Summary: October 1986: We are like Pharaoh; we become stubborn when our plans do not go as we expected, and we attempt to force our way. But the difference between being merely good and being great is to be radically obedient to God's will.

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The physicists used to speak of the hypothetical question: what happens when an irresistible force meets an immoveable object? What happens when a force defined as beyond the capacity of anything to resist it comes into collision with an object so firmly fixed, so deeply rooted, that it can, by definition, be said to be immoveable? Well, I don't suppose physics has an answer to that question, since it's really a word game, a logic game; but I'll tell you this much, when the irresistible force meets the immoveable object, I don't want to be there to clean up the mess afterwards!

Nonetheless I've seen some folks who seem to be on both ends of that equation, haven't you? I’ve seen some irresistible force kinds of people, who are going to do what they are going to do, and that's it. And I've seen – well, to tell the truth, I've known – well, to tell the real truth, I can sometimes be the other kind of folks, whose favorite gospel chorus goes, "I shall, I shall, I shall not be moved." I know this tendency, because I've seen it in me; I am going to hang in there, I am going to stay put, and woe be he who tries to change my mind.

Irresistible force, immoveable object, bang. And in many ways, that's positive, that's good. People who know where they are going are certainly better than those who haven't the foggiest notion what to do with their lives. And people who know what they believe and where they stand are certainly more to be admired than those who scarcely know how to ask the questions, much less state the answers. Admirable, solid qualities, those.

But would you agree with me this morning that the very same traits of personality that give substance to these folks also can give them tough times? Would you agree with me that the very same steely character that creates irresistible forces, that sets down immoveable objects – that very same steely character can also be at the base of some deep spiritual issues?

Let me give you a metaphor for what I'm about to say. This week I went to a conference in New York, and I went by my favorite means of transportation – at least it's my favorite for getting to New York. I took the train. The train: it's comfortable, it's relatively cheap, it arrives in the city instead of somewhere out at the edge of a swamp, and, best of all, it's fast. Let me tell you it is fast, roaring through the Maryland countryside, rocking over bridges and pushing through New Jersey so quickly you don't have to look at it if you don't want to. Trains are fast, effective forms of transportation. And do you know why? Why is the train superior to the automobile for speed? Well, for one thing, it runs on rails: rigid, steel rails that are predetermined set in place. Somebody has to set the switches at the right place, and off we go. No traffic jams, no red lights, no losing track of the highway; trains run like the irresistible force because they have clear and precise guidelines, and off they go.

But now what did I say a minute ago? I said that exactly the same traits of personality, exactly the same marks of character that give strength and tenacity to some people also bring them spiritual disaster and personal tragedy, moral tragedy. So what if somebody does make a mistake on the railroad and what if they switch another train on those same tracks, maybe headed in the opposite direction? Well, you know the sad answer to that; when these two powerful giants are on a collision course, and when neither of them can stop in time -- since the rails are fixed, they can't get out of one another's way. No swerving, no dodging, no quick turnoff: the result is a terrible head-on collision and death and injury and terror. On a collision course, set in their patterns, and no apparent escape.

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