Saturday, June 5, 2021

Beware of Scenic Overlooks


Photo Gary Halvorson Oregon State Archives 2006

Many young people and their families are now celebrating their graduation, a praiseworthy milestone in itself, and even more so in recent times because of challenges in schooling related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  A victory, for sure, yet one that can become a trap if we rest on laurels so long that we fail to commit to the next leg of the journey.

A dream reminding me of this dilemma inspired me to write the blog post below, which I now dedicate to recent graduates and their families. Congratulations to all, best wishes for the journey ahead, and praise God for allowing this achievement and all its accompanying blessings!

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 King 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
Edited and reposted from the archives
children's ministry blogs


Brenda said...

Hi Laurie, there is nothing on this earth that can compare to staying on the road to eternity in Jesus our Saviour. Satan can be cunning by pointing to what we can have and achieve by just diverting off the road a little, but it will never compare to what we can have in Christ by staying on the narrow path. That is why it is so important to take every thought captive and bring it into obedience to Christ, the Word of God spoken to us daily. God bless you Laurie.

Laurie Collett said...

Amen, Brenda -- may we bring every thought captive to Him, Who can make our paths straight, for He alone is the Way, Truth and Life. thanks as always for your comment honoring Him. May God bless you too!

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I always thought that a three-sided figure was a triangle rather than a square. But again, God spoke to you through the dream and not to me in the same way. As for the gold in the middle - I believe that is the snag with worldly treasure - it's so delightful that our desire for it can make us forget about God abd his will.
If Adam and Eve had resisted their temptation to eat of the fruit from the tree of good and evil, then who knows, any of their offspring might have taken it - seeing that it was "a delight to the eye and to make one wise, knowing good and evil."
Wishing God's blessings on you and Richard.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
The maze in the dream was 3 sides of a square -- 3 corridors with the side arms at right angles to the central arm.
It is interesting to speculate what would have happened had Adam and Eve not succumbe3d to temptation. Bod God knew from the beginning what would happen, and He devised the perfect plan to redeem us from the curse of sin through the sacrifice of His Son.
Thanks as always for sharing your insights. God bless you and Alex,

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
I understand now what you mean about a three-sided square. I believe that, if depicted from above on a drawing board, the figure would resemble the letter C or a U - without the curve, or something like |_|.
I apologise for the misunderstanding.
I hope you and Richard have a great week. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
Yes, exactly! My apologies for not explaining it better. Thanks for commenting again. God bless you and Alex,