Many of us have fallen “victim” to mistakes in our past. There were girls we knew better than to date. There were parties we knew better than to attend. There were friends our Mama’s warned us about. There were wrong turns we took thinking it was a short cut only to find out it was a dead-end. There are “distractions” that tempt our eyes and we wander into them thinking we can easily extract ourselves. There are lakes that look perfectly safe that we swim in despite the warning signs of alligators in the water.
95% of the time, there are warning signs. There is the instance where we are just the random victim of bad luck – we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing and accidents happen – but almost all the time, if we’re totally honest, we’d admit we were warned.
I work with teenagers in FCA and I see the warnings all over the place – they are drinking, they are hanging out with the wrong people, they are using drugs, they are having sex (in some cases like rabbits), they are into pornography in shocking proportions, they are addicted to consumerism chasing iPhones, iPads, designer clothes, expensive cars thinking if they have all these things, they’ll be “happy”. And they’ve been warned.
People wiser than them, smarter than them, vastly more experienced than them (largely from the stupid decisions of their own making) are warning them, “these decisions, this path you are on will lead to destruction.” And yet they ignore the warnings and jump into the alligator filled lake.
We see it in marriages where the guy strays, gets lured into porn or into another woman or too much into himself. His friends around him see the warning signs, “something just doesn’t look right about this…” and they even try to pull him back from the edge of the abyss and very often, he’s deaf.
We see it in finances – when things are going well we spend money we don’t have (borrowing it) buying things we don’t need to impress people we really don’t like. And it all works until the music stops. When the economy turns and the layoff comes or the pay gets cut back drastically or the commission schedules radically change, all of a sudden the math doesn’t work. “You don’t know who is swimming naked until the tide goes out” (and like the sun coming up in the morning, the tide will go out). At that point we realize the house is too big, the monthly payment is too large, the two car leases really don’t make sense and we’ve got way too much credit card debt. In that moment, it is too late. The house can’t be sold because prices have fallen, there is no savings and the credit card companies are calling.
There were warning signs all along. We get sucked into the lure, the temptation. The new car ads sure do look compelling and after all, “we can borrow at 1.9% and this new car will get a lot better mileage than our current, paid for car…” You know the drill. There were warning signs, we just chose to ignore them.
This pushes us back to the prayer shared yesterday, “Lord, please turn my eyes away from worthless things…”
We can “intend” on doing the right things. We can talk the talk. We can pray about it. Fast over it. Tell our small group about it and despite all these “intentions”, it is our direction that will ultimately determine our destination….
DIRECTION – NOT INTENTION – DETERMINES DESTINATION.
You know this. You know it. You’ve told your teenage son this over and over and over until you are blue in the face. It applies to homework that leads to good grades that leads to the Hope Scholarship. It applies to exercise. You know it. You know you need to be committed to at least 5 days a week and yet it is so easy to say, “I just don’t have the time.” It applies to texting and driving. It applies to drinking and driving. It applies to pornography. It applies to the very foundation of my faith – I can say I want to grow closer, I can say I want to be radical in my faith but I’m not in the Word, I’m not devoted to prayer, I am not studying.
This is a principle and the thing about a principle (like gravity) is that it really doesn’t care if you don’t believe it. It will be what it is and it will show up in our lives.
More on this to come but let’s end with this – you may be on a path you need to get off of. Now. There’ll be work to do to “fix” it but the first step is to get off the path. Change your direction. You’re lost and you need to back track. Andy Stanley says it this way…
“If there is going to be change, you must take refuge. You’ve got to do something. Seeing it, feeling it and agreeing with it is not enough. You’re going to need to make a phone call. Have an awkward conversation with a friend. Cut up some credit cards. Change your phone number. Break up. Move out. Find a new circle of friends. Cut back on your traveling. Set the alarm clock on Sunday mornings. Empty the liquor cabinet. Join Celebrate Recovery. Take your family on vacation. Make an appointment with a counselor. Sell the house. Cancel your internet service. Change jobs. Sell the TV. Maybe all the above.”
Sounds extreme. So does the mess we find ourselves in of our own making. We ignored the warning signs.