Do you ever think about the ripple effect? How one decision you make has other impacts later on, not just on you but on the people around you? Sometimes I think about it too much, so much so that I get frozen in indecision. Other times, I completely neglect it until the consequences are staring me in the face and I wonder, How did I not think of this earlier?
Recently I was talking to a high school graduate. He had moved out of his parents’ house and was excited about life. Why? Because he has FREEDOM.
He can stay out as late as he wants. He can hang out with his friends as often as he wants. He can (and does) go out for every meal. He could even eat ice cream for breakfast every morning if he wanted to. And he doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to do.
Like . . .
. . . exercising
. . . or cooking his own food
. . . or washing his sheets
. . . or cleaning his bathroom
. . . or organizing his room
. . . or budgeting
. . . or going to college
. . . or planning for the future
. . . or spending time with family
He may be single for a long, long time.
And if his current behavior continues? He’s going to gain weight, both from not exercising and from eating unhealthy food. And that’s going to make him susceptible to every germ he encounters, which not only will make him feel terrible but he may miss work. And if he misses work, he’ll miss his paycheck. Hopefully he’ll still be able to make rent, but his lack of cleanliness may lead to his eviction anyway depending on his roommates.
In his disorganization, he may lose things he needs but has no money to replace because he never created a budget and spends all his extra money on eating out. If his car breaks down, he can’t get it fixed because he didn’t budget any savings for emergencies. When he wants to get married and have kids, he won’t have a career to support them because he never did take college seriously. And when each one of these unfortunate events occur, his family won’t be there to help him because they know nothing about what’s going on in his life since he burned all his bridges.
Hmm… that’s a pretty nasty ripple effect. I could be wrong, but perhaps his current choices aren’t the wisest use of his freedom?
As Christians, we also have freedom – freedom from being trapped in the law and sin. But how are we using that liberty? Are we using it wisely in a way that will help us? Or are we using our freedom to be lazy and live in filth? To be honest, for me it’s easier to foresee the tangible consequences of a young adult not preparing for the future than it is to foresee the spiritual ripple effect from misusing our freedom in Christ. What could happen if we neglect our spiritual development?
Maybe we’re relying on other people to be our sole source of spiritual food instead of cooking our own. Don’t get me wrong, Proverbs 11:14 clearly says, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” We should be ingesting teaching from various pastors, authors, and mentors. But it’s most important that we study God’s Word and pray on our own as well to cultivate our personal relationship with Him. We get to know Him best one-on-one.
Ripple Effect: If we don’t know God well, we can’t recognize His voice or guidance. Then we’ll miss the awesome blessings and opportunities He has for us in life. And not only that, but we won’t have the option to pass along those blessings to others.
Or maybe we’re living in our own filth. Instead of renewing our minds each day (Romans 12:2), we’ve decided it takes less effort to live with our sin habits. In a world that says, “Accept me for me,” that’s easy to get away with. But we should be using our freedom to work toward conquering those things that keep us from serving the Lord to our fullest.
Ripple Effect: If we don’t repent from our day-to-day sins, soon their filthy stench will fill the nostrils of everyone around us. We won’t be recognizable as followers of Christ. Our ability to be a witness to the world will be handicapped by hypocrisy.
Or maybe we’ve neglected the community of believers. We aren’t spending quality time living life alongside other Christians, meeting with them for encouragement, accountability, or corporate worship. But that’s exactly what Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to do, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
Ripple Effect: We have no one we can trust to fall back on when times get hard. And even worse, we’re depriving the body of Christ of the gifts that God has given us to share with others (I Corinthians 12). The community of believers needs us.
The ripple effect helps motivate me to make the effort to do right in God’s eyes. Sometimes it’s easy to dismiss the benefit I know will come to me from doing what I should, but it’s harder for me to ignore the consequences. I don’t want to be a sub-par or even mediocre Christian. I want to hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21) when I join my Father in heaven. I want to love God well, and faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).
Freedom isn’t synonymous with lack of discipline. It comes with responsibility. And when we have healthy spiritual lives, another ripple effect occurs, impacting all aspects of our lives and how we choose we use our freedom. What ripple effects, positive or negative, have you experienced in your Christian walk?
Family Radio Staff