When You're Offered Everything You Thought You Ever Wanted
Many years ago, as I was about to graduate from seminary, I was presented with what I thought was the opportunity of a lifetime.
The 1700-member church I was serving at at the time was in the process of searching for a co-pastor. The chair of the search committee approached me and asked if I would interview for the position. He shared with me that the members of the committee thought I might be the right person for the job.
I was overwhelmed by the possibility. My mind raced with thoughts of what such position would mean for me--the prestige, the status, all that went with such a position, and at such a young age, too.
But, as I pondered all of the reasons I wanted to say yes, it suddenly occurred to me that all of those reasons were purely selfish. So, (even though it was painful to do so) I said no to the offer.
Looking back on how immature I was then, I can't believe I actually turned down that opportunity, despite how wrong it was for me.
You see, I made a good choice all those years ago, and more than a few other times since. But there have been many more times in my life when I pursued my own will and my own way to my own detriment.
Today, I was reading the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by Satan, the Accuser, who offers him power, glory, honor, and prestige. The only caveat is the Accuser's insistence that Jesus bow down and worship him, which essentially meant Jesus would be disavowing his need for God.
Jesus turns him down, of course, and banishes the Accuser from his presence.
The moment Jesus turns down the Accuser's offer is a reversal of what happened in the Creation account in Genesis. In the Genesis story, Adam and Eve are essentially given the same offer that Jesus was given---only they take it in order to become "like God."
God created human beings with the freedom to choose, and sometimes we choose poorly and those choices can have an adverse effect on us and those around us.
The philosopher/theologian Kierkegaard once wrote, "Omnipotence which can lay its hand so heavily upon the world can also make its touch so light that the creature receives independence."
It's hard to know which path is the right one all of the time. It's hard to know what God's will is for our lives. The freedom we've been given to choose is a heavy responsibility.
And it doesn't help that the Accuser is still doing his dirty work, whispering in his slippery, serpent voice, tempting us with the things we think we want the most, and telling us that old and terrible lie that we don't really need God.
I often wish that God would just reveal his will--that God would speak and show me which paths to take, choices to make. I wish there was a flash of lightning, a thunderous voice from above that would tell me flat out what God wanted me to do at every crossroads moment in my life.
God doesn't work that way, though. God loves us enough to engage with us, to struggle with us, to abide with us even though we often choose a path that isn't the best one. As Philip Yancey once wrote, "God resists those temptations now as Jesus resisted them on earth, settling instead for a slower, gentler way."
May you embrace the slower, gentler way of God as you ponder the many choices that lie before you. May you resist the temptation to choose for the wrong reasons. May you banish the Accuser to embrace the Savior--each and every day.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.