Darkness swallowed the winding road ahead of me while long columns of tall trees leaned overhead. Their branches intertwined and locked together in shadowy embraces, screening out most of the moonlight and giving me the sensation of driving through a long tunnel. It was another late night with another long drive home several years ago, and I was returning from a evening meeting with students in one of our campus ministries in the region. I was very tired with tired thoughts running through my mind in no particular order: reflections on the meeting, things said or done by students about which I would need to pray, and vague mental notes about tasks that I should see to the next morning.
As I came to a long stretch of straight road I yawned and thought about a series of phone calls that I would need to make. And then, as if I were watching a movie from which someone had cut several seconds of film, I suddenly found myself on the left side of the road speeding straight towards a monstrous tree trunk! I had only “snapped out of it” just in time! Slowing the car and quickly pulling back into the right side of the road again, I was struck by the realization that in my almost dozing off, I had very nearly succeeded in killing myself. That little “wake up call” helped to motivate me to be more careful to be sure to get more rest and to also take precautions to avoid future mishaps.
I think of that episode sometimes and realize that, spiritually speaking, the same scenario is constantly being played out in people’s lives today! In an era of schedules and timelines, agendas and deadlines, there are times when we wake up and realize that somehow we’ve dozed off and gotten on the wrong side of the road, so to speak, and are heading speedily to our own destruction!
In our contemporary world, schedules and timelines, agendas and deadlines are tools that serve us by leading us in the direction we wish to go. Without such tools, one can easily drift away from the effectiveness and efficiency necessary to succeed. On the other hand, we can have all those tools in place, complete with mission and purpose statements, and yet, because our eyes are on our own plans, we are lulled to a spiritual sleep that deadens our responsiveness to God’s activity in our lives and His invitation to actively experience Him!
In Luke chapter 7, Jesus is teaching people about the necessity of getting on God’s page, and walking daily in His will for our lives. He was pointing to John the Baptist as an example of someone who was thoroughly willing to follow the Father’s agenda and not his own. But then the Scriptures sadly pronounce a judgment upon those who were the religious leaders of the day, that they “had rejected God’s purpose for themselves” (v. 30).
It should be obvious that if we’ve not received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are rejecting God’s purpose for ourselves and that we are very much “on the wrong side of the road”. If we do not “wake up”, we are heading for an eternity apart from Him. Not only that, if we’ve not been given Him the priority He deserves in our lives, we are drifting and what “hits the tree” may be our marriages, our children, and all the significance that our lives could spiritually have had.
But religious activity and devotion in of themselves cannot completely prevent us from drifting.
“To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation?” Jesus asked. “What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry’” (Luke 7:31-32 NIV).
Remember to not get confused about who is to get on whose page. Jesus’ encounter with the religious leaders of the day was an upset to the assumption that they and God were getting along just fine! The problem wasn’t that they weren’t religious enough. It wasn’t that they weren’t reaching out for God! It was that they had forgotten Who was in charge. They believed that because of their thoroughly zealous activity, God would perform for them! So they played their spiritual flutes and then sang their dirges, but God wasn’t going to simply appear on demand. Why? Because He’s God and that means that He’s in charge. Instead of our trying to get Him on our agendas, we seek out His agenda. And it means that we can’t simply put our spiritual lives on Cruise Control, sit back, and expect to get where we want to go.
Instead, we keep our eyes on the road by focusing on the Way (“…I am the Way…” said Jesus in John 14:6). Because we stay focused on His agenda, turning with Him as we keep up with Him, we get where we ought and arrive when we should. We experience His activity in our lives, His grace in our relationships, His comfort in our sorrow, and His presence in our worship.
Has your life drifted and do you now need a wake up call? Is the Lord seeking to help you refocus on His perfect love and perfect will for your life? Do you need a renewed sense of His purpose for your life and the reassurance that, as you trust and obey Him, you’ll arrive at the special destinations that He has in store for you?
Remember to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). You’ll stay on track by fixing your eyes on God’s love for you and living your life focusing on Him.