Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Have you ever had one of those, “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moments?  I have a lot of them.  They’re generally related to my travel schedule for work when I plan to do things like:
-          Driving to Prince Albert and back in one day (a 14 hour drive).
-          Booking a fourteen day road trip across three provinces to see customers and work trade shows (a mere 5000 km drive).
-          Booking myself on the 6:30 a.m. flight so I can arrive in Winnipeg early enough to make a 10:00 a.m. meeting (forgetting the fact that I’ll have to get up at 3:30 a.m. to make the flight).

These are all real life examples, all of which seemed like good ideas in the planning stage.

About 12 hours into the Prince Albert trip, blinding, snow flurries bouncing off my windshield and headlights functioning as well as a snow shovel in Texas in July, I started to question the sanity of my earlier decision.

As my car lurched along the last 100 km towards home, after surviving the 4900 kilometer drive through the wilds of Northern Manitoba and the treeless plains of Saskatchewan, I fought the urge to claw helplessly at the driver’s window whimpering, “let me out, let me out...I can’t drive any more...”  At that moment the fourteen day road trip didn’t seem like such a great idea.

I won’t even get into the 3:30 a.m. debacle!  I think you get the idea.  Ever had one of those moments?  I think Ezra did as he prepared to return to Jerusalem with a group of exiled Israelites.

Ezra joins the Old Testament scene after the destruction of Jerusalem.  The temple of God has been demolished and the Israelites are living in exile in Babylon.  But, the kings of Persia have re-considered the choices of their predecessors and now allow the Israelites to return to their homeland to rebuild the temple and worship their God.  

The work is underway when Ezra, a descendent of Aaron the priest, makes ready to return to Jerusalem.  Ezra has the kings’ favour, and more importantly, God’s favour, but there’s an interesting moment when we see Ezra struggle with fear and faith. 

Ezra 8:21-22 says, “And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God.  We prayed that He would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled.  For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way.  After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship Him, but His fierce anger rages against those who abandon Him.”

And there it is...the “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moment.  Ezra, a man who is sure of his faith and his God, has boasted of God’s protection to the king Persia.  He’s backed into a corner and now must weigh his fear of attack against his faith in God.  If he asks the king for protection on their journey his testimony to God’s ability to do this is worthless. 

How does Ezra respond?  Ezra 8:23 tells us, “So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and He heard our prayer.”  Continuing to verse 31, “We broke camp at the Ahava Canal on April 19 and started off to Jerusalem.  And the gracious hand of our God protected us and saved us from enemies and bandits along the way.”

Ezra trusted God.  God met Ezra in the middle of his fear; in the middle of his, “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moment. 

We all have times when we’ve made a commitment that feels like a good idea at the time but fear gets in the way...

  • You’ve volunteered at the homeless shelter but when the day comes you’re afraid of what you might see or feel.
  •  You’ve agreed to share your testimony with the church but that morning you’re terrified of how people will respond.
  •  You’ve decided to admit you have an addiction but you’re afraid you can’t live without it.
  •  You’ve promised to see a marriage counselor but you’re afraid of what you'll find out.
  •  You’re determined to seek healing from past abuse but are scared to relive those moments.

These, and others, are all valid fears.  Maybe it’s even escalated to the point of terror and you’re on the verge of panic.  Doubts haunt you.  It’s a natural means of protecting ourselves from more pain.  But fear can’t be allowed to have the final say in our lives.

Sometimes you have to dig deep to find a small seed of faith in your heart.  It might take a lot of excavation, but once you find it, cling to it.  Take that tiny seed, ask God to help you push past your fears and take the next step.  Ezra chose to put God first and faith won the battle over fear.  Let’s follow his example in our lives.

What are your, "it seemed like a good idea at the time" moments?  Click on "comments" below.

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