The Perilous Path
1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15), 16-20 (11:14-15)
Both Elvis and Sinatra released renditions of the song “My Way.” This song, which sold very well for both artists, glamorizes self-deification, which is the essence of sin. It advocates the perilous path of worldly wisdom.
Samuel’s Israel reflected their commitment to this perilous path in their demand for a king to rule over them. During the time of the judges, Israel had been a theocracy (ruled by God). Dissatisfied with that, they clamored for an earthly king. Even in the face of God’s warning to them about the burdens a human king would place upon them, they insisted on having a monarch. Intent on having their way, they utterly rejected God’s way.
When people choose the “my way” approach to life, they set out on a perilous path. Notice from the text the reasons the “my way” philosophy is a perilous path.
I. “My Way” Has a Weak Rationale
Israel’s only reason for demanding a king was that they might be like other nations. A copycat mentality, shaped by covetousness and lust, has been the downfall of many people. Think of the teens you have known who were enticed into drugs, alcohol, or illicit sex because it seemed to them that everyone else was doing it. Imagine the young adults who build up insurmountable debts in an effort to keep pace with their friends in regard to material possessions.
We all should beware of the weakness of a rationale for behavior that causes us to feel that we have to pattern our lives after the world. The world is at enmity with God.
II. “My Way” Ultimately Leads to Destruction
Israel had the mistaken notion that a monarch would enable them to gain constant military victory over their enemies. Initially Saul had some military success, but when he impatiently and presumptuously usurped the place of Samuel as priest and offered an unlawful sacrifice, he lost his kingdom. From that point on, Saul’s reign was doomed. He became a pathetic, emotionally distraught, spiritually empty, and largely ineffective king. Filled with jealousy and paranoia about David, he was destined to die in defeat.
Sometimes when people choose the way of the world, they seem to have everything human beings could want out of life. Eventually, however, they will experience the destruction of the perilous way.
I can’t help but think of the singers mentioned at the beginning of this message—both reflected their own lifestyles in the song “My Way.” Both knew great popularity, wealth, and power but also experienced great loss. One died in personal humiliation—an end that eventually befalls those who choose to live “my way” instead of God’s way. (Jerry E. Oswalt)
A House Not Made with Hands
2 Corinthians 4:13–5:1
Frederick Buechner, in his timeless work Wishful Thinking, distinguishes between “immortality” and “resurrection.” “Immortal means death-proof,” he writes. “Those who believe in the immortality of the soul believe that life after death is as natural as digestion after a meal.” Resurrection, he argues, is different from that. “It is entirely unnatural. We do not go on living after death because that’s how we are made. Rather, we go to the grave as dead as a doornail and are given life back again . . . because that is the way God is made.” As so frequently is the case, Buechner hits “the doornail” on the head.
I. Eternal Life Is a Gift
When Paul wrote of life beyond life, he wrote from a theology of grace: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” ( Eph. 2:8) . To the Corinthians he wrote, “We have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Life beyond life was viewed as a gift, a demonstration of God’s grace.
The Corinthians wrote to Paul voicing questions about what lies on the other side of dying. They, too, had said painful good-byes they did not wish to say. They had stood with broken hearts beside graves of loved ones, asking the same questions we ask when standing beside similar graves. It was in response to those questions that Paul, the pastor, wrote.
II. Death Is Not the End of Things
“We have . . . a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Following the tragedy at the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, a good deal of discussion was centered around what to do with the property. Should they build another government facility, or should they designate the property as a memorial site to those who were murdered? A writer noted that the site should be marked as a reminder of the transient nature of earthly things. “Earthly buildings explode or decay,” he wrote. “The only safe and permanent dwelling is the house not made with hands.” He made a point.
God has prepared for the faithful a life beyond this life that cannot be extinguished, a place where there are no bombs, no diseases, no acts of ill will, and no good-byes.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright, shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun. (“Amazing Grace,” John Newton)
III. Heaven Is a Home
We have “a house not made with hands,” Paul wrote. Jesus said much the same thing: “In my Father’s house are many rooms” ( John 14:2 NIV). In each case the image has to do with homecoming, with returning to a place of unconditional welcome where we are part of the family. A Parent is waiting there, standing with open arms beside an open door.
As Scottish evangelist Jim Small said: “It is like coming home after dark. There is a brief passage through dark woods, but then you step into the opening. There you see a house. A light burns in the window. The front door is open. The table is set. The covers on your bed are pulled back. Your mother greets you with a smile and says, ‘I’m glad you’re home, and you answer, ‘So am I. ”
The New Testament says dying is like a homecoming. A reunion with a loving Parent. A light in the window. A welcome at the journey’s end. (Michael Brown)
“Hey, girls, gather round . . . I fix broken hearts, I know I really can.” In this popular song, he called himself the Handyman. There is a great temptation and power in being able to fix things, but most of the time life has more problems than we can fix.
In August Wilson’s play Fences, a mother says to her child: “When your daddy walked through the house, he was so big, so strong, such a powerful personality, that he filled up this house. That was my first mistake. Not to make him leave some room for me. And I didn’t know that to keep up his strength I had to give up little pieces of mine.” How do you help a woman who has been used up?
In chapter 3 of his Gospel, Mark shows us a picture of Jesus healing people—fixing them. He casts out demons. Jesus comes and things happen. The religious leaders say he is fixing things by black magic—the devil. Something is happening, but why? God’s power is at work in our world, but it keeps being called by different names.
In his book Brother to a Dragonfly, Will Campbell tells the powerful conversation between himself and a black preacher. The black preacher reminded Campbell of how we let God’s power get called by different names. “I don’t believe in civil rights,” the preacher said, “because I believe in God.”
God wants to work in our lives. Jesus says that the only way to know the truth is to experience the power of God in our own lives, and the only way that can happen is if we don’t shut out the power of God’s loving Spirit. We have to let God in before we can know his power.
When we concentrate on the power and love of God, we have a way of opening our problems up to God’s mercy and the problems don’t seem so large. If God becomes larger in our lives, then the room we have for our problems becomes less and our problems become smaller.
If I don’t invest so much of my pride in my children, or so much of my time in their affairs, then they have more room to grow and develop. If we focus more on God and less on our jobs, our jobs becomes smaller, more manageable, and we do better at them. Rather than fretting over “so much to do, so little time,” we can focus on the eternity of God and discover that we have forever to accomplish God’s purpose for us.
God’s power is sufficient to lift our burdens and make a way for us in the wilderness. When we trust ourselves to God, we find he is able to lead us into a life more abundant. (Rick Brand)