Saturday, January 25, 2020

Beware of Scenic Overlooks

Photo by Gary Halvorson Oregon State Archives 2006

In this dream I had to reach holy ground where I would collect priceless treasure. The path to the prize was a maze with the holy place in the center, and each leg of the maze was a narrow corridor hewn into an underground cave.

The design of the maze was deceptively simple – it was just three sides of a square. At each corner was a brightly lit torch, but the sides of the square were long enough so that the light became progressively dim as I left the corner and traveled toward the middle of each side. Then my path became increasingly illuminated as I approached the next corner. 

Also at each corner was a smaller, winding, rocky path leading along the diagonal of the square toward the center. After a long, arduous hike to the first corner, I approached the first of these byways. I cautiously ventured out along it and was thrilled by the view – I could see straight down to gleaming piles of gold and jewels heaped up in the center of the cave. At last I had the prize clearly in my sights, which gave me second wind for the rest of the journey.

I was so excited that I nearly lost my balance, which would have been disastrous as I would have tumbled down the rocks into the precipice and plunged to my death. Once I regained my footing and came to my senses, I stumbled back along the crooked path to the corner of the maze, only to find myself confused and dazed

Which way should I go? The design of the maze could not be easier – just follow the three sides of the square, and then I assumed there would be a path leading directly to the treasure. But the torch light now blinded me; I was unsure of how much time had passed during my detour down the rocky path; and even worse, I did not know which direction to proceed along the maze. 

I chose one path, only to discover a long time later that I had gone the wrong way, and was now back to where I had entered the maze. Tired and discouraged, I turned around and plodded again to the first corner, where at least now I was wise enough not to journey down to the scenic overlook. 

After that I used the torch lights at each corner as my guideposts, helping me to measure how many sides of the square I had traveled. I resisted the temptation to check out the view below by taking the winding paths to the center. But each time as I left the reassuring glow of the torch to start the next leg of the journey, my spirits fell as the light grew dim, and I wished I could once more have a glimpse of the prize.

Finally the torch from the last corner came into view, and I found that once again I faced a difficult choice. There was an easy, wide path leading down, which presumably would take me to the gold and jewels that had motivated me along the journey. And there was a steep, circular, stone staircase leading up, with no visible reward in sight. 

Suddenly I realized that the gold and jewels were merely a distraction keeping me from the true reward, which was the high, holy ground where I would meet my Saviour face to face! The worldly prize was visible and tantalizing, misdirecting me from my true destination. I could not see Him, but by keeping the eyes of my heart fixed on Him, I had the faith to follow Him as He led me in the right direction and to my promised reward

As I awoke, I remembered that once we are born again by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We Him (Colossians 2:6), and in His Spirit (Galatians 5:16,25) Who enters our heart at the moment of salvation (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13). 

The path to Him is narrow but straight (Matthew 7:13) and simple, not convoluted, for He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:5-6). There are three steps along the path to entering His holy ground: realize we are sinners (Romans 3:23), turn away from our sins (Matthew 9:13; 2 Corinthians 7:10), and trust Him as our Lord and Saviour (2 Corinthians 3:4; Acts 15:11; 16:31; Ephesians 1:12-13; Philippians 3:20). 

Yet even the disciples who walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry sometimes faltered in their faith (Luke 22:31,34; John 20:25), and our journey is in many ways more difficult because we have not directly seen, heard or touched Him. 

But we are more blessed because we believe and follow without seeing (John 20:29). When we feel lost in the darkness, we should not despair, give up, or turn back, because we have the light of His Word illuminating our path (Job 29:3; Psalm 18:28; 119:105). He is the Light of the world (John 8:12), and as His light shines through us, we are also the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). 

Of course, Satan takes advantage of our inability to see Jesus Christ directly by tempting us with highly visible, spiritually empty rewards that appeal to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). But these are just scenic overlooks that can waste our time, create spiritual roadblocks, and even endanger us physically. 

Sometimes Satan even uses these scenic overlooks to take away physical life before someone can be saved or complete God’s plan for their life. He has plucked away the lives of teenagers who fell to their death as they tried to take a “selfie” by a dangerous waterfall or precipice. The pleasures of sin only last a short while (Hebrews 11:25) before they bring forth disastrous physical as well as spiritual consequences (Romans 6:23).   

It is natural when we have experienced a great victory, spiritual or otherwise, to want to bask in the glow of the mountaintop experience. When Peter saw Christ’s glory in His transfiguration, he wanted to prolong the moment by building tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-6). It is good to enjoy God’s blessings (Psalm 34:8), to thank and praise Him for what He has done through us (1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalm 30:4; 92:1), and to seek His direction for the future (Proverbs 3:6; 16:9). 

Doing that prevents intense rebound distress after great victory, like that experienced by Elijah, whom God used to defeat the prophets of Baal in a powerful display of His glory (1 Kings 18). But then Elijah succumbed to fear and depression, thinking that Jezebel would destroy him and that no one would be left to worship God (1 Kings 19:4-16). 

Rest in God after spiritual victory is good, but if we spend too much time with our head in the clouds, we may fail to complete the earthly mission God has planned for us.  Even faithful, productive believers such as David can be diverted from their true purpose by scenic overlooks. 

After his triumph in battle, David should have continued the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7) by leading his troops and setting a good example. Instead, he took time off, went home, got bored, wandered out on the roof on a hot summer night, and fell in lust with the beautiful view of Bathsheba bathing (2 Samuel 11:1-3). 

Lust led to adultery, deceit, murder (2 Samuel 11:4-17), and then the consequences of his sin – the death of his firstborn by Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12: 18), and family strife for many years to come. If David had the luxury of a do-over, he may well have decided to forego the scenic overlook and to get back to God’s business

May we keep or eyes fixed on the Prize – our true reward of eternity with Jesus Christ! May our journey shape us into His image, reflecting His perfect light, without wandering into worldly detours that can become deep ditches or even an early grave!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives
children's ministry blogs


Aritha said...

What a dream. Thanks for the spiritual lesson. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Etc)

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I had to read your blog a couple of times in an attempt to understand exactly what is three sides of a square! At first, I thought you might be referring to a right-angle triangle, then I came to figure out that you could be referring to this: [ which means that every third turn is 180 degrees.
But it really doesn't matter.
Throughout my Christian life I have come to realise the diminishing value of earthly riches which, I think, meant to usher in a life of endless Sundays, bathing in luxury every day and never having to work for a living or worry about paying bills.
Yes, in my younger days I too harbored such wishes. It was much spoken about among employees in the factory shop floor I worked in. I was even a member of a syndicate, doing the football pools (guessing which teams in the Premier League game will end in a scored draw. If all guesses proved right, then the massive cash prize goes to the winner or divided equally among the winning syndicate members.)
But what's the point? As Jesus himself asked, "what good is it if a man gains the whole world yet loses his own soul?"
As for the overlook, as one who has traveled a bit, from such a high point I can only gasp at the view of God magnificent Creation!
An excellent post, God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Aritha, for your comment and Scripture. May we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus!
God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
The maze in my dream and 3 equal-length corridors, with the 2 side arms connecting at right angles to the central arm.
Amen -- all earthly riches pale beside our Lord, and to be deceived into trusting in them is the greatest tragedy.
Praise the Lord that His creation gives us glimpses, even if imperfect, of the beauty that awaits us in Heaven.
Thanks as always for sharing your experience and insights. God bless,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
I love what dreams reveal to us and yours is a beautiful one. There can be so many distractions from following the path the Lord directs us along. When I look back at how time has flown, I reflect on my near death experience and consider nothing on this earth is worth diverting from the path to eternal life in Jesus, our Saviour. God bless you Laurie for sharing your encouraging dream.

Donald Fishgrab said...

Great post, Laurie.
When one is traveling just for fun, one can enjoy stopping at various scenic overlooks and monuments, but if one is traveling for a purpose, stopping at those overlooks and monuments only delay accomplishing one's purpose.When we are trying to please God, we need to avoid the distractions and delays.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Thanks so much for your uplifting comment and encouragement. Amen -- no worldly distractions are worth being off the path of true service. God bless you too!

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks, Donald! Yes, in sightseeing, the distractions are why we travel, but if there is urgency to reach our destination, they must be avoided. We must not hesitate in obeying Him.
God bless,