My family and I went out to dinner the other night. We went to Steak ‘N Shake. Before we even left our house for the restaurant, Kaitlyn asked me if she could have a dollar to use at one of the game machines at Steak ‘N Shake. Apparently, she had scoped it out one of the times she had been there before and was wanting something. The machine she wanted to use was one of the claw machines. You know the ones where you move a claw/gripper/pincher thingy over an item and then hit a button to lower it down and, hopefully, it pinches and grabs the item that you are wanting, brings it over and drops it down the shoot so you can have your prize. I don’t believe the odds are the greatest on those machines, but Kaitlyn was really wanting to try. (Side note, the first time she played one of these machines she won, so she has some confidence.)
When we got to the restaurant, she asked again and I told her maybe after we eat. After the meal was over, she asked again and I gave in. She put the dollar in, moved the claw into position, hit the button, and missed.
She wasn’t to disappointed or anything. She got to play, she was happy. But it got me thinking. I wonder if I have some of the same thoughts as Kaitlyn. Maybe it is a “what if” tendency or an “if only” thought. A hope based on what could be. A dream that come after the “if” is a “since.” Maybe too often my thoughts are…if I can only move the claw into the right place, or what if I can get it just right. That is a lot of pressure. I believe in hard work. I believe in good planning and preparation, but I also believe that true joy, true peace, true love, true life (and maybe full or fuller is a better word) is found in not how hard I try, or work, or plan, but in the work of our Lord through the cross of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
I want to remind you of a sentence from a verse in the scripture that we sometime just read over so quickly and not even give it a thought. It is in the beginning of the last story about Elisha. Let me remind you about Elisha. He was called by God through the prophet Elijah. He was Elijah’s apprentice. His request to Elijah at the end of Elijah’s life was for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah told Elisha that if he saw him when he was taken away from him, it would be his. And sure enough, Elisha saw Elijah get carried away by the chariots of fire. (you can check out the story in 2 Kings 2.) The sentence that I want to lift up to you is from 2 Kings 13:4, it says “Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died.” Think about that for a second. I wonder how Elisha thought he would go out, or die? He performed so many miracles, like Elijah did. His ministry had so many similarities as Elijah’s, but not the end. Elijah went out literally in a blaze of glory, Elisha not so much.
I don’t think Elisha lived a “what if” life or held onto some “if only” thinking. Even at the end, as he was dying of an illness, his heart was still turned toward the Holiness and Power of the Lord. His thoughts where not about what might be, but toward the One that is.
Where are my thoughts turned? Where am I looking? What am I hoping in? My prayer is not “God, if only this” but with the Psalmist I prayer “Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path” Psalm 27:11. Because I know that “unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” Psalm 127:1. I know that His “the way, the truth, and the life” John 14:6.
My prayer for myself and for all of us is that we wouldn’t get caught up in possibilities, unless it is found in the promise of God’s word and faithfulness, that we wouldn’t get discouraged by moments were we miss or fall short, but that we would look to Jesus the author and perfector of our faith. “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Because of Him,
Rev. Lynn Beach is married to his college sweetheart, Michelle, and they have two adorable daughters. He has been at Park Church since July 2013.