No doubt you'll be on the road today. I suspect you're prepared:
- Seat belts
- Back-up camera
- Spare tire
- Security system
- Safety locks
- AAA Roadside Assistance
- Run flat tires
- Child safety seats
When it comes to our journey, we exhaust every means possible for our safety. Do we practice the same care with our hearts?
I am talking about sin, that cruel tyrant that crouches at your door, that wants to catch you off-guard, that wants to enslave you, that God says, "you must master" (Genesis 4:7).
I know, it's Monday. I should be talking about work or goals or Dolphin Training Camp. But that's precisely why we need to talk about sin -- because we'd rather not talk about it. I appreciate the words of Robert Murray McCheyne. He writes:
I am tempted to think there are some sins for which I have no natural taste, such as strong drink, profane language, etc., so that I need not fear temptation to such sins. This is a lie -- a proud presumptuous lie. The seeds of all sins are in my heart, and perhaps all the more dangerously that I do not see them.
Did you catch that? My heart -- your heart -- is the soft warm soil that holds the sin that can ruin. And don't be so naive to think it can't happen to you:
- Others are narrow minded and bigoted, but never you? Think again.
- Greed can capture the Wall Street types, but you're beyond that? Not so fast.
- Adultery is the furthest thing from your mind? Better watch out.
- "Lazy" and "unproductive" can't be found in your dictionary? You'll learn to spell them.
- You love God and would never walk away from the faith? Hmmmm!
Remember, Proverbs 16:17 flowed from the pen of Solomon, a man who knew a thing or two about temptation. So how does one "guard his (or her) way"? Let's revisit McCheyne for a moment. As a twenty-something young preacher he said,
That is wisdom. You see, there are all kinds of safeguards against temptation: memorize Scripture, confess your sin struggle to a friend (a temptation named is a temptation cut in half), build moral fences, and the strategy Paul often employed, "Run baby run" (see 2 Timothy 2:22), but prayer must always be our starting place.
- We pray because God alone enables us to overcome.
Jude's blessing to his readers is more than a hint to where our strength lies: "Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy." Jude 1:24 (CSB)
- We pray because God alone knows the recesses of our hearts.
The Psalmist said, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns." Psalm 139:23 (CSB). How can I avoid the evil "out there" if I don't see the evil "in here"? I need God's Spirit to shine the light on the hidden nastiness nesting under the motivations of my subconscious mind.
- We pray because God alone provides the escape hatch we need.
Paul writes: "But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it." 1 Corinthians 10:13 (CSB)
- We pray because God alone can align our wandering heart with his will.
Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy will be done." I pray that prayer because, quite frankly, I want the will of Tom far more often than I want the will of God.
I love what Frederick Buechner says about the Lord's Prayer.
In the Episcopal order of worship, the priest sometimes introduces the Lord's Prayer with the words, "Now, as our Savior Christ hath taught us, we are bold to say . . ." The word bold is worth thinking about. We do well not to pray the prayer lightly. It takes guts to pray it at all. We can pray it in the unthinking and perfunctory way we usually do only by disregarding what we are saying.
"Thy will be done" is what we are saying . . . We are asking God to be God. We are asking God to do not what we want but what God wants . . . It takes guts to face the omnipotence that is God's, it takes perhaps no less to face the impotence that is ours. We can do nothing without God. We can have nothing with out God. Without God we are nothing.
It is going to be a beautiful drive today. Open roads. Amazing vistas. Fun places. New faces. But there will be potholes and detours and back alleys that would best be avoided. So before putting that key in the ignition, stop and pray:
- "I am tempted to think ..." from Robert Murray M`Cheyne by Andrew .A Bonar, 1844, Reprinted 2015. The Banner Of Truth Trust, Edinburgh. Printed in USA by Versa Press, Inc. Page 234.
- "I often pray ..." from Robert Murray M`Cheyne, page 244-5.
- "In the Episcopal order of worship . . " from Whistling in the Dark, by Frederik Buechner. San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers. 1988. Pages 76-77.