Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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17 The Road to Rest

Jeremiah 6:16 “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

The prophet Jeremiah called the people to repent and return to God, with a ministry that spanned the reigns of five of Judah’s kings: Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. It is here that we find the people once again at the crossroad of choice, to follow God’s plan or continue down their own path. It reminds me of Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken”:

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as far,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

One of the reasons that we find so little rest today is that we ignore God’s road. Crossroads always call us to make a decision, today God is calling to us at the crossroads of life and death. Yet the sad reality is that their choose involved ignoring God’s invitation. Unlike Frost who took the path less traveled they chose the well traveled road of culture. Today we stand at the crossroad of culture and Christ, which will we listen to, will it be the Lord or the lies? The crossroad of choice between traveling the highway of materialism or the Master. In our society it is easy to buy into the lie of money and more, yet we find fullness of life through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not through anything we can buy or become, its not found in acceptance or our achievements but in the Almighty. Which path will we choose, in what direction will we go? The Bible is filled with God calling to His people to make a decision. In Joshua 24:15 Joshua challenged the Israelites to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” A few hundred years later, on Mount Carmel Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him….” 1Kings 18:21. Why does God seem to constantly be calling to His people to make a choice? Because to decide not to decide, is to decide. We need to make a decision, a choice, make up our minds. This path comes with a promise, it is a road that results in rest, rest for your soul, a choice with eternal consequences. Will we chose the road of rest or restlessness? Today many say they want the path of peace yet instead they choose a path plagued with problems. Here we find God giving us four commandments, stand, see, speak, and seek:

If we want to experience rest for our souls then we need to listen to the one speaking, we need to stop and stand. The command of standing requires us first to stop, a call that runs counter to our culture. A culture that calls us to go first and figure it out later, we want to walk not wait. The value of standing is that it creates a pause where we can ponder and ultimately pursue God’s plan. Standing creates room for stillness, something our culture is growing increasingly uncomfortable with.

Pausing provides an opportunity to look and see the choice before us, but in the call to be counted successful within our society or just survive it we fail to pause and often just pass right on by. In the rush to come, conquer and consume we miss the crossroad, failing to see our choice. The call of Christ is drowned in the turbulent currents of our culture. We fail to see because we never really look, we don’t take time to smell the roses. We miss the rose of redemption with its sweet sent of salvation, its perfume of peace. Trudging on instead we miss the truth, while the lingering oder of death and decay swirls around us. There is no rest for the soul stuck in the swirling stream of sin. In the midst of this mad rush comes the compassionate call of Christ, stop, stand, and see, consider what is and what could be. Without stillness we will never really see. Today will you purpose to pause, will you linger long enough to look and really see?

After standing and seeing we are next called to speak, what is interesting here is that only after stillness are we invited to speak. As the words of the Savior soak in, stand, see and then speak, we soon realize how reversed our lives really are. I fear that today most of our speaking is not done out of stillness, yet it is only after stopping standing and seeing that we are invited to speak. The word “ask” is repeatedly used in Scripture to express making a personal request for God’s guidance. Israel and Judah often faced divine judgment because they continually failed to ask for God’s guidance. Just like our modern day man refusing to stop and ask for directions, preferring instead, because of pride, to drive around refuse to admit they are lost. But not all ignored the advice of the Almighty. In I Samuel 23:1-2 David asked for God’s guidance before going to battle against the Philistines. The Scriptures tells us: “Now they told David, ‘The Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and are robbing the threshing floors.’ David inquired of the LORD, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’ The LORD said to David, ‘Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.’” David was victorious because he did not run ahead of God in his own strength and power but sought the Lord’s guidance through prayer. Whenever I wait upon the Lord and seek His direction, I am never disappointed, but whenever I run ahead of God and do it “my way” its always a mess. At all your crossroads in life, “Stand still, and ask for God to guide and direct you in all your decisions before you take any action. Notice what we are to ask for, “ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is.” We are to ask for the good way not the golden one, today I fear that in our pursuit for happiness we have missed holiness. We ask God to fix our problems, to smooth out our rough roads, to make the ride comfortable, without any recognition that we may be on the wrong road. The call here is about asking which road to take, not fixing the one we want to take. How much of what we ask for would change if we would first stopped and see the good path? Today how much of your asking is done on the run? Christ’s call is for us to be proactive in our prayer not reactive, ask first then proceed. Yet many instead cry Lord rescue me while running headlong into ruin. Today we don’t ask we demand. So let me ask you, are you praying while pausing or just in passing?

As you contemplate the call of Christ, you see it is both, logical and loving, stand, see, speak and then seek. Yet we rush past the crossroads without ever contemplating the call of Christ, we forge our own path while ignoring His plan. We only call on Him after we crash, and then only for a quick fix, failing to even considering that what we may need is not new parts but a new path. If that is the path we want to pursue then may be what we need is to be left stranded in our stubbornness. Many while stuck on the highway of their own foolish desire, grow angry with the Almighty, questioning His love, while failing to see that they ignored the sigh to His highway of hope, clear back at the crossroad. So to whom will you look? This is God’s invitation to turn to Him for guidance and direction in life. Yet His people would respond “we will not walk in it!” Instead of responding to His redemptive plan they rebelled. Today we too find ourselves at the crossroads of choice, between rest and ruin. Which path will you pursue, Christ’s or the cultures? The Almighty is inviting us to take the ancient path, this is not some new philosophy but a proven path to rest. Moving forward involves looking back, yet today in our pursuit of progress we often ignore the past. God was reminding His people to look back, to consider the path their forefathers had pursued. As we submit to stand at the Crossroads, looking to Jesus, asking for His guidance, and walking in His ways we will find rest for our souls. We will experience peace of mind and freedom from worry, regardless of the trials, hardships, difficulties hurts, pains, sorrows, or problems we may face.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one CHRIST traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Which road will you take, rest or ruin?