Monday, February 20, 2017

Hand on the Plough - Eyes Looking Backward

“Listen, if your hand is on the plough but your eyes are looking backward, then you’re not fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:63)

I have had very few up close encounters with ploughed fields. I remember a cross country run. It was a real cross country run with fields and hedges and everything. The school I attended was a rural village school with all but a village’s worth of pupils being bussed in every morning. We had something like seventy minutes to complete the route but how many miles I have no idea. A ploughed field was part of the route. We didn’t run across it by any means but the plough had gone right up to the edge. It sticks out in my memory because somewhere in that field my trainer fell off. They were called plimsolls in those days. The plimsoll turned upside down and with the mud on the sole the same colour as the rest of the field I couldn’t find it. I limped the rest of the way home coming in a long way last. I limped alone.

The word yesterday in church was very challenging. It was about the excuses we come up with not to do the things God us given us to do. It was about putting things off to a more convenient time.  For me, tomorrow is the day when I will be busy doing things for God and “when I retire”. We have no sense of urgency and think there will always be another day.  We don’t live as if this day, today, might be our last day.

We think we are too busy. If we are too busy to do the things God asks us to do then, yes, we are too busy. We need to start shaving off a few things from the to-do list. There is always something that we allow to get in the way. The things we really want to do we make the time to do – it’s just that some of those things are not the things that God wants us to really do.

My top excuse is that there is probably someone out there who could do the job better. I expressed such a view to God once. His answer was, “Yes, there are a hundred people that could do the job better.” Before I moved on to suggesting He talk to one of those hundreds, God continued, “Yes, they could do the job better BUT they won’t do it the way you would do it and that’s the way I want it done.”

My second top excuse is “if I do this…I’m going to have to keep doing this…my life is going to change and I’m not sure I’m ready for that.” I love my comfort zone. It’s not that comfortable really but I fool myself. The boat in the storm wasn’t that comfortable, but the disciples fooled themselves that it was safer than the sea, where Jesus was.  I should know that it’s not really about me at all and what I can or can’t do, and how many times I have to do it or not.  It’s about what God can do through me.

My third top excuse is “If I do this and it all goes horribly wrong – then what?” The fear of failure is deeply ingrained. Better, it seems, not to have tried at all than to have tried and failed. We can swap stories about how many lightbulbs it took before Thomas Edison got it right – but such stories don’t always mean that we will chance it.  But if there are mistakes – they’re to be learned from and the mistake is never that big that God didn’t see it coming and He doesn’t have a plan to deal with it.

We rob ourselves when we find something other than the God-things to do. It is in the doing that the learning and the growing happens – not in the talking-about or the making-notes about. What did Peter learn about Jesus when he stepped out of the boat? What did he learn that the other disciples didn’t learn? What do we miss out on learning when we cling, white-knuckled, to the side of the boat instead of answering the call to walk on water? We squander the opportunity to learn a truth we never knew before – that truth we could have learned that would have set us up for the next challenge.

Together in the storm

Will you follow me
And walk on water?
Will you leave the security of the boat
Cast aside your comfort
And join me in the storm?
Will you believe
As you commit yourself
To the first step,
That I have called you
To walk beside me,
That the wind and the waves
Won’t swallow you?
Will you keep your eyes
Fixed on my face alone,
Not allowing your gaze to wander
And leave the boat behind?
For I will hold you
Firm as a rock
On the shifting waves
And I will steady you
Strong and confident
In the whistling winds
I have made the impossible possible
And as You and I
Walk together in the storm
You will demonstrate my glory
And the invisible God
Will be made visible in you
Walk on water
With me.

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