Pt. 1 – Detour Decisions
I know we all have pet peeves. There are certain things that push your buttons and cause your perfect day to become your worst day. I have buttons! I am an ordered person. In other words, I like to travel the same route every day. I don’t like to alter from that path. I don’t like to go a different way. So with that said you know that I am one of those people who can’t stand a detour. I hate seeing those road blockades and signs that force you to leave your intended path and to deviate to a new path or direction. Why? Because detours usually cause you to lose time. A detour causes you to feel lost and uncertain of your way. The journey that started with confidence and calm now becomes unsettled, unsure and and uneasy. I hate detours! If I am planning to go down Rockwell I want to go down Rockwell! I don’t want a scenic route to see neighborhoods I have never seen. I will leave that to you adventurous, carefree, not on time unless you are 15 minutes late folks! I don’t want to detour!
However, I have discovered that detours aren’t just a reality in our car they are a reality in our lives. Our lives are interrupted constantly by detours. As much as we like for our lives to be ordered and set in a certain set direction and path most of us are either in the midst of a detour or headed for a detour and so we are uncertain, unsettled, and uneasy. So we need to talk about detours!
It may seem weird to end year with a series like this . . . but for some when the clock ticked past 11:59pm on Dec. 31st, 2011 and 2012 broke onto the horizon your expectations were different than what your realities are now. Now you look back and go I didn’t expect to be where I am right now. I didn’t expect that job to come to end. I didn’t expect that relationship to come to a conclusion. I didn’t expect to face the struggle that I have faced.
The nature of a detour is that it brings us to an unexpected end (at least on our part)! In fact the definition of “detour” is a wandering from the direct path.
Text: Genesis 17:1-2, 17
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God showed up and said to him, “I am The Strong God, live entirely before me, live to the hilt! I’ll make a covenant between us and I’ll give you a huge family.”
Abraham fell flat on his face. And then he laughed, thinking, “Can a hundred-year-old man father a son? And can Sarah, at ninety years, have a baby?”
Abraham has grown old. It is apparent that his hope for a son is over. Yet, God steps in and makes Abraham a promise. It is the promise of an inheritance, a legacy, a future. Any of you ever receive a promise from God that seems impossible? This promise brings life back to an old man and an old woman. This promise brings a reason to live again. The laughter of doubt is overcome a year later with the laughter that only a child of promise can bring into a home. Can you see the scene as a 100 year old man and a 91 year old woman cuddle with this bundle of promise? (Use Tal) Their dreams can be seen in the eyes of this boy. He is their hope. He is their God promise in the flesh. Life should now be nothing but joy, success, and story book in its ending!
But then the detour comes . . .
Genesis 22:1-2, 6-10
After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!” “Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.” 2 He said, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and gave it to Isaac his son to carry. He carried the flint and the knife. The two of them went off together. 7 Isaac said to Abraham his father, “Father?” “Yes, my son.”
“We have flint and wood, but where’s the sheep for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “Son, God will see to it that there’s a sheep for the burnt offering.” And they kept on walking together. 9-10 They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son.
What? It wasn’t supposed to end like this! God you promised. God you delivered. Now, for no apparent reason you will destroy not only the gift but my life at the same moment? This isn’t the path I would have chosen. This isn’t the route I would have selected. This is a devastating, legacy ending, heart breaking detour that I wasn’t prepared for. It wasn’t supposed to end like this!
Abraham’s experience with his son teaches us that there are some detour decisions that an unexpected end forces us to wrestle with.
a. What if your expected end isn’t His intended end?
Most of us who are on a particular/chosen path in life have everything planned out and when we are faced with a detour that sends us a different direction we fight it. In fact, we will call that a bad thing. However, I think we must learn that although sometimes bad things happen most of the time, they’re good things we painted as bad because they were unexpected. They are bad because we didn’t know they were going to happen or we didn’t like that they happened.
We quote but fail to wrestle through the fact that the Word says "He" orders the steps of righteous. Our problem with this is that I think we think it says "We" order our steps and then all we have to do is ask Him to bless the path we have chosen!
What if your choice is pleasure and His choice is pain? What if your choice is keeping and His is giving? What if your choice was more and His is less? What if your choice was leaving and His is staying? What if your choice is a crowd and His is isolation? What if your choice was relaxation and His is discipline? What if the path we have chosen isn’t His intended end?
B. Will you keep following when the answer is no?
I know we promote Abraham as some cape wearing super hero of the faith. However, I believe that when you get down to it he was a dad. I want to tell you right now that even though it isn’t recorded and I am not trying to add to Scripture I have this conviction deep down inside as one dad reading another dad’s story that there was a moment that when the instructions were given to Abraham that even though he apparently never said anything out loud the thought was in his mind and heart "There has to be another way!" or "I must have misunderstood you God!" or "God I have plenty of animals I will just bring one of the best of those!" "I mean I have already left my home behind. I have left my family behind. I have sacrificed enough!"
But the answer comes "No!" "You heard me right the first time . . . the son of promise is what I require!"
Why do I believe that exchange happened? Because it is the same exchange we have today when we hear a “No!” I know it had to happen because today we claim that God is all knowing but we forget to rest in that knowledge and we get nervous when our plan is trumped by His plan!
Some of you can’t figure out why your plans continue to fail and fall apart! We have got to understand that if there’s a better plan in store for you, something has to dislodge you from your plan in order to make way for the better plan. Your plan has to fail. God doesn’t inhabit your plan He inhabits your praise! God doesn’t inhabit your pain He inhabits your praise! God’s NO is setting you up for something better! You planned to be well but you are sick. You planned to have more than enough but you are faced with lack. You planned to be in a relationship but you are alone.
The real question is will you keep serving, keep worshipping, keep giving, keep obeying when the answer is no? Will the detour you are faced with simply reroute you into a new level of faith or will it derail you into anger? Will the detour sideline you into stagnation? Will the detour cause you to quit?
It is one thing to follow when the yes is comfortable and enjoyable! But a detour forces you to have to learn to follow through a NO! Can you follow when you are instructed to kill something you love greatly? Can you follow when you are instructed to give up something that cost you?
The question is . . . will you turn the warning sirens off, stop fretting, call off the crisis counselors, come out of depression, check out of suicide watch, shut the fridge and let the better thing happen? Mourn but keep marching! Cry but keep climbing!
I find it interesting that a detour lead Abraham to an altar. I am becoming convinced as I march through life that if we are going to learn to deal with detours, then we must follow every detour to an altar where we learn that faith isn’t really developed in direct paths. Faith is determined during detours! Some of you need take an indirect path to the altar this morning and wrestle through whether you will embrace His path for you and whether or not you have accepted the "no" so that you can move on to what is best for you!