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Sunday, September 13, 2015

No towel throwing allowed!

I run into people in all walks of life, "trying" to serve Jesus, but struggling with obedience, all the while knowing I am not unlike these fellow believers in my "trying".  "Try" as we might, we don't always get things right the first time.  This is kind of the way most of us learn things - by trying, failing, and trying again.  If I had given up on learning to tie my shoes as a child, long before the days of velcro fasteners, I'd have had to go barefoot!  If I had given up on mastering the clutch, brake, and gas combination, I'd never have learned to drive a stick-shift.  We define "success" in terms of something we call "failure" - hit the nail on the head each time you swing the hammer and we call it success; hit your thumb a few times and we call it failure.  I challenge us to think of failure as another form of "success" - simply because we often make the determination we will not choose to place our finger in the way of the hammer the next time!  We don't throw out the hammer and convert to using a drill and screws - we learn how to use the hammer and the nail.

I try with all my heart to serve you. Help me obey your commands. I do my best to follow your commands, because you are the one who gives me the desire. (Psalm 119:10, 32 ERV)

Failure is a means to success - plain and simple.  If we don't at least try, we won't ever know if we can succeed.  Some of us have a tendency to see the mountain in front of us and forget how many steps it takes to actually climb it!  Still others of us count on some mystical plan like telling the mountain to move and knowing it will because that is what scripture says.  If every time I needed to drive a nail into a piece of wood I simply looked at it and said, "go into the wood you silly nail", how many of you would look at me as though I'd lost it totally?  All of us know nails get driven into the wood by the pressure exerted on the nail - either from the nail gun or the hammer.  I am not so fortunate as to have a nail gun, so the hammer means is the one I must use.  That means in order for the nail to get driven into the wood, allowing it to do what it was designed to do by joining the wood to the structure I am placing it upon, I need to wield the hammer.  That also means my thumb can be in the direct path of accomplishing this mission!  Failure is a means to success - not a barrier to it.  I don't hit my thumb any longer and I still use hammer and nail when the project calls for it!

Too many times we discount the value of having tried and failed.  I think this may be because of how we think those around us view failure.  I have invested wisely on occasion, realizing a good return on my investment, while there are other times I have lost a little in the venture.  It doesn't keep me from trying again, though.  I may be a little more cautious, doing a little more up-front work to find out about the investment, seeking advice from others who are also investing, etc.  Life involves risk - any success is a mixture of trial and error.  In terms of our spiritual lives, we may not always realize success over the things which seem to easily get us to follow down the road of temptation. Remember this - that is a six lane highway with all kinds of entries and exits!  It isn't a simple one lane country road!  The good news is the number of exits on that highway to sin!  We might enter here, pass an exit there and another emerges a little further up.  Take any one of those exits and you will realize a new degree of success in your spiritual walk!

We try not to get on the highway in the first place, but sometimes we get caught up in the "flow of traffic" in our lives.  It is like the attention we pay to where we are going isn't all that careful - and before we know it, we find ourselves squarely merging into the six lane highway travelling at break-neck speed toward that temptation.  All is not lost, though.  We can still find an exit - it may take us a while, but the exit is there - we just have to merge over and slow down long enough to recognize it is coming up and is a means by which we can get off the path we are on!  We have all missed an exit on occasion, but it doesn't keep us off the road we call life.  We still get up every morning, venture out into the big open world and start our venture anew.  If we gave away the car because we missed an exit on our way to work one day, we'd be committed to the funny farm!  So, why do we so easily give up on ourselves when we miss the exit and find ourselves at a destination we don't want to be at in our spiritual, emotional, or physical lives?

Rather than viewing failure as the stopping point, we need to see it as a means of learning something new.  If we hit our thumb once with the hammer, we will be more attentive to how we hold the nail again when we wield the hammer the second time!  In life, all God asks of us is to take the steps toward obedience - he doesn't expect us to master this perfectly the first time each and every time. As nice as that may be, he knows we are human!  He knows we will fail and he only hopes we will view that failure as a means of moving toward success in our lives, not as a point whereby we throw in the towel!  Just sayin!