Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are three-in-one.
In all our lives we face challenges, that’s just how life is. Some days just seem to present one obstacle after another and we wonder if we should have ever gotten out of bed that morning. For some, these days turn into weeks and even into months and we wonder if it will ever get better.
This is how life had been at times for our oldest son Erik. When he was younger, the challenge of life had seemed to overtake him at times and as hard as he tried he couldn’t make sense of the trials he was facing and he couldn’t seem to put the pieces of his life together.
Cheryl and I have faced this with Erik several times throughout his life. As his parents and legal guardians, we’ve had to put out many fires that flared up because of poor judgment and bad advice in his life. One thing after another would happen and we got to the point of wondering what the next day would bring.
Finally, everything came to a head shortly before we headed to seminary and the decision was made to take Erik away from the bad influences and bad people that he had gotten himself involved with in Idaho and move him back to our home state of North Dakota. Here, Erik had many who truly loved him and would take care of him while he was given the chance to step back and reassess his life. He called it fixing himself, we called it getting in touch with the God he used to love so dearly and learn to take his direction from Him.
Sometimes it’s important to get back to your roots and accept the help that you have resisted for so long. It’s true in our horizontal relationship with other people and it’s also true in our vertical relationship with God.
Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have a little Erik in us and sometimes it’s good to take the time to get away and re-evaluate the life we live and how God fits into it. Throughout our lives the world has educated us to take control of our own lives, so submitting to God seems to go against every instinct we’ve been taught.
Last week we talked about who to look to as an example for resisting the temptations that are inevitable in our lives. Jesus is that example and we are to look to Him again in our scriptures for the strength we need to trust in God.
One of the reasons we felt the immediate need to get Erik out of a very bad environment is that there has been threats on his life. After Erik decided to do the right thing and after following through, those negatively affected were determined to make our son pay.
Jesus, in our Gospel lesson was faced with a similar situation. After doing what he had been called to do as the very Son of God, those who were negatively affected, were out for His blood.
Now, of course, this is where the stories part. It was not part of God’s plan to have Erik harmed or killed to fulfill his purpose. No, Erik’s purpose in life has not yet been realized. But it was part of God’s plan to send his own Son as a sacrifice for us all and instead of running, He knew that it was his purpose and destiny to obey His Father and fulfill the goals that had been set for Him before His birth.
Luke 13:31-32 says: “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.”
Jesus knew what lie ahead for Him. He knew the violent price He would have to pay for the sins of the world, but He also knew that it was part of the purpose he came in humility to fulfill. He knew that He was called to submit to the will of God the Father.
As we drove to Minot, we had an excellent opportunity to remind Erik of what it meant to submit to the will of God. Erik was trying to form His own place in this world and wasn’t allowing God any ownership in the plan. He had become his own God. The message we wanted Erik to know was that the one true God was now giving him an opportunity to leave all those mistakes and shortcoming at His feet and find the strength to form a new union with Christ. God was giving him another opportunity to find his direction and purpose in life.
God would have that all of us would take the opportunity that he has given us to do the same. When discouragement finds you, He wants to be the one you turn to. When your hope is shaken He wants to be the one you renew your hope in. When you feel alone and useless, he wants to be the one you lean on and draw your strength from.
When Jesus was given the opportunity to save himself, He had other plans. He said to tell the fox, I have my goals and you cannot stop them. This is the example we can harvest from Christ. He tells us all to take a step back and listen. From now on, tell the foxes in your life that you are going with God to reach the goals in your own lives.
The Fox in your life is the evil force that works for your downfall, that thing that takes you off the path towards salvation. Its anything that opposes what is good. It’s all those things that would stand in your way of achieving the goals God has set for you. Its thoughts and actions contrary to the will of the Father. That Fox is Satan himself.
That is the message God wanted Erik to hear and it’s the one God has for you this day. You don’t have to heed to the fox’s words. We are called to live as if the fox had no control over us. We are to trust in God like Jesus did, so much so that the fox has no opportunity to oppose us.
We should never loose sleep over the fox because he has been defeated through the very sacrifice of Christ. Through faith in Christ we have the strength to tell the fox that we will make it to the end and there is nothing he can do to stop us. We need not be intimidated. We can stop being discouraged. We will never more be shaken because the fear of the fox is finished and he has been disarmed long ago.
Because of Christ we can claim victory over those things the fox may use to stop us from achieving the purpose God has given us in our lives. Whenever anything comes up against us we can tell the fox that today we will succeed, today we will be happy, today we will face life with a smile knowing that we are children of God and that through faith in Him we can face any obstacle with confidence.
Easy to hear, harder to live by I know, but the goal of each one of us is to have that kind of faith and trust in God. In our heart of hearts, we all know it to be true, but the fox is clever and determined. He knows our weaknesses and he works to break us down whenever we are weak.
The devil knew all of Erik’s shortcomings and he knows all of ours. Now, we might not all get into the kind of situations that Erik found himself in, but we all have our own stories to tell about how our efforts without God have fallen short.
As a parent, it seems that there is no worse feeling then to see your child fall deeper and deeper into despair. It’s even worse when it seems any advice you give only falls on deaf ears. Prayer helps but it can’t cover the pain and confusion of the moment. Our only option was to give it to God and to have the faith that He would provide a way out for our son.
Our way of understanding came through God’s word. Through the Word we came to be reminded that no matter how hopeless and painful we felt, it could never compare to what God the Father felt for His Son as He led him as a sheep to the slaughter. None of us can imagine what it must have felt like for the God of love to have to turn His back on His own Son so that we might be saved. None of us can fathom the love one would have to have for us that he would allow His only Son to die in our place.
That is the same love we can depend on. That is the kind of love that the fox has no power over. We are called to trust in God in all our troubles and He has proven time and time again to be worthy.
So, what has the fox been doing in your own lives? How has he taken your focus away from the goal? God says, “follow me” and Jesus served as our example of faithfulness in that task, even to death.
God has some amazing plans for this church and we can all feel that He has begun that good work in us. It’s exciting to think about what could happen if we were to all put the kind of trust in God that we have been called to.
The fox will always be there but our trust in God allows us to claim victory over anything the fox can throw our way. Only one thing can defeat the clever and determined fox and that is faith in Jesus Christ. Make your decision today to follow His example.
Let God lead you to the place He has chosen for you. Center your life around what God would have you do and don’t give the fox any more victories in your life.
God wants the best for you. Come back to where you can feel safe and loved, in the arms of the one who loved you enough to make the supreme sacrifice for you. Trust in God to take you to the places you should go and never again let the fox have a chance in your lives. Amen.