One important lesson my father drilled into my sister and me when we were young is that when things went wrong, there is a reason. Ninety-nine-point-five percent of the time, he would say you are the reason. If something’s going wrong, you are doing something wrong.
That is a law that runs right through the Bible: You are blessed for obedience and cursed for disobedience. Herbert W. Armstrong wrote frequently about it—he called it the law of cause and effect.
It’s often hard for young people to own up to a mistake. This is especially true in today’s “victim culture.” Victim culture wants to blame bad things on something or someone else. People take to the street to protest imagined grievances. They blame the government, race, their parents, society, inequality—anything except their own mistakes.
You must understand this law because it is directly connected with repentance. To change a behavior, you first have to accept the fact that you’re doing it—that you are guilty.
Matthew Buckley writes in his summary of the book Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink: “Be able to admit your mistakes when you make them, and take complete ownership for them. … [T]ake responsibility and think about what you could have done differently. Learn from your shortcoming and think about what you can do differently next time to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Bad things don’t just happen to God’s people or His children. Mr. Armstrong talked about three things we have to resist: Satan, society and self. Most of the time, those bad things are the boomerang effects of your own sins! You can’t blame society or even the devil when you sin. Of course he is pummeling us with his broadcast, but we are responsible for our own actions, our own sins. The sooner we see that, the sooner we can get to work changing that behavior so we can cause good things to happen!
In the February 1982 Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong wrote: “It’s just as simple as this: There is a cause for every effect—yet our whole society and way of life today is based on treating the effect, ignoring the cause! Our people do it in treating sickness and disease. They do it in dealing with crime. They do it in working for peace!”
If you get sick or have a bad headache, hopefully you will be humble enough to consider why that may be happening. What could you have done differently to avoid the sickness? We almost always bring sickness on ourselves.
Isaiah 59:8 says, “The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.” That is the cause of all the evil, violence and division in the world: Man does not know the way to peace!
Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Missing Dimension in Sex: “If there is to be peace, happiness, abundant well-being, something must cause it! God could not be God without providing a cause for every desired good. Isn’t it about time we realize that in love for the mankind He created, God also created and set in motion inexorably this spiritual law to provide the cause of every good result?”
God commands us to avoid certain behaviors, not only so we can avoid the boomerang effect—the curse—that comes with that behavior, but because He doesn’t want to rob us of the joy that comes from doing it the right way!
That review continues: “Stop making excuses. Excuses are lies, and they’re the centerpiece of failure. Some people see the goal that they’re chasing, and some people fixate on the obstacles in their way and why they ‘can’t’ achieve their goal.”
Some people are focused on the goal regardless of the obstacle in their path. Others just throw in the towel—It’s too hard, it’s not worth it; I’m suffering, so I want to stop.
We all need to make wise choices. Sometime you have to bow out of certain tasks or challenges. But God meant for us to go the straight and narrow way. We’re not on the broad, easy road. This is not an easy ride on the interstate; it’s more like a windy, curving road on the edge of a cliff, and we must cling to the mountain to avoid falling off.
There will be obstacles in living God’s way—you can count on it. That is how we build character.
Buckley writes, “Instead of thinking of why you won’t be able to accomplish your goals, devise strategies to work your way around the obstacles to get to your destination. The route that you take to your destination isn’t as important as simply getting there.” You have to know where you are headed!
Mr. Armstrong observed in his autobiography that most people “are victims of circumstance. They have given no intelligent thought to choosing where they live, what they do, or planning for the future. They have no specific aim or goal in life. They are headed toward no definite purpose. They are where they are by circumstance.” When people end up in a bad situation, they blame those circumstances! They blame society, race, family, government—anything but their own failures. They don’t own their own mistakes, so they won’t repent.
Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (verse 1). The reason Earth remains the “Goldilocks Planet” is because of god’s laws! And his spiritual laws are more certain and beautiful than the physical laws.
“There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. … The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (verses 3, 7). My father has said that the Bible is more perfect than all those heavenly laws that sustain the universe. That’s how wonderful God’s Word is!
Tucker Carlson has never been a religious man, but since being fired from Fox News in April 2023, he has had more time on his hands. He said he started reading the Bible in February. He went through the New Testament first, and now he’s up to Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. He said it’s the most fascinating book he’s ever read. What does that say about how much we should love the Bible? Carlson doesn’t even understand 90 percent of the Bible. Don’t dismiss the Bible, thinking that there is another way (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).
Mr. Armstrong wrote in his March 1970 Plain Truth personal: “Nature has set fixed laws. There are natural laws set to maintain the proper ecological balance to maintain life in our soil, in our water, and our air. Man, in his educated ignorance and greed, upsets that balance. There can be no law without a penalty. There are also inexorable moral and spiritual laws governing human relationships and human happiness, prosperity and abundant well-being.”
In Carlson’s own words, he’s made a lot of mistakes, but at least his wife and kids like him. A lot of the children of leaders today hate their parents. Carlson has said he dismisses a leader out of hand if his family is a disaster. Something caused that state in the family, and it is a reflection on the leader.
Fix your mind on God’s law. Open your eyes to cause and effect in your own life. When you are struggling with something, even if it is just a negative mindset, try addressing the cause. Change something at the source of the problem and see if that doesn’t make a difference. You can cause that to happen, and the result will be contentment, unity, joy and friendship. No one else is going to do it for you. You have to be the one to change your mindset.
Read verses 7-9: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” God’s law converts the soul. That’s why it’s important to feed on the Word of God and fill up on the mind of God, to eat and digest these words. Go deeper into that study and think about how to apply these lessons, laws and principles.
Mr. Armstrong continued, “Man seems always bent on breaking all such laws, whether physical, chemical, moral or spiritual. The laws begin to enforce automatically their penalties. It is a matter of cause and effect. So what has humanity been doing for thousands of years? Breaking the laws—causing the effect—the penalty of broken laws. Then what does man do? He tries to treat of the effect.”
We saw so many examples of this with covid-19. Man tries to treat the effect. “In all this world, our human society is treating the effect, while ignoring the cause—or, more properly, breaking the laws and trying to remove their penalties” (ibid).
The Bible is a how-to book. It is likened to a lamp because we have to use it to know where to go (Psalm 119:105).
“The Bible, alone of all books or sources of knowing, reveals basic purposes. It alone reveals the inexorable, yet invisible laws that regulate cause and effect, action and reaction—that govern all relationships—that produce happiness, peace, well-being, prosperity. The Bible is a guide-book of vital principles, to be applied to circumstances, conditions, and problems” (Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong).
When I was in basketball in middle and high school, my father had me continually return to this principle. Why did that happen? I would ask. Even if it was obviously brought on by my antagonistic coach, my father would always say, Yes, he’s obviously got that issue, but what about you? Have you prayed about it? Have you taken it to God? God says to pray for your enemies. Sometimes, I would dread even bringing it up because my father would find a way to point it back at me. He always did. And he was always right.
Even when there’s a setback, God has allowed it. Be humble enough to consider: Maybe I’m still doing something wrong. Maybe my spiritual life isn’t right. Maybe I’m not obedient enough in my attitude. When God allows a trial to happen, ask yourself: What is He trying to teach me?
Deuteronomy 11:8 reads, “Therefore shall ye keep all the commandments which I command you this day, that ye may be strong, and go in and possess the land, whither ye go to possess it.” Commandment keeping makes you strong. If you’re obeying God, the obstacles may still be there, but you will reach that finish line. God will help you if you keep looking to Him and using these laws of cause and effect. Cause good things to happen!
“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known” (verses 26-28).
Eighth grade basketball was not fun. I felt like I was a better player than most, but my coach wouldn’t play me. I received encouragement from my father, but I also had some encouragement from the ninth-grade basketball coach, who saw that the way the eighth-grade coach was treating me wasn’t right. I thought that maybe he could influence the coach to play me more, but he just said to stay the course—persevere.
Ninth grade basketball was the best year I ever had—best coach I ever had. If you stay the course, God will bless you in the end if you’re obedient. It may not come tomorrow morning or next week, but take the long view. Have some vision!
God reiterates this law in Deuteronomy 30: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days. …” (verses 19-20).
Just as was the case for ancient Israel, there are two basic ways of life. What you see all around you in this present evil world is the way of selfishness and vanity—the way of getting what you want at any cost. Look at what that mindset is doing to our nations! In the Church, we must be different.
Mr. Armstrong wrote: “And let the answer come right here to the question of why God gave commands. Man is not to be punished for sin merely because a God gave an arbitrary command. But God gave the commands because these violations rob us of joys, and inflict automatic harm” (The Missing Dimension in Sex).
God is not trying to prevent us from having a happy or joyful life. He’s laid out these laws and commands so that we can have exactly that!
Mr. Armstrong continues, “God’s laws were set in motion to give us happiness, peace, security in plenty, and thrilling radiant joys. God’s laws are the gift of His love to us. God wants us to enjoy the blessings they make possible. This is the plain and rational truth! WHY has a rebellious mankind insisted on being willingly ignorant of that basic fact of life?” This is the basic theme of the Bible.
Jesus Christ told his disciples, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:15-17).
Remember this law of blessings and curses; remember the law of cause and effect.
Sidebar: Some points from Extreme Ownership:
- Do not place blame elsewhere.
- Own your mistakes.
- Aim to continuously improve because there is always room for improvement.
- Success is your responsibility.
- Do not spectate at your own life; actively engage in it.
- Recognize that your decision and your habits have consequences.
- Have a good attitude.
- You’re more productive when you’re positive.
- Your attitude sets the tone for your environment.