TONY ELDER: Follow God's will, even though it may conflict with family, friends

There are times when a sports fan's loyalty to his favorite team is put to the test. We just completed another season of college bowl games and now the NFL playoffs are in full swing.

These occasions can sometimes result in teams which rarely compete against one another facing off in an important game. No doubt some people find themselves in a quandary when two teams they like, two teams they have cheered for all season, two teams to which they have some degree of connection and loyalty take the field on opposite sides of the ball.

The problem is that you can't really pull for both teams to win. It would be about as confusing as trying to play yourself in a game of table tennis.

I suppose you could hope both teams play well. You might cheer for certain players to perform at their best level. You might applaud each team when it makes a big play. You might wish for a close game.

But if it came down to one final play at the end of the game to decide the contest, you would have to make a choice as to whether you wanted one team to score or the other team to stop them.

Do you really want that runner to get into the end zone? Do you want to see that football get kicked through the uprights? Or do you hope it falls short? With which team does your ultimate loyalty lie?

When it comes to our loyalty to the Lord, sometimes there is little problem in recognizing the enemy and choosing to be on God's side. But other times conflicts arise between good things in our lives and what God wants us to do.

Most of the time we probably find our families, work situations, church obligations, personal desires and plans on the same team as the Lord. But what about when we suddenly find one of those other areas competing against God's will for us?

What about when God is pointing us toward one fork in the road when our ambition wants us to take the other way? What if God is directing us to go someplace that would require putting more distance between us and beloved family?

Who do we choose to win in our lives when one of our favorite things collides with the plans of the One whom we call "Lord"?

I can only imagine how difficult it was for Abraham the time God told him to offer up his son as a sacrifice. He suddenly found his family, his affection, and his plans for the future, along with God's own promises about that son, on the other side of the ball from what God was telling him to do.

But Abraham showed both his faith and his loyalty to God by being willing to obey that command (although, if you know the story, God stopped him from actually going through with the deed).

Jesus warned us that following Him would sometimes put us in conflict with our own families and friends. There would be times when we would have to choose between good things and Him. We would even find our own selves on the other team at times, having to pray as He did, "Not my will, but Yours be done."

The bottom line is simply that we can't serve two masters. At some point we have to choose with whom our loyalty truly lies. Are we going to do what God says and be on His team, or not?

Whatever choices we face, let's always be loyal to our one and only Master.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at RevTElder@aol.com.