My son, Noah, recently began running cross country. He loves it! It’s a rare opportunity for him to unleash his magnificent youthful maleness which, for the most part, usually must be contained or kept in check by rules, chairs, desks, and walls. He’s having a blast exploring the world by foot. In fact, Noah and his other cross country friends have campaigned for others to join in on the running fun. Their efforts must have been successful, because two other boys showed up to run for the first time last week.
Before they began to navigate the course, Noah and his friends warned the newbies to start off slow so they wouldn’t lose steam midway through the trail. However, this good advice was ignored. The newbies took off like gang busters (most likely trying to show off) and put quite a bit of distance between them and those who had already been running for a few practices. Predictably, about five minutes in, the newbies completely ran out of gas, and Noah and the other veteran runners passed them easily. Later on towards the end of the trail, one of the new racers actually passed out from overexertion!
Noah told this story in his usual animated cadence. He said in a frustrated voice, “We tried to tell them to start slow! We warned them! I don’t understand why they wouldn’t listen!” I nodded sagely as he vented. This was an obvious teaching moment that had been gift wrapped with a big red bow from Papa God.
I said, “Noah, what happened in practice is a very good analogy for all of life. When adults, like your mother, give you advice, most of the time we are giving it with the benefit of experience. We’ve already run the trail. We know what’s coming and know how to avoid the pitfalls.” I paused to admit that sometimes adults can be wrong if we are not listening to or following the Lord’s lead. “Obey God even before your parents,” I said. But then I concluded, “Most of the time adults’ advice can be trusted because we have already been where you are.”
Noah is used to my parenting style, so he responded to this impromptu counseling session with, “Yeah, yeah,” and we moved on to other topics. However, I continued to chew on the runners’ analogy long after Noah and I finished talking. I thought, “How many times do we question the Lord’s advice, or worse, ignore it all together in our ignorance, pride, or outright rebellion?”
Sometimes when God gives a command, we talk ourselves out of obeying because we rationalize that somehow our situation makes us the exception to the rule. In other cases, especially in the United States, Christians don’t obey the Lord because we have no idea what His instructions are. In other words, we don’t take the time to read the Scriptures to know what God actually says.
Unfortunately, when we disobey the Lord’s good advice whether intentionally or unintentionally, we will end up like those runners who lose steam midway through the race. We can even pass out and be taken out of the faith race altogether. The Bible says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6) This isn’t hyperbole. We really do decimate our lives and the lives of other people through our disobedience, which is sin.
God is the ultimate trail blazer. Jesus walked the faith road before us. He gave up everything to be our model, to go ahead of us, and to show us the way. Not only that, Papa God is the perfect Parent. He has the eternal picture in mind when He says things like, “Pick up your cross and follow me.” His ways are higher than ours and His love is limitless.
If Jesus is really Lord and King of the universe, then we must do what He says. We must recognize that we are clay and He is the Potter. Even if we disagree, even if we don’t understand… we must submit to His Word and trust that Father knows best. Because… He does.