March 13, 2022———–2nd Sunday in Lent
Philippians 3: 17 – 4: 1; Luke 13: 31-35
I have heard it said that life is a journey—and that it’s the journey itself more than the destination that is important and significant—and that sometimes the detours are actually part of God’s plan, and are significant waypoints on the path God means for us. I agree with this view…mostly. When the detours take us from the path we have selected for ourselves, and the diversions bump us into divine intersections with God’s will, then the detours are good. (There are, however, detours that take us away from God’s path.)
Today’s scriptures have a theme running through them—a theme that urges us to get on the path that God has set for us and to stay on that path with singleness of purpose—to let nothing detour us from the will of God.
In recent weeks, we have looked together at how Jesus stayed on the path. 1. His experience on the Mount of Transfiguration toward the end of his earthly ministry—a moment in which he conferred with Moses and Elijah and was strengthened to continue on his way to Jerusalem and the cross; and 2. His temptation at the beginning of his public ministry in which the devil tried to detour him from his mission.
Today, I want to look at something Jesus said more in the middle of his ministry, something that reflects his singleness of purpose as he followed the will of the Father.
And then I want to explore what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi as its people struggled with the daily task of not being detoured in their journey of faith.
Finally, I want to think together about what it means to be Citizens of Heaven who live as “resident aliens” in a world that offers plenty of detours away from the will of God. Let’s take a look.
Singleness of Purpose
I need to begin with this assertion: that God has a dream for you. Here’s what I mean: Each of us is born with a mission; when we pursue that mission, we encounter challenges, rewards, joys, and people we would never have met had we simply “gone our own way”; when we pursue the dream that God has for us, our lives make a HUGE difference in the world. There’s a beautiful piece of fiction that illustrates what I mean: in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, the main character (George Bailey) has his own dreams of leaving his small town, going out into the big wide world, and building big things. But God had a different dream for him—staying in Bedford Falls, running his family’s little Building and Loan, helping people get into their own homes, and raising a family. It’s not until a crisis hits that he is given a gift—the gift of seeing what kind of impact his life has had on many, many people. George had followed God’s will.
You may well be asking, “How do we know what God’s will is?!” “How do I discern God’s dream for me?”
Here are some suggestions:
OPENNESS: Make the decision to be OPEN to new ideas, new possibilities for the time and energy you have available.
EXAMINE STRENGTHS: Don’t be modest! List all your strengths, gifts, natural abilities and inclinations and experience!
Look at your GROWING EDGE—the areas in which you are gaining new insights or skills or interests.
Prayerfully say to God, “PUT ME IN, COACH!” as a way of stating your intention to follow God’s lead.
PAY ATTENTION to guidance and “nudges” sent your way.
This all requires, of course, a willingness to deviate from your own plans for yourself—to reflect on those times when God has led you onto a different path, and you could look back and see that it was “a God thing”!
You might even adopt Jeremiah 29:11 as your mantra: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Don’t Be Detoured
The Apostle Paul had the confidence to advise the Christians in Philippi to follow his example of how to live the faithful life. “Observe those who live according to the example you have in us.” In other words, pay close attention to folks who allow the light of God to shine through them. (And pay less attention to the despicable characters “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, whose minds are set on earthly things.”)This is Paul’s advice for discerning God’s will, and choosing God’s way.
In Luke, we hear some Pharisees giving Jesus a “heads-up” that Herod had plans to kill him. Jesus made it clear that he was not going to let anything or anyone deter him from pursuing God’s will. He didn’t let their small view influence his understanding of THE BIG PICTURE!
Both Paul and Jesus would tell us to trust that God’s choice for our life is better than anything we might imagine for ourselves!
Citizens of Heaven
Paul says something really interesting, something that helps me to re-calculate my life. He says that we are citizens of heaven—so our minds shouldn’t be focused on earthly things. IF we are citizens of heaven, we will remember that we are not so much material beings who have an occasional spiritual experience. Instead, we are spiritual beings who are having a temporary material experience! Remembering this, we operate from a different world view. We live according to our true citizenship, and we acknowledge a higher authority than those who are in command of our physical lives. We must not be detoured from God’s will for our lives.
Let me finish with this thought:
Life really IS a journey—
And the journey is just as important as the destination—
And God does sometimes put detours in our lives in order to bump us out of our willful path and onto God’s path—
And we are blessed and happy when we stand firm in the Lord, following God’s will with a singleness of purpose.
And, of course, we fall off the path, but it is always possible to return to it.
Friends, God is calling us to remember our true identity, and to deny our self-will, and to follow God’s lead!