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  What makes an act or a decision a 'great' one?    - by Jeremy Utley
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Thursday, April 20, 2017
I am learning that the greatness of an act or a decision is not determined by the measurable impact (outcome), but by the faith that motivated it (input). The motivation is what God cares about, much more than the outward impact. A couple of questions to illustrate this point:
 
Could regularly deciding to NOT heal someone be pleasing to God? 
Could working a miracle be displeasing to Him?
 
Jesus pleased God by NOT healing the man at the beautiful gate
In Acts 3:1-10, we see an amazing demonstration of God's power through the miracle performed by Peter for the lame man. And it's easy to see that this is a great act, as thousands turned to the Lord Jesus in faith as a result. But that miracle never would have happened if Jesus had not restrained Himself from healing the lame man during His earthly ministry -- surely Jesus passed by him many times, as everyone at the temple recognized him as a regular beggar (3:10). So it would appear that Jesus regularly decided, out of dependence upon His Father, to not heal this man.

It is easy for me to acknowledge the greatness of Peter's act of faith in healing the lame man, but it is less natural for me to see the greatness of Jesus's decision to NOT heal him. And God has convicted me that I need to see that Jesus's decision to NOT heal the lame man as every bit as great of an act as Peter healing him. On the basis of outcome, only one act was measurably "great." But on the basis of input, the faith (total trust in God to perfectly lead as He desires) that motivated each decision, both acts are great. Any decision, no matter how easily overlooked, if born of faith, will please God.
 
It is so easy to be swayed by the external evidence and to over-value the work of John and Peter without recognizing how Jesus's "inactivity" was every bit as pleasing to God as their activity. We have to be renewed in our minds to value what God values: the faith which should motivate every decision to act, or to restrain action.
 
Moses displeased God by working a great miracle without faith
In Numbers 20:2-12, we see something equally surprising: Moses, because of the manner in which he miraculously blessed millions of people, is banned from entering the promised land. From an outcome perspective, bringing streams of water from the rock was surely a "great" act. So why was Moses punished so severely? Because he did not carefully obey the exact instruction of the Lord. 

He wasn't careful to do (or in this case, NOT do, as God did not command him to strike the rock) exactly as God had commanded, and so even though outwardly he was a blessing to God's people, his action was not pleasing to God because he did not act in faith. Any act, no matter how good-seeming, if not born of faith, will displease God
 
For me, as soon as I think of this statement, many other examples come to my mind (those who say, "didn't we cast out demons in your name?," Martha, who was literally serving Jesus, but was told she had made the wrong choice, etc), but the point is that our natural inclination is to over-value the externals, and not value motives, because they are unseen. But these stories teach that the faith which motivates our action -- or restraint -- is what God is looking at.
 
So I am seeking to cleanse my motives before God, and to submit all of my decisions to do some good to Him. I want to do only the good that He wants me to do, and be willing to pass by any opportunities He doesn't lead me to pursue. And as I do, I know that I can trust Him with the outcome, that He will work as He sees fit, in His time. Ultimately, I want my life to be great in His eyes!