily beaten as grasshoppers. There's so many lessons to be learned here about bad decisions. That's why I've written the book entitled Making the Best of a Bad Decision. The subtitle says, How to Put Your Regrets Behind You, Embrace Grace, and Move Toward a Better Future. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. The title of the book, Making the Best of a Bad Decision. Some decisions that we make that cannot be undone, we have crossed a line, we've taken a fork in the road, and we've invested heavily in this decision and there's no way out and we need to live exactly where we are at. Israel's decision, disobedience, God's decision, God says discipline.

But is that the end of the story? What a tragedy if the message ended here and we all said, well, it's time to go home, let's stand for the benediction. Because what I want you to see is how God mingled his judgments and his discipline with grace, with grace. In fact, as I was going over this last night, I noticed seven different, seven different blessings that God gave to the nation.

Let me give them to you very quickly. In verse 20, it says that God forgave their iniquity. You have your Bible open today? Do you notice it there in verse 20? Chapter 14 now, chapter 14, verse 20. Moses prayed that the people would be forgiven and God says, I've pardoned them according to your word.

Now, I need to give a parenthesis here. I interpret this story differently than other well-known Bible teachers. I greatly appreciate what they have to say and I honor them, but I look at it differently. There are those who say that everybody who died in the desert, they all went to hell because they were all unbelievers at the end of the day and they hardened their hearts against God and God says, you never had any faith, you're out of here.

Well, I don't think so. I think that there were many people who went into the desert who were a part of that disastrous decision who will be in heaven someday. God says, I pardoned them. They had experienced the, the blood of a lamb. They had gone through the Red Sea. Certainly some of them were great unbelievers and God judged those specifically, the sons of Korah and some other things where there were some very severe judgments, but I rather think that the people in the desert are like Christians who have been saved, but they refuse to enter into the fullness of their walk with God.

That's the way in which I interpreted. So God says, I'll forgive them. Secondly, he blesses their children.

We have to hurry here. Verse 31, but your little ones who you said would become a prey, I will bring in and they shall know the land that you've rejected. Wow. Isn't that gracious? God says, mom and dad, you're going to die in the desert, but guess what? Your children are going to inherit what you should have had.

I'd say that that's a great blessing. God says, I'm going to provide for you. There are so many references to this that I won't even give them, but God gave them manna and he gave them water and it says in Deuteronomy that your clothes never got old because God kept caring for them in the desert. God guided them.

The cloud that guided the Israelites up until now, it appeared from time to time to give Moses some direction as to what he should do with the people. God fights for them and they win wars because of their prayers. Chapter 21, and if you have your Bible, you really, really ought to look at this.

I was so surprised when I saw this yesterday. Chapter 21, they're fighting the Canaanites and it says in chapter 21 verse two, and Israel bowed about to the Lord and said, if you will indeed give this people into my hand, then I will devote their cities to destruction. God says, all right, we have a deal. You see what Israel said is we'll destroy their cities and take nothing for ourselves and those cities will in effect be an offering to you if you help us fight.

But now notice the text. It says in verse three, and the Lord obeyed the voice of Israel. God says, I'm going to help you fight in the desert. I'm going to answer prayers in the desert. And then God instructs them in the desert. You read these chapters and you discover that he gives instructions to the priests as to how to dress and all that.

That's what God does in the desert. What is it that I'm trying to tell you today? This could be misunderstood, but it's going to come out. All right. God sometimes blesses us even after we've chosen the second best. God can bless you. Some of you are here today saying I should have taken more time to decide whom to marry. Don't turn to your partner right now. All right.

You can have that discussion this afternoon, but not now. Some of us have had the good fortune to have been led by God in whom we marry. But some of you perhaps are thinking to yourself, I'm I have to be in this desert and God says I can come along and I can help you and minister to you and bless you even in the desert.

I know a man who's in heaven today who really strongly felt called to the mission field. Now let's assume that that was a genuine call, but he resisted God. He kept resisting God all through his life until he got older. Then he fell on his knees and deeply repented. He said, I know that you've been calling me, but it's too late to go. But he chose to become a godly man and he was running a service station in Canada.

So what he decided to do is to say, now in light of the fact that I've made a decision that I'm quite sure it was wrong, what do I do now? And he began to give out tracks and booklets in a service station to everyone who came by to buy gasoline. And he witnessed to everyone at that station that he could and God blessed him and he led people to Christ. I'm saying to you today that God isn't through with you yet. One requirement and that is, are you alive? Are you alive today? You folks in the balcony are still living. I've always prayed, oh God, keep me alive until I die.

It's a good idea, I think. So God gives grace. He mixes his discipline with grace and he certainly does that. Secondly, secondly, he gives grace to the faithful. Let me back up and say that he gives grace to the disobedient whom he pardoned, but he also gives grace to the faithful. You say, well, Pastor Luther, what are you talking about in the context?

Well, I'll tell you. I'm thinking of Joshua and Caleb and Moses too, even though Moses ended up unable to go into the land, but I'm thinking of Joshua and Caleb. They're saying to themselves, hey, we were the obedient ones. We were the ones that had faith. We tried to convince them to go into the land and now the whole congregation of Israel has made a decision that the answer is no. So what do we do for 38 years? Well, the answer is for 38 years you wander in the desert along with everybody else in the dust and the heat and all of the conflict of the desert. They were victims of decisions that others made for them.

Does God give them grace and strength and health to endure it? Yeah. Some of you who are listening to this, you are victims of decisions that other people made for you. Maybe your parents because you were brought up in a very, very dysfunctional, even abuse of home. You say, well, Pastor Luther, I still have consequences in my life because of the way in which I was raised.

Yes. And it's possible you'll have some of those consequences until you die. So what does God do?

What about those of you who've had a spouse who's left the marriage? Usually that happens when there are two people who are at fault but I've known instances in which somebody simply just takes off for no real good reason and they decide to create havoc with what they do. Does that mean God says, well, you know, this was plan A, now we're dealing with plan B and I'm kind of wiping my hands and saying, well, you know, you're the victim of circumstances.

No, no, no, no. God is bigger than all that and more gracious than all that. God is just as willing to help you in messes that other people have made for you as he is to help you in messes that you've made for yourself. Some of you say, well, Pastor Luther, I've got both of those circumstances. God is bigger than that. We don't make decisions independently to affect others. This decision affected a number of people in a very adverse way, but they stuck it out and Caleb ends up conquering the land.

What a story that is. You think of all the barriers he overcame, the barriers of peer pressure. They wanted to stone him. The barrier of race. He was a Kennesite. He was not an Israelite.

The barrier of old age. He should have had a should have had a condo in Florida at the age of 85. But he said, give me this mountain and God says, Caleb, because you followed me with a full heart, I'll even bless you in your old age after the 38 years are over. God is gracious. So God blesses the disobedient. God blesses the faithful and God's grace really does come to all of us, does it not? Is there anyone here who says today, Pastor Luther, thank you, by the way, is there anyone here who says today, Pastor Luther, I have not made one bad decision. Would you raise your hands, please? If you'd have raised your hand, I'd have told you you've just lied.

That's a bad decision. What God does is he comes to the nation and he says, I will lead you and my strength will be upon you. And I'm going to come along and I am going to bless you in ways that that you wouldn't have guessed. So that mingled with the judgments, mingled with all of the problems and the consequences of your sin.

There is mercy and there is grace. Jesus told the story, you remember, of a young man who went into the far country. He was a man who was very, very a boy, actually, who was very disrespectful, very disrespectful of his parents. Because he comes to his dad and says, Dad, I want your inheritance and I can't wait for you to die. He said, I want your inheritance and I want it right now.

Father gave it to him. What are you going to do with a boy like that? And so he wanders off into the far country and there in the far country, he begins to get poor and he ends up in a pigsty. And then he comes to himself and he does the right thing. All you who are listening to this message today, wherever you may be here at the Moody Church or elsewhere, there is always a right move that you can make. And that is to hurry back to the Father, to hurry back in repentance and in humility, acknowledging all that you have to give to him is the mess that others have made, that you've made. And then we say, Father, it is all yours now. And when we hurry back to the Father in repentance and faith, the Father accepts us and begins where we are. That's the good news of the gospel. In fact, because Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, because he is the one who shed his blood, he now says to all of us, you can be forgiven, you can be welcomed, you can be received into my presence, you can be all that you, all that I can make you. You've taken wrong turns, wrong turns, but I will meet you right there, right there. And that's why you're here today and that's why I'm here today, to be reminded of that.

You remember that old story about somebody who took a blotch of paint and just poured it onto a canvas haphazardly and how a wonderful artist came along and was able to take the blotch of paint and paint around it and paint over it and make it as part of the scenery. That's what God does to us. But he's saying to you and to me, I want you to let go.

Lose your grip on yourself, your own way, your rebellion. Come to me, I'll pardon you and I'll bless you even in the desert. Let's pray. Our Father, we want to thank you today for your love and grace. Thank you that you enable us in such a wonderful way to give ourselves to you completely and fully and to say, Father, we've all messed up and you know how we've done that. But we thank you today that no matter what decisions we have made, you meet us along the road and then walk with us all the way to our heavenly home. This is Pastor Lutzer and on my heart right now is this burden to speak to you exactly where you are. In my book entitled Making the Best of a Bad Decision, I tell the story of even when Joshua made a very foolish vow. He did not consult the Lord and yet he kept his vow and how God sometimes blesses us even though we have messed up, even though we have chosen the second best. The message of this book is a message of hope because God does meet us exactly where we are and he knows where you are today.

You may be in a car, you may be home, you may be sitting in a prison cell. God sees us, he knows, and he can take the blotches of our life and weave them into a picture. For a gift of any amount, you can receive this book Making the Best of a Bad Decision. I truly believe that this resource will be of help to you even as you counsel others.

You can use it for yourself as well as others to give them encouragement in all of the detours of life. Here is what you do. Go to That's or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. And I want to thank you in advance for your generosity in helping us. Your investment is used to get the gospel of Christ around the world.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. The title of the book, Making the Best of a Bad Decision. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Today, marital strife has brought one listener to the brink. Janice from Illinois asks, My husband and I have been married for 30 years. It has been tumultuous at best, and we got married because I was pregnant.

I was saved out of a liberal church 25 years ago, and while my husband says he is born again, I don't think he gets it. My husband left when our son was 15. He had a deep, intimate, emotional affair and then came back one and a half years later. But he came home for our son, who was having difficulty in high school. He did not come back for me and our relationship.

Our son's needs were always put ahead of ours. Our son is now 28 and married. My husband paid a very sizable amount of his very expensive wedding. I was so angry about the extravagance that I made many inappropriate comments. This caused tension which has still not been resolved to this day. My son will not allow me in his home to see his wife or my grandchild. My heart has changed since then, and I have apologized. They say they forgive me, but unless I'm talking about some general topic, I'm told I'm saying something inappropriate. My question is, since my husband refuses to seek counseling for our marriage, clearly we have no emotional connection whatsoever.

What should I do? Janice, first of all, let me say that my heart certainly goes out to you. You know, it's a reminder to me as a pastor that people live in a great deal of pain. Clearly you do. You feel isolated, you feel alone, you feel as if there's nobody there. There seems to be no hope for your marriage. And now, of course, you're being cut off from your son also and his wife. First of all, let me say this, however, it is important for you to see yourself objectively in all of this. You do have to ask yourself the question, what have you done to cause such hostility toward you?

You know, I always say the ability to see ourselves as others do is a divine gift. And I mention that because you need to make sure that your own conscience is clear. Now, thankfully, you have asked for forgiveness, but there may be some other things there that you can do to somehow ease the tension and to defrost the cold relationship that you have there with the members of your family.

But there's more, of course, to your story. From your letter, I got the impression that when your husband had that affair and he came back, there was no counseling, there was no repentance. He came back into your life and wanted to be accepted as if nothing happened.

And that, of course, was a mistake, because when you don't deal with these issues seriously, when sin is not taken seriously, the cure is not taken seriously. But that is history apparently and you can't go back to the beginning in that relationship. So what you must do now is to simply prove your love and have the right attitude toward your husband and toward his son. And you need to trust God and simply say, Lord, I believe that this is unfair. I see no hope, but I'm going to be a faithful wife. I'm going to be a faithful mother.

And I am going to try to prove my love and prove all that I believe about you being adequate for this situation. And then go for some counsel. Talk to your pastor. Ask others to pray with you. You can't clean up this mess.

I don't think you can. Only God can. So all that you can do is to guard your heart, to have faith, and to trust, to go for some help, and somebody else has to sort all this out. Janus, thank you for opening your heart to us today.

Many listeners probably share the same kinds of struggles you do. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer, for your answers. If you'd like to hear your question answered, you can go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. Failing to keep promises marks any of us as deficient in character. God says it's better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Next time, we take a look at the importance of keeping our word, a measure of personal integrity. Don't miss our next program. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-29 15:27:07 / 2023-10-29 15:35:35 / 8

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