Ever tried to measure something without a ruler or tape measure?
Several years ago, I did an exercise with a group. I displayed a short board and asked them to tell me how long it was. Some just eyeballed it and guessed; others used the joints in their fingers as a guide; and others compared it to other things. No one had the correct length. Granted, it was not a nice round number like eight inches; the length was something like 8 5/8 inches. In defense, some in the group responded, “Hey, I was close.”
Close is not good enough. As the old saying goes, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” If you’re building a good piece of furniture, being off by even 1/16th of an inch can negatively impact its look or, even worse, make it structurally unsound. I have four different tape measures in my shop, but I’ve learned to use the same one from start to finish on a project; even tape measures can have a subtle variation.
Standards matter—and standards matter in how we live our lives. We live in a time and culture that tells you to choose for yourself the standard by which you live. Our culture mimics the culture recorded in the book of Judges, a time when “everyone did whatever seemed right to him” (Judg. 21:25). The rationale is that your standards and convictions can be quite different from mine, but so long as we’re both being true to ourselves, we’re good.
That’s hogwash. Who would want to live in a building designed and built by subcontractors who all had different standards of measurement? There has to be a universal standard.
If the architect of your house says a bedroom will be 12’6” by 10’4”, then everyone who picks up a tool needs to follow those same measurements exactly. The architect designed it, and she knows best. In the same way, God is our architect. He created us according to His desires and specifications. Thankfully, He gave us a manual to know those specifications. Through the Bible, God has revealed the standards to follow. When we follow those standards, we experience life to the fullest.
God’s standards for ethics, morality, relationships, and so forth are not meant to put a damper on life. Quite the opposite. They make life rich and enjoyable.
Where we get in trouble is in assuming “close” is good enough. There’s no room for compromise, but compromise is what we often do—and we rationalize it. “I fell a little short in this area, but, hey, I didn’t fall as far as I could have.” Every dieter knows the danger of that. For the person removing fried foods from his diet, one chicken nugget may seem like a minor slip up, but it makes it easier the next time to eat two chicken nuggets—and the next time to add the fries (super-sized). It doesn’t take long for a “small” compromise to grow into a big one.
Joseph provided a good model of what to do with standards. When Potiphar’s wife made advances to him, he stood his ground. And when standing his ground wasn’t enough, he ran away (Gen. 39:1-20). From Joseph’s life, I draw three principles:
- Have standards in place before you’re ever tempted.
- Stand your ground—no matter what.
- Run away! Remove yourself from the place where you are tempted.
Let me add a fourth principle straight from Jesus. He taught us to pray, “And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13), so the fourth principle is
- You can’t do this alone. Lean on Jesus.
I am ever thankful to God for revealing Himself through Scripture and giving us the standards by which to live life. My practice has been to spend time in God’s Word. Every. Day. The strength of His Word and His Presence is the only way I can stand.
“I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11).
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