Brady: Impressions that misguide

Published 10:25 pm Monday, February 12, 2018

The late William Sangster, noted English minister, tells about a friend who complained that it always rained on his day off. Finally, tired of his murmuring, Sangster challenged him to check the records at the weather bureau. Investigation revealed that it rained no more on his day off than on other days. The man’s problem was that he remembered more vividly the days when bad weather interfered with his plans. If the truth be told, a lot of us live like that: judging the whole of life by some unfortunate impressions that misguide us.

Speaking of unfortunate impressions that misguide us, today I want to focus specifically on three of these misguided impressions. The first impression that misguides us is that only the present is important. Here I’m speaking of people who never plan ahead. In actuality, they die long before they are dead. For instance, take the high school dropout. Not much planning for tomorrow there. He or she is only thinking of the present, and the potential for a successful life diminishes. Something similar happens to the religious dropout. People who refuse to take the time to keep the faith sooner or later discover that the faith won’t keep them.

Alice in Wonderland once asked the cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” And the cat answered, “That depends a good deal on where you want to go.” “Oh, I don’t much care,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go,” replied the cat. If we don’t know where we want to go, chances are excellent that we will get there.

Without doubt, Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow, but he never told us not to plan ahead. If you remember, Jesus kept drawing apart throughout his life to prepare himself and his disciples for what lay ahead.

As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth the living.” What about tomorrow?

The second impression that misguides is that failure is final. To be sure, some of us know much greater failure in life than do others, but along the way everyone of us know failure. Sometimes we fail when we do our very best, other times we fail precisely because we do not do our best. Then there are those battles of life that crowd in upon us.

Some months back, a young man was caught robbing a bank and during the interrogation the police officers asked him, “Why did you want to rob that bank?” The young man replied, “I just wanted to be somebody.” He went on to explain that he had been out of work for several weeks, didn’t have any money and felt like a failure. I just got to thinking,” he said, “if I had some money in my pocket I would feel like somebody.” Those battles of life that crowd in upon us produce “moments of failure.”

But it is right here at the point of our failure that we are reminded of some magnificent words of the Apostle Paul to the Romans, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Paul is saying that those who love God, and who are seeking to live within God’s purposes have the assurance that God is intermingling all things for their good-even their failures.

A good example of this truth can be seen in the life of Nick Foles, the Philadelphia quarterback who recently led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl era Championship and first crown since 1960. And as you know, in the process, Nick Foles was named the Most Valuable Player of the game. But has Foles path been an easy one without failures? You know his story-football starter, castoff, journeyman, backup quarterback, only playing because the starting quarterback was injured.

Yet when he received his opportunity, he was ready. But when Nick Foles was interviewed, he stated, “I wouldn’t be up here if I hadn’t failed a million times.” That failure is final, is a misguided impression.

The third impression that misguides is that hearts cannot be fractured. Of course, I’m speaking now about love. The late Dr. Pierce Harris, longtime pastor of Atlanta First United Methodist Church, said, “Love never dies. It has to be killed, but it can be killed.” Do we understand? Love can be killed.

If we expect to keep love alive in our lives and in the lives of others, we are going to have to keep on going  through the motions of love all the days of our lives. For over 50 years, I’ve been in the ministry. During that time I have visited numerous shut-ins. These folks may be at home, in hospitals, nursing homes or shut-in behind prison bars. Personally, it makes me very sad to see men and women who are shut-in.

For above everything else, we know that Americans want freedom. We don’t want to be shut-in. Young people want the chance to live their own lives. Women struggle and fight hard for their rights.

Husbands and wives do not want to be dominated in their marriage lives. And we do not, any of us, want our nation to be governed by a dictator. We want to be free. However, here I want to tell you something far worse than being a shut-in, and that’s being a “shut-out.” Love is the opposite of being a shut-out. Love means acceptance, belonging, affirmation, forgiveness and service. Love becomes the most important thing in life.

When Jesus wanted people to understand what God is like, he told them about a father who welcomed a prodigal son back home. And instead of fussing at the boy, the father ran and put his arms around him” (Luke 15:20). There is simply no reason to be misguided by false impressions.