There are those who will tell you that you are a victim of your ancestry, that you cannot rise above your heritage, that your parents and grandparents have determined your character and capacity, and that you must be satisfied with yourself as you are.

Others will tell you that you are a creature of your environment, that you cannot rise above the level of your surroundings. The situation in which you find yourself determines what you are to be.

Still others say you are the product of your glands. They determine your strength, your character, your abilities, the scope of your activity and the extent of your physical, mental and spiritual existence.

There is enough truth in the above assertions to give one excuse for drifting. One who does not wish to a take responsibility for making the most of himself need not lack excuses.

On the other hand, there is a very large area in which one can choose. He can alter his environment. He can make the most of his hereditary equipment. Many a man rides a bicycle successfully to an honorable destination, while others drive to destruction and death in a Cadillac. The vehicle in which one travels is not the most important consideration. The attitude of the driver is far more significant in determining the quality and character of life.

We have too many wishy-washy people today who will not dare to make right decisions, who will not strive to make the most of themselves, who do not use their physical, mental and spiritual powers to live the finest and most useful lives of which they are capable. Such people are not using their resources. They are living beneath their capacity. They are choosing to be small when they might be great.

On a memorable occasion, Joshua once put the question to himself and the people of Israel. He stood up before the throng and called upon all to choose between serving God and worshipping idols. He did not say "you are the victims of the customs of this land in which we live; you cannot do anything about your environment." He called upon the people to choose righteousness. Hear his words:

"… Choose you this day whom ye will serve … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15.)

Note the will in Joshua's decision: he did not say we will try to serve the Lord, we will make an effort in the right direction. There was nothing weak about his statement. He was in no doubt about his ability to choose. He faced up to it and made the choice with a definiteness and determination we all admire.

Living in a corrupt Oriental court with evil all about him, Daniel might have said "I cannot rise above it, I am the victim of my situation." Instead thereof:

"… Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself." (Daniel 1:8).

Again, he did not say he would try; he did not seek a psychiatrist to excuse him or help him. He "purposed in his heart." That is, he said, I will not succumb to these evil conditions. I will live a righteous life in spite of them. He carried his determination clear into the lion's den because he insisted on serving God rather than evil.

Three times a day he knelt in prayer with his face towards Jerusalem. He made his decision and he lived up to it without faltering or equivocation. He might have compromised. He might have tried to worship God in secret while outwardly conforming to the practices of the pagan court. His decision for righteousness was clean cut. He stood foursquare before friend and foe alike.

When the three Hebrew boys, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, refused to fall down and worship the golden image which the king had set up, Nebuchadnezzer told them that if they did not do so they would be cast into the fiery furnace. Although faced with this horrible death these brave young men would not compromise. Hear their ringing words:

“… our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:17, 18.)

How refreshing it is to find people who can say “I will” or “I will not!” Fortunately no one had told these young men that they had no power of decision, that they were victims of their heredity, their environment, their glands and their training. They knew only to do right, to decide in favor of righteousness.

Had they been acquainted with modern techniques, they probably would have said we will fall down and appear to worship the king while retaining the truth in our hearts. We will not make ourselves conspicuous by being stubborn and obstinate. We will go along with the crowd. We will stay in the middle of the road. No, they did not know these modern excuses. So, they stood up and said, “we will not,” and these words have come ringing down the centuries, proving that men do have the power of decision.

We can make the most of our heredity. We can rise above our environment. We can exercise an enormous influence over our health and energy by right thinking, right decisions and availing ourselves of the spiritual power and help which God makes available to those who seek earnestly to serve Him. Unfathomable, infinite resources are at hand the moment we uncompromisingly choose to put ourselves on God's side and unswervingly seek to learn to do His will.

From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
April/May 1966
p. 9