Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Concrete & Sand... [2]

So what is behind the lunacy of my suggestion to make a life goal of following God in the sand rather than in concrete? Well, simply stated, life. And the Bible, and sin, and our weakness, and God’s faithfulness, and our power to choose.

Let’s be honest; life is difficult. The Bible does not hide this fact. Life is difficult because sin has done a number on us – far greater a number than we all too often realize I fear. We must also be clear, we are weak. And not only is this OK to admit, it is necessary if you are to follow God. Yet while we are weak, God is faithful. And when we acknowledge our weakness we can exercise our power to choose – and choose Him.

A reason I am suggesting a life goal of following God be made in the sand is because (and please recall the analogy disclaimer of yesterday) if you “draw a line in the sand,” so to say (or place your handprint and initials in sand, to keep with the concrete analogy of yesterday), and you want it to stay there (meaning you mean it), you have to revisit it daily. If your decision to follow God is made in concrete, you can mistakenly think that commitment will stand the test of time – no matter if you revisit it or not. Make no mistake about it, if you are going to resolutely follow God throughout your life, it is a commitment you will have to daily revisit.

A way of revisiting this commitment is through thanksgiving. In fact, I am becoming convinced that thanksgiving is the most fundamental thing we must do in following God. When you revisit your “line in the sand,” you further etch it as you recall what God has done for you. Yet in giving God thanks you dare not stop with what He has done for only you. You must also thank God for what He has done for others, for what He has done throughout history, and for what He has done to advance His Kingdom. Thanksgiving is tantamount to trust in God. And trust in God (or faith) is a prerequisite to following God. 

Another reason I am suggesting a life goal of following God be made in the sand is because your “line in the sand” will be met with challenges. We will call them the “storms of life.” What happens to a line in the sand during a storm? Yep, it gets washed away. At the least it becomes less noticeable. Have you ever been guilty of running away from God when things got difficult in your life? If you have not then congratulations, you and Jesus are the only ones to have never done that! In other words, of course you have. Yet if you know your commitment to follow God is in the sand, you know this commitment is susceptible and in danger of being washed away and forgotten when times get hard.

Let’s face it, pretty much all growth in life is through difficulty. Ever watch a baby learn to walk? It is humorous for us...but can be painful and frustrating for them. Ever watch world-class athletes? The grace and power and skill mask countless hours of grueling workouts and sacrifice. Ever watch a skilled laborer do their part in making a house? Have you ever considered their skills have come through hours of learning as well as having made many mistakes? The list of examples is endless. 

I think a reason why so many followers of Jesus are struggling and practically infants in their faith is because they do not embrace difficulty. When “life happens” and things get hard, they turn to a variety of things rather than to God (just to be clear, we have all done this). And all the while their line in the sand is beaten and all but washed away. Tragically, in place of the commitment to follow God (which includes relying on and trusting in Him), in deceptive ways mind you, comes a commitment to whatever they turned to in the time of difficulty (shopping, TV, giving into whatever thoughts enter their mind, eating, cutting, being busy, etc.). Yes, to keep our line in the sand – our commitment to follow God – we must revisit it daily. Indeed, often we need to revisit it multiple times a day, especially when the storms of life come. And let’s be honest, what day is totally “storm free” in your life?  

There are other reasons why I am suggesting a life goal of following God be made in the sand, but those will have to wait for another time.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Concrete & Sand... [1]

Some rather common wisdom concerning goals and achieving them is that you set your goal in concrete and make your plans in sand. Behind this thinking is the reality of life. Situations will arise, so how you plan to accomplish a given goal may have to change. It is obviously easier to change something in the sand than it is to change something etched in concrete. Furthermore, a goal made in concrete connotes a sense of permanence and stability.

Yet when it comes to following God, I am inviting you to consider with me the value of placing this life goal in the sand and leaving concrete out of the picture all together. Why would you even suggest this? Just read along please. Haven’t you ever read about the foolish and wise builders Jesus talked about? Which ones, those in Matthew 7 or those in Luke 14?  

Have you ever made (or seen) handprints in concrete? Examples with which I am familiar are agrarian (perhaps because not many children want to ‘immortalize’ their handprint with a name in the city limits). When the pad was poured for whatever (floor of a shop, approach to building, a sidewalk, etc.), a place was reserved for handprints in the concrete accompanied with initials (sometimes full names) and a date. It is kind of cool really. Yet, how often are those memorials (which is what they seem to be) forgotten? Oh to be sure, a person can revisit a site from their childhood and “remember when” if you will. Yet how often do the events of “remember when” come back to their mind without revisiting the site?   

Let the reader understand, this is an analogy. Analogies do not prove truth, they illustrate truth. Furthermore, all analogies will eventually break down at some point. So, let this be what it is – an analogy.

There are many who have “made a goal in concrete,” if you will, and have not revisited that goal in any substantial way for years. The intention is good: “I will be faithful to you as my wife/husband” or “I will follow God whole-heartedly” or “I am convicted, I will no longer ______”. A concrete resolve is made, with good intentions, but over time it is ignored. Granted, something might spur the person to “remember when,” but what follows the trip down memory lane is not set in concrete. Indeed, the trip can go a few ways. For some, it will embolden the person and they will recommit to their initial goal in concrete. After all, they meant what they said. For others, it will lead to the person being disheartened and defeated as they think, “Wow, a lot of good that commitment did me…just like a lot of other things in my life – F.A.I.L.U.R.E. – I may as well give up.” Yet they meant what they said as well... 

The above is not only unfortunate. It is also tragic. Worse yet, it is also reality day after day after day. What is the divorce rate in our culture? [And no, I am not saying a lack of commitment is behind all divorces – there are many factors] How many people have initially decided to follow God only to, at the least, wane in that commitment if not fall away? How many have been convicted that “this is the last time” only to return to it, or have it return – with a vengeance?

What if the goal was made in sand?  I realize I involved some other goals above, but I will now return to the life goal of following God – you can make the application for other life goals easy enough. Yet...Made in sand? What, like something that takes hardly any effort? Like something that can be easily washed away or eroded? To those inquiries I answer “No” and “Yes.” We will explore why next time…